Practical Motorhome's expert Gentleman Jack gives his verdict on the Auto-Trail V-Line 635 SE – the longest 'van in the more affordable V-Line SE range

Overview

Auto-Trail is adamant that its newly expanded V-Line range shouldn’t be known by the generally accepted term for this type of motorcaravan – panel van conversion or PVC. Instead it wants it referred to as a compact leisure vehicle (CLV). At first I thought it was being precious over something that was self-evidently an accurate description. However, mature reflection has led me to the conclusion that it has a valid point, especially when trying to attract first-time buyers. Having ‘van’ in the title isn’t exactly appealing and the finished conversion doesn’t feel anything like white van man’s finest. 

All current Auto-Trail V-Line models taken forward into 2016, though, will henceforth be known as ‘V-Line Sport’ to differentiate them from the new V-Line SE range. You can read more about the range of 2016 Auto-Trail motorhomes here.

Design

The most obvious differences are that the SE range has a standard factory-fitted high-top and stock double-glazed windows. They’re nothing like as eye-catching as the Sport range with its GRP roof crown and custom-glazing, but they are substantially cheaper and still look pleasing. Black vinyl panels at window height, smart metallic silver coachwork and attractive diamond-cut alloy wheels all push the right buttons.

On the road

On the road these extra-long (L4) models are almost as manoeuvrable as the standard, long wheelbase (L3) ’van - despite offering an additional 285mm (11.25in) of interior length. This is because they share the same 4.035m (13ft 3.75in) wheelbase and therefore the same kerb-to-kerb turning circle. Standard motive power is the 130bhp 2.3-litre unit, though this can be upgraded. Fiat’s ComfortMatic automated gearbox is available with any engine as a £1800 option.

Lounging & dining

Entrance through the side sliding door reveals the accommodation divided into three distinct areas: forward seating, amidships kitchen and washroom, ahead of a large rear lounge. Extending the cab floor level rearwards and not having the washroom immediately behind the driver’s seat adds considerably to the feeling of spaciousness when sitting in the forward seats.

As this front dinette area works so well, we wouldn’t have any qualms about leaving the rear lounge made up as a (semi) permanent double bed when away for extended periods. Efficient and comprehensive insulation combined with the 4kW Combi boiler should allow comfortable year-round use in temperate climates.

The rear lounge is absolutely spot-on – perfect for relaxing, entertaining or dining; speaking of which there is a large rectangular table top with single leg for when dinner is served and a smaller round one for drinkies, laptop tapping, and for resting the Kindle or penny dreadful.

Less is more with the window embellishment – the functional, elegant simplicity of the curtain-less openings really appealed.

Kitchen

The well-equipped kitchen offers oodles of easily accessed storage and loads of worktop, plus a three-way (12V, 230V and gas) decent-sized fridge.

Sleeping

The lounge converted easily into a large and comfortable double bed measuring 1.83m x 1.74m (6' x 5'8.5") longitudinally. But we were stunned to find on this extra-long prototype that the settees were too short for many folk to use them as single beds. (We’d pinch two inches off the forward offside cupboard behind the driver’s seat and six inches from the kitchen to provide one 5ft 10.5in bed and one of 6ft 2in.) Some ‘couples’ prefer single beds and many motorcaravanning duos are not romantically involved - just friends or other relatives - and for them sharing a double bed might not be appropriate.

Washroom

The cleverly designed washroom has plenty of ‘elbow room’. However, I would have preferred an opening rooflight to the tiny rotating ventilator, because it would encourage better airflow and make the compartment less gloomy. The fold-away basin was just the right size and a shelved storage cupboard behind the mirror doors should hold all the toiletries required by a couple.

Storage

Behind the driver's seat is a low cupboard, which means that the washroom wall doesn't hem the driver in. In the washroom is a vanity unit where you can store your washbag behind mirrored doors.

There's also a half-height wardrobe and the overhead lockers have excellent positive-locking catches to keep your items safe in transit. The rear lounge seat boxes have gas struts so that you can stash the bedding away in the mornings without the lid falling onto your fingers.

Equipment

Finally, just look at what’s standard fare: LED daytime running lights, cruise control, cab air-conditioning, upgraded audio system, 16in diamond-cut alloys, TV aerial, spare wheel and gas-strut assistance for access to the underseat lockers. Not eye candy or immediately apparent, but perhaps even more important than all of the above is ESC (electronic stability control) and Traction+. These could be life-savers if you are losing your grip… or rather if the motorcaravan is.

Technical specs

LayoutVan conversion, rear lounge
Sleeps2
Travel seats2
MTPLM3500kg
Payload515kg
Length6.36m20′10″
Width2.05m6′9″
Height2.8m9′2″
Engine (capacity)2300
Engine (power)130
Fresh/waste water68L / 68L
Leisure battery75 Ah
Gas tank size25kg
Number of gas tank compartments1
External Options
Aluminium sidewalls, Integral awning, Awning light, Manual step
Kitchen Equipment
Thetford Fridge
Washroom
Thetford C-200 toilet
Heating
Truma Electric/Gas Blown air heater, Alde water heater

Verdict

The Auto-Trail V-Line SE models are a welcome addition to the portfolio. Tweaking this 635 SE layout to offer the option of single beds in future would address its only Achilles heel.

This is an accomplished two-berth high-top panel van conversion (or compact leisure vehicle). Overall we've awarded the 2016 Auto-Trail V-Line 635 SE a four-star rating. And to see other Auto-Trail motorhomes for sale, click here.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Well equipped kitchen
  • Fridge still works if you're wild camping
  • Rear lounge turns into a large transverse double bed
  • No fussy curtains, just blinds and flyscreens
  • Cab air-con is standard
  • ESC and traction-control
  • Back doors open
  • Wind-out awning and LED awning rail lights are standard

Cons

  • No opening rooflight or window in the washroom
  • Microwave is placed rather high up for safety
  • Twin sofas are too short to be used as single beds
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