Lizzie PopeSee other Blog articles filed in ‘Motorhomes’ written by Lizzie Pope
From micro-campers to spacious A-classes, we’ve reviewed the widest range of ’vans possible. The time is nearing for our announcement of the best at our highly-respected Motorhome of the Year Awards. Our shortlist follows – the winners will be revealed in the November 2015 issue of Practical Motorhome, which hits the shops on 24 September.
All motorhomes for sale in the UK that were new or substantially revised for the 2015 season were eligible for our Awards. Our experts have stepped inside each of these 'vans to draw up this year's hotly-contested shortlist. But from all the 'vans tested, whittling it down to a bite-sized shortlist was never going to be easy, so how did we do it?
Firstly, because the variety of motorhomes on sale is so wide, we’ve divided the market into eight parts, plus one for accessories. And as these Awards recognise 2015 'vans, launched by manufacturers, importers and dealers in 2014, we've been assessing motorhomes with our Awards in mind since late last year, when the test team evaluated the outstanding 2015 models at some of the top industry shows in the UK and on the Continent. Mid-season launches also attracted the scrutiny of our testers at the Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show at the NEC Birmingham in February 2015.
With this data, we prepared a longlist and reduced it to shortlists of three in each class (all prices are OTR). So, here are our 2015 Motorhome of the Year Awards finalists.
Best for innovation
We were impressed to see so many big ideas in these small packages – and our trio of finalists all sit on different base vehicles.
Our first finalist in this category is the Adria Twin 500 S. And what so impressed our experts? Adria seems to have been taking tips from Dr Who’s Tardis, because the 500 S squeezes the benefits of a panel-van conversion into a camper-sized vehicle. Twin sliding doors mean it works on the Continent; there’s a false floor to boost storage; and an ingenious full washroom with foldaway sink making room for a proper shower.
Another finalist in our 'best for innovation' class is the Nissan e-NV200 Combi-based Hillside Leisure Dalbury E. Is this trailblazing model the future of motorcaravanning? Hillside’s innovative Dalbury E is the world’s first all-electric campervan and, with no road tax to pay, it’s an ideal daily driver. The 106-mile range limits longer touring, but you can charge it on your pitch and it’s a capable micro-camper, with a VW T5-style ‘rock and roll’ bed.
Finally, we come to the WildAx Pulsar. A clever blend of campervan and motorhome, the Pulsar offers something genuinely different. The rising roof gives standing room on site, then lowers to boost economy on the road. WildAx is a specialist at fitting a lot into a small ’van, and the 5m-long Pulsar packs a proper washroom, a transverse double and plenty of kit.
Best rising-roof camper
In this next category, our judges felt that three models stood out this year for their original takes on a classic style – and, again, all three use different base vehicles.
One of these campervans was the Auto Campers Day Van. Not only is this affordable newcomer’s Ford Tourneo Custom base vehicle packed with kit and great to drive, but it also offers the option of up to eight travel seats with the removable kitchen and cupboards. The modular furniture allows you to configure the ’van to suit your needs, so you’re not tied to one layout and can adapt the living space to suit your requirements.
We've also shortlisted the Auto-Sleeper Wave. Given Auto-Sleepers’ relationship with Mercedes-Benz, perhaps it wasn’t surprising that the iconic British marque released a Vito-based camper. Pitched at discerning buyers looking for a daily drive with weekend leisure vehicle potential, the Wave packs two single beds and a capable kitchen, plus those much fêted Mercedes underpinnings.
And the third finalist in our best rising-roof camper class is the Hillside Leisure Ellastone. In a market dominated by more expensive VW T5 and Mercedes-Benz conversions, the Renault Trafic-based Ellastone packs in an impressive amount of space and spec for a surprisingly modest outlay, and is full of clever storage solutions. With a 1.6-litre turbodiesel, it’s frugal, too, and compact enough to be a genuine daily drive.
Best high-top van conversion
From expansive luxury to clever use of space, the finalists in this class rise above the competition.
We start with the Peugeot Boxer-based Autocruise Alto. Stretched to 6.36m for 2015, and with a revised interior layout, the Alto offers couples who prefer not to make and break a bed each day the luxury of a fixed double bed, with plenty of storage beneath. There’s a well-equipped kitchen and an unusually good central washroom, all wrapped up in a manoeuvrable and compact ’van. Could this be our category winner?
Or how about the Lunar Landstar EW? This is good-looking, good to drive and boasts a spectacular end washroom with a separate shower cubicle. It provides a stylish way for two to tour in serious luxury. Its 7.1m length accommodates a huge lounge and a well-equipped kitchen. It also offers the option of either twin singles or a large double bed at night.
Or perhaps the Murvi Pimento will pip them both to the prize? The truly excellent Ford Transit base vehicle is what leaves a lasting impression from the Pimento, with its agile and smooth-riding chassis. But this is also a well-equipped ’van with a clever layout, packing a flexible, open-plan living space into its compact 5.5m length. Like big brother Morello, it features a modern finish inside.
Best budget motorhome under £40,000
The moderate prices of these three finalists conceal long lists of appealing features.
First in the shortlist for this category award is the Bailey Approach Advance 615. The new entry-level range from this Bristol-based company offers phenomenal value for money, and this rear lounge and half-dinette compact features a fresh, modern interior and plenty of storage options. Crucially, the Advance’s slim body and low-profile chassis make it less intimidating to drive than larger coachbuilts, offering buyers a realistic alternative to a panel-van conversion.
Next in our list is a Renault Master-based motorhome, the Rimor Koala Elite 722. Motorcaravanners who need a garage with a large payload or who regularly tow on tour will appreciate this new rear-wheel drive, twin-wheel rear-axle conversion from Rimor. The competitive prices bring you a superbly well-equipped base vehicle and spacious accommodation that comprises three double beds, a good washroom and a huge rear garage.
Finally in the best budget motorhome under £40,000 category, we've got the Sunlight T60. This sub-£40k, sub-6m coachbuilt feels vast inside. We were particularly impressed by the huge sleeping area, the storage options including a massive rear garage, and the clever washroom that offers plenty of space around the toilet and sink, and can be converted into a fully lined shower cubicle when you swing out the false rear wall.
Best compact motorhome
These may be less expansive than other models, but they’re big on kit.
Vying for this accolade, we have the Benimar Mileo 231 – and you get a lot for your money with this 'van. There's an impressive amount of living space despite its sub-6m length. Smart and stylish inside and out, it has the popular French bed layout and neat touches including a floating wardrobe and a drinks cabinet. Furthermore, it’s good to drive and has its habitation door on the UK nearside.
There's also the Chausson Flash 610. The generous, full-width rear washroom, the electric, drop-down double bed and the large, well-equipped rear garage with three access points are this motorhome’s standout features. Another feather in the Chausson’s cap is that it also comes on the latest Ford Transit (as tested), as well as on the market-dominating Fiat Ducato.
Last but not least, how about the Swift Rio 340? Without any doubt, this ’van’s star feature is its full-height, opening rear tailgate, which brings the outdoors indoors, while making it easier to load sports equipment and touring kit. Swift also packs a drop-down double bed, a spacious kitchen and a well-equipped washroom into a motorhome that is not much bigger than a panel-van conversion – no mean feat. Could this see it crowned our best compact motorhome?
Best family motorhome
The three finalists in this category are all super 'vans for families who love to tour.
There's the Bailey Approach Advance 665, which squeezes a lot into its 3500kg MTPLM and sub-7m length, including three double beds (one an electric, drop-down model), plus a decent kitchen and a usable washroom. You also benefit from the peace of mind of Alu-Tech construction, all from a little under £41,000.
Or how about the Elddis Autoquest 180? This motorhome’s USP is its front and rear lounges, making it great for touring families. Affordable and well built, it also has a fully-equipped wetroom, six beds and six travel seats. Now based on the new and improved Boxer and with an MTPLM of 3500kg, it’s a proper family ’van that anyone can drive.
The third finalist to be shortlisted in this Awards category is the Swift Escape 696. Could this be the best, most family-friendly six-berther? Kids will love the rear fixed berths which are well lit and can be shut off from the rest of the ’van. Plus there are two double beds, a roomy lounge, a fine all-in-one washroom and a well-specified kitchen, all for a very palatable price of £41,095 OTR.
Best coachbuilt motorhome
The manufacturers of these three finalists pumped them full of great spec and flair – which do you think will come out on top?
One contender is the Adria Matrix Supreme 687 SBC. This ’van rides on the impressive Renault Master, which makes it stand out from the crowd. Then there’s the fabulous midships washroom with its central vanity unit, another unique selling point. As a bonus, you get a generous 543kg payload and a comfy, super-desirable rear bedroom.
Another motorhome hoping to scoop this prize is the Auto-Trail Imala 715. The Grimsby-based manufacturer turned a few heads with its incursion into the entry level segment for 2015, but, unsurprisingly, the results are very impressive. Specification is good, there are many thoughtful design touches, and this roomy take on the French bed layout is both comfortable and refined.
But if neither the Slovenian nor the British ’vans float your boat, how about something French? The Pilote Pacific P716P’s French bed/corner washroom layout is popular, but it’s also got an ace up its sleeve: the large lounge can accommodate six before the cab seats are swivelled. There’s also an electrically-operated drop-down double at the front and super storage, all for from £53,108 OTR.
￼￼￼￼￼￼Best luxury motorhome
The final class for ’vans at our 2015 Motorhome of the Year Awards is this, that of best luxury motorhome – and our experts were expecting little compromise in these upmarket, super-comfortable ’vans.
So, does the Adria Sonic Supreme I 710 SL do enough to take home this coveted award? Sharp-looking and sophisticated, the 2015 update to Sonic Supreme took its bow at last autumn’s Caravan Salon, more than holding its own against the very best rivals from Germany and France. The I 710 SL carries twin single beds, plus a drop-down lounge double, neatly showcasing Adria’s focus on pleasing design and high build quality.
The second motorhome shortlisted in this class is the Knaus Sky i 700 LEG. Innovation is what sets this A-class apart – from the shoe cupboard beneath the offside lounge and the underfloor storage to the spacious, flexible split washroom. The services are usefully grouped together, the garage is huge, and the sleeping and cooking provisions are spot on. Taken together, these make for a very refined motorcaravan.
The other contender in this group is the RS Endeavour R230G. The UK’s only manufacturer of A-class motorhomes has an impressive pedigree as a constructor of super-well equipped motorsport support vehicles. Its motorcaravans have specifications that redefine what’s possible, delivered with a superb build quality. This model features a large transverse double bed, split washroom and massive kitchen.
So, there you have it, our 24 shortlisted ’vans, each vying for glory at Practical Motorhome's 2015 Motorhome of the Year Awards. The final step is to choose the winner in each category, plus one unbeatable accessory – we'll leave that job to our panel of experts. All will be revealed in our November magazine, which goes on sale on 24 September.
And, of course, we will announce the best of the best: the ultimate, overall Motorhome of the Year. Until then, from our shortlist, which are your motorhomes of the year?