Ahead of the arrival of the Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo in the UK for the first time in 2016, Practical Motorhome previews this smart, compact four-berth

Overview

Ah, those pesky steering wheels. If it wasn’t for our insistence on driving on the left (and having our steering wheels mounted on the right), we would have had a lot more of the Continental offerings made available to us here in the UK. A case in point: the newest iteration of one of the motorhome world’s best-kept secrets – the Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo motorhome by Westfalia

This model has been around for 34 years, but up until now, Mercedes-Benz UK has not stepped into the market in Britain with a Mercedes-Benz badged offering. Originally launched as a Westfalia-only product on the Mercedes L207/208 van in 1981, the Marco Polo is now in its fifth generation and Mercedes-Benz UK has confirmed it will go on sale here for the first time next year. 

The reason we haven’t seen previous models here in the UK is due to Mercedes' vans in RHD form always having a sliding door on each side in order to reduce the number of body-in-white variants for Mercedes-Benz to produce. This has made it difficult to offer a kitchen aisle as in the Marco Polo. We spoke to Mercedes-Benz Vito expert Andreas Rein and suggested leaving the left door and creating a closed rear panel for the kitchen. “That’s not a bad idea, but we will have to see if it could work and what the numbers are,” he said. Mercedes-Benz UK spokesman Angus Fitton hinted that the reason for the launch delay was partly due to engineering work to enable both variants being offered in the UK. 

Design

The Marco Polo builds on one of the most versatile platforms in the van market, the Mercedes-Benz Vito and V-Class vans, and will be available through Mercedes-Benz car and van dealerships in the UK, depending on the platform chosen.

Available with five different four-cylinder turbodiesel engines, it also comes with the choice of front-, rear- or all-wheel drive. Yes, on the same platform you can chose whether you want to be pushed or pulled, depending on the engine size. No final engine choices have been announced for the UK so far, though.

On the road

The version of this 'van we tested had a 2.2-litre turbodiesel engine under the bonnet with 190bhp, which did a good job of powering this V-Class based campervan.

Lounging & dining

For a compact van-based motorhome, the Marco Polo is quite luxurious – and seats four rather comfortably. Both the driving and passenger seats can be rotated in conventional fashion, although doing so requires some skill and effort due to limited space.

Kitchen

The kitchen aisle to the left (in LHD form) contains a cooker, a sink and a nifty coolbox which rear-seat passengers can access during transit without having to leave their seats.

Clever ideas include the fold-away table that stays attached to the kitchen and slides away when not in use, plus cooker and sink lids in transparent glass so you still get some light into the ’van when all are lifted up. Another neat idea is the carry-box for an outdoor table and chairs which is suspended from the rear load shelf in order to allow extra items to fit underneath.

The control panel in the lower dashboard operates the electrically powered pop-up-roof, programmes the stationary heater and indicates the fluid levels for fresh and waste water.

Sleeping

The Marco Polo sleeps four rather comfortably – and, probably, just as you'd expect. Yes, that's right, two are accommodated on the fold-down two-seater bench in the cabin, the other two in the pop-up roof.

We found the fold-down bed a little too firm. During our one-night test, however, the pop-top’s bed proved to be ultra-comfortable due to its slatted frame construction. According to Andreas Rein, inspiration for the Marco Polo’s sleeping arrangements came from another part of Mercedes-Benz. “We are a big company, so when we needed advice on how to create comfortable beds in a small space, we sought help from our Actros truck division.”

Equipment

As the name suggests, the new Marco Polo Activity is aimed at a younger crowd of motorhome buyers, who are looking for a vehicle that fits their active lifestyles and offers space for their various outdoor activities. The Activity has a three-seat bench in the rear (it sleeps three) plus two swivelling front seats, and as standard comes with a manually operated pop-up roof that offers two extra beds.

The bench as well as the clever multi-purpose table can be moved forwards and backwards on their sliding rails to maximise available space for either living or luggage.

Technical specs

LayoutCamper without washroom
Sleeps4
Travel seats4
MTPLM2440kg
Payload610kg
Length5.14m16′10″
Width1.93m6′4″
Height1.98m6′6″
Engine (power)190
Fresh/waste water38L / 40L
Leisure battery80 Ah
Gas tank size2.75kg
Washroom
No toilet

Verdict

At present we've only got limited information about this 'van. Indeed, the quoted £50,000 OTR price is only an estimation. More information on which models will be made available in the UK – and when – is expected towards the end of this year. 

Conclusion

Pros

  • Front-, rear- and all-wheel drive options
  • The Mercedes-Benz base vehicle means it will be good to drive
  • An electrically-powered pop-top is optional

Cons

  • Rivals are less expensive
  • Rotating the driver and passenger seat is quite tricky
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