The two-berth 2016 Vantage Gem is a high-spec high-top van conversion with an unusual layout – here's Nick Harding's Practical Motorhome review and verdict
Psssst. Want to save yourself £3000 on a brand new Vantage Gem? We’ll let you in on a secret... later.
For now, if you’re in the market for a new two-berth, high-top van conversion, you visit Vantage. Just don’t turn up on spec. Many visitors are collecting new ’vans they’ve already bought, and the queue appears to be non-stop. After the personal, intensive handovers, customers are expected to stay at least one night on the local campsite. This group is joined by those who’ve booked to browse.
Part of Vantage Motorhomes’ success is that it keeps things simple. Production neatly bridges the gap between the bespoke offerings of some near rivals and factory manufacture.
Boss Scot Naylor builds vehicles that he and wife Jane test. The only downside is that Vantage has only one sales outlet, and that’s in Leeds. That’s a long drive for many who want a proper look at the range before investing.
The company’s only been going since 2006, but there’s a lifetime of motorhome experience behind it all. Or, as owner Scot half-jokingly puts it: “Vantage Motorhomes is the result of a hobby that turned into a vocation.” You can read about the Naylors’ touring background at the Vantage company website.
Keeping things simple also means that just one exterior colour is offered: metallic silver. It helps standardise not just production but also gives a consistency to the Vantage product that will pay dividends at trade-in time. It reduces costs because the bumpers don’t have to be colour-matched.
On the road
Lounging & dining
can be extended.
The adjacent sink is deep and but not so large that filling it will drain the 70-litre fresh-water tank.
If you make up the sofas as a double bed this will be 1.87m x 1.83m (6’2” x 6’0”), or if you choose to use the sofas as unequal single beds they will be 1.87m x 0.91m/0.76m (6’2” x 3’0”/2’6”).
The rear doors of the van open to the washroom and when they're closed there's space just inside for your folding chairs, mains lead, levelling ramp and other outdoor kit while you're driving along.
Other highlights include heavy-duty vinyl flooring covered by loose-fit carpet that is cut so perfectly it looks fixed.
Standard specification has been well-chosen, from the solar panel to the permanent gas tank, but the optional stereo head system in our test ’van, costing some £350, is not suited to a front-lounge model like this.
With all this, you’ll probably only need to factor another £1000 into your budget to cover added essentials, such as reversing sensors (from £250), exterior paint protection (£250), upholstery protection (£100) and other treats from a sensible list that won’t cost the earth.
|Layout||Van conversion, rear washroom|
|Fresh/waste water||70L / 50L|
|Leisure battery||105 Ah|
|Secondary leisure battery||105 Ah|
|Gas tank size||25kg|
|Number of gas tank compartments||1|
Waeco Compressor Fridge, 2-burner gas hob
Thetford C-402 bench toilet
Vehicles as meticulously made as the Gem will never be the cheapest – but it’s out in the field where they really prove their worth – as they do on the road. If you’re narrowing your range of new motorhomes, take a test drive. You’ll find Vantage’s products are just that bit more hushed, a direct result of the sound-deadening qualities of the insulation it uses.
What about that saving of three grand? You can have your Gem on a Citroën Relay base, with slightly superior cab equipment levels, from just £44,950.
However, such is Fiat’s standing that I fully expect most folk to pay the Ducato premium. For one thing, it gives you the altogether more impressive 2.3-litre engine – compared to the Citroën’s grumpy 2.2.Vantage Gem van conversions are built up to a quality and not down to a price. It’s only built on the medium-length base vehicle, but the lounge will appeal to many, while the shower/toilet area is an innovative piece of thinking.
- Full washroom in a MWB van conversion!
- Nifty 2.3-litre Fiat Ducato base vehicle
- Superb fixtures and fittings
- Solar panel and gas tank as standard
- Generous standard spec
- Expensive (but worth it)
- Small fridge
- Two-burner gas hob
- No oven