Andrew McPhee

See other motorhome reviews written by Andrew McPhee

Get more on the Hymer B504 CL in the expert Practical Motorhome review

Overview

The B 504 CL is the smallest and cheapest of Hymer’s 23-strong ‘B-Class’ range. It is one of only a handful of A-class motorhomes which are under six metres long.

Being able to fit into most parking bays, it goes against the trend of motorhomes becoming bigger following the introduction of the longer chassis on the new Ducato. Hymer’s 504 has remained below the ‘magic 6m’ length because the designers have shortened some of its furniture units, since the 2006 layout, to allow room for a cosy L-shaped lounge with swivel seats and a transverse single bed above a small garage (with a bunk bed option). In recent years, most manufacturers abroad, and now some in the UK, have increasingly produced longer motorhomes as they perceive an increase demand for storage space, fixed beds and separate showers. We think that the fast-vanishing, sub-6m layout offers great versatility, particularly in A-class ‘vans where the big, bubble-shaped cab makes good use of the swivel seats and the big, drop-down double bed takes up no noticeable space. The same floorplan is available in Hymer’s B-SL range but we wanted to know how this entry-level A-class performed over mountain roads and in sub-zero conditions. Although we test drove a left-hand drive model, in the review which follows, we refer to ‘driver’s side’, ‘passenger side’, ‘nearside’ or ‘offside’, as if the vehicle were a right-hand drive UK version. Also, we have priced this ‘van based on the equivalent cost of a right-hand drive model bought in the UK, with the same specification, although we haven’t included the price of the satellite TV system, or the TFT TV. The standard, on-road price, without options would be £43,295.

Design

The overall impression is of a smooth, structurally sound but not particularly exciting body shape. You can choose the optional silver sidewalls, which will lift the overall feel and no doubt prove essential for a quick resale.
The details all shout ‘quality’, from the attractive headlight clusters through to the single automotive-style key for all external doors. There’s lot’s of branding, too: Hymer logos on the grille, the light over the internal step and on the back of the living-area door.
The optional, passenger door has two locking points and a hefty, automotive feel of quality which the living-area door cannot quite match. With its single locking point, though, it seals tightly, is well insulated and is sturdy and easy to use, with a large door handle and a good flyscreen.
Access to the interior is via an electric step and an internal step which has a doormat and an LED guide light. There’s an internal light switch by the door well and an exterior light just above the door.
The gas locker, below the driver’s seat, and the slide-out (‘beany box’) locker in the nearside skirts both have twist catches, handy enough for use by cold or arthritic hands. The small garage’s two doors also have manageable handles.
The GRP bonnet lifts easily but you will need a watering can or funnel and hose to fill the screen wash reservoir.
The waste water outlet tap is behind the offside wheel. Due to the position of the wheel arch and an otherwise admirable cowl to guard against road dirt, we found it awkward to reach. A waste extension hose is provided, though.
Hymer makes much of its insulation method, which is hard to test accurately, short of putting the motorhome in a cold chamber. However, we did notice, in temperatures that dropped below freezing overnight, that there were no cold spots in the motorhome, no draughts from doors or windows and that once heated, the interior remained warm for around two hours.
When we came to empty the waste tank in the morning, there was a part-frozen build-up to the outlet tap, although this cleared after a couple of seconds. Nevertheless, skiers will need to insulate this for temperatures which are likely to be well below zero.

On the road

If you’ve never before driven an A-class, you may find the initial experience disconcerting as the windscreen is much further away (88cm) from the steering wheel and consequently, at first, the length of the nose is a little bit harder to judge. The same applies to the vehicle’s width, since the cab is as wide as the body, whereas in a coachbuilt or van cab, your doors and wing mirrors are closer. However, you get superb panoramic views and a more relaxing drive, since the cab is quieter and more spacious.
Optional Aguti seats provide excellent comfort and a good driving position, though British drivers will have their space slightly constricted by the big storage bin with its hefty wooden lid.
There are two glove boxes, a bottle holder for the driver, and a moulded grey, plastic map shelf which looks very automotive in style, though we felt this area was a wasted opportunity for more dedicated storage – perhaps some cup holders. The overhead, electric mirrors provide superb views of the skirts and all blind spots, for overtaking. Our test model was fitted with the B CL Pack 1 (which includes the seats, cab blinds and overhead mirrors). For another £100, silver mirrors can be specified as part of the same pack. Drivers have a nearside view through the lounge window, when turning at junctions, though not on the offside, where the kitchen window is too far back to be of any use.
The standard, 130 Multijet engine was easily capable of handling the 504 on the autobahns and on the Tirol’s winding, hilly roads. We were able to cruise comfortably at 130km/h (80mph), though 120km/h (75mph) at 2500rpm, was more economical. The on-board trip computer told us we were running at 24mpg, though our own calculations over 293km gave us just under 22mpg. The roads we took were hilly, so that figure is fairly encouraging. Rev-misers could no doubt reach 30mpg.
We really noticed the difference in driving the standard Fiat chassis having driven several low-profiles with the ‘special’ motorhome chassis which is lower to the ground and has a wider rear track. The standard chassis provides a level cab-to-living-area floor and keeps the price down. Presumably, an A-class with a wider rear track would have looked a little strange.
As it was, the B 504 CL could feel a little too tall and prone to body roll through the corners. Despite its length, it has a noticeable overhang which would be more evident with a fully laden garage, but the B-SL overcomes this with its Al-Ko chassis.
The overall sense was of a relaxing drive, with minimal cab and living-area noise, though we did get occasional bursts of transmission rumble through the living-area floor just behind the cab and very occasional road noise through the base of the door well.
The two rear passengers have the advantage of audio speakers, though no on-road heating. However, they are close enough to the cab to be warmed by its heaters, even in cold weather.
Three cushions need to be removed and stored to turn the L-shaped lounge into on-road seating, which reveals two cup holders in the base of the forward lounge seat. The seats are well upholstered, with a good lumbar shape and knee-roll support, but pre-teen legs won’t reach the floor and the seat is not comfortably large enough for two adults. The fixed table moves well out of the way for the window seat passenger, though it can’t be moved further than 15cm away from the aisle passenger.

Lounging & dining

The swivel cab seats really come into play in the lounge and are the best seats by far, because they face the optional TFT TV bracket (fitted to our test model) which drops down to eye level. Two halogen lights are positioned over these seats, in the moulded underside of the drop-down bed.
In the past, we have complained about over-large fixed tables in German motorhomes but we found the 504’s to be just the right size. It slides along both axes and is wider at the cab end so you can dine just as comfortably from the cab seats as from the sofa.
The large, wind-up optional roof light has four halogen lights around it and a light-diffusing mesh. The lounge and kitchen windows are not huge but in combination with the roof light and the windscreen, there’s plenty of natural light available.
The L-shaped lounge is one advantage the Hymer has over similar floorplans from sister brands Dethleffs and Bürstner, which only have half-dinettes.
The lounge is great for meals and socialising, and the table can be moved far enough out of the way so that you can stretch out. Three could also watch TV, with one viewer reclining against the cushion which attaches to the metal arm rest with a Velcro strap at the cab end of the lounge. A solidly constructed wall board protects the lounge cushions from condensation.
We were impressed with the overall ambience of the living area, which we felt was classic Hymer, striking a balance between warmth and neutrality, with net and decorative curtains, an attractive wood-effect vinyl floor and removable – though not studded – optional carpets in a sensible grey (there is another colour option).
Though some British motorcaravanners may find the blue Turku fabric (in our test ‘van) a little ‘cold’ there are two no-cost fabric options, and a further eight options for £262.

Kitchen

The kitchen is small and in our test ‘van there was no oven. One can be specified but it takes up most of the under-sink cupboard so Hymer UK recommends fitting a microwave oven above the hob. Workspace, too, is limited to what you can fit on the sink/hob surrounds or the thin sink cover, though the dining table is close enough to be of some use.
The three-burner SMEV hob, with its electronic ignition, is a tried and tested piece of equipment, and an extractor hood sits above it. Unusually, this SMEV has stainless steel pan stands instead of the usual black which hides discolouration.
There is a really good, full-length strip light with an opaque cover to diffuse the light and also illuminate the central corridor. The Thetford fridge is big enough to cater for two for several days, though it would benefit from smart energy selection (SES), as we often forgot to switch it on to 12V when we were driving. It does have a better door catch than equivalent Thetford fridges and a huge pull-out salad/veg drawer.
There’s one mains plug socket, in an inconvenient position behind the strip light, directly above the sink. The satin-finish, swan-neck tap adds a pleasant domestic feel, with a smooth flow of water from a silent water pump. The tiny rinsing sink next to the round, stainless steel main sink, seemed of little practical use at first, though with practice you can rinse cups and plates in it as long as you don’t overfill the sink. The big cutlery drawer with its eight compartments makes for convenient storage.
Hymer’s brochure describes its drawers as “roller-mounted” with a “servo-soft move-in mechanism” – in other words, sturdy, smooth and silent to operate.
There are two overhead lockers, each with a single shelf, and a deep (54cm) under-sink cupboard with a single shelf and a small, handy door-mounted bin. However, most of the bottom of this cupboard is taken up by the intrusion of the wheel arch.

Sleeping

The rear single bed is this motorhome’s most unusual and potentially incongruous feature: family buyers tend to opt for overcab coachbuilts for economic reasons, and three-berths are rare. That said, the 504 is meant to come with lower, folding bunks as standard though we doubt that any will be ordered with this, unless by grandparents who regularly take kids away.
The rear single bed works for couples who want two fixed single beds in a compact layout along with the option of taking a guest or grandchild away with them.
The overcab double bed lowers easily on a gas-strut mechanism, though on this new model, it was quite an effort to lift it back up again. The five-inch thick, sprung mattress is very comfortable, though the perennial problem of A-class beds remains: that is, the cold metal cantilevers at either end of the bed are the only available headboards. There are no obvious solutions to this, other than some kind of solid board which can be kept with the bed when not in use.
There’s 75cm headroom in the overcab, with a little bit of rake-off and the bed is easy to climb into: the mattress height (from the floor) is 1.25cm and the small wooden ladder stores conveniently in the base of the bed. The ceiling above is fabric lined and there’s a single strip light on the offside.
The fixed single, like the double bed, has wooden slats but also a cushioned headboard and movable spotlight, both on the nearside, with a window on the offside.
There’s a small shelf at either end and, as with the double bed, this single can be enclosed with a curtain. Though the bed itself feels a little enclosed, it’s no bad thing if a child needs to get to sleep while adults watch TV in the lounge. There’s plenty of room to sit up in bed and the wide corner steps provide easy access.
The single bed has pierced blown-air ducting around it, while a blown-air vent in the seat base behind the passenger seat serves the drop-down bed. The fixed single did tend to get warmer than the double, though we found that, overall, the gas heating worked well at keeping the motorhome warm, while not too hot, overnight.

Washroom

The swing-wall washroom concept can seem a little ‘Heath Robinson’, but the 504’s is the best executed we’ve seen and feels sturdy enough to last.
One noticeable detail was the vinyl fabric which rolled out like a blind to keep the cabinetwork behind the shower cubicle hinge dry. The firm-feeling, GRP shower tray has two plugs and a wide drain channel either side and there’s a height-adjustable shower head (also the tap), with a soap dish and a small bottle holder.
There’s no window, but the sense of space is improved, by the two large mirrors and the small, clear rooflight. There’s plenty of room to sit on the loo and the wide sink is easily accessible, though the washroom’s width (79cm) makes it a little cramped to bend right over and wash your face. The solid, sliding washroom door inspires confidence, with a metal handle and mortice lock.
There’s a big corner cupboard, with two cups and a liquid soap dispenser, two shelves and a 230V plug socket. The shower space is, in effect, 80 x 55cm, though the step below the sink (which covers the intrusion of the wheel arch) takes up half of the floor space. There’s headroom of just over 6ft. One disadvantage, as with any combined washroom, is that the shower tray is also the floor, but this is a first-class effort from Hymer.

Storage

For such a small vehicle, the B 504 CL has a lot of space inside and out, most notably in the two-door garage. It is not as big as those you will find on Dethleffs and Bürstner’s sub-6m A-class ‘vans which have double rear beds and, smaller living areas. However, it’s big enough for a scooter or three pushbikes, any of which can be conveniently loaded, thanks to the two doors and sliding, metal fixing hoops.
The doors are each 1.14m x 53cm, with a lip height of 45cm. The six shelves along the back wall, with elastic mesh to keep things in place, are really handy for anything from tools to hose adaptors.
The nearside ‘beany box’ is able to carry up to 40kg of gear, and is ideally suited to pitching kit such as ramps, which get dirty.
Inside, there are two 44cm-deep lounge lockers overhead, each with one shelf and three 32cm-deep lockers over the bed, with no shelves.
The wardrobe, with a light inside, measures 54 x 59cm. It is 1.17m from the hanging rail to the base. The locking plastic catches worked well but we felt that the part of the catch which passes through the door might be likely to break quite easily.
Locker construction felt very solid, which typifies the 504’s construction in general, from its smooth drawer runners to its sturdy wall boards. The rear bed steps have hinged flaps with storage space beneath them.

Technical specs

Sleeps3
Travel seats4
MTPLM3500kg
Payload570kg
Length5.99m19′8″
Width2.35m7′9″
Height2.9m9′6″
Waste water100L
External Options
Aluminium sidewalls
Kitchen Equipment
Thetford Fridge, 3-burner gas hob
Washroom
Thetford C-250 toilet, Shower curtain
Heating
Truma Gas Blown air heater, Truma Gas water heater

Verdict

The B 504 CL’s floorplan is unusual but practical for two. The living area, kitchen and washroom are small, but sensibly arrranged and make these functional spaces. Given the B 504’s size, the excellent, winterised facilities and storage space, there’s no limit to where and when you travel. It’s not the cheapest A-class, but we rate it as the most versatile and best value in its class.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Handy coat and towel hooks; optional cab blinds; beany box for pitching kit

Cons

  • Flimsy cupboard catches; you can trap your finger against the cab swivel seat mechanism; mudguard makes it awkward to reach the waste water outlet valve; cab condensation
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