Andrew McPhee

See other motorhome reviews written by Andrew McPhee

Get the expert Practical Motorhome review of the CI Carioca 694

Design

First, let’s take a look at that new body shell. For 2011, CI manufactures the shell with a new technique called Extreme Protection System (ExPS). It uses extruded plastic beams in place of a traditional plywood frame in the walls.

A high-spec Styrofoam is also used in the wall construction instead of polystyrene insulation, which CI claims also improves soundproofing. Plastic cappings over panel joins on the outside, and laminated plastic over the whole wall perimeter internally, are the final cherry on the cake.

The new design has been subjected to more than a year of testing, with prototypes being rain-tested to the equivalent of six years of usage, driven down 650 miles of dirt roads, and tested for vibration and temperature endurance.

A lot of attention has been paid to the dreaded water ingress issue, and CI is confident enough to offer a four year warranty against leaks.

It’s still a boxy proposition, with its flat, touring caravan-style rear wall, black cab bumper, grey skirts and wheel arches, albeit with a sleek low-profile mould. The rear bumper and roof cap are also grey, as are the graphics.

Oddly, our test ’van was a pre-production prototype that came fitted with two water inlets, one on the nearside, the other on the rear panel, feeding into separate fresh water containers. Only the nearside one is standard, and we understand the rear fill point will not be available as an option.

The waste-water tank is underslung beneath the lounge, and is emptied by pulling a lever on the driver’s side. It opens a valve in the tank, and dumps direct, rather than through a pipe, which is fine as long as you always visit sites with drive-over service points (de rigeur on the Continent, but less so here). To the rear, chassis extensions have been bolted on to the Ducato, but don’t stretch the full length of the ’van’s floor to the rear.

On the road

Our test ’van came fitted with the optional 2.3-litre 130 MultiJet engine, with six-speed ’box, at a £1700 premium over the standard 2.2-litre 100 MultiJet model. It’s more than adequate for a sub-7m ’van, and returned a commendable 27.5mpg, no doubt thanks to that sleek low profile. There’s some through vision from the driver’s seat thanks to the window in the rear wall.


The cab gets Fiat’s Comfort Pack as standard (central-locking and remote control, electric windows), but is missing things you might expect (no electric mirrors, no passenger airbag), yet has welcome extras for a ‘budget’ ’van such as cruise control.

Both swivel cab seats come with twin arm rests, and are upholstered with the same ‘Afra’ material as that in the living quarters.

Lounging & dining

The front lounge is a real strong point: it’s elevated, which is a tripping problem until you get used to it, but once you do, there’s a level floor between the half-dinette, side sofa and swivel cab seats. Headroom in this area is 1.9m (1.85m around the rooflight).

A table clips to a wall rail on the nearside, and services the cab passenger seat and two people in the forward facing bench in its normal set up, but it can be extended by a further 50cm to bring the driver seat and the occupants of the side sofa into play at mealtimes.

All the lockers are positive-locking, with chrome-look handles and bronze-look inset panels. The LED ceiling-light clusters are rather weak at night time, and we prefer rear curtains to the voile decorative ones offered here. However, we were impressed by the tilt-adjust reading light strips in the lounge.

Heating and hot water is gas-powered as standard, but our test ’van came with the upgrade to gas- and electric-powered space and water heating (£595). It also came with a flyscreen on the habitation door (£212).

Kitchen

L-shaped kitchens amidships are a good compromise of space and usefulness, but they must be usable in a ’van at this price level, where young families are more likely to cook than eat out.

All UK ’vans get a Thetford Duplex combined oven and grill over and above the Italian specification. The three-burner hob comes without spark ignition, while the stainless-steel sink offers no separate drainer. The 150-litre fridge/freezer is a welcome standard issue.

Storage is decent, with overhead lockers, and drawers underneath the worktop. There’s also a storage area with removable lid cut into 
the surface, which we used as a waste bin.

Sleeping

The premium bed is, of course, that lovely rear double. Although the mattress is split so it can be folded to enable access to the storage space underneath, it still feels firm and comfortable.

There are two reading lights beneath the overhead lockers at the rear, above the bed, but no headboard because of that rear-view window, and nothing in the way of shelves to rest a mug or a pair of glasses on. There is, though, a magazine-rack pocket fixed to the washroom wall.

The cutaway for access to the washroom isn’t too severe either, although the door doesn’t swing wide open, so access to the washroom is narrow. We would have liked to have seen a partition curtain to separate the rear bedroom from the front bedroom, for some increased privacy, too.

The lounge double bed is quick and easy to make up. The table unclips, and the leg hinges at the knee to form half of the bed base. The sofa seat box then slides to meet this, and the backrests and 
a few infill cushions, that are stashed in the wardrobe, fit in place to produce a pretty flat surface that’s a massive 2.15m across the width of the ’van.

The bed itself is 1.23m at its widest point, and a shade under 1m at the foot. It’s fine for an occasional bed.

Washroom

Legroom on the swivel toilet is compromised, but otherwise this is a very usable space. The shower cubicle has a semi-circular shape to it, is finished in an attractive grey plastic and stylised with scoops and ledges for toiletry storage. It has a rigid bi-fold partition door, and measures 85 x 60cm, so it’s perfectly adequate, although we prefer two drain plugs for better water run-off in the event of not pitching completely level.

Elsewhere in the washroom, we were pleased to see that it does the simple things well: venting above the shower cubicle; an opaque glazed window; a good-sized basin, and decent storage underneath and overhead for sufficient toiletries for a young family of four on tour.

Storage

All the locker doors have positive catches and provide as good a level of storage as you could expect in a low-profile motorhome of these proportions. We’ve mentioned the premium storage space beneath that double bed, which is easy to access from the outside, and from within, thanks to the hinged bed base and mattress.

There’s also some storage space beneath the nearside sofa, although this is less easy to get at: the sliding base that makes up the double bed is actually freestanding. There’s a separate hinged plywood locker top, so you have to lift both of these, and the seat cushion, to get at the space, 
all without any support from a gas strut or springs.

However, there is a clever little locker flap that provides access to this area from the doorwell if it’s just a small item you are after. There are limited cubby holes and lockers around the overcab area, while the wardrobe is on the small side for a family of four.

Technical specs

Sleeps4
Travel seats4
MTPLM3500kg
Payload580kg
Length6.77m22′3″
Width2.31m7′7″
Height2.75m9′
Waste water100L
Kitchen Equipment
3-burner gas hob, Combined Oven/Grill
Washroom
Thetford C-250 toilet, Bi-fold shower door
Heating
Truma Gas heater

Verdict

The 694 is a great layout for a young family of four, and is even set up to accommodate a few extra guests at mealtimes. CI is a well-established and widely represented brand here in the UK, and that makes Carioca a genuine and worthy rival to the much-loved British-built budget ranges.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Sociable lounge; plywood-free wall construction

Cons

  • Bright upholstery; two sleeping areas can't be partitioned; confusing control panel
Share with friends

Follow us on

Explore the range

Recently added motorhomes for sale

Most recent motorhome reviews

Swift Escape 604

£47,580OTR

The Practical Motorhome 2018 Swift Escape 604 review – 1 - The Fiat Ducato-based Swift Escape 604 has a licence-friendly MTPLM of 3500kg – it is £47,580 OTR, £49,275 as tested (© Peter Spinney/Practical Motorhome)
The Practical Motorhome Auto-Trail Imala 732 review – 1 - The 2018 Auto-Trail Imala 732 is a four-to-six-berth, with two-to-four travel seats, depending on options (© Peter Baber/Practical Motorhome)
The Practical Motorhome Adria Coral Supreme 670 SLT review – 1 - The silver 2018 Adria Coral Supreme 670 SLT is certainly a head-turner – and has a handy 3500kg MTPLM (© Peter Baber/Practical Motorhome)
The Practical Motorhome Wellhouse Terrier Lux-XL review – 1 - The Wellhouse Terrier Lux-XL is priced from £42,000 OTR – this example is £44,175 OTR (© Nick Harding/Practical Motorhome)

Devon Vitesse

£52,536OTR

The Practical Motorhome Devon Vitesse review – 1 - You get an unusually high pop-top in this Mercedes-Benz-based camper van from Devon Conversions (© Peter Baber/Practical Motorhome)

Auto Campers MRV

£47,500OTR

The Practical Motorhome Auto Campers MRV review – 1 - The Auto Campers MRV is priced from £47,500 – this example with its options comes to £53,836 (© Phil Russell/Practical Motorhome)