Rob Ganley
Group editor

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It's been a good seller before – find out if this is set to continue by reading Practical Motorhome's review of the Autocruise Starburst

Design

The handsome Starburst shares its exterior looks with its other Star Plus-range stablemates: all possess the same smart, sweeping grey-and-red graphics. Our vehicle came with plastic wheel trims, but 15-inch alloys are available as a £598 cost option.

We particularly liked the overcab moulding, which is a new addition for the 2010 season. It looks smart and creates enough space for a large locker on the inside of the ’van, too.

The fresh- and waste-water tanks are both underslung; the former is insulated, too. A capacity of 94- and 73-litres respectively should prove ample for couples even on longer tours. The Starburst’s payload of 475kg should also prove sufficient for two adults and their kit.

The gas locker – which allows for two 7kg bottles – is satisfyingly low slung, meaning that it’s easier to lift full bottles in and out. An electric step aids access to the motorhome, there’s electric door locking all round, and a standard-fit, LED awning light provides night-time illumination.

On the road

The 2.2-litre 130bhp is only available on the Peugeot Boxer cab; however, opt for the 160bhp unit with auto gearbox and your vehicle will be based on the Fiat Ducato. It’s the low AL-KO chassis that is key to this model’s drive; it results in plenty of stability around corners, and a smooth, comfortable ride.

Also noticeable by their absence were the creaks and rattles that often emerge from a motorhome’s accommodation area when on the road: even when fully loaded the Starburst’s interior was more or less silent. Our vehicle was fitted with Peugeot’s 2.2-litre, 130bhp engine; the unit proved amply powerful during our test, conducted on a variety of roads.

We weren’t overly keen on the Boxer steering, though: we don’t find it as positive or as light as that of the Ducato. But the six-speed gearbox is great. The change feels satisfyingly solid and the length of the gear ratios is just about right.

The full-colour, optional reversing camera – part of the £1495 Lux Pack – is simple to operate, and very handy: there’s no rearwards view at all from the driver’s seat, unless you leave the washroom door open. Cab air-conditioning and cruise control are also provided if you opt for the Lux Pack.

We were also thankful of the Starburst’s relatively short overhang. It limits the ‘swing out’ of the rear of the motorhome – always good when you’re driving through heavy traffic.

The cab itself is a comfortable place to be, even on longer journeys – the seats are height-adjustable, firm and supportive, and there are two arm-rests on both chairs – a real bonus when on long motorway stretches. A passenger airbag comes as standard (something that we think should be more prevalent in the motorhome industry), and there’s a cubby hole just up above the cab – this proved ideal for storing our first-aid kit, high-visibility jackets and maps.

Lounging & dining

Both lounging and dining within the Starburst are sociable affairs: with the cab seats swivelled, six can be seated in comfort –although elbowroom for this many might prove an issue at meal times. A free-standing table can be erected for dining, and it provides plenty of plate space.

The table is stored in a dedicated cupboard next to the accommodation door. It’s handy to have it tucked away, but the table is so heavy that retrieving it from its cupboard is awkward, and even more so when the kitchen unit has been swung out.

Lounging is a more pleasant affair, even for six: the two facing sofas, with their matching scatter cushions, are supportive and comfortable. Space and the connections for an LCD TV are located within the tambour-doored cupboard next to the accommodation door; if fitted, this could be comfortably viewed by all of the occupants on the sofas or in the swivelled cab seats. There are a couple of audio speakers above the lounge area, too.

There is an impressive number of mains sockets within the ’van: there’s a total of five, including one above the wine bottle holder to the right of the fridge. This proved handy for charging mobile phones and other small devices.

Finally, the blown-air heating – a vent of which is located at the base of the offside sofa – is very efficient. The controls for the heating are located to the front of the kitchen, and can easily be reached by an occupant of the offside sofa.

Kitchen

Autocruise’s swing-out kitchen unit – which features in all of its Star Plus ’vans – is certainly a clever concept. A bolt mechanism unhooks and the entire cupboard unit pulls out, greatly increasing the amount of both the available work and storage space. It’s great if you’re the cook, but not quite so appealing if you’re not and you need to access the washroom, or the accommodation door: You have to swing it back in again if you’re tying to get past, which isn’t ideal if there are plates or foodstuffs on the top.

That niggle aside, the kitchen is well-thought-out: everything is within easy reach if you’re standing in front of the sink. The inclusion of a full-size cooker – complete with three hobs and a handy electric plate – will suit those who prefer to cook in the ’van rather than eat out, and there’s ample storage space for enough food to last a week, as well as all the necessary pots and pans. A microwave also comes as standard, as does a 112-litre automatic-energy-selection fridge.

This ’van will appeal to wine lovers. Not only is there a dedicated space for four bottles alongside the fridge, there’s also room for the accompanying glasses in the locker next to the door. A dedicated crockery cupboard, in the locker above the sink, and a cutlery drawer complete the excellent kitchen storage facilities.

Sleeping

The Starburst’s bed is created by sliding out the slatted units from beneath the sofas to meet in the middle; the two back-rest cushions then simply push down into the gap to create a good-sized double bed. It’s nice and flat (as long as you remember to put the slightly raised portion of the seat base cushions closest to the windows), and the supportive cushions are firm but comfortable to lie on.

Alternatively, the sofas can be transformed into two single beds simply by removing the back cushions altogether, or by pulling the slatted bases out slightly and dropping the backs straight down. Either way, the single beds that result should be wide enough for most occupants, but those who are on the taller side may find them too short for long-term use – our testers used the swivelled seats of the cab to create a little bit of extra length, although these seats are slightly higher than the sofa bases.

The large locker above the cab (the space for which is freed up by that new Luton moulding) proved perfect for storing bedding: it will easily swallow two sleeping bags or a double duvet, as well as a couple of pillows and a blanket.

Washroom

The Starburst’s washroom is key to its layout: it takes up a relatively large proportion of the vehicle’s footprint, and really needs to appeal if the Starburst is to prove popular.

And in this case, it does. There’s plenty of space for dressing, and we liked the concertina-doored shower: However, using the basin , which is enclsed within the cubicle, afterwards means walking across a wet shower floor. There’s only one plug hole for the water to drain out of the shower, too, a second would probably help to clear the water on uneven ground – or a simple duck board, to keep feet dry.

Storage is acceptable within this area: there’s a tall (but shallow) cupboard up above the swivel toilet, a small cupboard up above the mirror, and a toothbrush- and toilet-roll holder. We were pleased to note the blown-air vent at floor level, which kept the area warm even during the snowy weather we suffered on our trip.

Clear washroom windows – over the opaque variety – are far less common in British motorhomes than in their Continental cousins, so we were surprised to find one fitted in the Starburst.

Storage

The amount of storage space available within the Starburst is impressive for a motorhome that isn’t much more than six metres in length. There are six medium-sized lockers lining the lounge area alone, and these – combined with the half-size wardrobe above the fridge – should prove ample for a couple to store all their kit. All the lockers open via a push-button, and feel sturdy and well constructed. There’s also a lot of room under each of the two sofas, the bases of which lift up on gas struts for ease of access.

However, there’s no storage space in the motorhome for larger items, but barbecues and the like, which can be broken down, should be able to fit underneath the seats easily enough. We particularly appreciated the external locker doors which provide access to the roomy spaces underneath the sofas; they allow you to store muddy levelling ramps and cables without having to trail them through the motorhome. They also commented on the practicality of the partially-recessed floor in the offside locker – it meant that they could store the ramps securely without them slipping around underneath the seat.

Technical specs

Sleeps2
Travel seats2
MTPLM3500kg
Payload475kg
Length6.38m20′11″
Width2.3m7′7″
Height2.71m8′11″
Waste water88L

Verdict

If a sociable layout and a double bed is what you’re after the Starburst is a tempting prospect. It’s smart, well put-together, offers masses of storage space, is nicely equipped and the washroom’s great. The Starburst has been a strong seller for Autocruise in the past – in its 2010 incarnation, this only looks set to continue.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Large washroom, sociable and comfortable lounge.

Cons

  • Short single beds, awkward kitchen design.
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