Andrew McPhee

See other motorhome reviews written by Andrew McPhee

Read Practical Motorhome's review of the well specced, four-berth Auto-Trail Apache 634U SE

Design

The Apache has one of the best Lutons on the new Ducato and buyers can also specify, at no cost, a sleeker ‘Lo-line’ overcab, with lockers in place of a bed.
The Apache is the same height as the rival Bessacarr E425, but due to a consistent roof height from front to back, its overcab looks more in proportion. Also, the thick GRP rear pillars set its appearance apart from the competition as being that little bit more crafted.
The water tanks are housed in a space between the two floors, and are also insulated.
The Apache’s door can be locked remotely along with the cab doors. It has two locking points, a small bin and an opening window.
Auto-Trail uses a detachable, flexible hose for the waste water point: it’s mounted behind the offside rear wheel. You get about one metre of travel, which is helpful when it comes to reaching otherwise inaccessible drains and the like.
The lounge has a rooflight and good electric lighting, and the Apache also has concealed lighting and frosted-glass corner lights on a dimmer switch. However, it suffers to a certain extent from the ‘corridor effect’ where the washroom forms a bulkhead into the living area. The sense of an enclosed space is quite overpowering, where the wardrobe and washroom face each other just behind the cab.
However, everything looks and feels opulent, with deep-coloured carpets, hardwood-framed locker doors and aircraft-style lockers.
The construction of the bodywork, where the overcab joins the main body, is neat and tidy, but there’s a cumbersome split-bed base that has to be slid out of the way.
Auto-Trail has provided swivel seats, which seems unnecessary, because the ’van a large lounge, although some buyers may prefer an additional chair.

On the road

Auto-Trail uses a standard ladder-frame, so it’s 145mm higher than rivals (such as the Lunar Goldstar 620) that use Fiat’s devoted motorhome chassis. It also has a narrower track than these vehicles. These two factors mean on-road stability is poorer than these competitors, which is important for such tall vehicles, but it’s by no means unstable.
There’s good access to and from the cab, thanks to decent headroom, and the cab is a reasonably driver-friendly place to be. There’s just one cup holder, but space in the door bins for 1.5- and two-litre bottles and a second locking glove box in the centre of the dashboard.
Power comes from Fiat’s 130 Multijet turbo-diesel, so the Apache never struggles to perform, even fully laden, and it’s comfortable to drive, thanks to its light steering. Also, the Ford suffers from a long, heavy clutch pedal in comparison to the Fiat.
There is a limited amount of rear through-view, however – the wardrobe and washroom behind the cab restrict vision.

Lounging & dining

The classic British lounge makes use of a removable table which can be stored in the wardrobe (unlike the hefty, fixed tables favoured in many Continental ‘vans) to make a more open space for lounging.
The cushions are too deep to enable most people to recline comfortably against the back cushions with their feet on the floor. These cushions are also pretty flat, with reasonable if unexceptional support and no shaped corner cushions, but they offer an even surface when made into a bed.
There’s a small cupboard/sideboard, which is where the TV sits.

Kitchen

The Apache has a large worktop area by the sink, but there is more space on the sideboard by the cooker, even though this is much lower than the cooker itself. By positioning the cooker across the kitchen, Auto-Trail has freed up more work space but we were unsure how useful this would be if, say, you were making a dish where ingredients need to be immediately to hand. There’s an extractor roof vent to remove cooking smells.

Sleeping

The Apache provides a neat, flat bed at the rear, even if it is narrower than many competitors. The overcab is pleasingly tall and has one window. It also has a relatively thin, foam mattress, with no slats beneath.

Washroom

The washroom has a separate shower compartment and looks homely. It has several functional touches, such as one permanent towel rail with a second, removable version in the shower. As a whole, however, this washroom is rather a quart in a pint pot: the sink is difficult to use for face washing because the soap dish and the glass holder get in your way and, crucially, there is a limited amount of space around the toilet.

Storage

The Apache has bucketloads of exterior storage. It has a dedicated battery locker and a seat-base locker, but best of all it has a huge, rear ‘boot’/double-floor storage locker – we estimate that there is just under 400 litres of storage space, which should be room enough for your folding chairs. There is no catch or stay to hold the door open, though, and there is no spare wheel.
The wardrobe is big enough for a couple’s clothes for two weeks, and there’s also a shoe cupboard.
The aircraft-style lockers look smart and are something many ’vans at this price lack. The lower lockers are very small, but would be ideal for holding books, CDs, DVDs and other, similar items.
The Sirius also provides the best access to storage space with its three cantilevered seat bases, which are easy to open. The Bessacarr provides hinged slats (with no stays) and seat-base lockers, while the Apache and Goldstar offer removable slats and seat-base lockers.
In the kitchen, you get a full-sized cutlery drawer with four compartments (surprisingly, not all rivals can claim this) and a big storage space for pans beneath the oven.
In the washroom, the Apache has two towel rails, one long and three small railed shelves, and two cupboards – one above and one below the sink.

Technical specs

Sleeps4
Travel seats2
MTPLM3500kg
Payload455kg
Length6.98m22′11″
Width3.05m10′
Height2.26m7′5″
Waste water55L
External Options
GRP sidewalls, Awning light
Kitchen Equipment
Dometic Fridge, 4-burner gas hob, Oven, Separate grill
Washroom
Thetford C-250 toilet, Separate shower cubicle
Heating
Truma Gas/Electric heater, Truma Electric/Gas Blown air heater

Verdict

The Auto-Trail is a fabulous-looking and really well-specified ‘van, and it's very well suited to winter touring. However, there are a couple of build quality issues.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Superb styling inside and out; class-leading specification

Cons

  • Small washroom lacks room for the toilet
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