Andrew McPheeSee other motorhome reviews written by Andrew McPhee
Two rooflights and an interesting spec make the Chausson Allegro 94 an interesting prospect – read more in the Practical Motorhome review
The past five years has seen a glut of imports trying to get a foothold in the buoyant British motorhome market, but Chausson is already a fairly well established brand with over a dozen dealers across the UK.
Typically, for a French manufacturer, its main focus is low-profiles where the most popular motorhomes in the British market are priced between £38,000 and £45,000. The new Chausson Allegro 94 has a conventional layout with some noticeable design flourishes – in particular the two large, lounge rooflights– and some eye-catching specification, of which the electric bed-lowering mechanism is the most notable. As part of the Trigano Group, Chausson should be able to offer more equipment at a lower price thanks to bulk purchasing power. And this motorhome is, with a couple of exceptions, fully equipped to drive away with pre-wiring/preparation reducing the cost of many of the popular extras. It is more expensive than some of its competitors, though probably not sufficiently to affect most buyers. What is crucial is whether the sense of value, practicality and comfort makes the Allegro 94 a ‘must-buy’. With so many ‘vans offering virtually identical floorplans, it’s a tall order.
In profile, you can see a slight curve in the roof over the lounge so there’s plenty of headroom as you move from the front to the back of the motorhome. Rear corner steadies are essential equipment with a fixed bed at the rear, behind the axle. The steady winder clips neatly into place by the offside garage door and there is a spare wheel by the nearside door (some motorhome manufacturers this year will only offer a tyre-filler kit).
Twin garage doors open upwards with sturdy gas struts, much like a car boot. There’s a low gas locker in a fairly typical position behind the driver’s door and all the caravan doors and lockers are opened by a single key.
The waste water dump handle is just behind the caravan door, though the wide-bore outlet is in the centre of the ‘van, so you need to stop directly over a drain. We didn’t find this practical – despite a small guide marker on the side of the ‘van to show the driver when to stop on the drain, it’s not easy to position the motorhome perfectly over the sewage drains when the outlets are underneath and not in easy sight. We‘d prefer the waste outlet to be at the side, or at the rear, and visible for accurate positioning.
Some coin-operated service points on the Continent have drains that can only be reached with an extension hose, so this could prove inconvenient in the Allegro. However, combined with the insulated waste-tank, the Allegro’s type of waste outlet is less likely to freeze.
On the entrance door there’s a good sized flip-top bin that can be emptied from the outside, when the door flynet is separated from the main door, or from the inside when the door is closed. It’s surprising how important the design and positioning of a small waste bin is, to make life easier when you’re touring.
On the road
Here at Practical Motorhome, we have waxed lyrical on many occasions about the new Ducato’s handling, taking into account the size of this motorhome. The steering is light and the ‘van turns on a pin. The Allegro’s 7.03m length was not a problem to drive in town because its side-view mirrors give a very clear view down both sides of the vehicle. The Allegro has reversing sensors and the option of a reversing camera, complete with DVD player, for around an extra £700.
According to our supplying dealer, Highbridge (website www.highbridgecaravans.co.uk) most of their early-season buyers had specified a top-of-the-range 160 Multijet engine. Like this Allegro, most other ’vans in the class are specified with the 130 Multijet as standard. It’s smaller than the previous Ducato’s biggest engine, the 2.8JTD, but has better performance.
We don’t think the 160 engine is necessary unless you want to drive at 90-100mph on derestricted autobahns. The 130 version will let you cruise effortlessly at 70mph – and probably a fair bit faster.
Though we were unable to capture a worthwhile economy figure during our test, we would expect 25-30mpg, depending on road conditions and driving style.
Rear passengers benefit from a window on either side, two rooflights (both of which have blinds) and their own heat outlet. There’s also a small, portable tray with two cup holders and a non-slip base, which is one of many neat features offered by the Chausson.
Lounging & dining
The thick, single-leg table has an extension leaf which lifts up from under the table’s leading edge and slots into place with a spring-loaded mechanism. The cab seats, with factory-fitted swivel bases and twin armrests, turn towards the lounge area with one easy movement (you can soon forget the extra minute or two that was often needed to coerce the driver’s seat into place on the old Ducato).
With cab seats engaged and the extension in place, there’s just enough room for five to dine – four can be seated comfortably. Couples can dine across the table, or facing the TV, for which a mounting bracket is provided, above the rear seat – it’s designed for a flatscreen TV, which dealers such as Highbridge can supply. And, if you want a dashboard-mounted DVD player, there’s a pre-wired connection to an output in the TV locker.
The cushions are adequately firm, with moulded plastic seat backs which, in the absence of wallboards, will allow for some circulation of air. Highbridge told us that it had specified a different upholstery choice on its pre-ordered stock: ‘Azzaro’, a tan/light-brown striped pattern made from a chenille-style woven fabric which is likely to be harder-wearing than the velour of the red ‘Formosa’. However, we reckon that the red would give the ‘van a feeling of warmth.
Although there are four no-cost options for upholstery, do check with dealers as to availability because most stock is pre-ordered and changes may affect delivery lead times.
We must be frank: we don’t like the eye-level oven/grill – it’s dangerous and although the Allegro has a pull-out step beneath the fridge/freezer for shorter people, it doesn’t come out far enough to enable anyone to stand in front of the oven without almost touching it with their face.
Storage space is excellent, with a slide-out wire pan drawer, large cutlery drawer, large overhead locker and a tambour-door cupboard above the sink with a shelf. There are three slide-out wire shelves beneath the sink, which, along with the pan drawer, may need dampening against on-road noise with a soft matt to stop pans rattling or plastic bins to hold glass jars.
Generally, the kitchen is user-friendly and pretty easy to clean. Everything seems to be neatly finished with smooth edges – no tricky bits that need the old-toothbrush-and-bleach scrubbing to get clean. The dining table is within easy reach of the kitchen area so extra worktop space is available if the table is used. Access to the bathroom doesn’t obstruct the fridge/freezer or oven. The circular sink unit is good, too, with its drainer that fits below the glass sink cover when not in use.
The fridge/freezer is fabulous – there is ample storage space for touring and the shelving looks easy to remove and clean.
The circular, wire shelves are typical of the neat touches provided by Chausson. They are at a convenient height for washing-up liquid and the like. However, though these made a great first impression, after a few days we were starting to feel that access to the workspace beneath them would have been a more practical use of the space.
The front bed is adequate, but fairly awkward to make up – we’ve seen similar attempts at the same thing done better. The table which makes the bed base didn’t quite fit into its slot but we were told that this was simply a teething problem on this early production model.
However, one of the Chausson’s stand-out features is the electric, elevating rear bed. The idea is that once you’ve arrived on site and removed your scooter from the garage, you simply lower the bed down so that you have enough headroom to sit up. We measured 1.1m from the mattress to the ceiling with the bed lowered and 76cm with it raised – about a foot difference. The mechanism works slowly but simply and doesn’t seem to have any visibly complex parts that are likely to go wrong.
There are no heating ducts around the bed, but the combi-boiler is directly below the bed head. There’s a cab curtain and silver screens, though we would be tempted to specify the optional Remis cab blinds.
The bedroom seems cosy, because there are only two small windows at the rear. Overhead cupboards with plenty of storage space surround the bedroom area. In the corners of the ceiling, above the bed, there are cute little reading lights.
In the centre of the bedroom ceiling, the designers have set a fan which both extracts and blows. It would be great for hot nights abroad when sleeping could be a problem. Just below the double bed, the designers have placed the battery charger for the leisure battery. It’s hidden in a neat casing but for light sleepers, it could be a nuisance when waiting to nod off as it makes a low humming sound.
There’s easy access to a round sink that’s big enough for a face wash and there’s both a rooflight and a large, frosted window. There’s a mirror with two halogen downlighters above the sink.
Storage comes in the form of a small overhead cupboard, with straps for shampoo bottles, and a shelf in one half, with a towel rail and a hook by the door. There’s also a small shelf for two shampoo bottles in the shower itself.
Both garage doors are 1.12m tall, with a 53cm lip height, though the nearside door is slightly narrower, at 58cm (as opposed to 84cm the other side). The garage doesn’t have a blown-air vent but the combi-boiler is located there and is well ventilated, so it should stay warm in winter.
Another pleasing detail inside was a wire shelf in one of the lounge overhead lockers, with two adjustable ‘book-ends’ (for want of a better description) that could be used for holding plates securely in place. There are two slim wardrobes – one by the door and another by the bed. Both have hat and shoe shelves, though only the one by the door has a light. Although slightly different in size, they are both about 30cm wide and 50cm deep with around 1m of hanging space.
There are three overhead lockers above the lounge, each with a shelf, and three with no shelves above the bed.
The payload looks small for a motorhome of this size but it is calculated to include driver, full water tank, one gas bottle and a full tank of fuel, so these things don’t need to be taken into consideration when calculating payload. If you didn’t include these items, the figure would be calculated at 300kg greater.
3-burner gas hob, Combined Oven/Grill
Thetford C-250 toilet
The Allegro looks good, drives well and has some of the neatest arrangements for storage we’ve yet seen on a motorhome. At £43,505, it’s good value. It’s easy to drive, comfortable, and has good use of space, inside and out.
- Bottle straps in washroom cupboard; plate holders in lockers; small, bendy spotlights; control panel; garage’s deep storage bins
- The height of the oven; awkward step beneath it; kitchen’s chromed shelf stand got in the way when cooking