Niall Hampton
Editor

See other motorhome reviews written by Niall Hampton

The rise of the van conversion continues for 2016 and now Practical Motorhome's Editor Niall Hampton reviews the compact Hobby Vantana K55 from Germany

Overview

Highly regarded German manufacturer Hobby surprised many when it entered the van conversion market for 2015, with the three-strong Vantana range. This gives Hobby an offering outside the coachbuilt segment, where its Siesta range is well established, and to which Optima was recently added. 

Producing van conversions is not for the faint-hearted, though, as there’s a seemingly bewildering array of models to consider, from both volume manufacturers and small converters across Europe. Competition is fierce, as you’d expect with so many big names vying for a slice of the cake and designing new motorhomes for 2016. And this segment certainly continues to grow, as seen at the 2015 Caravan Salon in Düsseldorf, where an extra van conversions hall was laid on to sate visitor demand for vehicles that are smaller, lighter and more economical to run than larger coachbuilt motorhomes. You can read more in our blog, Düsseldorf show: the rise of the campervan.

Hobby’s relative newness to this market requires it to offer something distinctive to stand out from the crowd. German brands can always fall back on build quality and appealing design quirks, but ease of use and interior ambience also figure on buyers’ wish lists. To see how well the Vantana formula works in the metal, we thought it’d make sense to scrutinise the model that presents the most challenges to its designers, the Hobby Vantana K55, which at 5.41m (17ft 9in) long is the baby of the range. 

Design

The K55 follows a conventional Continental van conversion floor plan, with front half-dinette and transverse rear bed. In between these two areas, space is shared by a nearside washroom and offside kitchen. Built on a body length of 5.41m (not quite the ‘55’ used for the name of the ’van), space is at a premium, so the washroom doubles as a passageway to the rear bedroom.

In standard form, the K55 comes in white, although silver, slate grey or black finishes are also available. A prominent compass logo is sited on a black panel above the rear wheels, with red and black stripes also used to create a distinctive look.

Entering through the sliding door on the UK offside, our test ’van sported ‘Ashai ash/magnolia’ cabinetwork and ‘Capri’ soft furnishings, which together with the brown work surfaces, made for a pleasant vibe.

On the road

Built on the medium-wheelbase Fiat Ducato, the K55 has an all-up weight of 3300kg so the 2.3-litre engine with 130bhp output will always be up for the challenge. With a wheel at each corner, handling is sure, with no pronounced body roll when taking corners.

Driver and safety aids include cruise control and ASR; the optional Chassis package adds extras including passenger airbag, ESP including ASR, hill hold and Traction+, LED daytime running lights, leather steering wheel and gearstick and air conditioning.

With a pair of belts fitted in the front dinette, four travel seats are available.

Lounging & dining

A party of up to four people can relax and enjoy the lounge area, thanks to swivelling cab seats that are upholstered with the same fabric scheme as the lounge. A nearside window and rooflight allow natural light to flood in; you can make it a tidal wave by opening the offside sliding door. LED stalk lights take care of artificial illumination.

The table follows standard convention by having a sliding section to reach out to the occupant of the driver’s chair; space is at a premium in this area but there’s still room to get comfortable during snack and meal times. Headroom in the dinette area, and rear bedroom, is 1.894m (6'2.5").

Kitchen

With extensive real estate in short supply here, the kitchen has to be as multi-functioning as possible. The cooker and sink take this cue, being formed from one aluminium unit with a glass lid to lower for extra work surface. If more is required, then a tip-up flap on the end of the kitchen unit can be brought into play.

Apart from the two gas burners and sink, equipment comprises a 50-litre compressor fridge, tucked away to the right of two drawers which have soft-closing mechanisms. There’s no room for an oven.

Sleeping

The transverse rear fixed bed measures 1.85m x 1.35 (6'1" x 4'5"), tapering to 1.15m (3'3") at its narrowest point. As the bed is removable, the mattress is of the multi-piece cold foam variety and has to be laid in sections on top of the sprung slat frames. When not required, these can be lashed to the bedroom’s offside rear storage unit.

A second, optional, berth, measuring 1.4m x 0.9m (4'7" x 2'9"), can be made up in the front dinette, by setting the table on the lowest of its two supports and rearranging the dinette seat cushions. With this and the rear bed in use, the washroom’s tambour doors can be pulled out for privacy.

Washroom

More multi-function thinking is on offer in the washroom, with the floor space having to be shared with the gangway. To use the washroom, you need to enter and pull the tambour door right around yourself, to shut off this space from the rest of the ’van.

Inside, the compact washroom is a model of space efficiency. A sink and vanity unit is located to the left, next to a cassette toilet on the right-hand-side. The shower head extends from the sink’s mixer tap, and a curtain pulls across on a U-shaped rail to prevent spray from contacting the woodwork. There is space to get dressed in the washroom, but the dimensions definitely favour people who are built for speed rather than comfort.

Storage

As you’d expect, seemingly every nook and cranny of the K55 is exploited for storage. Eight overhead lockers are spread around the ’van, with four in the bedroom and two above the dinette. In addition to this, there’s an overcab storage compartment with a door and handle, and a locker in the floor under the dinette table that’ll be ideal for keeping valuables out of sight.

The bedroom has a storage unit on each side; the nearside one houses the gas bottle locker and Truma Combi 6 space and water heater, while the one on the offside can be loaded from the top. With the bed frame and mattress retracted and lashed to the sidewall, the rear of the Vantana K55 is large enough to take bulky items like cycles and surfboards. A wooden divider can be inserted to close the space off; it has a hole through which long items like fishing rods and skis can be inserted.

Equipment

Standard equipment in the Vantana K55 includes an electric entrance step, LED lighting in the dinette area and an LED light with integral rain guard above the side sliding door. Cassette blinds and fly screens are deployed throughout, with Remis blinds fitted to the cab windows and windscreen as part of the Starter pack, which also brings a mosquito blind for the side sliding door.

Insulation is well addressed in the K55, with XPS foam insulation used in the living area, which also benefits from a heated double floor in the dinette to house the plumbing. The fresh water tank also has frost protection. Fitted around the K55 are five 230V sockets and one 12V socket.

Hobby is bundling the Fiat Chassis Pack (passenger airbag, daytime running lights, leather trim steering wheel and gear knob, radio preparation and cruise control), Starter Pack (Remis cab door blinds, pleated concertina blind and side sliding door flyscreen), Deluxe Pack and Multimedia Pack (includes two additional speakers in habitation area, Blaupunkt navigation system and reversing camera and sliding holder for flatscreen TV) as the ‘Vantana Deluxe All Inclusive’ package, which means that over £7500 of options are included in the K55’s £43,995 OTR list price.

Individual options are also available, including engine upgrades to 150bhp (£799), ComfortMatic transmission and 150bhp engine upgrade (£2999), alloy wheels (£495), bike rack (£255), additional 95Ah leisure battery (£255) and two individual travels seats in lieu of a bench seat (£799).

Technical specs

LayoutVan conversion, transverse bed
Sleeps3
Travel seats4
MTPLM3300kg
Payload631kg
Length5.41m17′9″
Width2.05m6′9″
Height2.64m8′8″
Engine (capacity)2300
Engine (power)130
Fresh/waste water95L / 90L
Leisure battery95 Ah
Gas bottle size11kg
Number of gas bottles2
External Options
Aluminium sidewalls, Electric step
Kitchen Equipment
Waeco Compressor Fridge, 2-burner gas hob, Separate grill
Washroom
Thetford C-200 toilet, Shower curtain
Heating
Truma Electric/Gas Blown air heater, Truma Electric/Gas water heater

Verdict

There’s a lot to choose from in this segment of the market, but the nippy and manoeuvrable Hobby Vantana K55 scores well with a value-for-money price including several options packs, good build quality and some thoughtful practicality touches. The removable bed also offers flexibility for active-minded motorcaravanners, or those who use their ’vans for occasional business applications. The space-saving washroom may be a squeeze for some buyers, but it does offer a full feature set. And to see other Hobby motorhomes for sale, click here.

Conclusion

Pros

  • High quality build
  • Rear fixed bed is removable
  • Good insulation
  • Plenty of storage

Cons

  • Small washroom
  • No oven
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