Lightweight and compact are not adjectives usually associated with A-class motorhomes from a premium German manufacturer. These Hymer Exsis-i models are definitely lightweight and most are compact, too. The Exsis-i was – and still is – a game changer. However, it shouldn’t be confused with the earlier, largely unloved and short-lived, Exsis (no ‘i’) or the more recent Exsis-t, which is a range of low-profile overcab coachbuilts, much like the old Hymer Tramp range.

Instead of trying to save weight on the existing B-class models (still an A-class in type), the Hymer designers chose to start with the metaphorical ‘clean sheet of paper’. The resulting single model was so well received that in under 18 months the range grew to seven models.

All were based on the Ford Transit, with a 2.2-litre Duratorq turbo-diesel engine driving the front wheels through a manual gearbox. By then the controversial Durashift automated transmission had been quietly dropped, so there was no automatic option for purchasers.

Then trouble struck in the form of Ford running out the Mark 7 Transit range before the next incarnation was ready. Rather than wait for the Mark 8 ‘global’ Transit to appear, Hymer switched Exsis-i production to the Fiat Ducato Al-Ko Kober combo – without doubt, highly competent underpinnings and, with automatic transmission available, it was very well received by most buyers.

However, devotees of the Transit were left wondering whether a return to Ford’s finest might be in the offing! From the point of view of consumer choice it will be a pity if it isn’t. The most important design brief for the Exsis-i was to provide all the luxury of Hymer’s established ranges but at a weight that was well under 3500kg, so that all could be used without having to pare down luggage and/or leave Uncle Sid or whoever at home. Hymer succeeded and set the benchmark for quality lightweight A-class integral motorhome construction.

To give a flavour of its commitment to building in quality and choice to this range, there have always been at least two options of furniture finish and style, plus a mind-blowing 12 soft furnishings choices.

What to look out for

First of all, when it comes to test driving a used Hymer Exsis-i, here are the pros and cons of each base vehicle. If your Exsis-i is built on a Ford Transit, you’ll find that the ride will be more compliant than on Fiat underpinned examples. Although if you experience excessive roll on corners this suggests a worn suspension. The Transit’s Duratorq engine is good, but has more of a bark to it than most. However, it should idle sweetly; if not it’s probably a gummed-up EGR valve. Listen closely for a clatter coming from the engine after you switch it off, since this is indicative of the dual mass flywheel failing. It needs to be replaced, otherwise it will accelerate engine wear. 

If you are test driving a Fiat Ducato-based Hymer Exsis-i, check for juddering when reversing up an incline on pre-2009 models. This well known fault isn’t as widespread as was first predicted and a programme of recalls were undertaken by Fiat to ameliorate the problem. That said, a surprising number were never returned to the main Fiat agent for the free work. 

Turning your attention to the conversion work, make sure you check the operation of fittings such as blinds and flyscreens, seat-to-bed conversion and so on. Hymer’s body integrity warranty requires regular inspection by approved workshops; make sure there is proof this has been carried out. 

Likes and dislikes

So, to sum it up, what are our likes and dislikes for the Hymer Exsis-i built from 2007 to the present day? Well, we really like that it is a proper Hymer A-class, yet it is well under 3500kg. We also like the classic design cues.We think that the Excis-i models built on the Ford Transit are a good bet for extended ownership (the spares back up for older Transit models is brilliant). Finally, we like the fact that it will have only minimal depreciation. 

On the other hand, we dislike the fact that the conversion not handed for the UK, so the cab door is on UK nearside.

Buying essentials

The Hymer Exsis-i models were built on two base vehicles, the Ford Transit and Fiat Ducato Al-Ko. They were built from 2009 to the present in Bad Waldsee, Germany. These are A-class (integral) coachbuilt motorhomes, ranging in overall length from 5.71m to 7.2m (18ft 8.75in to 23ft 7.5in).

Several models are available, all with drop-down overcab beds, and where there are rear double beds, these are high-level and transverse, unless otherwise stated.

  • The Exsis-i 482 also has a dinette double bed and is based on a 5.71m Ford Transit.
  • The Exsis-i 512 has a dinette double and a rear double bed and is based on a 6.14m Ford Transit.
  • The Exsis-i 522 has a rear double bed and is based on a 6.14m Ford Transit. The Exsis-I 504 offers a rear double bed and is built on a 6.20m Fiat Ducato Al-Ko chassis.
  • The Exsis-i 562 comes with a dinette double bed and twin singles in the rear, and is built on a 6.73m Ford Transit. 
  • the Exsis-I 572 offers rear single beds and is built on a 6.73m Ford Transit.
  • The Exsis-I 578 also offers rear single beds and is built on a 6.75m Fiat Ducato Al-Ko chassis.
  • The Exsis-I 644 has a dinette double bed and a rear double bed and is built on a 6.85m Fiat Al-Ko.
  • The Exsis-I 698 offers a rear island double bed and is built on a 7.20m Fiat Al-Ko.

Which would we choose?  A Hymer Exsis-i 482 with full-height, walk-in garage is a corker, on the Ford and only 5.71m long.

So, how much should you pay for a used Hymer Exsis? In the UK expect to pay £40,000-£45,000 for a right-hand-drive Ford example, more for a (newer) Fiat one.

Left-hand-drive ones are more plentiful and cheaper in mainland Europe. For instance, Campirama in Holland has an ‘as-new’ left-hand-drive 2015 Hymer Exsis-i 614 for sale at €66,900 (£50,800).   

 Alternatively you could consider buying an Adria Vision, or an Itineo from the Rapido Group.