Andrew McPheeSee other motorhome reviews written by Andrew McPhee
Get the full verdict on the 2011 Vantage Zen from Practical Motorhome's review
Vantage is one of the big success stories of the UK small van conversion market; part of its success stems from its highly focused remit: two-berth luxury campers built on the Fiat Ducato/Peugeot Boxer bases – although that remit has recently broadened.
Last February’s NEC show saw the launch of the landmark Vantage Zen, which comes on the Vauxhall Vivaro base instead of the Boxer.
The Zen sticks to the two-berth luxury formula that Vantage has honed to a fine art, but brings it to an even smaller base, while retaining most of the facilities, including a proper toilet.
The showpiece of the Zen is its large, comfortable lounge, which consists of one large L-shaped seating unit and one single seat. It doesn’t incorporate the cab seats, but even without them it will seat up to five people. The L-shaped seating unit bars entry to the cab, but a section of it can be removed to allow access. When only two people are in residence, the Zen provides swathes of feet-up lounging space.
The lounge table is made up using a single aluminium leg that slots into a hole in the floor – it stows in the rear when not in use – and a tabletop that slots onto the leg. Two sizes of tabletop are provided, one for your morning cuppa (60 x 45cm) and one for dinner time (60 x 55cm), to allow you to get the right balance of space. Both tabletops stow neatly in a storage cubby over the cab, fitting into specially cut holes that are damped with felt, meaning that they don’t shift or rattle when you’re on the road – it’s one of the neatest arrangements of its kind that we’ve seen in a camper.
The lounge seating makes up very easily into either two single beds or a large double; to make up two singles, the tabletops slot in to create the base, and the seat cushions are rearranged. The double is very similar, except an additional bed base piece is required, which stows aft of the kitchen unit when not in use. The beds are flat, spacious and remarkably easy to put together and take apart, which is key in a ’van this size.
The Zen’s compact kitchen is compromised, but Vantage has done a good job of making the most of limited space. There’s sufficient pantry and pan storage for two, and although you won’t be catering for banquets, there’s enough space for stove-top meals. Refrigeration duties are taken up by a 45-litre compressor fridge-freezer; it’s a great performer, although it does buzz slightly when switched on; this is alleviated somewhat by Vantage’s plans to equip the fridge with thermal storage, so that it can stay cool for a few hours even when the power’s off, allowing you to leave it off overnight.
Vantage’s founder Scot Naylor was adamant that the Zen should provide everything that a couple would need from a camper and so, even though it lacks a shower, it has a proper Thetford bench toilet – a real rarity in a camper this size. It also has a well-designed wooden partition that unfolds to cordon off the rear, creating a toilet cubicle with more than enough space to be used comfortably.
Clothes and toiletry storage are a bit tight in the Zen – there isn’t any wardrobe space, for example, although there’s limited hanging space in the washroom area. We’ve seen far worse in campers this size, though, and the Zen’s division between cab and lounge areas means that the former can be used for storage.
Our favourite aspect of the Zen involves its comprehensive equipment list. It’s a great hook up-free camper, thanks to its two 100A leisure batteries and the optional solar panel. It has two forms of heating, too – there are two compact electric space heaters for when you’re hooked-up, and a Webasto diesel unit for when you aren’t. There’s also a Truma Therme water heater, which uses an electric element or – when you’re away from hook-up – hot air from the Webasto heater to warm up five litres of water. It’s great to have hot water available in a ’van this size, and it works surprisingly well, even when the water’s only being heated by the blown hot air supply.
Waeco Compressor Fridge, 2-burner gas hob
Thetford C-402 bench toilet
If you’re looking to downsize you should definitely have a look at the Zen. You’ll be surprised how full-featured this ’van is, despite its diminutive base vehicle.
- Clever lounge; quality; attention to detail; amount of equipment
- No shower; no wardrobe