Dealers converting small ’vans face a difficult challenge. Their vehicles must be small enough to give drivers the freedom to travel anywhere with ease but also include various essential day-to-day features such as a bed and a kitchen.

Sussex-based JC Leisure’s Porterhome microvan, built on the Piaggio Micro MPV, is new to this competitive niche market. The base van is manufactured by Italian giant Piaggio, well known for its Vespa motor scooters.

The Porterhome has some good features, such as its punchy acceleration. With a 1300cc multi-point injection (or EFI – electronic fuel injection) petrol engine and a kerbweight of only 1040kg, the ’van moves off from a stationary position with surprising vigour. On the open road however, the low-ratio gearbox soon runs out of cogs, giving the Porterhome a cruising speed of just 60mph.

Although the steering is non-power assisted, it is light enough at parking speeds and feels reassuring on the motorway, with none of the shake and shimmy often associated with microvans. However, a goodly amount of understeer is noticeable on roundabouts due to the vehicle’s narrow 12-inch wheels. The pay-off here, though, is the turning circle radius of only 3.7m.

Sadly, the build quality of the base vehicle is slightly crude. All handles and switches are engineered from seemingly lightweight plastics, which feel as if they would snap under a small amount of pressure.

Fuel consumption is reasonable – around 28mpg in the city, rising to about 40mpg on the open road.

Interestingly, the Porterhome has twin sliding cargo doors. Unfortunately though, only one of them can be used because the kitchen furniture blocks offside access.

Restrictions such as this might lead you to believe that the Porterhome is too small for comfortable living – but you’d be wrong. With the roof up, there is ample room to stand although sitting down at the clip-on dining table when the side door is closed feels a little claustrophobic. We’d certainly recommend investing in an awning to create more space.

There’s nothing fancy about the Porterhome’s cooking facilities but it has all the essentials. Under the hinged work surface is a Smev stainless-steel twin-burner hob and matching sink. Beneath the counter you find cupboard space for all the pots, pans, tins and cutlery needed for a weekend away. There’s also a five-litre fresh-water container.

With the dining table unclipped, the forward facing seat folds out to make a double bed. This is certainly long enough, if rather narrow for a double, and the surface is tolerably comfortable. The Porterhome is a fun and reasonably low-cost entry-level ’van but it lacks the driveability of a car and the comfort and space of a full-sized motorhome. All in all, it is probably most suited to a couple seeking a second vehicle.