Peter BaberSee other motorhome reviews written by Peter Baber
Clever design makes best use of the seating and storage in a motorhome that could be ideal for couples, says Peter Baber.
A layout in which the whole of the rear is sectioned off for a huge washroom, with a large garage on the outside, has been offered many times now by French firm Chausson.
This year, rival manufacturer Pilote is launching its version, the 696D ('D' stands for dressing room). We visited SMC in Newark to find out more.
Two further cost options on our test model were gloss wood finish(£430) and faux-leather upholstery (£340).
On the road
You get the standard Fiat Ducato cab, with central drinks holders. Our test model came with a £430 interiors luxury pack, which gives you a leather steering wheel and gear knob, and radio controls on the steering wheel.
Lounging & dining
The pedestal table (telescopic if the bed is included) folds to make it easier to do this, while two LEDs in the cab make reading a pleasure. From here, you can also see any TV you might fit.
With the table set up, there is room to seat six for a meal. The headroom is impressive, even with the drop-down bed. That bed doesn't obscure much daylight - plenty streams in through the windows with their voile curtains.
The bed base includes no fewer than 12 LEDs, so the loughe is well-lit at night. The nearest mains socket not involved with the TV sits over the kitchen, where you'll find two USB points.
Beyond a narrow cupboard, the left side of this unit protrudes. It includes a large drawer below a cutlery drawer, the former partly taken up with bins.
We'd recommend the additional bed option fitted in our model, because it is a doddle to set up and even with this in place, there's a small seating area.
Perhaps the only downside is that the circular toilet is next to this basin on the offside. In this 'van, that's the same side as the habitation door, so you could be emptying the cassette within any awning you put up.
But if you're not worried about that, there is much to admire. There's a large mirror behind the basin, plus a shelf and a cupboard. There is a step into the shower, although the cubicle is a good size, with a riser bar and plenty of shelving, but only one drainage hole.
In the lounge, the only visible storage is in four open shelves immediately under the bed. Pilote's designers have, however, included small areas below the settee.
And there is that garage, too - big enough for a couple of bikes and more, with holds to secure them. Our model had lights and an external shower as well, although both are cost options.
|Fresh/waste water||130L / 95L|
|Leisure battery||100 Ah|
3-burner gas hob
Separate shower cubicle
There are other manufacturers offering this layout, often in a cheaper and shorter vehicle, too. (Chausson, for example, currently offers it in several different lengths.) But few have the comfortable finish of the 696D, or the generous headroom. It's a particularly good 'van for couples who might have day guests who they might want to take on a quick spin somewhere. The huge variety of packs and accessories can be confusing, and can put the price up considerably, but the only really obvious absence on the list is a microwave.