Best new motorhomes and campervans of 2021: A-class – Niesmann + Bischoff iSmove 6.9E
In the July 2021 issue of What Motorhome, the magazine featured its choice of the best new motorhomes and campervans for the 2021 season.
Here, we take a closer look at the winner of the A-class category – Niesmann + Bischoff’s iSmove 6.9E.
This is a new A-Class that really stands out this year. If you’ve got £100k to spend, this is the most exciting new motorhome of 2021…
After 37 years of road testing motorhomes, it takes a lot to make me mouth the exclamation ‘wow’ as I’m presented with the latest new model, but the iSmove is everything I expected of the new ‘baby’ N+B A-class – and much, much more.
For once, the pre-launch hype was justified…
At first glance, though, you might wonder what all the fuss is about – even the name, linking it to the low-profile Smove, sounds familiar, while the exterior styling is unmistakeably N+B.
This family look was introduced back in 2013 but it hasn’t dated at all – eight years on, no rival has managed such pleasing aesthetics for what is, basically, a big rectangular box.
Or not such a big box, because the iSmove is a seven-metre, 3.5-tonne motorhome – albeit one that aims to provide liner-style luxury. It’s lower, too, at 2.83m, and the range is ultra-simple – just the single bed 6.9 E and island bed (slightly longer overall) 7.3 F. Bedrooms areas aside, the two models are identical.
As usual at this end of the market, there are plenty of options and packs, though, to ensure that no two iSmoves leave the Polch factory the same. Extras will also take a typical iSmove north of £100k, but plenty of rivals at this price don’t feel half as special.
As soon as you step inside the iSmove, you know that this is not just another motorhome. We’ve seen the contrasting settee base and (pillow-like) backrest cushions before and there’s the usual huge choice – six squab colours (three leather, three fabric) and 12 backrests (plain, patterned, hide or cloth, from beige to bright orange).
What we haven’t seen before is the anthracite headlining, which should make it feel gloomy inside, but somehow creates a cosier interior. Then there are the optional soundproofed felt walls for what Niesmann calls “fantastic ambient sound.”
These are just the details, however, in a vehicle that uses clear sight lines along the right-hand side of the interior and generous headroom of 1.97m, as well as a flat floor from the bed to the bedroom, to maximise the impression of space in a vehicle that’s small by its maker’s standards.
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It isn’t just a motorhome that looks good.
There are real innovations, too. A table mounted on floor rails is not a first but it works well here, especially as it still rotates and folds in half, too. What’s really new is the way that the twin-sofa lounge converts for passenger carrying.
Side settees are a must-have at the moment and manufacturers have come up with a variety of ways of combining them with rear travel seats (some offering poor comfort/safety or a complex conversion process).
This, however, beats everything that’s gone before. The forward-facing backrest simply extends into the aisle, then the base swivels from side to front-facing and head restraints are slotted in. It’s brilliant and you won’t see it elsewhere because Niesmann has patented it.
One option that we reckon will be ordered on every UK-bound iSmove is the Premium Kitchen. This includes the biggest drawer-style fridge we’ve ever seen (138 litres, plus a separate 12-litre freezer compartment), with restaurant-grade containers inside.
It adds the mineral worktop that you’d expect in a vehicle of this calibre and also the electric lifting shelving unit at the rear end of the galley that allows a through-view when it is retracted.
However, the really clever part of this kitchen is how it grows. We’re used to seeing simple worktop flaps but here, instead, the chopping board cover for the sink lifts out and slots into a pull-out frame adjacent to the door.
Even more noteworthy is the way the glass cover for the hob slides out, right across the gangway, to meet the washroom wall opposite and create an L-shaped working area for the chef.
Of course, the drawers have electric central locking and there’s an 820mm-wide cutlery/utensil drawer as well as a deep soft-closing drawer under the fridge for plates, bowls, etc.
There’s more clever space utilisation in the washroom, although this is possibly less different from other motorhomes.
Open the bathroom’s sliding door and you’re faced by a corner washbasin, with the swivel cassette toilet to your left.
There’s plenty of room to use these facilities but no sign of a shower. For that, you undo a bolt and slide the whole of the right-hand washroom wall across, so the basin moves to above the toilet and a good-sized shower cubicle (600mm by 720mm, headroom 1.93m) is created.
In the bedroom, the iSmove feels huge and this area includes plenty of extra storage, too, as well as 12V and USB sockets. We reckon the more compact 6.9 E offers an even better bedroom than its island bed stablemate, with its single mattresses of generous size – 2.05m long on the nearside, 1.97m on the offside – sitting on optional Lattoflex plastic springs for ultimate sleeping comfort.
Deep (800mm) wardrobes are hidden under the foot of each bed and, alternatively, you can use this bedroom as a transverse double (measuring 1.97m by 1.35m). A sliding door can be used in either model to make the bedroom private.
Of course, there’s a drop-down bed in the cab, too, but even here there’s innovation as the bed is a new slim design that hides away more discreetly in the ceiling.
Although this is a smaller Niesmann, it has been designed with the same thoughts of independence from site facilities as its bigger brothers. A 200-litre fresh water tank is standard, as is a 100Ah lithium battery.
One or two extra leisure batteries can be specified, as can a pair of 125W solar panels and a 50-litre gas tank and even a marine toilet with 120-litre black tank. Whichever layout you choose, there’s a huge garage with 1.13m headroom and a 300kg limit.
Virtually everything you’d expect on an Arto or Flair is possible here, too.
You can have the whole body in Eifel Grey, or go for flashes of colours such as Lava Orange on the skirts and mirrors. Heated cab seats and LED headlights are possible in addition to more expected options like a leather steering wheel, the 160bhp engine upgrade and nine-speed automatic gearbox.
The standard heating system is a Truma Combi 6, but you can opt for Alde’s ‘wet’ central heating and, if you do this as part of the Winter Pack, you’ll also benefit from a heat exchanger and double-glazed side windows in the cab.
You can spec your iSmove to meet your needs exactly. Here is everything that’s made the Arto and Flair such a success but in a more manageable size and with a load of clever new features. It’s our Motorhome of the Year 2021.