The Auto-Trail Excel 600B really is a top-quality motorhome product sensibly positioned at the right end of mid-market pricing. Put simply, we believe the Excel brand was the best launch in 2008 bar none.
Good looks, impressive specification and spot on pricing
All-in-all an excellent package.
The washroom area suffers the most because of the spacious front lounge and fixed bed.
The floor from cabin to lounge is level, with a step down into the kitchen and bedroom area, and up again into the washroom. Headroom in the lounge, measured from floor to moulded rooflight, is 1.76m, so 6ft testers complained about banging their heads until they got used to the layout. The lounge is compact, but facing sofas and swivel cab seats make for the most sociable possible arrangement. A freestanding table has a dedicated locker underneath the wardrobe, and works well with the swivel cab seats to maximise space.
The table is large (95 x 54cm) and can cater for five at a push. Its top stands an optimum 72cm high, with 17cm clearance from the flat sofa squabs to the underside of the table – plenty of thigh room underneath. Those in the cab seats can dine comfortably.
Natural light in the lounge is excellent thanks to an overhead skylight and windows above both sofas. The 10in TV that comes with the Sport Pack hinges down from the cabin ceiling, making the driver-side sofa the best seat in the house.
LED lighting is fitted throughout, but the ceiling strips and single directional reading lights above both sofas don’t generate the kind of warm light that halogens do. The passenger-side window opens horizontally, and all habitation windows have curtains, blinds and flyscreens, including the windowed entry door. Opinions on the merits of this differed, however.
“The window on the door could be a security risk with just two clips that are easy to pull open from the outside,” said Martin.
The testers’ most-voiced criticism has been the provision of only a single mains electric plug socket, above the sink in the kitchen, making it tricky to use multiple electrical devices.
A triangular sink with mixer tap and three-burner hob (without spark ignition) are concealed beneath darkened glass lids and sited above a mini oven/grill and 77-litre fridge-freezer.
Oddly, a moulded cutlery drawer sits beneath the oven grill, behind a locker door. Even with both the hob and sink lids in use, work space is limited (1.03 x 0.59m).
Chef doesn’t have a great deal of room to manoeuvre either, with space between the kitchen and corner back a maximum 50cm, which narrows to 40cm at the washroom door. An LED strip over the preparation space and a skylight overhead provide light, and a window above the sink unit offers ventilation. Pots and pans can be stashed in a locker under the oven/grill, although this is next to a mains plug socket, which provides electric to the fridge.
The washroom has a tambour door, which is a great space-saving alternative to hinged doors in compact ’vans. Pride of place in the washroom is the Thetford C250 toilet – there’s little knee room between it and the closed sliding door (just 25cm), but those with longer legs can get around this by swivelling it and letting their feet rest in the (lowered) shower tray.
A couple of minor niggles here: stick-on plastic trim came unsprung in the early weeks of our having the 600B, around the top of the washroom door frame and around the frame separating toilet and shower. And the only mirror in the motorhome is located in the washroom – testers said that a second, perhaps on the wardrobe door, would be welcome. A towel hook, shelf and overhead locker, with a striplight on its underside, share the toilet space.
The sealed shower cubicle has a partition door and is a generous 77 x 62cm, although it shares this space with a small washbasin and a large mirror. The tap doubles as the shower head, fixed into a high level-bracket, and water drains into a single plug hole in the floor. A roof vent and LED strip provide lighting in the shower.
The French-style double bed sits in the nearside corner. It has strip lighting and two directional-reading lights, but no headrest. Its 1.88m length is made up of a mattress and a smaller infill cushion at the foot of the bed – this arrangement enables you to lift the mattress on its aluminium-framed slatted base when accessing the storage space underneath.
It’s a very comfortable mattress, but a substantial cutaway reduces the 1.17m width to just 95cm at its foot. Also, the 600B would benefit from a simple privacy curtain in the event of sharing the ’van with guests.
Up front, the slatted sofa bases slide to meet, supporting themselves on legs. The squabs and backrests form a reasonably flat surface across the width of the ’van. To widen the foot of the bed, an extension flap hinges out from the nearside sofa box, and a separate piece of ply helps to fill the space, along with an infill cushion stored in the wardrobe. This isn’t the most stable-feeling extension, though. Extended like this it measures 2.03 x 1.2m, tapering to 1m at the foot – which is larger than the fixed double bed.
The 2680kg ex-works weight is calculated with a 75kg driver and 90 per cent-full fuel tank, so that 620kg payload is all usable, and generous for a ’van this size.
The premium storage space is under the rear double bed, which can be accessed from within by raising the base on its supporting leg, allowing you to step into the storage space and lift out heavier items, or through the external 70 x 40cm locker. Both sofa boxes provide usable storage spaces, too: they can be accessed by lifting the hinged sofa bases, or through the locker flaps on the front of the sofa box. The driver-side sofa can also be accessed through an external locker, and the battery tray is housed in the floor here. A small wardrobe accommodates hung clothes for two at a push, and there are ample overhead lockers plus elasticated magazine nets on the habitation entry door.
|Shipping Length||5.99 m|