This VW can go anywhere that a large family car can, and it’s a pleasure to drive. However, the lack of space means the width of the single beds are compromised. We’d also like the Webasto diesel heater to be standard. These gripes aside, the Nexa represents superb value for money, especially as it’s a viable main vehicle. Despite costing more than most cars, it will depreciate far less than an equivalent saloon or hatchback.
The VW T5 base vehicle; clever design that has kept the kitchen and lounge apart; plenty of storage; quality
Leaking side window (a known VW problem); awkward fresh water filler; location of the power sockets
To some, Volkswagen is still the only badge worthy of bedecking a campervan and in many respects the T5-based Nexa lives up to the weight of expectation and doesn’t disappoint.
Surrey-based Bilbo’s Design has been converting Volkswagen Transporters for decades now and has managed to stay ahead of the pack through the use of thoughtful layouts. When comparing the build quality of the Nexa to other conversions on the T5 base, the Nexa scores highly. Volkswagen’s own California range is good, too, but many of the available extras cost more than in the Nexa. For example, a satellite navigation system costs about an extra £600 – at £1703 – in the California range.
Erecting the pop-top is essential for anybody who doesn’t fancy spending the duration of their stay bent double. Fortunately, the manufacturer has made it as easy as possible to put the roof up: simply undo two fastening straps and give the roof a gentle push. The two gas struts easily lift and support the top which is made from heavy canvas with two clear PVC skylights, with a pair of blinds for privacy. However, how to fit these blinds was not immediately obvious; our testers could only think of tucking the base of the bar into the join between the two canvas side panels, which just about did the job.
Twisting the captain’s chairs required a little know-how to prevent fouling the arms on the doors, steering column and dashboard but once practised, it took only a minute to get the chairs into the right position for lounging.
Four mini fluorescent lamps provide interior lighting, while additional ambiance is provided in the dining area by a brace of angle-poise spotlights.
The dining area is adequately sized, with a table by the sliding door mounted on an L-shaped pole. Two brackets allow the table to twist either inside or outside the ’van and it took just seconds to fold it out of the way altogether. The opposite side of the ’van boasted a neat dinette table that stowed away when not in use. John and Rosie liked the way that four could eat in relative comfort, even with the door closed. In fact, having a living area that doesn’t obstruct the kitchenette is right at the core of the Nexa’s design philosophy.
The nearside window is a standard-issue Transporters sliding unit. Sadly, ours was leaking around the seal – a known VW problem that can lead to a mouldy pane.
Another minor gripe was the location of the mains sockets, which are behind the rear nearside seat. They could do with being an inch or two higher, for ease of use.
Lifting the piece of smoked glass reveals a neat three-burner hob, combined with a small Smev sink. However, it might be a little tricky to cook and wash up at the same time. While this is true, there can be no denying that it is a neat unit and combining the hob and sink together leaves more room on the worktop for food preparation.
Below the worktop sits a grill and warming-oven with Piezo ignition and an electric light.
The fresh water tank holds 35 litres, which was a useful size, but we were less pleased with the location of the filler cap. Situated just under the work surface overhang – on the furthest rear unit – it was difficult to fill with a bottle. You’d really need a filter funnel. The filler neck is situated there to prevent any possibility of accidentally filling the water tank with diesel, but we agree it was far from ideal.
The Waco Coolmatic compressor-type fridge did far better. Its 50-litre capacity is a useful size and we also liked it being at waist height. The fridge also impressed with the time it took to reach the correct temperature: after being switched on for just an hour or two, it was chilling our provisions nicely.
Having a chemical toilet situated in a cupboard directly below the fridge might not be to everybody’s liking but it does at least provide a toilet facility when some other campervans don’t.
The cassette-type Porta Potti 435 with electric flush fits into the stowage compartment with no space wasted. It’salso easy to slide it through the back door, meaning the pan doesn’t have to be carried through the inside of the motorhome. For dignified use on site, we’d recommend that you invest in a toilet tent. This could be stowed easily at the rear, next to the folding dinette table.
If you like a decent amount of space when you retire to bed, then the Nexa is for you. The VW’s 1.86m bed length should prove sufficient for most, though a few might find each berth’s 61cm width a little on the narrow side.
We liked the space that separate beds afforded, while the contemporary, warm, appearance of the trim and curtains also impressed.
Making and folding up the beds is simple enough, and merely requires the release of a catch on the base. The bed’s base then hinges forward, allowing the squab to be lowered forward into its place, though it is necessary to remove the head restraints first. There is plenty of room for bedding under the chairs.
The Nexa has the option of another couple of bunks in the roof but they were not fitted on our test vehicle.
The Nexa was always going to be at a disadvantage when it comes to storage, due to the T5’s compact dimensions. However, it is a credit to Bilbo’s design that so much can be fitted in, due to some imaginative coachbuilding.
There is storage under the forward-facing seats for bedding and blankets and there is a half-height wardrobe sufficiently ample to house all the shirts, skirts and shoes you might need on tour.
There are some hidden places, too. When the roof is elevated the cavity can hide a couple of suitcases. Also, the dinette table clips into a tight spot between the fridge and the tailgate. The gas bottle storage space has room to spare, too. Our testers found yet another cubbyhole when the offside bed was built – an unseen door on the side of the unit, previously covered by the seat back. It would be handy for putting the headrests in there when you remove them to make the bed.
Should this level of hidey-holes prove insufficient for owners’ needs, then they can also opt for a range of extra storage. Added bunks, roof rails and a mountain bike rack are just some of the options listed by Bilbo’s Design. If this is still not enough and you require extra space, any model T5 has more than enough grunt to pull a trailer.
|Shipping Length||4.58 m|