There are other manufacturers offering this layout, often in a cheaper and shorter vehicle, too. (Chausson, for example, currently offers it in several different lengths.) But few have the comfortable finish of the 696D, or the generous headroom. It’s a particularly good ‘van for couples who might have day guests who they might want to take on a quick spin somewhere. The huge variety of packs and accessories can be confusing, and can put the price up considerably, but the only really obvious absence on the list is a microwave.
A layout in which the whole of the rear is sectioned off for a huge washroom, with a large garage on the outside, has been offered many times now by French firm Chausson.
This year, rival manufacturer Pilote is launching its version, the 696D (‘D’ stands for dressing room). We visited SMC in Newark to find out more.
The headroom is impressive, even with the drop-down bed
The settees are adequate. If it is just the two of you, you could sit in the cab seats and stretch out, using the settees as footrests, because they are so long.
The pedestal table (telescopic if the bed is included) folds to make it easier to do this, while two LEDs in the cab make reading a pleasure. From here, you can also see any TV you might fit.
With the table set up, there is room to seat six for a meal. The headroom is impressive, even with the drop-down bed. That bed doesn’t obscure much daylight – plenty streams in through the windows with their voile curtains.
The bed base includes no fewer than 12 LEDs, so the loughe is well-lit at night. The nearest mains socket not involved with the TV sits over the kitchen, where you’ll find two USB points.
The kitchen has a large window, plus a striplight and ambient lighting. There is an in-line three-burner hob with large sink next to it. This pilote is being sold in the UK, so it comes with a GB Edition Pack (£3,372 on this model), which includes an oven. The drawer below is probably only big enough for plates.
Beyond a narrow cupboard, the left side of this unit protrudes. It includes a large drawer below a cutlery drawer, the former partly taken up with bins.
Even with the tambour door to the washroom fully shut, there is space around the handbasin as you enter the room. Despite the step up, there is impressive headroom.
Perhaps the only downside is that the circular toilet is next to this basin on the offside. In this ‘van, that’s the same side as the habitation door, so you could be emptying the cassette within any awning you put up.
But if you’re not worried about that, there is much to admire. There’s a large mirror behind the basin, plus a shelf and a cupboard. There is a step into the shower, although the cubicle is a good size, with a riser bar and plenty of shelving, but only one drainage hole.
The drop-down bed lowers easily. In the ceiling are two LED lights, although both are controlled by one switch.
We’d recommend the additional bed option fitted in our model, because it is a doddle to set up and even with this in place, there’s a small seating area.
In terms of storage in the Pilote Pacific 696D Essential, the area between the shower and the rest of the washroom is well-lit, and you get a huge sliding wardrobe with hanging rails on one side and drawers on the other. There is a mirror on the front of this, and a handy mains socket nearby. Below, a hatch opens for easy access to the garage.
In the lounge, the only visible storage is in four open shelves immediately under the bed. Pilote’s designers have, however, included small areas below the settee.
And there is that garage, too – big enough for a couple of bikes and more, with holds to secure them. Our model had lights and an external shower as well, although both are cost options.