The new Surf is very much a ‘van for the brave new world of wireless technology, with its USB sockets and wireless charging pad. It looks great on the outside, and is comfortable to live in, and it’s good that Danbury has done more than just add a bed upstairs. There is extra lighting there, too.
Storage isn’t bad either. The boot is large enough to hold bulky items, and the wardrobe – to use an estate agent’s phrase – is deceptively large.
We might have liked to see more kitchen workspace, and perhaps a rather higher spec there to match the excellent provision elsewhere – but there is only so much you can do in the confined space of a camper. Otherwise, this is a very attractive model.
Our test team’s notes
CLAUDIA DOWELL: “I love the look of the campervan. With its Wolfrace alloy wheels – and they are proper alloy wheels, not pretend ones – sidebars and discreet branding, it’s a ‘van I would definitely want to be seen with.”
SARAH WAKELY: “Putting raising roofs up, and in particular fastening them back down again, can often be more complicated than it looks. With the system in this ‘van, it was simplicity itself – as long as you remember to leave the straps somewhere safe when the roof is up.”
PETER BABER: “The folding spotlights, drinks holder and wireless charger at the back of this ‘van just encourage you to spend long hours reading in bed. Not good in terms of current thinking on sleep, but nice all the same!”
Bright lights everywhere
Extra fridge security means there should be no unexpected opening and spillages
Kitchen workspace is not the most generous, even for a campervan
Danbury is still perhaps best known among campervan fans for producing conversions on the old T2 Transporter, imported from Brazil.
But it’s aways had a good line in modern conversions based on the latest T6. And this year – along with taking on a range of Fiat-based van conversions from its new French masters at Pilote – the Bristol-based company has managed to bring out a new, up-to-date version of its Surf, currently just called the Special Edition. We went for a spin in the nearby Forest of Dean.
We were impressed with its turning circle: in the Forest of Dean there were a few hairpin bends we thought might need a three-point turn, but the 'van handled them with ease
Both cab seats swivel, but as this is a VW, the handbrake is in the middle and you have to release it to swivel the driver’s seat.
The fold-out table is a bit of a struggle to retrieve from its storage position in the sliding door. We found it had just about enough space for four, although it is set a little low for any adult who might be sitting on the rear bench. Remove the table, and the bench is comfortable enough to spend many hours on.
This is a wonderfully lit lounge. The small shelf in the kitchen is the only place in here that might serve as a location for keys and fobs. A small light comes on below it and by the sliding door as soon as you switch on the 12V supply using the control panel above the kitchen.
But with the ‘van hooked up to the mains, you get three more strip lights – two down the nearside, one on the offside. These are all individually switched, with buttons illuminated in blue to help you find them in poor light. If you have the optional roofbed up (as you probably will most of the time), two similar strip lights, either side, light the ceiling.
The branded splashback in the kitchen also has dimmable illumination.
The lounge area is well resourced electronically, with a mains socket on the nearside of the bench, and enough room to fit a cable between it and the door. You can easily use the two sockets in the kitchen.
With the Audio Pack, you get a pair of Bluetooth speakers, too. The controls for them are next to the other controls above the kitchen worktop. They come with a USB socket and were surprisingly easy to use.
We found the sound a bit tinny, but the volume was good and the position of the speakers – either side of the bench – was excellent. You wouldn’t have to bring a portable device with you.
The area is heated by a vent from the Eberspächer diesel heater underneath the driver’s seat.
Any campervan kitchen is going to be a compromise because of lack of space, and in this one, you only get two gas-burners – there’s no oven or microwave.
There is a small sink with cold water but, because Danbury has fitted stylish metal runners to the right of it that make up a sort of permanent drainer, the only workspace you get is on a lower level to the right, under the controls.
As the two mains sockets are here, you’d probably be sharing this space with the kettle or toaster.
That said, storage in the kitchen isn’t bad – Danbury claims there is 80 litres of it in total. There is a 50-litre compressor fridge, with a small freezer compartment, and a cupboard to the right of this with a shelf inside and enough room for most pans. There is a smaller drawer above this cupboard for larger kitchen utensils, and next to this, a small drawer for cutlery.
Under the workspace with the sockets, there is a locker where you could store a minimal amount of dry food.
Most campervans, including the Surf, have no washroom. You can use the sink in the kitchen to wash, although it is cold water only.
On the plus side, this ‘van does have an external shower at the rear offside corner – again it’s cold water only. On the minus side, because there are two large drawers under the rear bench, there is nowhere in the main part of the ‘van to store a Porta Potti, should you want to.
Such equipment could only be stored in the boot at the back, where it would be possibly less useful during the night.
Bed provision is one area where the new Surf really does excel.
The RIB bench turns easily into a double bed, using a lever on the side, which you can just about keep hold of to let the base cushions come forward, and a bar that you raise to bring down the backrest.
It’s a long double, too, at 1.85m, with plenty of space at the bottom if your toes stretch a little further, and 1.20m wide where it matters at the head end.
Lie back here and you discover other goodies, including a sizeable drinks holder, a wireless mobile phone charger pad, and a spotlight on either side that you just tap to turn on.
Although the spots have adjustable necks, they aren’t long enough for these lights to be much use when the bench is in the upright position, so are only useful for a night-time read.
Each light has a USB slot, too, so even if your phone isn’t modern enough to cope with the wireless pad, you can still charge it.
Also unusually, as we have already mentioned above, the Surf has two strip lights in the roof area as well.
For day-time ventilation and light up here, there is a mesh window on each side and a transparent plastic window at the front. All have inner opaque linings, and there’s an opening vent as a safety precaution.
The roof bed folds down in two parts and can take a maximum weight of 200kg, so two adults could easily sleep here if you are a party of grown-ups.
There is no ladder, but really, why would you want one? There is more than enough to step onto in the ‘van itself on the way up. A ladder would probably just get in the way.
We would recommend bringing along a fairly hefty pillow with you, because there’s not much of a headboard for either bed.
Finally, when it’s time for lights out, you don’t need to worry about those blue switches on the strip lights keeping you awake.
As soon as you turn off the 12V controls on the panel – a bit of a stretch from the downstairs bed – every light in the ‘van goes off. After a short while, so too does the background lighting in the control panel itself, leaving you in the restful dark.
One advantage of a layout like the Surf’s – even if it doesn’t include a dedicated washroom – is that you get plenty of space behind the bench for storing larger items, and that area is easily accessible through the tailgate door.
You can’t move the bench forward here, but there is still room for a large suitcase at the bottom, while the top end of the bed acts as a shelf for another large bag on top.
If you have skis, fishing rods or other long terms to take with you, Danbury has even included a small hole in the base of the rear bench, which should hold them if you remove the drawer in front of it on the other side.
That could be a laborious job and you might prefer not to sacrifice so much space anyway, because these two drawers – this one and the larger one to the right of it as you look forwards – are big enough to hold any bedding you might want to put away during the day.
The wardrobe in the van’s offside corner has a rail, and a surprisingly large drop for a campervan.
The sole snag is that it’s only accessible through a tambour door from inside the ‘van, not from the rear.
|Shipping Length||4.89 m|
|Engine Size||2000 cc|