Benjamin Davies

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Find out what the experts think of the Bessacarr E660 in the Practical Motorhome review

Design

The E660 does turn heads on site. The build quality further enhances the ’van’s attractive design, and the solidity and rigidity of the habitation bodywork is impressive.

However, the bracket holding the wastewater drain valve fell off. It’s held to the wooden floor by three screws, but positioned quite low so it’s at risk when travelling over bumpy ground.

The underbed storage space could have done with a larger external door, too. The current one is 34 x 78cm and, considering the size of the locker, it’s a shame that access from outside is so tight. Undersized locker doors seem to be a bit of a theme with this ‘van – the gas locker door comes in at 34 x 63cm, and though the locker itself houses two 7kg bottles, the left-hand example cannot be replaced without first removing that on the right.

One of the benefits of buying a Continental layout from a British manufacturer is that you won’t get a mere re-handed conversion, with the Continental habitation body stuck onto a right-hand drive base vehicle, placing the habitation door on the farside. Everything in the E660 is in its correct place: the solid habitation door is on the nearside with the hook-up point conveniently located next to it, and the other facilities – gas locker, toilet cassette locker and freshwater filler – are on the farside.

Inside, the fabric is practical, of good quality and easy on the eye. The light colours of the plywood work together with panoramic skylight and the large and small Heki rooflights to create a light, airy environment.

However, the quality of the internal materials falls short of the overall impression given by the exterior build. The Swift Group has done well with the things that really count – the design and quality of the bodywork and the facilities – but a few more feel-good materials inside wouldn’t go amiss. Some of the plastics – the silver trim that edges the lockers, for example – feel cheap.

On the road

Fiat’s 2.3-litre turbodiesel unit comes as standard on the E660, and it’s usually more than potent enough; sixth gear is also a bonus. Overall, the Bessacarr drives commendably well: it has superb power steering and brakes, and visibility is good, too. Although the lack of a rear window took some getting used to, there’s no avoiding that with this layout. The optional reversing camera does a lot to alleviate this problem, and visibility is otherwise excellent.

The cab is comfortable and the equipment included in the optional £975 ‘Elegance Pack’ (reversing camera, cab air-conditioning, satellite navigation and cruise control) is well worth going for.

The ‘van also has two front-facing belted travel seats in the habitation area, as well as the two in the cab, making it capable of carrying four people: the same number that it sleeps.

Lounging & dining

A common criticism levelled at this Continental layout is the lack of room to stretch out when seated. The dinette has two front-facing seats and a side sofa, which don’t really provide enough room to stretch your legs. There are two small cushions but all the seats are rather upright and not ideal for feet-up lounging. The only place where you can laze is on the rear bed.

Despite its deficiencies, the half-dinette – which can accommodate up to six when the cab seats are swivelled – makes for an excellent dining area. We particularly like the large, solid, extending table, which has a spring-loaded action that expands it to 131.5cm x 56cm. When retracted it measures a healthy 100cm x 56cm. The proximity of the dinette to the kitchen also means that it’s easy to move food and cutlery between the two areas.

One highlight of the low-profile Bessacarrs and Swifts is the inclusion of an immense panoramic ‘Skyview’ rooflight that stretches from over the cab area and into the lounge. It opens slightly for ventilation, but its main function is to flood the area with light, and it does so with aplomb.

After dusk the Swift Group’s warm LED lighting provides excellent illumination, while registering a claimed 70 per cent power saving over non-LED systems. There are three adjustable LED spots in the lounge area, which provide ample light for reading. Power management really is one of the E660’s strong points, as evidenced elsewhere by the inclusion of a three-pin power socket in the lounge, in addition to the further two in the kitchen area that can also be used for appliances in the lounge.

Kitchen

The fixed worksurface in the E660’s L-shaped kitchen is on the small side, and tricky to access: it’s located in the corner of the ‘L’, between the sink and the hob. There’s a removable chopping board that covers the sink to increase workspace, but that renders the sink inaccessible. However, the detachable draining board attaches to one side of the sink to create a little more room.

The hob has three gas burners, as well as an electric hotplate, and is roomy enough to accommodate four regular-sized pans simultaneously. The oven is standard-sized and perfectly useable but the grill is poor, mainly because the pan is too far from the flame. There’s also no extractor fan, but a microwave is included as standard, set at eye-level over the hob (which is a bit on the high side for some). The space beneath the microwave is vented to prevent the appliance from potentially overheating.

Kitchen storage in the E660 is terrific and the cavernous circular carousel shelf in the cupboard under the sink is a brilliant touch that easily accommodates all the vegetables and cooking items that a family of four might need.

Despite the room taken up by the microwave, there’s sufficient storage for pots and pans in the round cupboard above the sink, and cutlery and crockery can go in one of the lockers in the lounge area, which has a dedicated plastic tray with elastic restraints to keep them quiet when you’re on the move. The vast, well-located, 175-litre fridge with separate freezer is a hit, too.

Sleeping

The rear fixed bed’s 20cm-thick mattress is firm but comfortable. The bed is roomy at 190cm x 131cm, which should suit all but the tallest occupants. Even at its narrowest point – the ‘cutaway’ that allows washroom access – the bed is 95cm in width.

The shelves in the bed area provide ample space for watches and books, and there are two three-pin sockets in there, which – besides allowing for a TV – also work very well for charging mobile phones or laptops overnight. The adjustable LED lighting is excellent and the switches are easy to reach, even in the dead of night – overall, it’s a very good rear bed area.

The lounge bed is well arranged, too, albeit with a small caveat. The lounge bed is made up by lowering the table to form part of the base and extending a slatted section from under the facing bench, as well as rearranging the seat cushions. A number of fill-in cushions are also needed; these lack dedicated storage but are easy to tuck away, thanks to the E660’s abundance of general-purpose storage.

This bed is easy to make up thanks to the Swift Group’s clever table design: as the spring-loaded extension mechanism on the table makes it quite hefty and therefore tricky to lower, a pivoting system is included, which keeps the table fixed to the wall while swinging it down into position on a hinge.

Insulation around the beds is also more than adequate, and there’s a concertina partition that can be used to cordon off the rear bed and washroom from the rest of the motorhome.

Washroom

The washroom in the E660 is on the small side, and the slanting door further restricted space. Swift Group’s designers have elected to split the washroom into three distinct areas. The sink and mirror are housed in the first that you enter. The mirror is excellent, and the sink is adequate but suffers from restricted space. There’s plenty of storage in this area, and there are soap and tumbler holders, as well as the chrome clips for bottles. There’s more good storage space under the sink.

The washroom door closes solidly, with a sturdy doorknob, and also locks. However, sunlight is in short supply in the washroom, due to the small rooflight.

The middle section of the washroom is made up of the shower cubicle, which has folding plastic doors fore and aft to cordon it off and keep the other areas dry. It’s slightly short on space, but the slatted wooden duckboard that forms its base is a stylish and practical touch.

Behind the shower area is the swivelling toilet, in a space that’s just about large enough to accommodate it. Knee- and legroom are provided by the shower cubicle, so you’ll probably get your feet wet if you need to use it after someone has taken a shower. The layout of the washroom also means that the toilet cannot be accessed while the shower is in use.

Storage

The overall amount of storage really is impressive on the 4005kg chassis, offering 635kg of payload. Even four people would have to pack a lot of kit to use up all the space available. The wardrobe is especially impressive: at 130cm (height) x 44cm (width) x 48cm (depth), it’s a roomy space with two full-width shelves built into it, and is just about adequate for four people. It will only hold their coats, but there’s plenty of storage elsewhere for folded clothes.

Apart from the wardrobe, there are good storage lockers and cubbies over the cab, and the roomy storage area under the bed is easy to access, despite the fact that the mattress is so thick and heavy.

The pneumatic struts underneath the lifting bed base make it very easy raise up quite high, and once it’s up it stays there, so you can retrieve things from the storage area with ease.

However, if you’re travelling as a couple you are not very likely to need to get at the underbed storage from within the motorhome very often. That is because there is so much storage available in the overhead lockers and under the dinette seats; those have gas struts as well, which also makes them very easy to lift up.

Technical specs

Sleeps4
Travel seats4
MTPLM4005kg
Payload625kg
Length7.08m23′3″
Width2.35m7′9″
Height2.95m9′8″
Waste water68L

Verdict

It isn’t quite at the level where it can completely blow the competition out of the water, but it’s very nearly there. The E660’s strengths are phenomenal, but various weaknesses – such as the lack of lounging comfort and the perceived quality of some of the interior materials – do hold it back.

Conclusion

Pros

  • The large, well-positioned fridge/freezer
  • The comfortable rear bed, with its 20cm-thick mattress and power sockets nearby
  • The optional Elegance Pack, which for £975 provides sat-nav, a reversing camera, cab air-conditioning and cruise control.

Cons

  • The bracket that holds the waste-water drain valve hangs quite low from the bottom of the habitation body and could easily be knocked when travelling
  • The lack of a fire extinguisher as standard
  • The microwave is set quite high in the kitchen cabinetwork.
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