Düsseldorf’s Caravan Salon is the starting gun for the motorhome model year. Industry movers and consumers alike clamber about the latest offerings of manufacturers, large and small – because you never know where the next big thing will come from.
True to my nickname, 'Techno Tom', I've picked out some of the best new gadgets for motorhomes in a separate blog. Editor Niall Hampton says that even in 2015 the new VW California draws the crowds and in a separate blog we've noted that 2016 VW California prices have been announced. And Group Editor Alastair Clements has selected his own favourite Dusseldorf showstoppers, noting that slide-outs have suddenly appeared in more mainstream motorhomes in Germany.
But what if you want something smaller, easier to park and car-like to drive? Here are just a few of my own favourite campervans from the 2015 show.
Starting with one of the giants, Hobby has launched the Vantana range of hi-top models built on medium- and long-wheelbase Fiats. Our first thought: black is an unusual choice of colour for a recreational vehicle. Hobby did better in selecting a Dometic three-way fridge, which will ease demand on the battery, enabling longer wild-camping trips. Two berths are provided in the form of a large fixed double bed at the rear, while two belted seats amidships bring that total to four.
Low-tech in the Ukraine
An enthusiastic first-timer was Autocamper (not to be confused with Britain's Berkshire-based Auto-Campers). Autocamper is a Ukrainian campervan converter whose sales reps were eager to impress me with their good English. Its ’vans are based on the Fiat Doblo Maxi and have a maximum weight of 2400kg. The equipment is basic: one gas burner, a small compressor fridge, a 2kW diesel heater and, for hot water, you use a thing called a kettle!
The pop-up ’van has two berths and four belted seats. An unusual touch is its fabric storage pouches, which can be unclipped and taken on day trips. You can even pull out the rear bumper to reveal a massive locker. And it’s all yours for €34,900.
Poland's two-litre preference
Globe Traveller from Poland showcased the new Pathfinder VS and its MD, Jacek Jaskot, explained that Globe’s preferred base was the 2.0-litre 115 PS Ducato, although all versions were options. The rear double bed is joined by another in front that is assembled using a fold-down, slide-out shelf.
A two-burner hob, a sink and a Waeco compressor fridge fill out the galley. Heating is via a Truma Combi; you choose the gas or diesel version. The square and straight-line styling is Teutonic, but it looks well put together and worth its €60,095 tag price.
French twins with a transverse twist
The Tardis-like Chausson Twist V 594 Start is keenly priced, but revels in a French flair for style. It is also packed with features. Its rear twin beds can be converted into a transverse double; the kitchen measures up well to rivals’ with a stainless-steel sink, a gas hob and a compressor fridge – to keep it running, you’ll want maximum battery capacity and a good-size solar panel. Even the washroom is thrilling.
You get plenty of storage through the rear doors under the bed. Prices start at €32,990 for the base model, €38,980 for the show ’van.