Benjamin DaviesSee other motorhome reviews written by Benjamin Davies
Get the verdict on the Auto-Trail 640G in the Practical Motorhome review
Despite being the longest ’van in the Excel stable, with an overhang that comes in at about half the length of the wheelbase, the 640G is no slouch to drive.
It’s relatively light, so even with the 2.2-litre 100 MultiJet engine – the puniest in the Fiat Ducato line-up – it’s energetic and only betrays weaknesses on the motorway, where at cruising speeds the slightest inclines can leave it wheezing.
Auto-Trail’s men in overalls are past masters at building vehicles with low levels of on-road noise, vibration and harshness, and they’ve utilised this know-how to full effect with the Excel range. Travel in the Excel is admirably rattle and squeak-free.
The Excel’s exterior design is one of its strong points, although you really do want to plump for the £1050 Sport Pack to gain the eye-catching metallic-blue paintjob, which comes with matching side skirts – the hue works very well with the modern graphics and the sleek shape. The bodywork is well-crafted and uses the same techniques as used in Auto-Trail's premium ranges, and seems set to stand the test of time.
The facilities are all located on the farside – we particularly like the large diameter of the wastewater drain pipe –except the gas locker, which is located just forward of the habitation door. The locker has a good wide opening and the bottles sit side-by-side, which is always helpful.
The Excel’s lounge is raised from the rest of the habitation area and is made up of two facing seats – the one on the farside could be called a settee, but that one on the nearside is really only a seat for one. Add the cab seats and you have a lounge that will seat four, despite having only enough belts for two people in this layout, although a half-dinette with belted seats is an option.
The large lounge table is of the freestanding variety, so allows for good access through the ’van when it’s stowed in its dedicated cubby hole.
The lounge is well lit both night and day, and full use has been made of Auto-Trail’s know-how of materials, to ensure that the quality is high. The provision of just one three-point socket is disappointing, though.
The 640G has a full, albeit compact, kitchen located directly behind the lounge. A triangular three-burner hob (with ignition) sits in one corner of the work surface, facing a similarly shaped and sized sink. Both have glass covers, and their shapes mean that a bit of space is freed up between them for kitchen tasks.
Beneath the sink is a roomy Spinflo oven/grill unit, and beneath the hob is a 77-litre Dometic fridge. Oddly, a cutlery drawer sits beneath the oven/grill. Our only complaint is the shortage of storage space in the kitchen.
The Excel’s garage bed is roomy at 2.1 x 1.7m and despite the split mattress is entirely comfortable. There are no spotlights for reading, though, and the lack of a Heki rooflight means that it can get gloomy in the bed area during the day. The bed is quite high up to accommodate the tall garage beneath it, and the ladder is made of cold – but very sturdy and very light – aluminium.
The lounge bed is admirably easy to set up, involving a simple extension of the lounge seat bases and a rearrangement of cushions (including one fill-in cushion that is otherwise homeless). At 1.9 x 0.9m (at its narrowest point), though, it will only accommodate one person comfortably.
It’s nice to see that the space deficits in the lounge and kitchen areas have contributed to something worthwhile – a large washroom with separate dry and wet areas.
Rather than give you a flimsy curtain or a fiddly swing-wall arrangement, Auto-Trail provides a shower cubicle with a pull-out shower head, cordoned off by a proper door.
The sink is located in the shower cubicle, though, which can be inconvenient if you just want to wash your face or brush your teeth; also, the wheelarch eats into floor space in the shower cubicle and knee-room on the Thetford may be an issue for some.
We were very pleased with the cavernous garage in the 640G, and we liked the inclusion of two doors, although neither of them is tall enough to fit a bicycle without taking the front wheel off. The garage is accessible from within the habitation area, too.
The half-length wardrobe is also a winner. It will easily accommodate all the clothes a couple needs to hang up, and the shelved cupboard beneath it will take all the clothes they want to keep folded away.
There is a roomy storage area under the nearside lounge, and the profusion of overhead lockers means that you won’t be short on storage for other odds and ends.
Auto-Trail has chosen an excellent cut-off point for its range – the 640G remains compact, while providing a greater level of space and utility than other Excels. The 640G is an excellent all-rounder.