Best family van conversion: Dreamer Camper Five
Dreamer Camper Five is the winner of the Best Family Van Conversion class in the 2020 What Motorhome Awards. With bunk beds, a double bed, and five travel seats, it's genuinely equipped to be a campervan/van conversion for a family...
Dreamer has previous in developing top-notch van conversions for families. Its Family Van is a long-established part of the range and rare in offering a bunk bed layout in the confines of a Fiat Ducato panel van – a 5.99m one at that.
Then there’s the Camper Van XL, which debuted last year and immediately took the win in this category. It uses the extra-long (6.36m) Ducato to great effect, with a fixed bed at the rear and a drop-down double over the forward lounge. We called it, 'a motorhome that’ll make you question whether you really need anything bigger.'
Now, for the 2020 season, this French brand has come up with something truly unique – not just a four-berth model but a five-person campervan with five belted travel seats and full facilities, still within the same dimensions as its Camper Van XL.
Not only that, but it has recognised that families may not have the disposable income of the traditional retired couples that buy motorhomes and put the new Camper Five in its entry-level Fun line-up, rather than the more extensively appointed Select range (which includes both the Family Van and the Camper Van XL).
The base vehicle is an L4H3 Ducato – the longest, tallest van in the range, the extra height compared with the usual L4H2 model being essential for the drop-down bed. Otherwise, there are no surprises with this panel van that so dominates the leisure market. White paint is standard, but you can upgrade to Aluminium Grey at extra cost.
Likewise, there’s an optional Safety Pack to add the latest Fiat features, if you so wish. Tick that box and you’ll receive the Emergency Braking System, Lane Departure Warning System, High Beam Recognition, Traffic Sign Recognition and the Rain and Dusk Sensor – nothing essential but a few chocolate sprinkles for the gateau.
What is essential – and you won’t be able to buy a Camper Five without – is the (£1,590) Fun + Pack. That brings the cab spec up to par, including mod cons such as cab air-conditioning, cruise control, height-adjustable front seats with armrests, a passenger airbag and a Pioneer radio with Bluetooth. It also adds ESC with traction control, Roll Over Mitigation and Hill Start Assist plus, more importantly perhaps, the 140bhp Euro 6d motor (instead of Fiat’s entry-level 120bhp unit).
In addition, the Fun + Pack brings some important benefits to the living area, including an electric step and a flyscreen for the side door, cab blinds, plus a second leisure battery – something that you certainly wouldn’t expect at this price point. It also features Truma’s diesel-fired Combi heating and hot water system, reducing your reliance on gas and freeing up locker space.
These, however, are the details. It’s the layout – and especially the arrangement at the rear – that makes the difference. Not only does the Camper Five have the bunk beds that make it a practical family vehicle, but adjacent to the beds is a small, secondary seating area. There are single side-facing seats on each side here, with a cranked-leg table in the middle. And this isn’t just a teeny-weeny dinette for little tots but big enough for a couple of teenagers, or for a parent to play board games with a child.
Because Dreamer uses the taller van, the bunks both have plenty of headroom, too. And they’re a decent size – the top bed measuring 1.74m by 0.69m and the lower one being properly adult-sized, at 1.85m by 0.70m. Convert the mini-dinette into a bed and the lower berth becomes a kids’ double with a mattress area that’s 1.85m by 1.16m. The details have been addressed, too. Ventilation is provided by opening windows in both back doors, as well as a rooflight; each bunk has its own reading lamp, and there are USB sockets under the table.
Equally important, of course, is mum and dad’s bed and parents will jump with joy when they realise that this doesn’t involve turning the lounge, via a jigsaw of cushions of Times crossword complexity, into a bed as appealing (and lumpy) as school custard.
Here, the bed pulls down from the ceiling, your efforts being eased by gas struts. The Bultex mattress (1.83m by 1.27m) is comfy, the lounge below does not need to be disturbed and there are even storage pockets at the side of the bed. In the morning, with the berth quickly stowed (and duvet still in situ), there’s 1.89m headroom beneath.
Not only does the lounge stay a lounge, but it’s a more accommodating and comfortable space than the typical half-dinette that you might expect. There’s an extra inward-facing seat by the sliding door and the main seating is a proper L-shape where you can comfortably sit facing the door (great on a warm day with it open).
In this format there are four travel seats – when you need a fifth seatbelt you remove the cushion from the offside bench and clip in a complete lightweight seat, which faces rearwards and even has a folding false floor so that your size 7s aren’t left dangling in mid-air.
The kitchen has another great surprise in store for you – a fridge that not only looks like it’s a refugee from a much larger motorhome (135-litre capacity) but boasts automatic energy selection, too. Opposite, in the main galley unit, there are extra-large drawers for practical storage and a worktop flap adds preparation space. You can specify a gas oven as an option, too.
The washroom isn’t nearly as basic as you’ll see in some van conversions, either, although you will have to employ a curtain when showering. A tambour door provides convenient access to the ‘little room’ and there's plenty of vertical space, too headroom is 2.10m. More important are the stylish new rectangular washbasin and plentiful storage.
Stowage space, of course, is crucial in a family-orientated camper and the fact that only the fifth (rear dinette) berth cannot have bedding left in place in the day is a huge plus. However, it’s also good to note the large boot area (under the lower bunk) for wellies and other outdoor gear.
All in all, this is an immensely practical camper for a family with two or three kids. It’s priced well and there’s nothing else like it.