German brand Frankia has always had a good eye for the UK market, and for 2020 it has increased the number of UK-friendly rear-lounge layouts in its Platin range, specifically designed for off-grid motorcaravanning.
But it's not all about layouts: for 2020, the company, part of the Pilote group, has introduced a new range that's no heavier than 3500kg and no longer than 7m.
EVEN MORE PLATINS
Introduced some seasons back, the Mercedes-based Platins really are top of the range, even for Frankia. They include solar panels, inverters and large water tanks inside their double floors, all designed to allow you several nights in a row completely off-grid.
Newark-based SMC, currently Frankia's only UK dealer, says Platins with the Plus layout - single beds that drop down over the cab, central washroom and rear U- or C-shaped lounges - were very popular last year. So it is probably a good thing that both new Platin models with rear lounges also feature the Plus layouts.
The Platin I 8400 Plus, at 8.5m long, comes with a C-shaped lounge, an L-shaped kitchen, and a 32-in TV that slides diagonally out from a sideboard on the offside.
It can also take four travel seats, including one you bolt onto the floor in the rear lounge. It includes the new Dometic Series 10 fridge with a door that opens both ways. UK models will feature a full oven and a microwave.
The slightly shorter (8.0m) Platin I 7900 Plus, meanwhile, has a U-shaped lounge and a high garage. Both models come with the option of a drop-down bed over the rear lounge to make them four-berths. There is also the option of a gully built into the floor of the garage so you can stand a bicycle there.
At the launch near the Frankia factory in Bavaria, the I 7900 Plus was decked out in leather upholstery in a striking new mid-brown colour with white stitching.
There is also a new model in the Titan range, which offers the same off-grid facilities, but on a Fiat Ducato base (and hence a slightly lower price).
The I 890 GD-B Titan comes with what Frankia describes as a "bar layout". With fixed single beds in the rear, this 8.9m-long 'van has a table in the front seat that can be extended out to 143cm, to come closer to a side sofa, and a single cab-style seat behind it. At the offside end of the table, a 32in Alphatronics TV slides down from behind the locker, while a cubbyhole in the table opens up to reveal USB and mains sockets.
This season, Titans will also come with Fiat's nine-gear auto gearbox.
AT THE LIGHTWEIGHT END
Owing to their weight (the MTPLM of the two Platins is 5300kg, while in the Titan, it is 5500kg), all three of these new models would only be for those with a C1 licence.
But Frankia has not forgotten those who do not have such a licence - in particular, younger drivers who might have passed their test after 1997. That's why this season also sees the launch of the Frankia Neo - in effect, this is an extension of its Mercedes-based M-line but with the overall weight taken down to 3500kg if necessary.
Currently there's just one model in the range: the 6.98m-long MT 7 GD Neo, with fixed single beds that can be merged into a double at the rear.
Despite the weight reduction, this 'van still manages to include walls that are 32mm thick and a double floor of alloy on an Al-Ko low-frame chassis made especially for Frankia.
The floor includes a heated side-to-side storage space. The rear door of the garage, meanwhile, is the largest in any Frankia motorhome.
The roomy interior has a half-height Dometic Series 10 fridge in the side kitchen, while the washroom features a folding handbasin and a toilet that slides away to make room for a large shower tray with two drainage holes.
FRANKIA DOES VANS, TOO
Frankia was also displaying its new Yucon van conversion. Based on a Mercedes Sprinter, on the Continent this will be available in two models, in a metallic grey finish.
Alongside the manufacturer's standard fixed-single-beds version, this includes an innovative design with a rear lounge featuring a large offside shelving unit incorporating a TV, and housing part of the bed that slides out to arm the rear double with the sofa on the nearside.
Sadly the Yucon won't be available as a stock unit in the UK, because of the issues with converting it to right-hand drive. Frankia's prices won't be finalised before September, but SMC does not think there will be a large increase.
OUR PICK - FRANKIA MT 7 GD NEO
Although Frankia is undoubtedly good at the really big 'vans, the Neo shows that the company hasn't forgotten those who have to stick to 3500kg. The new model feels incredibly roomy inside, considering it is less than 7m long, and provides a remarkably spacious washroom. You also feel that here, for once, the double-opening Dometic Series 10 fridge is really needed.