Benjamin Davies

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Read the Practical Motorhome review of the Vantage Max RL

Overview

Vantage Motorhomes is the brainchild of Scot Naylor, a Leeds-based furniture designer and retailer with a passion for motorhomes.

Having owned several ’vans down the years, including a Mazda Bongo and coachbuilts from Autocruise and Auto-Sleepers, he and his wife Jane decided to take the plunge and branch out into van conversions using the latest generation X2/50 panel van from the Sevel Group’s joint Fiat/Peugeot/Citroën venture in 2006.

This conversion is known as the Max, and was available (in Sept 2008) as a rear lounge (RL) or fixed-bed (FB) on the long-wheelbase Peugeot Boxer. We chose the rear lounge (RL) option for our test.

Design

The Boxer has Peugeot’s factory-fitted steel high-top in metallic aluminium paint, with black bumpers and a pleasingly minimal graphics treatment. Vantage throws in attractive alloy wheels as standard, too.

The Fiamma F45 awning on our test model is a £500 option. For a further £500 you can turn this into a full porch awning, or ‘summer room’ with Vantage’s bespoke own-brand zip-on front and side walls.

Living-quarter windows are of the plastic double-glazed variety, and an electric mini step helps you through the sliding side door. Vantage thoughtfully keeps the ‘dirty-fingers’ bits on the driver’s side so you won’t have to disturb your partner and guests enjoying a glass of wine in the awning on a summer’s evening when you suddenly remember you’ve got to empty the Thetford. Electric and water inlets and the drain valves are on the drivers’ side, too. At 68 and 50 litres, the fresh- and waste-water tanks are a good size.

On the road

With a 2.2 HDi 120bhp engine, we found the Max powerful enough for a van conversion of this size, but an extra £2000 will buy you an engine upgrade if you prefer a few more horses under the bonnet.

There wasn’t a squeak from the kitchen or the locker doors, except on the return journey when we discovered that the glass hob lid had lost a rubber stopper.

The Boxer base vehicle comes with plenty of goodies as standard, including: cab air conditioning, driver and passenger airbags, adjustable steering wheel, electric folding mirrors and a stereo radio/CD player. The steering wheel also comes with radio buttons, which you just don’t find on UK right-hand drive Fiat Ducatos.

The swivel cab seats are height- and tilt-adjustable. Each has lumbar adjustment and a single armrest.
Through-vision is obscured by the washroom on the driver’s side, though, so the reversing sensors on the rear bumper are a useful addition.

Lounging & dining

With the cab seats swivelled, and the U-shaped lounge at the rear, the Max RL has two separate lounging and dining areas. The front lounge gets a small table with a free-standing leg that fits into a floor recess. It also comes with a second, shorter leg and a tripod-style Fiamma fitment so it can double as an outdoor picnic table when required.

The cab seats are upholstered with leather and oatmeal to match the rear lounge sofas, which feel extremely durable and look very smart indeed.

A step down from the cab to the rear living quarters means there’s no leg-dangling for shorter occupants, and this split-level floor houses an electric fan heater which 
we were told would have remote-control operation for the 2009 model year.

There’s also gas-only Truma blown-air heating, with ducted outlets in the front and rear lounges, and in the washroom. Those with a penchant for wild camping will be pleased to know that there are two 105Ah leisure batteries to live off, too.

It’s a step up again to the rear lounge (the split floor can house accessories). Yes, it impinges on headroom but the midi-Heki rooflight means six-footers can stand without banging their head. The backrests are rather low on the sofas, and those over 6ft might find headroom restricted while seated by the overhead lockers.

The rear table is free-standing and will seat four diners comfortably. With the table stashed in its dedicated locker, the leather squab that sits on a plywood board to make up the ‘U’ part of the lounge between the twin sofas can slide to any position between the sofas. This means that it is a nice option for some feet-up lounging or as an alternative table. Armrests and scatter cushions complete the set.

Standard kit includes an LCD TV and DVD player neatly integrated into the underside of the over-kitchen locker. The television is on a fold-down hinge and swivels easily through 180 degrees for viewing from the front or rear seating areas.

The rear lounge is well lit thanks to panoramic windows (although this is at the expense of a headboard for bedtime reading). Four individually switched ceiling lights, and two over the cab, do the job of an evening, with downlights for reading on the over-sofa lockers.

Kitchen

The kitchen is perhaps the best we've seen in a van conversion. A dry-foods storage area with wire racking sits immediately behind the driver’s seat and serves as a pantry. In the nearside kitchenette, the mini-oven is well sited in the corner, allowing plenty of space when crouching to check on the Sunday lunch.

The workspace is massive for a camper, with some great styling touches such as domestic-style splashboard tiling and a three-plug socket adaptor which pulls out of the kitchen worksurface. When not in use, the socket is protected by a rubberised seal. 
A three gas-burner hob with spark ignition and a domestic-style sink with drainer complete the worktop setup.

Underneath, a 20-litre waste bin slides out on runners and is positioned so that all food-prep leftovers can be swept in. Five soft-shut drawers store cutlery, crockery and saucepans: the cutlery drawer is partitioned, the crockery and glasses are held securely by recesses cut into a foam mat, and there’s a saucepan set with removable handles. It’s attention to detail, pure and simple – the only thing missing is an extractor fan.

Sleeping

Three plywood boards, which hide under the sink along with the table legs, sit between the two rear sofas to form the bed base – it makes up into a 180cm x 140cm rear double. All the interior windows get pleated blinds and insect screens, with silverscreens for the cab, and there’s a shut-off switch for the ceiling lights from the bed.

That said, the seat backs are not great as a head rest and there’s a lack of flat surfaces for your morning cuppa.

Washroom

Another strong area is the washroom, again with domestic-style tiling panels. A flip-down washbasin above the bench toilet helps to save on space and the shower head has a handy trigger to control water flow. A thick shower curtain protects the door.

A strip light and a discreet LED ceiling light saves you having to turn on all the camper’s lights if you’re caught short in the night, and the washroom door usefully hinges through 180 degrees for easier passage through the ’van.

Storage

It’s here that Scot’s years in furniture production really pays dividends: all the furniture board gets a foil-wrap treatment that makes it extremely durable against chipping and peeling.

The overhead locker doors open on gas struts and the locker catches are all metal. 
As the brochure says: “There’s none of the beading and plastic edging that you get in most ’vans.” It sings ‘quality’.

The wardrobe door is mirrored on its inside face and has a foldable dresser ledge as well as a plug socket for a hair drier or curling tongs.

The rear sofa box on the driver’s side houses the gas cylinders which are accessed via a flap at the rear when the Vantage’s rear doors are open. In the nearside sofa box there’s a mini-safe bolted to the van’s floor, and plenty of usable storage space. The raised, rear lounge floor also creates space for stashing awning poles and other bits of camping kit.

Technical specs

Sleeps2
Travel seats2
MTPLM3500kg
Payload600kg
Length5.99m19′8″
Width2.05m6′9″
Waste water50L
External Options
Integral awning, Electric step
Kitchen Equipment
3-burner gas hob, Combined Oven/Grill
Washroom
Thetford C-402 bench toilet, Shower curtain
Heating
Truma Gas heater

Verdict

A stylish, highly equipped and expertly constructed van conversion.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Innovative kitchen space; excellent washroom for a van conversion

Cons

  • Basic sleeping area; rather tight headroom in the rear lounge
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