Andrew McPhee

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Read the Practical Motorhome review of the Hymer B544 SL

Overview

The B-544-SL is a well put-together vehicle. Like all A-class ‘vans, its construction is fully integrated. Apart from the running gear, this vehicle has been assembled at Hymer’s factory in Germany, which is why you won’t recognise any part of the new Ducato cab.

The B-SL is the more highly specified of Hymer’s two A-class line-up (the B-CL is an entry-level range). At 6.6m long and classed as a three-berth, the evergreen front-lounge 544 layout offers ample space for two people, or relative comfort for a family of three. In terms of overall layout, the rear door entrance recess is well illuminated. The kitchen and bathroom are near the rear door, so anyone cooking a meal would have to lay down the law to stop others coming and going and getting in the way.

Design

The external view of the 544-SL is impressive. The roof and walls are insulated with foamed polyurethane to serve owners well in most climates, while the 6kW Truma combi-boiler ensures comfort in winter.
The wall and roof thicknesses are 35mm and the floor thickness is 46mm, so this ‘van should be capable of withstanding temperatures well below freezing. You can even specify 230V underfloor heating. The Al-Ko chassis includes a double floor which further improves the 544’s winter capability – insulated fresh and waste tanks are stored here and prevented from freezing by ducting from the combi-boiler. The waste tap has a Teflon-coated valve to prevent freezing.
There’s a single cab door on the UK passenger side and a new caravan door with three locking points, concealed hinges and a large window. One key fits all exterior locks.

On the road

Fiat’s new 2.3-litre Multijet engine has been specifically designed for use by converters and there’s a six-speed gearbox with motorhome-specific ratios.
The 544-SL sits on a Fiat/Al-Ko chassis, with a 3.45m wheelbase. It is front-wheel drive and the cab is equipped, as standard, with air conditioning, electric mirrors and swivel seats. There are four passenger seat belts: two in the drivers’ cab and two facing forwards in the lounge area.
The cab feels claustrophobic: there’s little leg space for tall people and the passenger sideboard prevents the chair from moving position. Also in the cab, the moulded, sloping front shelf is not a practical shape – older-model Hymers have flat surfaces which allow a more scenic front view and a handy place for maps.
From the drivers’ seat, the bulky ‘B’ pillar (upright) partially obstructs the drivers’ view of the offside wing mirror, which could prove annoying over time.

Lounging & dining

The seats in the lounge area are comfortable and have a feel similar to duck down – soft and cuddly. Upholstered in an easy-to-clean faux suede, the cushions don’t slide about and have Velcro holding the arm cushions in place.
There is an unusually large oval dining table fitted at the centre of the seating area. It is cumbersome and makes it difficult for people to get about. We feel that a folding table would be more practical.
The wind-up double-glazed Heki rooflight is 80 x 50cm, and has a pleated blind/flyscreen and built-in illumination. Sliding halogen spotlights (with individual on/off switches) and low-consumption fluorescent lamps give plenty of light.
The windows have good quality, easy-to-use pleated blinds and flyscreens. The lounge windows can be opened with one hand, unlike older models which needed two hands to work the latches.

Kitchen

Though the kitchen is compact, there’s not a lot of worksurface but the area is well vented with a window and a powerful extractor fan above the glass-covered hob. There’s plenty of storage space for kitchen supplies below and above the worksurface.
The deeply set hob has three individual grids over the burners, which is not good if a saucepan topples off one of them. It’s less likely with the older all-in-one grids, which cover the whole burner area and they are just as easy to clean. Also, the three control knobs for the hob have been inset too near the front casing and are not easy to use.
Opposite the hob is a fantastic, large fridge/freezer with locks on both doors. However, above the fridge/freezer is an ill-placed oven with grill – this set-up is known as a ‘TEC Tower’ and is built for manufacturers, as a single unit, by Dometic. It’s at eye level and looks like a safety hazard if ever there was one.
Practical Motorhome has criticised this arrangement consistently but many manufacturers, for whatever reason, continue to fit the TEC Tower. Interestingly, Concorde has made good use of this unit by setting it lower.

Sleeping

The spacious double bed, which pulls down above the driver’s cab, is very comfortable and has a sprung mattress but it is much heavier than those used in older models and is difficult to put back up. The long sofa in the lounge can be used to make up the third bed.
All the windows, including those in the driver’s cab, are fitted with superb quality blackout blinds, while a full-length curtain partitions off the front bed.

Washroom

The bathroom is easily accessible during the night, from any of the beds without the need to disturb other members of the family. And, the entrance door slides on smooth runners.
The washroom is by far the best feature of this ‘van. With a modern look it’s well designed for any member of the family to use.
The shower unit is a brilliant circular design with sliding, clear plastic doors that lock easily. A swivel-bowl toilet, plenty of cupboard and shelving space, lots of mirrors, easy-to-clean floors and shower fittings and a spacious circular handbasin, all go to make the washroom a superb and well thought-out luxury.

Storage

With around 860 litres of under-floor storage space, Hymer’s Techno-Plus double-floor concept is perfect for the motorcaravanner who likes to pack everything but the kitchen sink. The standard 3.5-tonne chassis can be uprated to four tonnes, which would allow around 900kg payload.
Apart from the overhead and under-seat storage space there’s a fair-sized wardrobe near the entrance door in the kitchen area. It’s not spacious enough for three people but is adequate for two.
There’s ample storage space beneath the sofas, with mechanisms to hold the seat bases open. The overhead storage cupboards are deep and more than adequate, with shelving and easy-lock buttons. However, the two front overhead cupboards can only be opened when the front bed is pulled down.
There is a TV slide-out cupboard. However, being positioned at the exit point of the lounge area, it’s impossible to reach the bathroom, kitchen or exit door without bumping one’s head when the TV is in use.

Technical specs

Sleeps3
Travel seats3
MTPLM3500kg
Payload430kg
Length6.6m21′8″
Width2.35m7′9″
Height2.9m9′6″
Kitchen Equipment
Dometic Fridge, 3-burner gas hob, Combined Oven/Grill
Washroom
Thetford C-250 toilet
Heating
Truma Electric/Gas Blown air heater, Truma Electric/Gas water heater

Verdict

Despite the excellent quality of Hymer craftsmanship, and the presence of many well thought out, practical, luxurious attributes to the 544-SL, there are just as many not so well executed. With this motorhome’s finest feature by far being the excellent washroom, the other end of the scale has to be the fact that space is limited, not only in the cab but also in the large-tabled lounge.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Hymer build quality; washroom; equipment

Cons

  • Little kitchen worksurface; lounge space
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