Detailed ReviewMotorhome review of the Bentley Cerise on 2.0-litre Renault Trafic. This review was first published in the September issue of MMM.
Bentley Motorhomes’ first year in the market has been truly memorable, with three Renault Trafic-based
motorhomes in its Artisan line-up – Cobalt, Indigo and Ochre – launched to great critical acclaim.
Then, this spring, the Signature range was released. Three larger coachbuilts are based on the latest Renault Master – Donington, Oulton and Cadwell.
The icing on the cake came when Indigo, triumphant on its first foray, won overall prize at the Caravan Club’s Design and Drive awards. Now comes Cerise, a motorhome classed as another Artisan, but it’s actually significantly shorter than the others motorhomes in thr range.
Though a new company, Bentley Motorhomes is run by Gordon and Richard Bentley and John Cockburn, all previously from Autocruise motorhomes, a concern now under Swift’s wing.
Few motorhome designers have greater experience than Bentley in knowing just what products should appeal to British motorhomers. Daring to build exclusively on Renaults should pay off for the company, as the market is possibly ready for something different – being chock-full of Fiat Ducato, Sevel-built clones.
To date, Bentley has appointed seven motorhome dealerships throughout Britain.
The Cerise is just 5.80 metres long – small by modern coachbuilt standards and like the other Artisans, quite narrow too – a great advantage on tight country roads. The Trafic’s rakish droop-snoot blends neatly into the low profile Bentley body with silver and cerise-coloured decal stripes and (optional) pale silver sides. The caravan door (solidly-built by Hartal) is set towards the offside of the rear and features a flyscreen and tall, narrow window with blind.
Mouldings at each side of the tail, finished in grey, carry the rear lights and a Bentley Motorhome ssignature. The GRP-skinned bodywork is beautifully finished and the whole effect is, subjectively, very attractive.
The Hartal door doesn’t open back fully, nor clip to the rear panel; it’s held by a stay, which we found inadequate as it kept blowing shut in only a moderate summer breeze. Doorway width is 510mm (1ft 8in), and access is quite easy via a sturdy Project 2000 step – the switch is one of a cluster, and sensibly positioned just inside the door. Switch on the ignition and the step retracts automatically.
Two other switches operate a bright LED outside light and the ‘hallway’ light, both operating independently of the main control panel. The rear door is covered by the Bentley’s central locking system, but open a cab door first, before trying the rear door or the alarm sounds.
On entry, immediately on your left and behind two tambour doors, is the washroom, making stylish use of a compact space. To the right there’s a wardrobe, drawer and two open, cubbies and ahead, a wooden door – hinged on the offside – opens into the main living area.
The kitchen unit is to your left and opposite, a huge-looking fridge dominates. Beyond are twin inward-facing settees with overhead lockers and a large overcab locker. The cab has swivelling seats and the usual door pockets and cubbies. Like other Artisans, the interior décor is bright, modern and attractive, with upholstery
in a largely beige, abstract pattern.
Sakura woodwork is highlighted by cream panels, silver strips and catches on the high-level cupboards. Dark brown (very practical) removable carpets, over plank-effect vinyl flooring and grey, slate-effect work-surfaces complete the stylish ambience. The workmanship is superb throughout, with no rough edges or shoddy finish.
Metalwork is lightweight but strong. A great deal of care and craftsmanship has gone into this ’van – like all Bentleys we’ve seen.
Renault’s Trafic is one of the smaller light commercial vehicles and, while its cab may not exude the same tasteful, confident minimalism of its rival, the Volkswagen T5, the Trafic’s cockpit is roomier, despite the steeply, angled windscreen.
Like the VW, the centrally placed handbrake must be dropped to swivel the driver’s seat, but swivelling is easily achieved without opening a cab door – a big plus.
Slim A-pillars mean minimal blind spots at roundabouts, but the short windscreen wipers leave unsatisfactorily large areas unswept. The colour-coded door mirrors show the ’van sides well when manoeuvring, but the arms are too short.
This motorhome had no trip computer – just overall and trip mileage – and the bar-style fuel-gauge proved inaccurate and uninformative.
Main instruments are clear however and Renault’s Tom-Tom satnav is centrally-placed in the dashboard with the stereo, which has steering wheel-mounted controls that work well. Bluetooth is connected, in case you really must telephone whilst driving. For safety, there are twin airbags.
IN THE TRAFIC
Like the other Artisans, The Bentley Cerise has the 2.0-litre 115bhp engine. Below 2,000rpm it laboured and had little punch. It’s also very high geared – an indicated 70mph was reached at just 2,175rpm in top. Sixth gear is really only for motorway cruising and even slight inclines necessitated a change down.
However, row through the gears, keep the revs up and the engine does respond. Performance should improve with maturity, but it’s no ball of fire. However, I was very impressed by fuel consumption of over 32mpg: we were in hilly country and this figure might even improve further with mileage.
The coil-sprung rear suspension gave a sophisticated supple ride, as smooth as any we’ve experienced in a motorhome, and though it leaned when cornered hard, handling was well controlled.
Coupled with a smooth precise throttle and clutch response, the Bentley Cerise was a joy to drive – provided you weren’t in a tearing hurry. It floated a little in crosswinds (why are we always travelling up the A1 in a half-gale?), but no worse than any other slab-sided vehicle and better than some. With such compliant suspension, interior fittings were hushed – just a few murmurings from the cooker. The quiet interior and restrained engine note at cruising speeds made for relaxing travel over long distances.
Long, inward-facing settees usually indicate comfortable lounging, which is why this layout is popular, so how does Cerise fare? Bentley uses high-quality reflex foam, giving very supportive seating, and these settees make good chaises-longues, provided one faces forwards, using a kitchen unit for a backrest. However, with reading lights at the front of the lounge and television point above the fridge, you’d normally sit facing rearwards.
Sat here, back support is lacking, with only a narrow bulkhead to lean against. The (unswivelled) cab seatbacks are too distant. The best solution is to use the swivelled cab seats (access to the cab looks low, but isn’t a problem in practice) and stretch your legs ove the settee. But there are no reading lights in the cab. Additional illumination is provided by high-level ‘mood’ strips, a medium-sized Heki rooflight and two side windows (one hinged, one sliding).
If sitting primly, the settee base is a little high off the floor – exacerbated by knee-rolls. These can be omitted when ordering – a choice we would definitely make. The lounge holds four comfortably and all can fit round the lightweight, free-standing table. It’s just the right height and size, has innovative folding legs, and stores conveniently in a slim dedicated locker just above the cab – a really good design.
The Bentley Cerise is 400mm (1ft 4in) shorter than other Artisan motorhomes, so the kitchen is more compact. On the nearside there’s still a full-sized stove with three gas burners and one electric plate plus grill, oven and pan store – but it’s squeezed in next to the sink, which has no draining board. Both have glass lids (vital as work-surface) and there’s a small lift-up flap over the nearside settee.
The main work-top is opposite, above the fridge, where two mains (and one 12V) sockets are sited. Above, set at 1.56m (5ft 1.5in) high, is a Sanyo microwave, so the Cerise chef is very well equipped. With dining over, washing-up is a different matter. The metal rack clipped to the underside of the sink lid held washing-up after a cereal breakfast for two. For bigger meals, we used the site’s facilities.
The fridge, on the offside and jutting into the aisle, appears enormous, but internally it’s quite shallow. Its 85-litre capacity is badly arranged and door shelves clash with those in the fridge body. The freezer compartment is, however, removable. Above the kitchen unit are two high-level lockers, one shelved, one containing a hefty box with slots for crockery. A flap conceals under-sink storage, two drawers are below, then a slim floor-level cupboard containing gas isolation taps.
A dedicated cutlery drawer is opposite – the compartments are small, with no space for larger kitchen utensils. Three further drawers come below. Cupboards would hold more, especially for heavier food items at lower levels. Above these is a tall cupboard, with possible use as a secondary wardrobe (it has a removable hanging rail) or, if shelved, for lighter kitchen items. This cupboard, like the drawers below, is obscured by the ‘hallway’door, if it’s open. You’d presumably mount a rubbish bin on the rear habitation door, as with other Artisans.
Unlike other Artisan model motorhomes, there’s no extractor fan over the cooker, but there’s a push-up rooflight centrally above the kitchen. Two adjustable LED lights beneath the overhead lockers illuminate sink and cooker, with useful high-level LED strips on both sides.
The washroom is enclosed by two translucent tambour doors, which incorporate vertical LED-lit strips. Bentley has used Thetford’s excellent bench-type toilet and above is a posh moulding containing a mirrored cabinet, shelf and drop-down basin.
The whole washroom floor comprises a shallow shower tray with two drain holes. There’s a chromed riser-bar for the separate shower head, a mug and holder and a towel ring, but no toilet-roll holder. And it’s difficult to see where one would fit.
Lighting comes from two LED lights above the shower and another over the basin. There’s a push-up rooflight, too. The sidewalls are glossy black tile-effect. I enjoyed a luxurious shower, with lashings of easily controlled hot water and lots of room, and there’s no horrid, clammy, clinging curtain.
In a motorhome of these proportions it’s unusual to find a choice of man-sized beds, but the Cerise manages just that, with two longitudinal singles, or a large transverse double. The singles are made by easing the settee bases out slightly towards the centre and letting the backrests fill the gap. The swivelled cab seats are pulled to meet the settees.
The bulkheads are narrow, so intrude only slightly, and the resulting beds are an excellent 1.97m (6ft 5.5in) long and 685mm (2ft 3in) wide. Making the double is slightly more awkward. Because of knee-rolls, the settee cushions must be turned so these abut the walls. Slide out the metal bed frames (which have sprung slats) and place the backrests in the central space. All the joins between cushions are then grouped in the middle, which makes the bed somewhat lumpy. It would be so much easier without knee-rolls, but as previously mentioned, they’re optional.
Cab blackout is by insulated screens, poppered to the side windows and windscreen. They’re easy to remove, but somewhat fiddly to attach, and they take up storage space. Concertina blinds elsewhere (by Horrex) are not only silent on the road, but effective at excluding light. Cream lounge curtains are fitted – we didn’t draw them, but
they look good!
Other Artisans have uprated – 3,250kg – gross vehicle weights, but Bentley reckons the smaller Cerise will cope with the standard 3,060kg chassis. Taking the driver, 90 per cent water and fuel, plus gas into account, this gives a 325kg payload of which 75kg (sometimes more in practice) is taken up by the passenger. An optional chassis upgrade gives an extra 190kg.
Much can be packed into the under-settee lockers, although the fresh water tank and the Whale space heater (under a removable wooden cover) live on the nearside. Access is via either a front drop-down flap or from above, with the settee bases supported by two gas struts.
The offside settee base houses the Whale water heater. Access is similar, but with an additional exterior door. Elsewhere, there’s a wardrobe and a drawer adjacent to the rear door, with two open cubbies below. The very commodious overcab locker has internal side cubbies, and divided door.
Between the overcab and lounge overhead lockers are pairs of curved lipped shelves, containing additional speakers. There are two high-level cupboards on each side in the lounge; three are shelved. Two small boxes sit low between the settees and cab seats – one contains fuses, but the other could store small items. Now, can you bring your bikes inside? Yes, but carefully.
Most purchasers will surely specify the Elite Pack. This comprises colour-coded bumpers, electric mirrors and windows, front fog lights and cab air-conditioning – it’s good value at £1,224. Though no television is supplied as
standard, sockets, aerial point, roof-mounted aerial, plus a dedicated area (the wall above the fridge) for a swivel-mount are fitted.
The Bentley Cerise motorhome has rear steadies – normally two: our prototype had just one, though that was useful, given the compliant suspension. A side awning is optional, or one might be fitted over the rear door, perhaps? The Energy Optimisation System – a posh moniker for the control panel – is sited below the TV and indicates where your power is coming from and how long it will last at current usage.
The system also allows an emergency engine start-up if your main vehicle battery becomes flat. Naturally, it also indicates water tank levels, and other essentials. The 120 amp hr leisure battery lives under the carpet, rubber mat and metal cover in the passenger footwell alongside the vehicle battery.
The space heater supplies 2kW of blown-air through vents in the settee base and washroom, and the water heater has a 13-litre tank. Both operate on gas or mains electricity, are efficient, quiet and have simple controls. We weren’t so impressed with the freshwater system. You use a hose with an attachment connecting to a valve in the offside of the motorhome – curious, as the tank is on the nearside. You’ll monopolise the caravan site’s tap for some time, as filling is quite slow.
We’d prefer the option of an ordinary-and-simple filling orifice. The fresh-water tank is emptied only by pumping through the taps. A simple external drain tap, allowing gravity to empty the tank, would be better. Waste water disposal is also complex: to ensure waste from sink and shower reaches the main tank, Bentley installs a Whale Gulper pump and small, secondary waste water tank.
The Gulper has its own locker in the nearside rear (which also serves as a handy cupboard for cables etc), but the pump is quite noisy and could cause annoyance to nearby units – particularly at night. Fortunately, it can be switched off (temporarily).
Finally, and importantly, the Cerise has a standard-fit spare wheel, neatly stored under the rear where you, or the rescue services – can easily reach it.
CHERRY GOOD CERISE?
The Cerise tucks into the Bentley range just below the other Artisans, by reason of price, weight and size, and should attract many buyers simply on those grounds. It loses nothing in sophistication or finish, and has full-sized
beds and an excellent washroom. Only kitchen size is somewhat compromised.
Would it make a couple’s sole vehicle, able to carry DIY clobber and shopping? Provided there’s no need to carry occasional extra passengers (there are no rear seatbelts), yes. However, the rear access, while navigable with care, is a little tight for multi-purpose use. I doubt we’ll see many loading up eight-by-fours at B&Q.
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