These are interesting times for Westfalia. The esteemed German converter, producer of many iconic camper vans over recent decades, is clearly enjoying life as a member of France’s Rapido Group.
A couple of months ago, we reported that Westfalia was opening a new factory in Gotha, central Germany, to meet its growing production needs (alongside Westfalia-badged vehicles, the company also produces the Marco Polo camper for Mercedes-Benz, and the Nugget for Ford).
These OEM (original equipment manufacturer) ’vans will continue to be produced at Westfalia’s factory in Rheda-Wiedenbrück. All other vehicles will roll off the production lines in Gotha.
Westfalia enjoyed a successful 2017 season, posting year-on-year growth of 26.9%. The brand sold 75 ’vans in the UK; it’s popular with discerning buyers looking for high quality executions of innovative and clever camper van designs.
Westfalia is an upmarket product, and meets the needs of buyers who need high equipment levels and practical solutions for taking leisure equipment on tour.
And those buyers will be tempted by Westfalia’s 2018 offering, with new models in three product lines: Kepler, Columbus and Sven Hedin, the latter a brand-new range for the new season.
A new Kepler 6 model is set to join the existing Kepler 1 next February. Based on the LWB Volkswagen T6, the 6 features the familiar side kitchen floor plan, with separate travel seats fixed to rails in the floor. With a pop-top, four berths are available.
The Fiat Ducato-based Amundsen continues with four models ranging from 5.41m to 6.36m body lengths.
Moving up to the Fiat Ducato-based Columbus, there’s a new 5.4m-long model, the 540 D. Unsurprisingly, this packs a lot in on its short body length, and it has added interest to buyers with an optional pop-top that takes the berth count up to four.
But for any buyers looking for a little more real estate on a super-refined base vehicle, then the new Sven Hedin is big news. Riding on the new VW Crafter, this 5.99m-long ’van has a transverse rear bed, side kitchen and midships washroom behind a half-dinette up front.
So far, fairly routine. But take a closer look at the nearside rear corner, and you’ll spot an electrically operated slide-out pod that increases the width of the transverse rear bed.
Elsewhere, there are no deletions or detail changes. Westfalia prefers not to change its models exhaustively from year to year, so that existing owners won’t feel their vehicles have dated.
Starting with the VW-based Kepler, the new 6 model is manufactured alongside its Kepler 1 sibling at Fleurette’s new factory in northern France.
Like Westfalia, Fleurette is a member of the Rapido Group, so there’s certainly some French flair in evidence here (the distinctive LED lights on stalks were the first indicator).
The Kepler 6 follows the typical VW camper van layout, with a side kitchen and rear seating that converts into a bed.
The kitchen unit is one of the most impressive we’ve seen in a camper van, with a high quality build and sleek lines reminiscent of an ocean liner.
Rather than a seat bench, though, the rear seats are automotive and fold down flat ready to take the mattress, which folds out from the loading bay.
Moving on to the Columbus 540 D, this compact addition to the line-up packs a side kitchen, front dinette and transverse rear bed over a 5.4m body length. Like the rest of the range, it’s based on the Fiat Ducato with the sliding door on the UK offside.
Several clever touches are in evidence to make the most of the space available, including a 65-litre compressor fridge mounted under the gas burners at the end of the kitchen unit, which opens into the space behind the driver’s seat.
As well as saving space, this means the fridge can be loaded or unloaded from inside or outside the vehicle.
A cutlery drawer above the fridge slides out into the same space, and not into the dinette area, thus increasing space at mealtimes. Four other drawers in the kitchen unit provide an impressive amount of storage space.
The rear bed arrangement in the Westfalia Columbus 540 D is another clever feature. Formed from two boards, the bed can be used as a double measuring 1.97 x 1.3/1.15m; alternatively, the rearmost board can be folded up on top of the other one to create additional storage at the rear of the ’van.
This significantly increases space for outdoor leisure kit such as bicycles, making the 540 D ideal for active-minded motorcaravanners. And there are also four overhead lockers in this area to call on.
A further two berths are available in a cost-option pop-top roof, which is hinged at the rear to optimise standing space inside. Access is via a ladder next to the dinette – a pair of stalk lights provide illumination. The bed measures 1.96 x 1.3m.
More thoughtful touches
Other features of note in the 540 D include contoured seat backs with headrests in the front dinette for comfort on long journeys, with storage available under the seats.
And Westfalia certainly hasn’t skimped on a high quality build in the washroom – it manages to fit in a swivel toilet with surrounding shower tray and a sink and vanity unit, all accessed via a mirrored door with domestic-style handle that really increases the feeling of space inside the vehicle.
Services-wise, the 540 D includes a 100-litre fresh water tank, in the offside rear corner, a compartment for a six-litre gas bottle, and an Eberspächer 5kW diesel space- and water-heating system with five radiators and underfloor heating.
An optional Winter Pack can be purchased to add a heated waste-water tank, rear door and windscreen insulation mats, an additional convector in the driver’s cab and underfloor heating including a heated shower tray. External access to the toilet cassette is on the nearside, in a hatch under the side window.
Prices for the Columbus 540 D will be released at October’s NEC show. The existing Columbus 600 D two-berth is available at the same price as last year – £49,914 OTR.
All current Columbus models will be available at the same price as last year – see listings below.
The new Sven Hedin
Westfalia’s other big launch for 2018 is the Sven Hedin, a two-berth based on the 6m version of the latest VW Crafter.
A Swedish explorer, Sven Hedin’s name graced a previous Westfalia model, so this new camper marks a ‘back to the future’ approach.
But the new Crafter is light years away from the previous vehicle to underpin the Sven Hedin, the VW LT, boasting a wide range of driver assistance systems and safety aids, including park assist, trailer assist and automatic distance control, a very agreeable car-like drive and the option of having a cultured eight-speed automatic transmission.
Sven Hedin sits above Columbus in the Westfalia range, and has a similar floor plan to the Columbus 540 D, with an offside kitchen, nearside dinette and transverse rear double bed. Standing height inside is a generous 1.961m.
Sliding sleeping arrangements
The point of difference concerns the rear bed. With an internal width of 1.832m, Westfalia has come up with a clever solution to provide an internal bed with a length of up to 2m – an electrically operated slide-out section on the nearside.
Retracted during transit to avoid disturbing the ’van’s aerodynamic performance, the slide-out extends on demand when pitched, to form a sleeping surface that measures 2 x 1.35/1.0m using a cold foam mattress.
The headboard is hinged so lies flat when the slide-out deploys, and is tipped up in its ‘daytime’ position. And the two-piece bed base also has a ‘cargo’ mode, meaning it can be folded to increase storage space inside the rear barn doors.
As in the Columbus 540 D, the Sven Hedin’s kitchen unit has a level workspace, with a drawer-type 75-litre compressor fridge under the gas burners that can be opened from inside or outside the vehicle. Four drawers open into the dinette area, all featuring ball-bearing glide rails and push-locks.
Opposite the galley is a multi-function washroom similar in layout to the Westfalia Columbus 540 D, again accessed via a mirrored door with a domestic-style handle.
Other design and specification features are shared between the Sven Hedin and Columbus 540 D: the shaped dinette seats with under-seat storage; four rear overhead lockers; and an Eberspächer 5kW diesel space- and water-heating system with five radiators and underfloor heating.
As before, the optional Winter Pack adds a heated waste-water tank, rear door and windscreen insulation mats, an additional convector in the driver’s cab and underfloor heating including a heated shower tray.
Further options include a lighting package with dimmable habitation lights and LED reading lights, plus an LED ambient light pillar for the washroom. An external rear shower attachment is also available.
UK pricing for the Westfalia Sven Hedin will be revealed at October’s NEC show. Press information released to German motorhome dealers quoted a basic retail price for the Sven Hedin of €59,990, although UK buyers will have to take account of the sterling exchange rate, plus transportation and delivery costs to the UK.
In other news
All Westfalia models go forward into the new season with the same prices as last year.
As mentioned, prices for the Columbus 540 D and Sven Hedin will be released at the Motorhome and Caravan Show at the NEC Birmingham in October.
The Kepler 6 will make its debut at the February 2018 NEC show, alongside a new Mercedes-Benz V-Class-based Jules Verne.
2018 Westfalia motorhomes at a glance
- Westfalia Club Joker City – 4.89m, VW T6, 2.0-litre engine (150bhp), 3000kg, 2 berths, 4 belted seats, front lounge, offside rear kitchen and nearside rear washroom, £50,798 OTR
- NEW! Westfalia Kepler 6 – 5.29m, VW T6, 2.0-litre engine (150bhp), 3000kg, 4 berths, 4 belted seats, front lounge, side kitchen, price TBC
- NEW! Westfalia Columbus 540 D – 5.41m, Fiat Ducato, 2.0-litre engine, 3500kg, 4 berths, 4 belted seats, front lounge and transverse rear bed, price TBC
High top/fixed roof:
- Westfalia Club Joker – 5.29m, VW T6, 2.0-litre engine (150bhp), 3000kg, 2 berths, 4 belted seats, front lounge, end corner kitchen and washroom, £55,576 OTR
- Westfalia Amundsen 540 D – 5.41m, Fiat Ducato, 2.0-litre engine (115bhp), 3300kg, 2/3 berths, 4 belted seats, front lounge and transverse rear bed, £41,516 OTR
- Westfalia Amundsen 600 E – 5.99m, Fiat Ducato, 2.0-litre engine, 3300kg (115bhp), 2/3 berths, 4 belted seats, front lounge and rear twin-single beds, £43,306 OTR
- Westfalia Amundsen 600 D – 5.99m, Fiat Ducato, 2.0-litre engine, 3300kg (115bhp), 2/3 berths, 4 belted seats, front lounge and transverse rear bed, £43,575 OTR
- Westfalia Amundsen 640 E – 6.36m, Fiat Ducato, 2.0-litre engine, 3500kg (115bhp), 2/3 berths, 4 belted seats, front lounge and rear twin-single beds, £44,649 OTR
- NEW! Westfalia Columbus 540 D – 5.41m, Fiat Ducato, 2.0-litre engine (115bhp), 3500kg, 2 berths, 4 belted seats, front lounge and transverse rear bed, price TBC
- Westfalia Columbus 600 D – 5.99m, Fiat Ducato, 2.0-litre engine (115bhp), 3500kg, 2/4 berths, 4 belted seats, front lounge and transverse rear bed, £49,914 OTR
- Westfalia Columbus 601 D – 5.99m, Fiat Ducato, 2.0-litre engine (115bhp), 3500kg, 2/4 berths, 4 belted seats, front lounge and transverse rear bed, £49,914 OTR
- Westfalia Columbus 640 E – 6.36m, Fiat Ducato, 2.0-litre engine (115bhp), 3500kg, 2/4 berths, 4 belted seats, front lounge and rear twin-single beds, £50,799 OTR
- Westfalia Columbus 641 E – 6.36m, Fiat Ducato, 2.0-litre engine (115bhp), 3500kg, 2/4 berths, 4 belted seats, front lounge and rear twin-single beds, £52,086 OTR
- NEW! Westfalia Sven Hedin – 5.98m, VW Crafter, 2.0-litre engine, 3500kg, 2 berths, 4 belted seats, front lounge, transverse rear bed, price TBC
This clever fridge can be loaded or unloaded from inside or outside the vehicle