With its surfer-friendly name and funky graphics, the latest Auto-Sleepers collaboration with Mercedes-Benz seems pitched at young outdoorsy types. Priced from just under £50,000, though, potential buyers of the Wave will most likely be a bit older.
Whoever buys one will enjoy the immaculate mechanicals and another top-drawer Auto-Sleepers van conversion, but this isn’t a campervan for prolonged tours. It’s a capable daily drive that will happily double as an occasional camper, and one with a very generous galley area to boot.
We wonder if the kitchen is a little too generous for a camper, and whether an inch or two could be trimmed to make the beds longer.
The Wave is small enough to drive in towns and cities
It’s quick to deploy the beds and rustle up food in this campervan
The optional Webasto heating kept us warm when it was -5°
Smooth and car-like, if you have the optional five-speed auto ‘box
We’d like the blown air heating to be included
Auto-Sleepers is celebrated for its coachbuilt motorhomes and panel van conversions, many of which feature in our annual Motorhome of the Year awards. It also builds a popular campervan – the VW-based Topaz – which has been in production for 19 years on the VW T4, and currently, the T5.
Auto-Sleepers followers were perhaps surprised when the Cotswolds-based firm turned its attentions to a different base vehicle last summer, launching a new camper on the Mercedes-Benz Vito. A relationship with Mercedes is nothing new, of course, as Auto-Sleepers currently builds six coachbuilt motorhomes on the Sprinter chassis.
The new Wave, though, is a different beast from these flagship offerings, but it also combines the finesse of desirable Mercedes-Benz underpinnings with the build quality and durability of an Auto-Sleeper conversion.
Both the Wave, on test here, and its Wave HL (high line) variant, offer the flexibility of a vehicle that can double as a daily drive and capable camper. To see how well the Wave performs in both roles, we took our long-term test unit to an award-winning campsite, Broadhembury Caravan and Camping Park near Ashford in Kent, which was a finalist in our Top 100 Sites Awards in 2015.
Some of our test team wondered whether the kitchen was too generously specified for occasional camping
The Wave has a pair of sliding doors, and eschews the usual offside kitchen campervan floor plan, so the living area can be accessed from both sides of the ’van. The lounge can seat four – two in the rotated cab seats and two in the rear travel seats.
Operated via a catch on the inward side of the seat plinths, the front seats both have a table mount for mealtimes. To add a table, unclip its supports from the rear bulkhead and unclip the tabletops from the tailgate. These attach to the mounts, can be moved into position easily and secured using screw tighteners.
The well-sprung rear seats are high quality. Lumbar support comes courtesy of wraparound cushions that attach via Velcro and can be moved up and down the backrest.
Natural light enters through the side windows and the elevating roof, with its removable sides and front lowered. Small strip lights above the doors provide illumination at night.
The Wave’s lounge area is comfortable. The optional Webasto diesel-powered heating unit allows the ambient temperature to be controlled precisely, the control dial for which is located on the wardrobe wall, on the rear offside.
Our test team felt this would have been better placed on a rear seat base, allowing the heater to be operated from the seats or beds.
With a central gangway created by fixed travel seats on each side of the vehicle, the Wave’s galley is split across the ’van. On the nearside is a small sink with fold-down tap, below a smoked glass lid. Under this, beneath a storage cubby, is a small grill unit. Opposite is a two-burner gas hob with a glass lid, atop a large drawer housing a cooler box.
There’s a good amount of work surface, especially with both lids lowered. Each side of the kitchen gets a small strip light, supported with mood lighting that shines into the elevating roof. Three plug sockets are fitted in the galley.
Some of our test team wondered whether the kitchen was too generously specified for occasional camping, and whether some space could be better used to extend the sleeping berths.
A Truma water heater was fitted to our test ’van, as part of the Premium Pack, to provide hot running water for washing-up.
The Wave does not feature a washroom but a Porta-Potti cassette toilet can be specified as a cost option when you order the campervan from Auto-Sleepers.
Two berths are easily deployed for sleeping. Each makes up by rotating the front seats so the backrests are out of the way, then sliding the rear seat bases forward by releasing a catch on the inside of each seat base. The bases slide on rails and the backrests fold flat to fill the space they vacate. It takes a couple of minutes and provides single beds the same width as each rear seat. The berths cannot be moved into the gangway, so occupants must sleep separately. Our testers were under six foot tall so found both beds could accommodate them. For taller users, the nearside bed is the better option.
When converted, each berth offers good back support. Using the Wave in the winter months, our testers found it essential to close the elevating roof vents so that warm air wouldn’t escape too quickly. They also faced a nightly issue with the Webasto heater: the noise level produced by the unit seemed married to the heat output required; turning it down to decrease the volume lowered the temperature.
Storage space is at a premium, but you still get a small half-length wardrobe, in the rear offside corner, plus four cubbies and a cupboard to choose from in the kitchen units. Some space is available under the rear seat boxes, although the offside one is home to the diesel heating unit.
In the cab, you’ll find a glove box and a storage pocket under the gear shift. Further storage, including a pair of bottle holders, is available in each of the doors.