Mike Le CaplainSee other Blog articles filed in ‘Editor's Blog’ written by Mike Le Caplain
I'm just home from a motorhome show – and you could be forgiven for assuming I mean one of those at the NEC Birmingham. But, no. I've been to Manchester, for The Caravan and Motorhome Show.
Of course, Manchester can't boast of its central location as Birmingham can and the NEC shows are, quite rightly, considered the best in the UK, if not Europe. But there are other big motorhome shows out there and, as my trip to Manchester proved, they're well worth going to.
The Manchester show has been the traditional year opener and, once upon a time, its venue was in the city centre – great for hotels and bars, less useful for parking and access in general. However, it's now moved to EventCity, near the Trafford Centre on the outskirts of Manchester, making it easy to get to from the motorway. And there's tonnes of parking, too.
Another plus point for this show is its size – it is manageable. Yes, there is a lot to see and take in, but even after pounding the show halls for a full day, I was pleased to find that my feet weren't sore. Not only that, but even I, someone known for having a terrible sense of direction, didn't get lost – not even once. After a day at the NEC I wouldn't be able to say that, I am quite sure.
And don’t think for one moment that the exhibitors at The Caravan and Motorhome Show comprise mostly local dealers, with no manufacturer support: most major companies had stands this year, including German giant, Bürstner, likewise both major clubs and a host of smaller motorhome and camping accessories companies.
And there was certainly plenty to see this year. Market newcomer, Greenline Leisure Vehicles, chose Manchester as the major show debut for its new and extremely novel range of Renault Trafic/Vauxhall Vivaro campervans. With its swivel cab seats, surprisingly spacious kitchen and raft of travel seat options, it sounds all very pleasant, but hardly game-changing.
But then you take a look around the back, and the usual twin doors have been replaced by a novel slide-out pod that increases the size of the double bed to a whopping 6ft 3in by 4ft 2in. Better yet, it retracts electrically, is guaranteed to be weather-proof and is made from a tough, but environmentally-friendly, sandwich construction comprising an aluminium outer skin, Styrofoam sandwich and standard inner wall board. The show model was built on a 115bhp 2014 model and was priced at less than £30,000. Impressive.
There were many other motorhomes for sale, too. Elsewhere, crowds were drawn to Wellhouse Leisure’s stand, where a raft of new Ford-based models were on show, many for the first time. This was our first sighting, for instance, of the new Terrier High-Top – down to you for £42,000, or £45,200 in the show model’s trim – plus a work-in-progress two-berth camper based on the new Ford Connect. Prices should start at around £27,5000. Options include petrol or diesel engines and manual or automatic transmission.
Perhaps the most popular exhibit on the stand, however, was an unusual-looking camper based on the Japanese market Toyota Alphard. The base vehicles may not be new – Wellhouse uses 2003/2004 MY cars – but the conversion is brand new and includes a kitchen, rock ‘n’ roll double bed, 2KW Webasto heating and top-loader fridge. Factor in the base vehicle’s factory-fitted automatic transmission, climate control and – on some models – reversing cameras and park distance sensors – and the £22,000-£24,500 asking price looks like an absolute steal.
We were taken by a couple of new accessories, too – Snooper’s new Bluetooth-controlled Tyre Pilot tyre pressure monitoring system can be used as a standalone unit, or in conjunction with its latest motorhome-specific Ventura Pro S6800 satellite navigation system. While Zoneleisure’s new Vanmate kitchen system brings a hob, fridge and sink to the outdoors. It can be tailored to fit any camper, too.
This is a show to take seriously – we’ll see you in Manchester next year!