Best new motorhomes and campervans of 2021: Best coachbuilt without a fixed bed (under £60k) – Pilote Pacific P626D Evidence
In the July 2021 issue of What Motorhome, the magazine featured its choice of the best new motorhomes and campervans for the 2021 season.
Our choice in the best coachbuilt without a fixed bed (under £60k) category was the Pilote Pacific P626D Evidence. Small but perfectly formed, it comes with a spec list that is sure to impress…
This is the en vogue style of layout at the moment, with Bailey the latest manufacturer to join a wide selection of models where continental makers previously dominated.
It’s not hard to see the appeal of the big front lounge, and the loss of a fixed bed is made up for by the ease of flicking a switch and watching your mattress lower from the ceiling.
Of course, a generous washroom is another plus, but the big difference (compared with other layouts without a permanent bedroom) is that there’s a garage to provide plenty of external storage.
All of this usually comes in a package that’s just the thickness of this magazine under 7m. A tad too long? Well, now Pilote has the answer. The new P626D layout takes a lot of what we like about its longer rivals, including the French company’s own seven-metre P696D, and condenses it into a 6.20m body.
That’s 16cm less length than its closest rival and shorter even than a Fiat/Peugeot XLWB panel van.
Even better, Pilote has added the P626D layout to its Évidence range, which is another novelty for 2021.
It’s one of four key low-profile models, therefore, to benefit from a one-spec, one-price strategy designed to include all the features that British buyers typically want, but at a lower cost than when ticking all the options boxes.
So, while a P626D can be purchased in Essentiel trim for £53,250, the much better spec’d Évidence version is £57,940.
Just how good that offer is becomes transparent as soon as you look at the list of extra features.
It starts with the 8in Media Pack (with idMedia touchscreen DAB radio with Android Auto/Apple CarPlay and reversing camera), the Energy Pack (95Ah AGM battery, 100W solar panel), the Luxury Pack (fancier cab trim, leather steering wheel) and Comfort Pack (electric step, cab blinds, carpets, plus a habitation door with central locking, flyscreen and window).
But that’s not all, as Évidence models also get leather-look upholstery, an oven, a Skydome overcab sunroof, Truma Combi 6 EH gas/electric heating, 16in alloy wheels, an awning and more. Perhaps most importantly, the spec even includes Fiat’s 140bhp engine and the nine-speed automatic gearbox.
With its alloy wheels, all-white bodywork, overcab sunroof and simple graphics, the P626D is a neat-looking campervan. Its remarkably short rear overhang also promises great on-road manners with excellent stability, while the slick automatic gearbox makes driving the Ducato feel like a more sophisticated experience.
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Manoeuvring is a doddle, thanks to the reversing camera and compact size, and herein lies a major part of this new Pilote’s appeal.
But, unlike so many other small coachbuilts, the P626D doesn’t forgo external storage. There’s a useful slide-out lidded drawer in the nearside skirt (ideal for mains lead, levelling wedges, etc), and the gas locker will accommodate a pair of 13kg cylinders side by side with a shelf above.
Then, of course, there’s the garage, which is accessed from the offside rear.
It’s not as big a locker as you’ll find in Pilote’s P696D, but it stretches 1.85m across the campervan and has an internal height of 780mm, rising to 1.45m for the first 600mm inside the door.
It even has a small section that is the full height of the vehicle (somewhere to stand skis or a windbreak, perhaps). You can also access the space from inside the vehicle via a sliding door under the fridge and wardrobe.
Even more impressive for such a small motorhome is the size of the lounge – you’ll scarcely believe that you’re in a 6.20m vehicle. With 14 spotlights in the ceiling (including the cab), there’s a plethora of artificial illumination, and the overcab sunroof bathes the lounge in daylight.
The key aspect, though, is the amount of space, while the fixed table folds in half to emphasise that. The cab seats are a great place to relax and recline, too, and the TV lowers to a comfortable height for viewing.
Then, another plus is the way the lounge backrests ping into position, secured by magnetic strips – no more arriving on site and finding a pile of cushions on the floor.
Above the lounge, the Pilote’s drop-down bed goes straight to the top of the class. Firstly, it comes right down to seat height (once you’ve lowered the table and removed the sofas’ backrests) and, even better than that, the raised kitchen floor, adjacent, makes access easier still.
You can just sit on the bed and slide in.
The mattress is a great size, too – measurements of 2.00m long and 1.58m wide make it one of the biggest drop-down beds on the market. It narrows towards the offside but that’s to ensure that you can come and go through the habitation door without the bed getting in the way.
As we’ve already mentioned, there’s a 190mm step up into the galley area, but headroom here is still a minimum of 1.91m.
The kitchen also gets sufficient worktop (especially with the loose cover for the sink deployed) and there are 230V sockets at either end (12V and USBs at the forward end, too).
An oven and grill are part of Évidence spec and the Duplex unit is sensibly sited, while the 139-litre automatic energy selection fridge is even better placed, so you never have to stoop for a Stella Artois.
Storage is another strength, with a super-deep drawer for pots and pans and a cutlery drawer. Then, next to the fridge, a corner eye-level locker is perfect for cereal packets, crockery and more.
Opposite the galley, the washroom features the superior Dometic cassette toilet, a fixed basin that you can get your head over for face washing, and a tall locker with lipped shelves to keep your many toiletries and medicines in situ.
The party piece, though, is the swing-wall that moves the basin over the toilet to create a good-sized shower cubicle with soap dish, roof vent and 1.95m headroom.
When you step out of the shower, you can pull a concertina screen across to turn the whole kitchen area into a changing room. That works especially well as the wardrobe is next to the fridge. With a width of 600mm and hanging height of up to 1.30m, the wardrobe is a lot more generous than its slim door would have you expect.
Overall, we love the compact size of this Pilote but it’s the Évidence spec that makes the P626D look such superb value, at under £60k including the automatic gearbox.