The Benimar Benivan 122 is part of a two-model range that Auto-Trail manufactures not just for Benimar, but also for others in the Trigano Group, including Chausson and Roller-Team.
The 122 is the larger of the two, based on the extra-long wheelbase Fiat Ducato and providing a front dinette with two travel seats, as well as a rear lounge.
While the base vehicles and layouts are the same, there are differences between the brands in terms of spec and finish.
Benivans are available at all Marquis Leisure’s branches across England. We went to the Northampton outlet to view the 2021 version of the 122.
Exterior and cab
The first thing you notice when you look at this model is the large and attractive sunroof. Tinted black and with a peaked top, this is standard fit on the Benivan.
You also get 16-inch alloy wheels fitted as standard, and all Benivans sold in the UK have the 160bhp Fiat Ducato engine. It’s fitting that the Benivan’s black and yellow decals might remind you of bees – this is a buzzing ‘van.
All UK Benivans also come with the sliding door on the correct (off) side for UK drivers.
Another aspect to note on the outside is an inlet for the LPG gas tank. The 122 comes with an underslung gas tank and a chassis-mounted boiler. This makes a big difference to storage space inside.
The inlet is on the driver’s side, as is the electric hook-up connection, so you shouldn’t have to worry about any cables trailing into an awning. The washroom is also on this side, so no worries about opening the cassette toilet access hatch inside an awning, either.
Inside, the cab is standard Ducato, with drinks holders in the middle, but it is upgraded with a leather steering wheel and gear lever. Cruise control, sat-nav and a rear-view camera are also fitted as standard.
The two travel seats do not turn into a second bed: the 122 is very much a two-berth. But this does mean you can easily carry passengers (even if the extra 37cm length compared with the 120 might make parking trickier).
Due to the handbrake being tucked away to the right of the driver’s seat it is easy to get through to these from the cab. But we wouldn’t recommend asking any adult of above-average height to sit in the right-hand seat on the bench, because the overhead locker here rather restricts headroom. The feeling of being a bit hemmed in is not helped by the large ridge that separates the two seats.
Lounging and dining
The cab seats swivel around to create a sociable front lounge with the bench seats, and that sleek sunroof boosts the amount of daylight getting in.
It is quite a step up to the bench from the aisle, however. There is a hole for the pedestal table to go in here; this is one of two such spots in the ‘van that both use the same tabletop and leg.
The table itself might be a little on the small side if the ‘van has its full quota of occupants: three could dine here easily, but four would be a bit of a squeeze, and in any case, in this front-lounge position, whoever sits on the right-hand seat on the bench will need to stretch forward when they want to reach it.
There are no spotlights underneath the lockers here for reading, although your toes are kept warm with a heating vent.
Another heating vent blows air down towards the rear to keep the aisle warm on the way to the rear lounge, which is well lit with a Heki in the roof, four spotlights, and ambient and strip lights.
The ivory gloss edging to the overhead locker doors and zigzag patterns on the scatter cushions help to liven up what might otherwise be a fairly safe oatmeal and brown interior. The zigzag design must be popular: the same scatter cushions are used on the Line 33, Chausson’s version of this van conversion range.
The lounge is a great size: there’s easily enough room for six people to relax comfortably here, and while you still use the same relatively small tabletop, the hole for its pedestal is positioned so there is plenty of room for everyone to stretch their legs either side of it without feeling encumbered.
The table is stowed away in its own slot between the rear lounge and the washroom wall. Immediately above is a space for a TV, with the relevant sockets nearby. From here, it could be viewed from most positions in the lounge. Failing that, you could open the barn doors and simply admire the scenery. Or you could always make use of another device: there is a mains socket tucked away under the seats in both the front and the rear lounge.
The procedure for making up the double bed in this motorhome is one area that has seen significant innovation in the past couple of years.
Conventionally, with this type of ‘van layout, you slide together two platforms from underneath each of the settee base cushions, and then fold down legs to provide support for the double bed that you have created.
That proves fine as a bed, but the tricky part has always been those fold-down legs: they tend to get trapped as you try to push the platforms back again in the morning, especially if there is a lot of luggage stored in the underseat area. And you do need to watch your fingers.
Even when the legs are extended and providing that support, they cause an obstruction below the double, which makes it harder for you to temporarily store things beneath overnight.
Last season, Auto-Trail and Benimar sought to get around this problem by introducing pull-out platforms with no legs, but rather with two metal rods that fit across the rear aisle, which you simply fit into special notches at either side of the bed.
This seems a much better solution – so long as you don’t lose the metal rods. However, they do have their own storage slot, just under the base cushion of the offside settee, which is a neat idea.
The designers haven’t managed to get around another (small) problem in all Ducato-based ‘van conversions with this layout, which is to do with the cushions. If you want to arrange the settee cushions to lessen the effect of sleeping on the kneehole (which is noticeable in this ‘van, although not as much as some others), you can’t simply turn them around because of a cutaway in the rear corner. You could flip them over, of course; but then that kneeroll may not bother you anyway.
When you have set up the bed, the double in the 122 comes to a near-perfect square, 1.80m wide, and thanks to the strip of cushioning running along the wall at the top of each backrest, you have a comfortable place to rest your head if you are reading in bed.
Of course, this also means that if you are both under 1.80m tall (which equates to roughly 5ft 11in), you could easily keep the settees as single beds if you prefer. They are plenty wide enough, at 65cm.
The side kitchen comes equipped with only a two-burner hob, but it is linked to the sink for easy cleaning, and all of this area is well lit by day and night.
A large fold-up extension flap, which doesn’t completely obstruct the exit, ensures there should be enough surface to work on, and a small windshield makes it possible to keep cooking even with the door open.
A mains socket is placed on the end of the peninsula, where it should be accessible for a kettle in the kitchen, a radio in the front lounge, or anything you need outside. Underneath is a combined oven/grill; the 85-litre fridge, meanwhile, should be fine for two.
There’s a slight step over into the side washroom. The latter is windowless, but a small vent helps to let out the steam from any shower.
The large rectangular sink folds out of the bottom of the big mirror on the left-hand side, which is lit by one LED in the corner. There is a separate showered, and you can enclose yourself here with a shower curtain that wraps around all sides.
However, there is only one drain hole, so you will need to make sure your ;van tis parked as close to level as possible.
The circular toilet on the other side of the shower curtain also has a toilet roll holder. A heating vent will keep this small room warm.
Storage capacity is another area that has been improved in the 122’s layout over recent seasons.
The hinges on the redesigned bed slats have been moved slightly further away from the wall. On the nearside, this has created enough room to allow for extra cubbyholes on both sides, as well as a storage position for the bed’s metal support rods.
This also means you can more or less lift the slats and leave them up, without needing to remove too many cushions. That is very useful, because the nearside underseat is completely clear, while the offside are only includes the battery and the electrics.
There are no internal access flaps under the settees, but both areas can also be accessed via a flap once the rear doors have been opened.
In addition, there are six reasonably sized overhead lockers back here. The wardrobe sits above the fridge and so is only half-height with a central pillar, although it is wide enough for two. The pedestal table leg is stored in here as well, when not in use,
The front lounge comes with only one overhead locker, but the area under the travel seats is clear, and easy to access by rocking the base cushion forward.
In the cab, plastic shelving above both doors should provide enough room for a guidebook, site directory or atlas. The setbacks have bulky pockets, where you can store, among other things, your copy of Practical Motorhome!
When it comes to kitchen storage, you really appreciate the value of having an underslung gas tank, because there are no intrusions into either of the two cupboards under the sink.
In addition, those cupboards are carefully connected by an internal opening, so you couldstore large pans with awkward handles here, as well as in the pan locker under the oven.
The cutlery drawer is deeper than it needs to be, but that does allow you to store bulkier kitchenware in here. Above, there is one overhead locker.
Washroom storage consists of a few shelves behind the mirror. There are open shelves below it, but these have no retainers, so you can only use them when you are on site.
The inclusion of the sunroof and that powerful engine really make a difference here. You can get these as optional extras in other ‘vans with this layout, but some will definitely prefer to have everything at a set price.
You could get more sophisticated kitchen equipment in other vehicles for this money – but in that case, you might have to contend with having no underslung gas tank, which is extremely handy.
The control panels to everything can be found over the door, and include Whale’s simplified heating panel.
This is a motorhome that’s available in other interpretations, but Marquis Leisure’s and Benimar’s policy of giving you a higher-spec model at one crystal-clear price is to be commended. We’d like to see a slightly better equipped kitchen, although it is hard to see how more could be fitted in. The developments on this season’s model also show that the designers are not resting on any laurels.
The Benimar Benivan 122 was the winner of the best van conversion over £50,000 at the Practical Motorhome Awards 2022.
You want a higher-spec rear-lounge van conversion at a good price, sold by a dealer with nationwide coverage, and you also need two extra travel seats so you can use the vehicle for some day-to-day driving.
Highs: sunroof; higher-spec engine; neater bed system
Lows: only two burners in the kitchen; combined oven and grill; headroom in travel seat below locker
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The lounge is a great size: there's easily enough room for six people to relax comfortably here
|Shipping Length||6.36 m|
|Engine Size||2300 cc|