Detailed ReviewFOR those dealers that hold the Tribute van conversion franchise, they’ll soon have something new and exciting to fill the void – Tribute coachbuilts.
These are not stripped out, paired down Auto-Trails, although they do roll out of the same Grimsby factory as £70,000 tag-axle Chieftain behemoths. And while they may be cheap (prices start at £32,995 on-the-road), they can add ‘cheerful’ to the description; they’re refreshingly modern inside, and surprisingly well appointed.
Behind that familiar face lurks a new lowered chassis with a wider rear track developed especially for motorhomes. If Ford are getting serious about the motorhome market once again then they’re testing the water with Auto-Trail, for this chassis is a world-first for the Tribute. And here is the first ever road-test.
The two smaller ‘6-series’ Tribute models are powered by the 115bhp 2.2-litre TDCi engine, and there’s no upgrade option – if you want the 140bhp motor you have to buy a bigger Tribute. Even on steep inclines this latest TDCi engine boasts plentiful torque.
In fact, the Tribute impresses from the off. This is the church mouse of motorhomes – except that it never squeaks. Even on the worst of our crumbling B-roads we couldn’t get the Tribute to rattle.
Standard cruise control? Have they forgotten that this is supposed to be a back-to-basics approach to motorhoming? Well, perhaps they have because you also get a six-speed gearbox, tinted windows, remote central locking, electric windows and an RDS radio with iPod connection.
Why not add a Driver’s Pack (for £399) and get a heated windscreen, heated and electrically adjusted mirrors, passenger airbag and cab carpet. And as the Tribute is so well priced, why not throw caution to the wind and add cab air-conditioning, too? It sounds quite pricey at £935 but it’s sure to be worthwhile come trade-in time.
This simply doesn’t look like a budget vehicle, and at least part of that feeling must be attributed to the high-quality furniture with contrasting Cappuccino cupboard doors.
There’s bound-edged removable carpet too, and plenty of smart, energy-efficient LED lighting.
You get four swivel spotlamps in the lounge, but we especially liked the LED lighting rails that run fore and aft in the ceiling. We liked the modern upholstery too, the graphite worktops, the Seitz door with its big opening window, and the large sunroof over the lounge, which is further evidence of the surprisingly high spec.
Sit for a while on the seats and what, at first, seem slightly hard cushions actually start to dip under you but there have to be some economies over an Auto-Trail costing half as much again.
What you won’t fault is the spaciousness or the ambience. This may be a classic layout but it still works well.
There are head restraints and seatbelts for two rear passengers, and there’s room for a family to spread out on site. The settee is a touch narrow but measures more than six feet long.
In the kitchen, the dark worktops are smart and there’s enough space over the fridge and between the hob and sink for the chef to prepare a decent dinner. This kitchen looks as if it belongs in a more expensive motorhome.
You get plenty of equipment. The Spinflo Duplex oven and grill may not be as good to look at as a posh domestic-style cooker but it does the job well, and it’s mated to a three-burner hob with efficient ignition. The fridge is only a 77-litre model.
The double-doored cupboard below the hob has acres of space on three levels and there’s a further locker under the oven, plus two more above the window.
To conclude our culinary tour there are the details – plate and cup racks in the high-level lockers, decent lighting, ventilation from a roof vent and the opening window in the door, and an open-fronted locker adjacent to the door.
Look at the washrooms in some entry-level motorhomes and you can see that they are using hand-me-down fittings from much older designs. What you don’t expect to see at this price level is nice wood finish and a proper separate shower. But that’s exactly what you get.
There’s just enough room to use the swivel cassette loo, and the basin is the same as fitted to much more upmarket Auto-Trails. The only downside is storage space, which is limited to one small high-level cupboard. Check out the headroom, though, which is only 1.78m in the washbasin/toilet area.
If you don’t mind ladders, the overcab is the best bed – longer and wider than the ‘downstairs’ double with generous headroom. Down below, making two single beds allows the ladder to stay, while the full-sized double prevents use of the ladder and needs a fitted sheet to keep the cushions in position. It’s a firm, flat bed but measuring just over 6ft it won’t suit the very tall.
Although the Tribute is slightly dearer than its key rivals it is better equipped and looks more upmarket, so how have they kept it so competitive? Well, like other budget-priced motorhomes it has simple bodywork that’s free from expensive GRP mouldings.
In fact, the exterior looks commendably attractive for the money and it even comes with an external hatch into the nearside settee locker. Yes, there’s no exterior step, meaning a reasonably high step to climb aboard and there’s no clip to hold the toilet hatch door open while you extricate the cassette, but these items could both be addressed by DIY or your dealer.
Inside, we actually found items like the idiot-proof control panel preferable to some more upmarket fittings and the T-620 is certainly not short of storage – there’s masses.
The biggest omission from the standard spec is blown-air heating, which along with mains power for the fire, dash trim, cab blinds, scatter cushions and TV aerial, forms the Lux Pack.
Our standard vehicle was warm enough in spring but walking into a chilly washroom in the morning was a nasty shock. If you want to remember what motorhoming used to be like order a ’van without blown-air, if not, add the Lux Pack. Even with Lux and Driver’s Packs, the T-620 is still under £35,000, which surely makes it a front-runner for next year’s Budget Buy award.
A longer version of this review was published in the June 2010 issue of Which Motorhome magazine.