Practical Motorhome reviews Bilbo’s Celex SE – based on the Volkswagen Transporter, could this be the VW campervan you're after?
On the road
The window van Transporter is one step up the ladder from the bottom-rung panel van, and has a lower specification than the campervan base. The main differences are that it lacks body-coloured bumpers and wing mirrors, does without swivel cab seats and armrests, and has manual windows and mirrors. It still has a lot of the features that appeal, though: dual airbags, traction control, rear seat belt mounting points, remote central locking and radio/CD players are offered as standard. However, it’s only available with one of the punier power units from VW’s engine stable: the 83bhp 1.9-litre turbodiesel. In practice, this engine provides decent amounts of shove at the low-end of the rev-range, so scooting around on back roads and through towns is fine, but it tends to run out of puff on the motorway and has to be worked hard at high speeds, creating more noise and harshness.
Lounging & dining
Our only grouse is that Bilbo’s tends to go with the continental tradition of favouring automotive materials and durability over touchy-feely value. Everything is some shade of grey in there, which some may find unwelcoming. It’s hard to fault, though, when everything feels so solid and when Bilbo’s customers so frequently report that their campervans remain staunch against the tests of time and use.
The Celex’s side-lifting elevating roof creates a living area with an even high point with maximum headroom running the length of the ’van from rear of the cab seats, on the nearside. This means you never have to mind your head when entering the ’van, but the slope down towards the farside means that the roof can sometimes have a claustrophobic feel, particularly when you’re facing the kitchen unit. Bilbo’s offers a rear-hinged roof design as an £800 cost option if customers prefer this variety.
Space or water heaters aren’t included, so there’s enough space on the floor in the lounge area to safely accommodate a compact low-wattage space heater. These are inexpensive and easy to come by and will function perfectly well in all but the coldest weather conditions.
The Celex’s comprehensive kitchen takes up quite a bit of space and as a result the rear bench is fixed further back than some rivals, creating a large gulf between it and the cab seats. The small-ish lounge table isn’t a problem for those only looking to lounge in pairs, but it’s a bit tight for four. There’s a 12V socket and a three-pin socket in the kitchen area, and bright – if slightly cold – fluorescent lighting for the lounge area.
The Bilbo’s excellent lounge table uses a clip-on folding-leg table that fits into a rail running along the face of the kitchen unit – meaning that it can be repositioned very easily – and which stows behind the driver’s seat when not in use.
The Celex has one bright light on a flexible stalk located towards the head of the bed, which functions excellently as a night light, but we’d like to see two placed there so that both occupants can have independent reading lights.
There’s also the option of a roof bed, priced at £400. It’s a drop-down bed, hinged along the farside. Unfortunately, the mattress is thin and access to it is tight.
The Bilbo's Celex SE is far from a token effort – despite the lack of creature comforts included with the base vehicle, it’s a fully functional motorcaravan that will work just fine right out of the box.
- Excellent quality and reliability
- Lots of storage
- Well-equipped habitation
- Underpowered engine
- Manual mirrors and windows
- A grey interior