Nick HardingSee other motorhome reviews written by Nick Harding
If you like classic VW camper layouts, look at how much more you'd get with this 2016 Hillside Leisure Castleton, based on the Ford Transit Custom Limited
Visit Hillside Leisure’s considerable manufacturing and retailing set-up in Derby and the chances are that the place will be jam-packed. That’s not just with new and used vehicles for sale, but also with a host of base vehicles awaiting conversion.
These include Renault’s latest Trafic, the Nissan NV200, Volkswagen’s T6 and, now, Ford Transits. Not only that, but Hillside boasts a pretty full order book, which bodes well for a company that is very much on the up in the world of campervan manufacturing.
This Castleton takes the Limited version of the Transit Custom as its starting point – an upgrade that costs £2800, but Hillside predicts that it will emerge as the most popular model.
As reviewed, it costs £37,995 – and that price compares favourably with anything VW-based.
So what does Hillside make of turning all this into a camper? The company has honed its conversion skills using arguably the best-engineered elevating roofs – from Germany’s SCA – and RIB rear seating, courtesy of France’s Scopema.
That’s not to say either product is without criticism. You need more than a bit of muscle to pull the roof back down to travel mode and the rear seat is fitted so high that shorter passengers will be left dangling their legs.
On the road
The Limited gets heated seats with 10-way adjustment, cab air conditioning, a DAB stereo radio, a locking glovebox, cup and bottle holders and plenty more.
The example we reviewed is in Tectonic Silver (from a choice of nine colours), complete with colour-matched rear bumper, door handles and mirrors. Just to ram home its advantage, the 125bhp engine comes as standard. The only downside is that the option of automatic transmission is still some way off.
Lounging & dining
The table itself is a practical one, though, with its single leg fitting neatly into a port in front of the rear bench seats. The front passenger seat swivels, too. It might be a bit tight for all four people to dine around the table at once. On sunny days you'll be able to enjoy cooking and eating with the sliding side door open.
A standard-fit SMEV grill sits over the compressor fridge (a larger than average 65-litre model). Its location makes it easier to reach in from outside and grab that chilled beer you so deserve.
A longer, but narrower, double bed is in the elevated roof and measures 1.97m x 1.1m (6'5" x 3'7"). It’s a thin, one-piece mattress but it’s on plastic supports that really do add comfort. Plus, there’s a bit more height at the foot end than rivals can provide.
The front mesh helps with ventilation, and it gets a zipped blackout cover – as do the acrylic side windows. Unfortunately, there’s no reading light up here.
There’s a wardrobe at the end of the furniture run. The cleverest of a number of neat storage ideas is the section over the rear seat which, when the roof is up on site, acts as divided open shelving. Roof down and it’s all sealed off safely.
There’s room for luggage inside the tailgate. Keep the rearmost section of the bed horizontal if you wish to store things under it and out of sight. Alternatively, it is hinged to be kept upright.
The 'van has remote central locking, LED lights, a leisure battery with split charging system, an external 240 Volt electric-hook up, an elevating roof, electric windows and more.
|Layout||Camper without washroom|
|Leisure battery||110 Ah|
|Gas tank size||3.9kg|
2-burner gas hob, Separate grill
This is more than just a promising start. Apart from a few production tweaks to come, Hillside has nailed it with the Castleton. Ford fans will queue for it; those remaining to be convinced by the latest Transit are advised to look closer.
We've awarded the 2016 Hillside Leisure Castleton a four-star rating.
- Cheaper than a VW campervan
- Practical layout
- Four berths
- Front passenger seat swivels
- Compact to drive
- Ford Transit base vehicle
- Narrow double beds
- Check you can climb into the roof bed
- Rear seat passengers' legs may not reach the floor
- it takes strength to pull the roof back down