SO HERE IT IS. The Ford Nugget made its UK appearance at the NEC Show in October 2019, some two years after it had first arrived at the Caravan Salon in Düsseldorf.
The delay wasn’t entirely unexpected. For some time, there was even some doubt about when the new vehicle, designed for Ford by Westfalia, would actually be appearing on these shores, notwithstanding the success of its most obvious rival, the VW California.
The onset of the pandemic cause further uncertainty here at Practical Motorhome over when we might get our hands on the new model. At last, we were able to take one for a test spin for a week.
Ford is making the new Nugget in two formats: the standard Nugget, which is based on the short-wheelbase Transit Custom and does without a separate washroom, and the Nugget Plus.
The latter takes advantage of the extra 37cm in the long-wheelbase version of the Custom (which is 5.34m long) to provide a small handbasin and a toilet.
We’re planning to test the Nugget Plus in the not too distant future, but the model that we’ve tested here is the standard Nugget.
Exterior and cab
Our test model came with metallic paint (a £780 optional extra), so looked every inch the executive vehicle.
If you are the kind of motorcaravnner who doesn’t like advertising to others in the office car park that you are slipping away at the end of Friday afternoon for a quick weekend break, this should be the campervan for you.
The tinted windows set the metallic paint off well, and there is precious little branding of the kind that would make anyone aware from a distance that this is a camper.
You get a pair of sliding habitation doors, one on either side of the vehicle. A roll-out awning was fitted on the offside of our test model.
The cab on the Transit Custom is car-like and feels well above average. The drinks holders in each corner are easy to reach, and the sunglasses holder lower down on the driver’s side can easily double up as a place to hold a mobile to use for sat nav.
That is, if you decide not to go for the £912 in-car entertainment pack fitted on our test model, which includes sat nav on an eight-inch colour touchscreen, as well as a DAB/FM radio with two USBs and adaptive cruise control.
A £1008 Visibility pack, also fitted here, gets you a rear-view camera (not necessarily needed as you have a rear view through the mirror), lane-keeping alert and power-fold mirrors.
We liked the way that most of the usual controls were accessible on the steering wheel; otherwise, our only real criticism of the dash was that parking fee tickets can easily fall down the front. But that is only a minor point.
The drive you get in the Ford Nugget is one of the best things about it. Our test model was fitted with Ford’s six-speed automatic gearbox, so we didn’t really drive: we glided.
The driving position in a Transit Custom really is much more like a car’s: we had to wait until a particularly sharp bend before we felt any kind of movement.
Thanks to that gearbox and the rear-view camera, manoeuvring the vehicle into even a tight parking spot was pure simplicity. And after a run of testing coachbuilts, it was refreshing to be able to fit a campervan into a single standard parking space.
If you have a sudden need to access the habitation controls en route, you’ll find it easy – they are positioned centrally in the ceiling just behind the driver’s seat.
The bench in the back contains three travel seats and can slide fully forwards, so you could easily use the Nugget as a day-to-day vehicle. There is an Isofix fitting for a child seat, too.
The two cab seats both swivel around to complete the lounge. The handbrake is in the gangway, but the collapsible lever means it won’t get in the way of swivelling the driver’s seat.
We found it very difficult to swivel the passenger seat and get it into a comfortable position without having to open the passenger door. This could be mildly irritating if you have stopped in the rain for a coffee and don’t fancy getting soaked.
Still, on a fine day you can open both sliding doors to let in more air and light. Even at night, the strip light above the nearside window is complemented by a long column of LEDs in the corner of the kitchen cupboard. This makes the interior considerably more stylish than some van conversions we have seen.
At night, a heating vent immediately behind the driver’s seat should keep you warm, while if it does start to rain, there is an umbrella supplied, with its own stand, near the offside door.
That second, nearside sliding door – a feature of right-hand drive (RHD) models – doesn’t put you at a disadvantage when it comes to the table, however. The model we first saw at Düsseldorf (which is featured in photos in the users’ manual) included a clip-on table that folds into the nearside side door.
This isn’t possible with both doors sliding open, so for RHD models, Ford supplies a removable pedestal table. This certainly has enough room for four place settings, but it doesn’t feel as stable as we imagine the clip-on table would have been, and it takes up a large amount of storage space.
A second table, with four extendable legs is housed in a tailgate door and fits the space under the roll-out awning.
In the equivalent spot in the California, you get two foldaway chairs as well. Ford and Westfalia haven’t gone for that here. Instead Westfalia supplies two of its own chairs to go with the vehicle.
These are certainly sturdily built; considerably more so than the VW chairs. But they are heavy, and finding storage space for them could also be something of a problem.
The kitchen is one area that really sets the Nugget apart from the California, and for that matter from most VW-based campers, with their classic layout providing all of the kitchen units down one side of the ‘van.
Instead, in the Nugget you have an L-shaped kitchen spread across the back of the camper, behind the rear bench.
The main part of this area includes a two-burner hob that is well protected by a windguard. There is also a large (for a campervan) round sink. Behind both of these, there is a long shelf that can variously be for mugs or spices.
There are also two mains sockets located here, one of which has sensibly been inverted to make it easier to use with a bulky plug. There is a handily positioned 12V socket, too, although there’s no individual USB port.
The shorter part of the ‘L’ on the side to the rear includes a 40-litre top-loading fridge that is easily big enough for a weekend trip and cools very well.
To the right of this there is also a useful rail for tea towels. This area is well lit by a spotlight on a bendable stalk that can be tucked away when not needed. There is another similar spotlight in the offside corner, too.
All of this means that it is perfectly easy to cook a relatively sophisticated meal in this campervan, particularly because the raising roof at the back allows enough headroom for even the tallest of chefs.
We managed to complete a meal using two pans every night we were in the ‘van. The layout also allows you to easily carry on a conversation with whoever is in the lounge while you are cooking.
When it’s time to go to sleep, you create the roof bed by unfastening the clips that hold it up with the raised roof during the day.
Unlike with some raising-roof van conversions, Westfalia and Ford have not relied solely on gas in the struts to keep the bed up.
You climb in via the small ladder that is housed in the wardrobe. The bed is large and very comfortable, with semicircular mesh windows on the side, and a zip-up square opening at the rear. You can even tweak those flexible spotlights for reading purposes.
If you are travelling with more than two people, the downstairs bed is ingeniously made by sliding the rear seat forward and unravelling the bed behind.
It’s actually larger than you night think, because it makes use of space carved out under the sink. However, you will have to remove the pedestal tabletop and chairs if they are stored there, and make sure your feet don’t become tangled up in the connections for the water heater.
On our test model, it wasn’t possible to open the tailgate door from inside. We felt this could be a problem for adults climbing down from the roof at night without disturbing the sleepers below. But we have been assured that this was because our test ‘van was a prototype: on production models, you will be able to exit through the back.
On the standard Nugget, there is no separate washroom. There is, however, a cupboard under the wardrobe in the rear offside corner that could easily take a Porta Potti. You can obviously wash in the kitchen sink, too.
There is an attachment to make an external shower, although despite the inclusion of a water heater in this ‘van, the shower only runs on cold. However, it’d be fine for washing off muddy boots or equipment.
General storage is where the Nugget starts falling a little short. To be fair, there is a reasonably sized wardrobe in the rear offside corner, as well as a storage space under the rear seat, although you can’t overfill this space, in case you jam the sliding rail.
But that aside, the only other major storage is the space under the sink. And because you more or less have to store the pedestal tabletop here and those two bulky chairs, there’s only really additional room for a couple of sleeping bags – and you would need to remove everything stored here at night if you were using the downstairs bed.
That really means clothes storage in particular is at a premium. There are no overhead lockers, because this is a raising-roof ‘van. We think if there were four travelling, you’d be strictly limited as to what you could take.
Food and kitchen storage is better. There is a tall cupboard by the towel rail and two drawers below that are large enough for medium-sized pans. There is a cutlery drawer under the sink, and a top-loading compartment to the front of the wardrobe which could probably house your dry goods, albeit in a not easily accessible way.
The option packs on the Ford Nugget provide pretty much everything you might need on a campervan.
But even if you don’t go for them, the specification level here is actually very good as standard. You get a roll-out awning, in a choice of colours, an external shower, and a choice of tables.
All of the controls are easily accessible, too, either behind the driver’s seat or above the top-loading compartment in the rear corner.
However, there is one important exception to that. The Nugget includes a water heater; while we found it easy to switch on and off, adjusting the heater proved peculiarly difficult. That’s because it’s located immediately under the sink and the adjustment knob is squeezed so far in between the heater itself and the side of the vehicle that you can’t see it properly – you can only use it by feeling for it. This could become tiresome after a while.
The last word
- Beautiful to drive
- Great specification level, particular if you go for all of the options packs
- Wonderful rear kitchen
- Well lit inside
- Table and chairs are heavy and take up too much storage space
- Very little general storage as a result
- Water heater adjustment is hard to reach
You prefer the more car-like drive of the Transit Custom compared with the Transporter, and the slightly increased width up high, or if you prefer a campervan from a car manufacturer with a roof that raises at the rear. But be prepared for limited general storage.
General storage space is a bit of a sticking point in this model – if you like to take lots of kit away with you, you could struggle to fit it all in. That’s a shame, because the Nugget has a decent payload, too.
However, the Ford Nugget is beautifully made and a dream to drive. The kitchen layout is a real knockout for a campervan, and because the rear bench includes three belted seats, you can easily use the vehicle for everyday purposes.
Price £62,736 (£69,826 as tested)
LOUNGING AND DINING
Optional Ford Sync Wi-Fi and assistance system, optional In-Car Entertainment Pack (includes adaptive cruise control, DAB/AM/FM radio with two USBs, eight-inch colour touchscreen, sat-nav, emergency assistance), £912; optional Visibility Pack (includes rear-view camera, lane-keeping alert, power fold mirrors), £1008
The drive you get in the Ford Nugget is one of the best things about it. Our test model was fitted with Ford's six-speed automatic gearbox, so we didn't really drive: we glided