Benjamin Davies

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Get inside the Autocruise Sportstar in the Practical Motorhome review

Design

The Sportstar certainly stands out when parked among a plethora of white motorhomes: its sidewalls are a tasteful light grey and its minimal graphics look modern. Either the Fiat Ducato or its Sevel sibling, the Peugeot Boxer, can be specified as the Sportstar’s base vehicle; Autocruise suggests you “check with your dealer before ordering”. Our test ’van was built on the Ducato 35 L base.

The insulated fresh water tank is filled on the offside via the Truma Ultraflow system; handy if you can’t easily access a drive-up water tap while in your ’van, or if you’re not keen to leave your pitch, as you can fill from a jerry can or aqua-roll directly.

The underslung waste-water tank, meanwhile, is emptied behind the offside wheel. A door on either side at the rear of the ’van provides access to that full-width garage, which is also where the gas locker lives.

Our ’van was fitted with a roll-out canopy awning, part of the optional, £975 Lux Pack. An LED external awning light and an electrically operated step also come as standard, as does a spare wheel. While it’s refreshing to see a full spare instead of the foam repair kits that some ’vans offer, the wheel is bolted rather low onto the chassis, which would raise grounding concerns with us. The accommodation door is of the Seitz double-locking ‘burst-proof’ variety.

On the road

Fiat’s 2.2-litre 100 MultiJet engine provided the power for our test ’van, and it’s more than ample for the 3.5-tonne motorhome. If there’s one criticism, it would be that the five-speed gearchange is slightly notchy. However, the chassis felt quite taut, with very little roll and the steering offered good feedback.

The wing mirrors are electrically operated and heated, but rear visibility in general is limited, however, as there’s no rear window. To compensate, you can specify the optional Blaupunkt reversing camera, which starts up when you engage reverse gear. It offers infra-red night vision and sound, too, and is included as part of the Lux Pack, which also includes satellite-navigation mapping for western Europe.

If you’re on a long drive then good, accessible storage in the cab is a must. There is plenty of storage space in and above the doors and on and above the dashboard, including a lockable compartment to store a laptop.

In fact, the whole cab area is very comfortable; the cab seats are multi-positional and each have two armrests – another thing you come to appreciate on longer journeys. There are also two belted seats in the rear, located on the forward-facing sofa.

Lounging & dining

A fixed bed in a ’van of this size always comes at the expense of space in another area – in this case, the dinette. The Sportstar has a forward-facing sofa, with a side-facing seat; both the cab chairs also swivel to allow for two extra dining or lounging seats. This half-dinette layout is often seen in Continental ’vans, but has always been less popular in their British cousins, which have tended towards full lounges.

The seating in the lounge/dining area is comfortable, particularly the two cab seats, but it can feel rather cramped. Similarly, there’s a flaw with the rear bed in this respect: you can use many fixed beds as extra lounging space, but the Sportstar’s is too high for that, and you generally have to fold it away during the day. The fixed dining table is also narrow for some, and is barely large enough to accommodate the crockery and cutlery for three people.

On the plus side, the light levels at that end of the ’van are excellent, both during the day and at night. The former is helped in part by the standard inclusion of a large Skyview rooflight above the cab; the latter by the large central light and two spotlights. Silver-backed concertina blinds are fitted to all accommodation windows.

That optional Lux pack also gives you a 15-inch LCD TV with built-in Freeview. It’s located just behind the driver’s seat and swings out on a bracket. A socket behind the TV is a useful addition.

Heating is provided by the Truma Combi 6kW/2kW dual-fuel space and water heater; one vent in the lounge area and another by the door mean that you should be comfortable and warm during colder nights.

The heating controls, however, are located in a rather awkward position on the base of the side-facing dinette seat – it’s a little difficult to see which settings the dials are on when there’s no-one sitting there as it’s obscured by the supporting leg of the slide-out seat base, really quite tricky when the seat is occupied, and nigh-on impossible when the front bed is in place.

Kitchen

The Sportstar’s kitchen is small but functional; there’s a three-ring gas hob, a decent-sized sink, a SMEV oven/grill, and an 81-litre fridge (you can add a microwave for £112.55).

Those who enjoy preparing elaborate meals might struggle with the amount of workspace on offer. There is a dedicated preparation surface in front of the fixed bed, but this has to be cleared each night to accommodate the bed base, which pulls outwards to cover it. Glass covers over the hob and sink can be used for food preparation, but this isn’t always convenient. Still, those who are happy to clear away the work surface each night should find enough room for their culinary needs.

The SMEV oven/grill is good, but not its location down beneath the cutlery drawer, below the sink: the grill is very low and it’s not easy to see the food cooking.

There are two handy mains sockets to the left of the kitchen units; especially useful if you want to charge a mobile phone or the like overnight while leaving it close to the bed. The LED strip lighting beneath the kitchen’s overhead lockers provides a warm, ambient light while you’re cooking.

Kitchen storage space isn’t plentiful, but there should be enough room to store kit for two people. There’s a large cupboard just in front of the bed, and two lockers up above (although one houses a crockery rack). A cupboard below the oven provides space for smaller pans.

Sleeping

And so on to this motorhome’s key feature: its flexible fixed bed. Converting it from a single to a double is a simple process: just pull out the slatted base from underneath the mattress halves until the base is fully extended over the unit to the left, and the kitchen work surface to the right. The two mattress cushions can then be slotted into place.

The bed is quite high, to allow for the garage, so a metal ladder is provided to assist access. There’s also a full-length lined curtain to separate the bed from the rest of the ’van, and a safety net to help stop you falling out.

Once the bed is made up, it’s just 1.26m wide, so it’s a little narrow, but it is comfortable. There’s a smart headboard on the nearside (with just about enough headroom to sit upright), and a couple of speakers above the head of the bed, allowing you to listen to the radio or a CD. Two small reading lights, a small rooflight and a narrow window at the foot of the bed provide illumination.

The dinette at the front of the ’van converts into a single bed, but this one would really only be suitable for occasional use.

Washroom

Compact it may be, but the Sportstar’s washroom is cleverly designed to make use of what space is available. Integral to the room is Autocruise’s trademark swing-wall shower; the basin unit is fixed to a large panel that swings to sit over the toilet, leaving you with a decent-sized shower cubicle (although some of the floor space is taken up by the wheelarch). The tap in the basin, meanwhile, doubles up as the shower head.

The large locker on the left of the washroom is useful enough, but there is nowhere to stand shower gel or shampoo bottles once the shower wall has been swung into place. Access to the washroom is also a bit tight when the bed ladder is fitted.

There is no window in the washroom, but the two LED downlighters and elevating rooflight provide sufficient illumination.

Storage

The Sportstar’s garage should prove spacious enough for couples on tour, even for longer periods of time; it’s possible to store bikes inside it, as long as you remove the front wheels first.

The garage (which has a payload of 200kg when you’re not towing, and 150kg when you are) can be accessed from within the ’van, too; handy if you need to retrieve something and it’s raining outside. A small locker is also located within the garage.

Inside the ’van there are a number of storage options. Located in front of the bed is a half-length, floor-based wardrobe, with a rail for hanging clothes; the top of this can also be lifted up when the bed base isn’t extended, to provide access from above.

The storage space in the remainder of the ’van isn’t quite so great: there’s insufficient internal storage for three occupants. In the dinette area there are three overhead lockers: one containing the adjuster for the roof-mounted TV aerial, and another equipped as a drinks cabinet. The storage beneath the seats is almost entirely taken up with essential equipment. The latter includes the Truma Combi boiler, the leisure battery, the battery charger, the mains-control unit and the water pump.

The Sportstar has a payload of 519kg, which should be plenty for couples, but perhaps less workable for a family of three.

Technical specs

Sleeps3
Travel seats4
MTPLM3500kg
Payload519kg
Length6.08m19′11″
Width2.33m7′8″
Height2.74m8′12″
Waste water73L

Verdict

To those couples who require a ’van to help them pursue a hobby (cycling, for example), and who don’t require a huge amount of lounge space because they’re spending less time in the ’van, the Sportstar should appeal.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Great external storage options; fuel economy; the rear bed is very comfortable, and really easy to make up

Cons

  • Lounge space in the dinette area is limited; workspace in the little kitchen is compromised when the double bed is in place
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