Is it really more than four decades since Bilbo’s produced its first campervan? Yes, 43 years, in fact. And the independent producer has long had a place at the top table of VW converters in the UK. Apart from a brief dabble with Mercedes and an even briefer dalliance with Fiat, Bilbo’s stuck to its Volkswagen guns.

It’s also one of just a handful of UK-based converters that can claim Volkswagen recognition.

But what’s this? A campervan with elevating roof (of course) and a proper, flushing toilet? Nexa is Bilbo’s ‘second string’ conversion – an alternative four-seater floorplan compared to the usual side furniture/rear seat-bed that typifies the huge majority of VW-based conversions. The Nexa+ takes this a stage further, with a fully plumbed-in Thetford cassette toilet.

And it’s all based on the very latest T6.1 Transporter. In fact, Bilbo’s is unusual in using the Kombi version, which already has additional body strengthening for passenger-carrying duties. It also allows use of the T6.1’s original seatbelt mounting points for the RIB seats/beds that it fits as part of the Nexa+ specification.

But first, that new base vehicle. Whether you’re already a VW fan, or about to become one, it’s easy to argue this is the best Transporter yet. Inside and out, the look has been sharpened, with plenty of upgrades, not least in safety and security.

Bilbo’s prefers to use the Highline version of the T6.1 (although it can provide the lower-spec Startline), where wellbeing fittings range across tyre pressure monitoring, CAT1 alarm, immobiliser, hill-holder, automatic post-collision braking and hazard lights operation, and adaptive cruise control, as well as all the usual features we expect on any motorhome base – cab air conditioning, front and rear parking sensors and so on.

Another practical fitting is the rubber strips along both sides – something Bilbo’s has long ordered for its VW base vehicles (other converters don’t) and perfect for fending off those inevitable knocks and scuffs.

All T6.1s have electromechanical power steering, too – incredibly light for tight parking manoeuvres, it goes on to develop excellent ‘feel’ the faster you go. That’s a key factor in making this the best Transporter yet to drive.

Good news – an e-Transporter is in the pipeline. Bad news – it’s still some way off. For now, there’s a choice of Euro 6.2/6d diesels, the example here coming with the 150PS/148bhp and DSG automatic transmission upgrades. They add some £4400 to your bill, but it’s easy to argue they’re worth it.

Other options in this demonstrator are Ravenna Blue metallic paint (£1000), rear-view camera (£290), diesel heating (£1250), 80W solar panel (£595) and lithium leisure battery (£650) – the latter starting to prove especially popular with off-gridders.

Bilbo’s Nexa conversion itself has been honed over some 20 years, and scores particularly well for storage. Those rear seats (use the clutter-free bases for your bedding) fold flat and combine with the swivelled cab seats for twin 1.87 x 0.60m single beds that still allow access to toilet and kitchen. You can also make up a double bed.

The main kitchen unit is along the nearside, offering a sink, three-ring hob and mini-grill (or microwave). 
All storage – two drawers, two lockers – is under the worktop. Over the way, there’s a 50-litre compressor fridge with larger lockers above and below.

The aforementioned swivel-bowl toilet is relatively unobtrusively housed in the rear offside corner.

Bilbo’s side-hinging elevating roof is simplicity itself and indicative of the way the company goes about all of its work – quality, practical and durable.