Think pop-top campervan, and many people think VW. If you want to stand out from the Vee-Dub crowd, you could do a lot worse than choose a Ford Transit-based camper.

There are many independent conversions from the likes of Wellhouse, but Ford’s own camper is the Nugget. The campervan parts are taken care of by the highly respected Westfalia brand.

We spent some time with the standard Nugget last year, and awarded the Ford four stars out of five. Now we’ve had a chance to take a break in the Nugget Plus – it was rated highly, as you’d expect from a ‘van that is included in our best campervan round-up.

As you might guess, the Plus is a little bigger than the standard Nugget. It sits on a longer wheelbase, increasing the overall length from 4.972m to 5.339m. Ford and Westfalia have used this extra length to make space for a fixed toilet at the rear of the campervan.

Otherwise the Nugget Plus is very similar to its smaller sibling. That is a good thing when you’re behind the wheel, as I discovered on a night away with my daughter at Stubcroft Farm Campsite near East Wittering.

The drive from Surrey showed why the Ford Transit is so highly regarded, with precise steering, a comfortable ride, and plenty of power from the 2.0-litre diesel.

Rear kitchen and central lounge might not please all, but there are advantages
Rear kitchen and central lounge might not please all, but there are advantages

Our Nugget Plus was fitted with the 185hp engine, which made for easy overtaking and very strong acceleration when pulling out of junctions. You can no longer order a new Nugget Plus with this engine spec, but the 150hp version still promises a healthy turn of speed. Even the entry-level 130hp engine should be comfortable with a family of four and their luggage.

The Ford is available with a manual gearbox if you go for the less powerful engine, or a choice of manual or auto if you pick the 150hp.

Our camper came with the smooth-shifting automatic. It could be a little slow to change down at times, but there’s a manual override if you want to take charge for yourself.

Quick and easy set-up

Remove the table and the lounge seat folds down into a comfortable double
Remove the table and the lounge seat folds down into a comfortable double

The sun was low in the sky by the time we arrived at Stubcroft, so we were keen to find our pitch and set up the camper before dark.

Lifting the rising roof was a quick and easy job, releasing a catch at the back of the camper and giving the roof a shove to allow the gas struts to do the rest. Once upright, the roof gives up to 2.4m of headroom, with the most generous space at the back by the toilet and the kitchen.

The master control panel is in the cab, rather than the living quarters, but having opened the gas tap, it was no great chore to step to the front of the camper to turn on the heating. We were soon toasty, despite the bracing cold outside.

After a stroll to the beach at East Wittering, we returned to the camper to settle in for the night, and get used to the Nugget’s layout. The rear kitchen and central lounge make a change from the default side kitchen in most campers. It won’t please all, but there are advantages.

Family-friendly floorplan

Upstairs bed is easily reached using the clip-on ladder
Upstairs bed is easily reached using the clip-on ladder

The most obvious is having the living space and cooking area separate. We can see this being a real benefit for a family with young children, because one parent can keep the little ones entertained while the other cooks. It’s also a plus while you’re driving, as the bench seat is closer to the front seats than in most side-kitchen campers, making for easy conversation without raised voices.

Another benefit is having a sliding door on both sides of the campervan, rather than one. We’d certainly rather get the children in and out of the nearside of any camper when parked in the street. It could also come in handy if the weather is wet and windy: you can step out on the sheltered side, so the cabin stays warm and dry.

On the other hand, you do need to squeeze through a narrow gap to walk between lounge and kitchen, and a couple might find having the kitchen and lounge combined more sociable.

My daughter wasn’t keen on Dad’s ‘help’ when cooking, but the length of the Plus meant we didn’t get in each other’s way. There’s a two-burner hob and a 40-litre fridge, but no oven.

After dinner and a DVD, it was time to settle in for the night. With the table removed, we set about folding the bench seat into a bed, not the most intuitive process until you get used to it.

My daughter took the upper bed. The clip-in ladder made it easy to climb up. We both enjoyed a good night’s rest – so much so, we overslept. A brisk walk woke us up, before the short drive to the beach at West Wittering. Even on a chilly day, it was busy with families and dog-walkers.

It was a short but sweet trip, and we enjoyed the Ford. Its on-board toilet is a welcome extra over the standard Nugget – but £73,000 is a lot to pay for a camper, however family-friendly.

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