This UK-focused version of a Continental favourite boasts a fantastic rear bedroom and a great kitchen, but how does the Benimar Tessoro 494 fare on tour?
Benimar makes motorhomes in sunny Peñíscola, on the Spanish Mediterranean coast.
It’s the kind of place where many a motorcaravanner might like to see out the worst months of winter.
So it seems fitting that the motorhomes produced there have made such an impact in the UK.
Since they were reintroduced in an exclusive deal with Marquis Leisure two years ago (and flipped to a UK-friendly orientation) they have proved a great success, with the dealership introducing new models and ranges every year.
Our test model – the Tessoro 494 – has a rear island bed and central washroom.
It also has the £1750 option of a six-speed SelectShift automatic gearbox, which allows you to change to manual if you prefer, and to lock gears.
We tested the ’van out in the dead of winter, and on two different occasions at opposite ends of the country, with a long and varied drive in between.
The range has slightly sleeker decals than its Mileo cousin, with less of the ‘busy bee’ yellow and black going down the sides.
The Tessoro name is prominent on the rear and sides, although some may not be overly keen on the metallic lettering.
The tinted windows and alloy wheels make the ’van look a touch above the rest, while the large sunroof lessens the impact of the big Luton.
There’s a bit more expanse of off-white as you head towards the stern, but even with a rear island bed, this Benimar Tessoro 494 still manages to include a garage at the back, featuring two doors.
On the road
We got so comfortable inside, and so under the illusion that we were driving a large car, that we had to remind ourselves not to drive down any roads unsuitable for a 2.30m-wide ’van, even with ABS, ESP, traction control, and hill and curve assist all fitted as standard.
We also like that the drinks holder is on the right-hand side of the steering wheel, rather than down out of reach in the middle.
There’s also a handy notch to the left of the steering wheel, where you can perch a phone if you don’t want to use the sat-nav that is included along with a DAB radio and CD player system with Bluetooth and USB connectivity.
The handbrake is on the right between the driver’s seat and the door. Its ‘pull and pull again’ operation takes some getting used to if you have only used conventional handbrakes, but having it there does clear the central aisle.
There is also a useful pair of cubbyholes in the middle of the top of the windscreen, just below a large pelmet shelf and the sunroof.
The automatic gearbox was another great addition, and the 170bhp engine fitted as standard on UK Tessoros meant we could really zip along.
But we were surprised, given such power, how much the automatic gearbox changed down when we came to hills.
The Yorkshire Dales may seem like a steep climb, but they pale into insignificance compared with what you might find in Europe.
Other useful extras are the automatic headlights and rain detector for the wipers – almost essential in winter.
Lounging & dining
The Benimar Tessoro 494 features a front lounge, but it’s not the biggest that we’ve encountered.
Unlike in British motorhomes, Continental designers tend to prioritise space elsewhere, assuming that the ’van’s occupants will be more tempted to dine outdoors, because the weather is that much better.
As such, lounges in Continental motorhomes can seem a little small for our tastes.
That’s the case here: you can seat four adults to dine, but it does feel a little squashed.
The situation is vastly improved if you’re travelling as a couple; in that case, there’s plenty of space here for you both to spread out and relax.
A fixed pedestal table sits between the sofas and the cab seats – it’s set quite high, so small children may need a booster seat to allow them to reach it.
The table top can be rotated by 90°, allowing for real flexibility. It can also be folded in half, so occupants can get in and out of the lounge to the kitchen area with ease.
The area is really well-lit, too, even with the drop-down bed above, thanks to the good-sized sunroof.
LED lighting (including a snazzy panel down the side of the kitchen partition), two spotlights from the cab and ambient lighting help brighten up the evenings.
There are speakers in the lounge for the cab stereo, and there is a TV and mains socket in the panel behind the driver.
There’s workspace available near the sockets, and a spice shelf in the corner between the rectangular stainless-steel sink and the four-burner dual-fuel hob.
The latter has a transparent cover, so daylight still comes through the window, even when the hob lid has been lifted.
The rooflight over the aisle also has an extractor fan.
There’s only one overhead locker here, which is also compromised by having a vent for an extractor fan.
What looks like a sizeable cupboard under the combi-oven below the hob turns out to be just a couple of small shelves, because of the gas bottle locker’s location.
But underneath the sink there are three large soft-close drawers, the top one designed for cutlery and the bottom one easily big enough for pots and pans.
On the nearside, above the 145-litre AES fridge and microwave, there is another locker that you could use for food, although it is a bit of a stretch up.
This also contains the Truma iNet and solar panel box, and, bizarrely, a roof vent.
We assumed that this was due to layout ‘mirroring’ in order to meet UK expectations.
This area really is super-comfortable, and, thanks to judicious spacing of heating vents, very cosy, too.
There’s plenty of room to walk around and get dressed here, even before you take advantage of the rather complicated system that allows you to roll the bed back to create a daybed, and access the two large drawers underneath.
There is a step up to both sides of the bed, but here you’ll also find two wardrobes (the offside one is for hanging, while the nearside one has shelves), and a pair of bedside tables, with two USB sockets handily included in the offside one.
There are small unshelved lockers over the bed.
The 1.90m x 1.39m (6’2” x 4’6”) bed itself is extremely comfortable, and the whole area is well lit, with two large windows and a rooflight.
If there are more than two of you on tour, the other double bed drops down easily over the front dinette – it also measures 1.90m x 1.39m (6’2” x 4’6”).
Although it can be lowered to different heights, you don’t have to remove any headrests for even the lowest of them.
However, the ladder to reach the bed is something of an exact fit in terms of length.
Once you are up there, you might find headroom a little restricted, even with the bed set in the lowest position.
But the bed itself is perfectly adequate, and there is a handy striplight for reading.
There are curtains both sides for privacy and to keep out the light, although the cab also has blinds.
That does mean you’ll probably have to go into any awning you have fitted to empty the cassette.
The toilet itself is also set high, partly to get over the wheel arch. Small children would almost certainly have to dangle their feet.
That aside, this is a great washroom and another improvement on the front-lounge area.
There is a good-sized handbasin, with an unshelved cupboard underneath, and another shelved cupboard above the toilet.
There is also a long mirror, and both a soapdish and a toothbrush holder.
The whole room is well lit, both day and night, and even with the door closed, there is room to get around.
The shower room on the other side is also partly taken up by the wheel arch, but that doesn’t really pose too much of a problem because there is still room to move – and the arch provides a useful platform on which you can rest shampoo and shower gel bottles.
Here you also get two drainage holes, a chrome riser bar, lighting and an additional rooflight featuring a flyscreen.
But you could probably manage to get a couple of fold-up models in here, along with your outdoor furniture.
Do check your weights, however, because the Tessoro 494’s 320kg overall payload isn’t wildly generous for a family of four, especially if the kids are teenagers.
Because of the drop-down bed, the overhead lockers in the front dinette are a limited size.
Kitchen storage, however, is fine once you get used to it, and there is sufficient space in the rear bedroom for you to store enough clothes for a world tour.
You shouldn’t be pushed for storage space anywhere in this motorhome.
You get a combi-oven, but you also get a dual-fuel four-burner hob and even an extractor fan – something many similarly priced ’vans do without.
The heating is provided by a hefty Truma 6 combi-boiler that operates on both electricity and gas.
That’s a big step up from the Continental models that make do with a 4kW diesel heater. Less noise, too – we barely noticed it.
The waste-water tank is insulated and heated as part of a Winter Pack that comes fitted as standard.
This also includes insulated external pipes and an external fridge-vent cover.
There has also been no skimping on the outside. The motorhome comes with external barbecue and shower points.
At the back, you’ll find high and low fittings for a rear-mounted bike rack – but again, be aware of that payload.
As a final touch for peace of mind, there are also rear-corner steadies.
|Fresh/waste water||120L / 105L|
|Leisure battery||100 Ah|
|Gas tank size||6kg|
|Number of gas tank compartments||2|
3-burner gas with electric hot plate, Combined Oven/Grill, Microwave, Extractor fan
The Ford Transit-based Benimar Tessoro 494 is a dream to drive, with a cab that feels comfortably like a car’s, and a very powerful engine.
Thanks to the automatic gearbox, you’re sure to enjoy a smooth ride, too.
It’s also a dream to sleep in, whether there are two or four of you: bed space – both in the island bed and the drop-down example – is very generous.
The cook hasn’t been forgotten, either: there’s a high-spec kitchen, and this area feels well-planned and designed.
The two-part washroom is also practical and spacious.
There are only two niggles you might encounter: the 320kg payload, and the small dinette.
If you can live with both of these, the Benimar Tessoro 494 should be on your must-see list.
And to see other Benimar motorhomes for sale, click here.
- It is a great ’van to drive with a very automotive cab – and we liked the £1750 automatic gearbox
- There's loads of space in the rear bedroom and lots of storage, too
- The dinette is the one area that feels tight for space – make sure there is enough room for you
- Be sure that you can live with the 320kg payload