Nigel DonnellySee other Blog articles filed in ‘Editor's Blog’ written by Nigel Donnelly
We’ll come to what the Lunar is like to drive later. For now, a bit more background. The Vacanza is built upon Nissan’s NV200 Combi. The compact dimensions of the base vehicle make for a camper that should comfortably fit on any driveway and which wouldn’t feel unwieldy on the school run or daily commute. At 4.4 metres long and 2.011 metres wide (including mirrors), the Vacanza takes up a similar amount of road space to a Ford C-Max five-seat MPV.
“The Vacanza is not just a new vehicle; it’s a whole new category,” said Brian Mellor, Lunar’s chairman and CEO. “Our new model has been designed as a multi-purpose leisure vehicle which is compact, economical and fuel efficient so can genuinely be used both as an everyday car as well as a holiday getaway.”
The camper that thinks it’s a car
Can a camper make a compromise-free daily car? Well, you’ll need to manage with four seats rather than the five you would expect from a typical hatch or saloon. What’s more, although Lunar is keen to point out that the Vacanza meets the safety standards required by European Whole Vehicle Type Approval, it lacks the side and curtain airbags you find in many modern family cars. That said, three of the four seats have ISOFIX mountings for the easy and secure fitting of child seats, and driver and front-seat passenger airbags are fitted. There’s an airbag cut-off switch so rearward facing child seats can safely be mounted on the front passenger seat.
In terms of economy and emissions, the Vacanza promises to be competitive with most diesel family cars. Carbon dioxide emissions of 135g/km mean an annual Vehicle Excise Duty bill of just £120 per year and economy is claimed to be 50mpg plus.
And what about from the driver’s seat? Well, we can’t claim that a mile or two around the NEC’s perimeter road amounts to a comprehensive test, but first impressions are mostly positive. Compared with most motorhomes, the Lunar’s small size is immediately apparent. Combine those compact dimensions with good all-round visibility, a tight turning circle and light steering, and you have a motorhome that’s as easy to drive as any supermini. Anyone intimidated by the thought of driving a larger motorcaravan will find getting behind the Vacanza's wheel stress-free.
The 1.5 dCi engine sounds rather clattery, though, and performance is likely to be quite leisurely when the Vacanza is loaded to 1997kg MTPLM.
As a motorhome, the car-like size means certain compromises. Storage space is limited and even with the pop-up roof raised headroom is tight at the front of the Vacanza. That said, Lunar has done a good job of making the most of the available space, with swivelling front seats, an inflatable main double bed, and room for two kids in the roof bed above. In the kitchen there’s a grill, fridge and a three-burner hob.
The Vacanza will become a whole lot more practical when the optional tailgate awning becomes available in around three months’ time. Expect it to cost £1000-£1500, with an annex offering further space for just under £500. The limited storage will be addressed when a trailer goes on sale. Again, Lunar expects this to be ready by late spring with an estimated price of £1000-£1500.
Lunar has priced the Vacanza at £29,995 (or £30,990 including delivery). That’s thousands less than you’d pay for a Wellhouse or a Volkswagen California, although these are both larger vehicles.
It will be interesting to see if demand for the new Lunar lives up to the company’s expectations of 200-300 sales per year. To reach those levels Lunar will need to rebuild its motorhome network quickly – the company tells us new dealers are signing up all the time.
In the long-term, those dealers will have just one Lunar motorhome to sell. Expect a more conventionally sized motorhome to join the Vacanza, although not for at least 12-18 months.
David Motton, 19 February
From the Spring Caravan and Camping Show at Birmingham's NEC, 19-24 February 2013