With a rear twin-bed layout and an L-shaped dinette up front, read on to find out how the Chausson Welcome 717 fares in the Practical Motorhome review
It seems we Brits can’t get enough of Chausson motorhomes. During the 2014 model year, the French manufacturer sold around 400 units in the UK, making it the biggest imported brand by volume. Its ‘SO French’ marketing campaign clearly paid off, striking a chord with buyers who find the Chausson formula very appealing. If British motorcaravanners love touring France, relishing its motorhome-friendly facilities, it seems many of them also enjoy the pastime in a French camping car by Chausson.
Chausson, which is one of several ’van producers in France, builds across the vehicle classifications. Only selected ranges reach the UK, though: mainly classic low-profiles and a couple of overcabs. You can clearly see the brand’s ambition and dedication to excellence in the relatively small collection it exports to Blighty, like the astonishing Suite Family, upgraded last year to have a stunning midships island kitchen to accompany its flexible rear bunks solution.
The 717 was also launched in the 2014 portfolio, unveiled as part of a significant overhaul of the Chausson line-up. In came new model designations, referencing the length of each motorcaravan and its floor plan in the first and third digits, and some exciting new layouts. The 717 is definitely one of them – we described it as ‘magnificent’ upon seeing it for the first time.
Based on the Fiat Ducato, the 717 carries the popular rear twin-bed layout, with an L-shaped dinette up front. An electrically operated drop-down bed can also be specified (one was fitted to our test ’van), offering buyers the added flexibility of four berths in a low-profile body shell.
It is available in two trim levels: Flash (no options) and, as with our test ’van, Welcome (plenty of options available). With the drop-down bed, engine upgrade and other choice extras, its price was just above £52,000; our supplying dealer, Chichester’s Premier Motorhomes, was offering a substantial £3000 discount at the time of writing.
The metallic-grey cab is well coordinated with the habitation area, by means of grey-and-blue graphics. Green detailing in the decals references the Chausson logo in the cab’s radiator grille; this features a diagonal green tick emerging from the ‘O’ and looks quirky.
The habitation is manufactured from GRP-clad sandwich sidewalls with a polyester roof. New fairings and thick cornices were introduced for 2014 and make the bodyshell construction look sturdy. The large moulded rear panel has wide edges that taper towards the top, and angled light clusters that look very automotive.
As the habitation is quite low to the ground, the 717 doesn’t require an entrance step, but you have to step a bit higher than you’d expect to reach the habitation floor. A grab rail makes this process easier.
The midships and lounge area is all on one level – there’s a step up into the cab and into the bedroom. Inside, Chausson’s mid-toned cabinetwork and cream locker and cupboard door facings combine well with the light-brown soft furnishings scheme.
On the road
Steering was precise, as you’d expect from the excellent Fiat Ducato base vehicle and, with power steering, the Chausson Welcome 717 was easy to manoeuvre at low speeds. There was no more noise than you’d reasonably expect from the habitation area when tackling the variable state of British roads.
At 7.4m long, though, there’s a lot of motorhome behind the cab. A reversing camera would be a sensible user upgrade (pre-wiring is installed as standard) because it is very hard to gauge how much room is behind you when reversing.
The cab’s two swivelling front seats are upholstered in beige to match the habitation area. The cab seats are well shaped and incorporate a headrest with a stitched-in Chausson logo.
This front-wheel-drive motorhome has ABS, ASR with Traction Plus, PAS and driver and passenger airbags. The cab has air conditioning, and you also get cruise control, electric mirrors, a CD/radio, automatic headlights and wipers. There's a spare wheel as standard, too.
This conversion has Polyester-skinned sandwich sidewalls with foam insulation. There is an anti-hail 0.54cm polyester-skinned roof, a 0.63cm habitation floor and a Vacuform rear panel. There is a 122-litre fresh-water tank and 100-litre underslung waste-water tank.
Lounging & dining
Illumination is well catered for, courtesy of windows on either side of the lounge, while there’s a sizeable panoramic wind-out rooflight in the roof of the cab. A strip of LED lights on the underside of the overhead lockers is supplemented by four LED lights in the bottom of the optional drop-down bed. So, whatever the time of day, the lounge need never be dark or gloomy.
Roller blinds and flyscreens are fitted beneath nets and curtains to provide privacy for those in the lounge, as well as providing a home-from-home feel.
Other kitchen equipment includes a combination oven-and-grill under the hobs and, to its left, a large fridge with a separate freezer unit. This will easily cope with the storage requirements of a couple, and guests. Above the fridge is a microwave-oven shaped cupboard.
Each bed has suede-effect mattress covers in cream, and cream-coloured plastic headboards with chrome trim. Our testers found these to be cold and firm – they’re made from moulded hard plastic – so were glad they’d taken their own pillows with them.
Turning the rear of the Chausson Welcome 717 into a huge double bed is a simple operation. The flat area between the singles is in fact a sliding shelf that can be pulled forward, and two pieces of infill mattress used to bridge this gap.
If using the beds as twin singles, safety nets can be fitted to stop occupants’ feet from falling out. These are folded under each mattress when not in use and attach via straps to hooks in the roof and the bulkheads at the foot of each bed.
A curtain track between the washroom door and the rear allows the bedroom to be curtained off from the rest of the ’van. The bedroom lights are all LEDs and there's an LED cluster above the steps between the twin beds. There’s a vent over the bedroom, but no rooflight.
The optional drop-down bed fitted in the lounge is electrically powered and is operated via a key and buttons. It has a 230kg load limit, restraining nets to stop occupants from rolling out in the middle of the night, and a privacy curtain.
Access to the bed is via a ladder that clips to the edge of the bed frame. To save space when stowed, its end is hinged and folded into position when the ladder rests in the midships gangway. The bed has four LED spotlights over it.
One benefit of this layout is that, with the washroom in the middle, occupants of each sleeping area will not have to disturb each other if using the washroom during the small hours.
To the right is a separate shower compartment with a semi-circular opaque plastic door and wooden duckboards. The shower has a rooflight-vent.
The swivel-seat, electric-flush toilet has a cream lid to go with the basin, and there’s a cupboard above the toilet. An opening window is above the toilet and has a flyscreen and a roller blind.
There are also two wardrobes in this motorhome. A tall one stands between the fridge and the nearside single bed, and provides three shelves at the base and half-height hanging space. The other is in the foot of the nearside bed. Opposite, you’ll find a cupboard under the end of the offside bed.
A third deep locker is between the twin beds, which have a fantastic full-width garage below, easily big enough for bikes. The garage has gas-strut-supported doors at either side of the ’van, rails with anchor points, a rubber mat on the floor, and three deep shelves and cubbies.
The habitation door incorporates a rubbish bin, a window, a full-length skinny mirror, a mosquito screen and a concertina blind. The door hinges back.
Practical Motorhome's review team felt there could have been more 230V plug sockets in the Chausson Welcome 717, although there are two 12V sockets in the cab’s dashboard.
3-burner gas hob, Combined Oven/Grill
Chausson's 2014 motorhome portfolio boasted some great models, and the Welcome 717 is definitely one of them. Spend some time inside and you can sense the confidence in the design and execution of this product, as we discovered in the course of our review. The layout is a derivative one: rear twin single beds above a rear garage. But Chausson has executed it with élan, best illustrated in the lounge and washroom, which are its stand-out areas, plus numerous clever design touches throughout the 'van.
The 717 is ideal for touring couples who take a lot of kit. Specify the drop-down bed and it is transformed into a comfortable tourer for four. Fit and finish are top-class and the Welcome equipment level won't leave you wanting for much.
- The front lounge is comfy and can seat five
- It's well illuminated, with an agreeable atmosphere
- Both of the twin fixed singles has a window
- There's lots of storage space
- Some of the fixtures and fittings are placed too high for short people
- It's pretty long (7.4m) and has no reversing camera, but does have reversing sensors
- It has a combination oven/grill, not two separate units