Read Practical Motorhome's expert review and live-in test verdict on the 2014 Niesmann+Bischoff Arto 66 F, a great option for extended touring

Overview

Need a high-end home on wheels for extended touring? Want to bask in the admiring glances of others? N+B’s 
Arto 66 F offers comfort and mod-cons in equal measure.

Premium marque Niesmann + Bischoff enjoyed an excellent 2014 model year, with the entire production run sold out halfway through the season. An autonomous subsidiary of the Hymer Group, Niesmann + Bischoff offers two line-ups: the Fiat Ducato-based Arto, and Flair, which rides on Iveco. Both ranges offer top-drawer designs, extensive kit lists and peerless build quality. 

A Niesmann + Bischoff motorhome is a significant investment, but you get what you pay for – this kind of quality doesn’t come cheap. Owners come from many backgrounds, some spending months on tour and therefore requiring a luxury vehicle. 

Seventeen Arto models appeared in the 2014 portfolio, most of which were available in the UK, featuring a range of layouts carrying the popular configurations 
of French, island, twin singles and transverse beds. The 6.99m-long 66 F model features a rear French bed 
on the UK offside, with a nearside corner washroom, while up front a double bed looks down on a spacious front lounge. 

To find out just how good the 66 F is, Practical Motorhome magazine's Editor took a new demonstrator unit from sole UK retailer, Travelworld 
in Telford, to Bridgnorth’s Stanmore Hall Touring Park for a full live-in test. 

Design

Niesmann + Bischoff could well lay claim to producing some of the most elegant and stylish motorhomes available today. At this rarefied end of the market, money can often bag you a lot of bling, but 
a Niesmann + Bischoff motorcaravan is always a study in impeccable taste.

The exterior of the Arto 
66 F is a good example. The brilliant white bodyshell is offset against the black band that wraps around from the tinted windscreen, rising and tapering off towards the rear.

These black details are referenced by the optional (£1473) ‘ClouLine’ styling, which features a painted radiator grille with chrome elements, flat side windows and chrome edges to the road lights. A skirt encases the bottom of the motorhome, punctuated only by alloy wheels and the entrance step.

Stepping inside, our test ’van was specified with ‘Crème’ beige soft furnishings and Grand Cru No 1 (Kiss) backrest cushions. Picking up these cues, the overhead lockers have white gloss facings, and mid-toned cabinetwork runs throughout the rest of the vehicle.

A further design flourish 
is provided by cost-optional (£430) green granite-effect overlays on selected flat surfaces, including the area behind the washroom basin and behind the grab handle next to the footwell.

On the road

The Arto 66 F is based on the Fiat Ducato with a 2.3-litre engine, paired with an Al-Ko low-frame chassis. Our test ’van featured the standard six-speed manual gearbox (automatic transmission 
is available, as a cost option, and would seem well suited to a vehicle such as this).

The Arto 66 F has a substantial footprint, but all-round visibility for the driver is good, thanks to 
the commanding driving position, the wide-angle coach-style mirrors and optional reversing camera.

In use, on our route from Travelworld’s premises to our campsite, the ’van coped well with predominantly level A-roads. There was always enough power to call on and ride and handling was good.

Testament to the quality 
of the engineering and build, there was little road noise to report, save for the occasional clatter of the grill pan.

On our 33-mile round trip, the Arto returned 22.3mpg, as stated via the on-board trip computer, although the vehicle would have been running only a little heavier than its MiRO of 3200kg.

Lounging & dining

The high-quality materials used in the Arto’s lounge make it a most excellent place to spend time in. The lounge seats are firm and comfortable, with good back support, and with fabric surrounds upholstered to the bases, look very domestic.

The lounge will seat up 
to six people, using the L-shaped dinette and offside single sofa in combination with the rotated high-end SKA captain’s chairs (part 
of the Liner options pack). These are ideal locations from which to watch TV, 
if one is sited next to the habitation door.

The lounge table can be moved to meet the needs of the seated group, by releasing a clamp underneath; the tabletop has a high-quality finish to match that of the kitchen work surface and 
the overhead lockers.

Illumination comes from 
a window on the nearside 
of the vehicle, supported by LED lights in the ceiling and below the overhead lockers. There’s no sunroof because of the drop-down bed fitted above the lounge.

Other design details include Continental-style nets hanging either side of the lounge windows, while the single sofa on the offside sits underneath a fabric tidy with three pockets.

Kitchen

The 66 F sports the classic L-shaped kitchen behind the dinette seats. It’s a little cosy but will be large enough for a couple and is well equipped.

The high-quality, one-piece, white worktop matches the overhead lockers for colour and contrasts well with the dark woods of the cupboard and drawers below. It contains an integral drainer and sink, which, while not very deep, has a swan neck mixer tap that will allow you to fill kettles and pans easily.

To the left of the sink is a hob with three gas burners located under a split cover that allows you to use one of the rings while leaving the other two covered.

Opposite, as part of the Comfort pack specification, 
a grill sits above the dual-fuel fridge with separate freezer compartment. Above this 
is a microwave oven – our testers felt this would have been better lower down, to make removing hot items safer, but with the grill to accommodate above the fridge, it’s hard to see how this could be overcome.

Under the hob you’ll find 
a catch; this operates the central locking for the kitchen storage, so you’ll never have to worry about one of the drawers or cupboards coming open during transit.

Sleeping

The 66 F’s rear bedroom has to accommodate a corner washroom so the bed can only be accessed from the end or one side. Measuring 1.9 x 1.4m, the bed has a firm and comfortable mattress, sitting on Froli springs as part of the optional Comfort pack, and is surrounded by high-quality fittings. Mood lighting is built into the headboard and over the top of the side window; this has 
a cassette blind, fabric roller blind and decorative nets.

Two LED stalk lights are fitted just below the pair of overhead lockers, in a small shelf on the rear wall, and can easily be moved into the ideal reading position; handy storage pockets flank both sides of the bed.

The rear bedroom closes off from the rest of the ’van via a pair of sliding doors that shut with a reassuring click, making it an ideal place for dressing during the daytime when the cab blinds are up.

Washroom

Split into two areas, the Arto 66 F’s washroom has a toilet and shower in the nearside rear corner, and a vanity unit at the foot of the bed. The vanity unit is very well made, featuring a round aluminium sink and smart mixer tap underneath a shoulder-height mirrored cabinet, ideal for those who like to keep toiletries out of sight.

The walls under this cabinet have cost-optional green granite inlays to match those found in the stepwell when entering the vehicle. Illumination for the vanity unit comes via three task lights above the mirrored cabinet, and mood lighting above the window.

The shower and toilet compartment is accessed by 
a sturdy door with domestic handle, with a full-length mirror mounted on it. The shower tray occupies the foreground, and has two drain holes. A pair of bi-fold doors – one to the left and one to the right – will keep spray from contacting the wooden finishes. A swivelling cassette toilet with optional granite-effect infill around the flush button sits at the rear; the toilet has its own brush and holder.

A rooflight above the shower provides illumination and an escape route for steam, with another four task lights to brighten up evenings and early mornings.

Storage

With a rear garage and under-bed storage space, the Arto 66 will swallow plenty of touring kit. But there are also other clever uses of space.

Because of the space required by the nearside rear corner washroom, the garage is only accessible from the offside. A top-hinged door 
on gas struts – very practical, said our testers – leads into the large, rubber-lined space, which has a light and a heating vent to allow wet clothing to dry. Tie-downs are available to secure items like bikes – the headroom afforded by the fixed bed means you may not be able 
to store items taller than this.

Inside, the bed rises on gas struts to reveal a very clever storage solution – a pop-up wardrobe. Push down on the wooden shelves that flank a central hanging rail and – hey presto – you have somewhere to hang and store clothes. It’s a clever arrangement, and allows floor space to be kept around the foot of the bed.

There are four overhead lockers – two in the bedroom and two in the kitchen – and three cupboards in the washroom (two in the vanity unit and one in the toilet compartment). The kitchen has slide-out racking that pulls out from under the sink and will store a substantial amount of provisions. A door to its left can also be opened, to increase accessibility. Three drawers are located under the sink: one for cutlery, and two deep drawers, of which the one at the bottom has a small waste bin. All have soft-closing actions with central locking.

Equipment

Truma’s Combi 6kW system provides water and space heating to the Arto 66 F. 
In use, our testers found it warmed the vehicle evenly and a setting of 15C maintained a pleasant atmosphere overnight.

A range of options was fitted to our test ’van. The Comfort Pack 1 added a lounge rooflight, blinds to the cab’s side windows, Froli bed springs with memory foam mattress and ‘Tec Tower’ (fridge/freezer and oven) in the kitchen.

The Liner Pack, also fitted, included a motorised front blind for the cab window, electrically adjustable and heated coach-style mirrors, micro-fibre ceiling lining and SKA rotating cab seats in a finish to match the lounge upholstery. The Chassis Pack (fitted) added cab air conditioning, cruise control and front axle springs to smooth the ride.

In addition, our test ’van also benefited from the Multimedia Pack, which added sat-nav, Bluetooth connectivity and a reversing camera. Other optional extras included front LED lighting, alloy wheels, a 4.5m awning, heated windscreen and pre-wiring for a satellite dish.

Here is the full specification.

The N+B Arto 66 F is built on the chassis of a Fiat Ducato 35L/Al-Ko Engine 2.3-litre turbodiesel, 150bhp Transmission Six-speed manual Features ABS. EBD. FWD with traction control system. 90-litre fuel tank

The conversion features wall/floor/roof thicknesses of 30/42/30mm. The sidewalls are aluminium skinned; there's a GRP-skinned roof and a box structure wood-free habitation body with a 30mm-deep continuous double floor. It has a 120-litre fresh water tank and 120-litre underslung waste water tank.

Inside for lounging and dining the Arto 66F has seats for six and all six can dine together. There is an L-sofa, plus a facing one-seat sofa and swivelling cab seats. The table is a fixed-leg adjustable pedestal table. Concertina blinds and flyscreens are fitted to side windows and there's LED lighting. The oak-look level floor runs from the cab to the living quarters. There are four choices of upholstery finish; 18 choices of scatter cushion finish.

In the kitchen there's a three-burner hob with electric ignition. The lower kitchen cabinets are central locking. Removable sink cover/worktop lids provide extra worktop space and there's a waste-bin in the lower kitchen drawer.

At night you get the choice of a rear fixed double bed 1.9 x 1.4m (6’2” x 4’7”) or a front pull-down double 1.91 x 1.32m (6’3” x 4’3”) .

Equipment includes a cassette toilet with trolley system, a 90Ah AGM leisure battery in the double floor, and three electric plug sockets

Cost options fitted to our test vehicle were the driver and passenger airbags (£860), alloy wheels (£1219), heated windscreen (£303), central locking (£364), 4.5m awning with LEDs (£1306).

The Comfort Pack offers a lounge rooflight, cab side window blinds, Froli bed springs with memory foam mattress and ‘Tec Tower’ (£1745).

The Liner Pack offers wide-angle heated electric mirrors, insulated front electric blind, double-glazed front side windows, SKA front seats, micro-fibre ceiling lining, one-hand operation windows (£2622).

The Chassis Pack offers cab air-conditioning, cruise control, front axle springs (£1745).

The Multimedia Pack has a navigation head unit, including a reversing camera, Bluetooth and DVD, pre-installation for sound system, 19in LED Freeview TV (£2709).

Technical specs

LayoutRear corner bed
Sleeps4
Travel seats4
MTPLM3500kg
Payload300kg
Length6.99m22′11″
Width2.32m7′7″
Height2.95m9′8″
Engine (capacity)2300
Fresh/waste water120L / 120L
Leisure battery90 Ah
Gas tank size11kg
Number of gas tank compartments2
External Options
Aluminium sidewalls, Electric step
Kitchen Equipment
3-burner gas hob
Heating
Truma Electric/Gas Blown air heater, Truma Electric/Gas water heater

Verdict

Considered design, excellent spec and 
a superb fit and finish – just three areas in which the Niesmann + Bischoff Arto 66 F excels. Some may say that’s unsurprising given the price (from £80,059 OTR, or £96,390 as tested, when new), but there’s more to it than that. What comes across in every area of the Arto 66 F is the passion of the manufacturer. From the informative brochure that looks like a high-end fashion magazine through to the end product, Niesmann + Bischoff has left no detail to chance and the result is one of the most comfortable and pleasing environments you’ll ever get to spend time in on the road. If you 
can command this kind of budget and 
have above-ordinary touring ambitions, then the Arto 66 F will serve you very well. 

Conclusion

Pros

  • Amaze your guests by switching between blue, white and red lighting – we thought this was ace
  • The pop-up wardrobe cleverly gets around the lack 
of space for an upright wardrobe

Cons

  • OK, perhaps we’re nit-picking, but for this price wouldn’t you expect the toilet to have a porcelain bowl?
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