The motorhome and campervan trends of 2021 – pop-tops on high tops
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Elevating roofs – or pop-tops – have been around since the early days of campervans. Auto-Sleepers’ first camper, in the early sixties, had a rising roof and even before that, German firm, Westfalia, had added a lifting roof to the original, split-screen Volkswagen van.
These early pop-tops, though, were mostly about adding standing room to vans that were not otherwise tall enough to stand in. Roof beds, often in the form of stretcher-type bunks followed, and there were all manner of lifting mechanisms – front, rear or side-hinged roofs, as well as electric ones and types with solid panels, rather than canvas sides.
Today, most elevating roofs are rear-hinged (to give maximum headroom towards the front of the living area), have canvas sides and at least the option of a proper double bed with a mattress up top. Almost every VW camper on the market is like this.
However, a more recent phenomenon is the addition of this type of roof to larger campervans (usually based on the Fiat Ducato) where there is already enough height in the base vehicle for an average adult to stand upright. What’s the point, then? On these bigger campers it’s simply about adding extra berths, and doing so without impinging on the layout below.
Of course, for these vehicles a pop-top adds cost and weight but it also means you have an extra double bed (usually generously sized) that’s just the clamber up a ladder away.
This might be for kids or grandchildren, but could also be for adults, even perhaps as an alternative to the bed below in the summer when the canvas sides and great ventilation make this a very appealing place to sleep.
For those who don’t need the extra beds for every trip, it seems like a good solution, whereas a bunk bed layout might suit families with young children better.
German brands like Globecar and Hymer have offered optional elevating roofs on their Fiat-based campervans for some years now but over the last year or so the idea seems to really be gaining traction. Auto-Trail was the first British company to follow, with its Adventure model launched last year, and now Compass and Elddis (the UK brands of the Erwin Hymer Group) have really brought the concept into the British mainstream market.
Ross Edwards, MD at Travelworld, told What Motorhome, “We have had pop-tops available on our Hymer range of campervans since 2013 and they have proved incredibly popular. Initially, we would sell roughly 50% pop-top/50% non-pop-top; however, we have now ordered 100% of our stock models with pop-tops, due to their increased popularity.
People prefer the pop-top as it gives you options; as well as the second double berth, it also allows customers to use the raiseable downstairs bed as a garage space for storage. This year we have also seen a huge increase in VW campervan customers wanting something that little bit larger and with a bathroom.
These customers are already used to having a pop-top. We also attribute these sales to the fact we can offer Mercedes (through Hymer campervans), and VW customers want to stay with a German chassis and the benefits this brings.”
Meanwhile, Andy Craggs, Sales Director at Brownhills, sees the new CV80 model from Elddis as bringing sales volume to this sector, due to its price. He adds that, “The Adventure [from Auto-Trail] has sold in sensible numbers, the large majority of customers being first-time buyers”, while Brownhills has seen “a trend of customers buying more expensive and very well spec’d panel vans, moving from larger motorhomes for a variety of reasons.”
Whatever your reasons for considering a full-sized van conversion with a pop-top, the choice of makes and models has never been better…
At the Caravan Salon in Düsseldorf in September Adria extended its Twin range with its first pop-top variant, the Twin Sports 640 SGX. This features Adria’s new roof, creating accommodation for up to five people. Designed to suit sports enthusiasts, the new model claims ‘aerodynamic integration of the pop-top’ as well as Adria’s panoramic SunRoof. It also offers a Midi-Heki rooflight in the rear, or the option to add a roof air-conditioning unit.
The design of Adria’s new elevating roof enables the mounting of solar panels and includes roof rack rails for additional load carrying. The company also says its roof construction is based on the use of a vacuum lamination technology, giving a lighter-weight solution than on competitor vehicles.
Adria says that its Twin Sports 640 SGX is the only pop-top roof panel van on the market that includes a panoramic front window, roof air-conditioning (or a Midi-Heki) and a roof-mounted awning.
The Slovenian maker is also claiming best-in-class opening height for its pop-top and says the acrylic-based tent material it uses offers optimum insulation, water resistance and breathability. The material itself is removable for cleaning, while the bed measures 2.00m by 1.20m and comes with USB ports and reading lights.
The pop-top is offered only with Adria’s SGX layout which features a versatile rear space with electrically operated elevating bed above a large, height-adjustable garage. Up front there is the usual half-dinette lounge and the base vehicle is the extra-long Ducato, in either white or silver.
Auto-Trail was the first UK manufacturer to enter this sector, with its Adventure, which was launched for the 2020 season. Two models are available, the six-metre 55 and the extra-long (6.36m) 65, both featuring the popular British-style floorplan with a half-dinette at the front, central kitchen and washroom and a rear lounge (with longer settees in the 65).
New for 2021 is Auto-Trail’s Cab-Plus with no overcab shelf (thus full walk-through into the driving compartment) and instead an integrated curved ceiling with three internal pockets for storage. It also gains a new 4.7kW gas/electric heating system mounted underfloor and featuring the iVan touchscreen controls, as well as a Zenec head unit in the cab with 8in display and a reversing camera. A new option is the Motorhome WiFi system.
Offered in two exclusive colours – Expedition Grey or bold Light Blue – the Adventure comes with 16in alloy wheels and a wind-out awning. Its roof incorporates a double bed with ‘comfort springing’, reading lights and USB charging points. The Media Pack is fitted as standard, including a 19.5in TV, sat-nav and Status TV aerial. A solar panel is also standard.
Brand-new for 2021, the Compass Avantgarde CV80 and Elddis Autoquest CV80 are sister models that differ only in branding and cosmetic details. They are the fourth models in each of the respective campervan ranges and the first ever rising-roof vans from their makers, taking advantage of development done by their parent company in Germany, the Erwin Hymer Group.
The tooling for the new roof, which will be used across all EHG brands, represents investment of more than €1m. That sum is easier to comprehend when you realise that the group expects to make over 3,000 roofs per annum across its many marques.
The top is manufactured using long fibre injection technology, which is said to create a lightweight roof with increased accuracy.
The pop-top features a double bed measuring 2.10m by 1.44m on a slatted base and there’s a huge flyscreened section at the front for maximum ventilation when touring the Med. However, where the Compass/Elddis campervans really score is with the addition of a Midi-Heki rooflight directly over the access aperture for the bed. Especially when the top is lowered, the Avantgarde/Autoquest models feel a lot lighter inside than their rivals.
Down below, the CV80 – based on the 5.99m Fiat Ducato – adopts the proven layout of the CV40 with a half-dinette incorporating travel seats and a comfortable rear lounge. As a UK-built model, it’s also no surprise to find a kitchen incorporating a Thetford Triplex cooker with combined oven/grill.
However, the ultra-competive pricing starts at £47,669 with the 140bhp engine and manual gearbox. A Lux Pack is offered to increase cab spec and an automatic gearbox is available, too.
Dreamer has offered smaller pop-top models, based on the Ford Transit Custom, previously but its first Fiat Ducato with elevating roof – the D43 Up – arrived midway through the 2020 season.
It will, perhaps, be best remembered for its peculiar naming – Red Addict if painted in Profondo Red metallic or White Addict if… well, you can guess. However, what it should be remembered for is being the first model from any maker to feature both a pop-top and an overcab sunroof.
Unusually in this class, the D43 Up is also based exclusively on the medium-wheelbase (5.41m) Ducato. It also comes with LED daytime running lights, chrome-ringed instrumentation, a leather steering wheel, 16in alloy wheels, TEP leather-style upholstery and the Fun + Pack as standard. Heating is by diesel-fired Truma Combi.
The layout is the continental staple of a half-dinette lounge area and transverse rear double bed, but despite the D43 Up’s compact size it gets a 90-litre compressor fridge and its roof bed is claimed to measure 2.00m by 1.30m.
The Fun + Pack means that the 140bhp engine, cab air-conditioning, cruise control, colour-coded front bumper, ESC, ASR and Hill Holder, height-adjustable cab seats with armrests, passenger airbag, flyscreen for the sliding door, Remis cab blinds, electric step, Pioneer radio with Bluetooth and second leisure battery are all included in the spec.
This German campervan specialist was one of the first to offer pop-tops on larger van conversions and the whole of its 2021 range (including both Summit and D-Line models) can be ordered with the rising roof option.
Globecar importer, SMC Motorhomes, usually keeps an example in stock at its Newark showroom to show customers the pop-top option, which Sales Director, Alistair Briggs-Price, describes as, “a nice idea, giving a proper four-berth without the dinette bed, which can only ever cater for a certain size of child.”
The Globecar range includes both Fiat Ducato and Peugeot Boxer-based models with a variety of rear bedroom layouts, including both double and single bed formats, and overall lengths of 5.41m, 5.99m and 6.36m.
The HymerCar name is gone but the Hymer Camper Vans, as they’re now called, come in the entry-level Free range, as well as the more classical Hymer models – Ayers Rock, Grand Canyon, Yosemite and Yellowstone. All are available optionally with a pop-top and, unusually, the Hymer range includes not just Fiat Ducatos but pair of Mercedes Sprinter-based campers, too.
The line-up kicks off with the Free 540, based on the medium-wheelbase Fiat with a transverse double bed, then continues with the Free 600 (with transverse double bed) and 602 (with twin beds) on the six-metre Ducato. The Free S combines the more youthful design of this range with a front-wheel drive Mercedes base vehicle measuring 5.93m long and offered with the nine-speed automatic gearbox.
Going upmarket, the Ayers Rock (5.41m) and Grand Canyon (5.99m) are transverse double bed layouts, while the Yosemite (5.99m) and Yellowstone (6.36m) come with lengthways single beds. Then there’s the Grand Canyon S (5.93m) with the ‘S’ standing for Sprinter – this Mercedes model has rear-wheel drive as standard but can also be chosen with four-wheel drive and greatly increased ground clearance for serious off-road adventures.
There have been few changes to Hymer’s campervan portfolio for 2021 but it’s worth looking out for the limited edition Free 540 Blue Evolution. Based on the medium-wheelbase Fiat in striking Storm Blue metallic with a contrasting black pop-top, this high-spec camper gets all manner of extra kit as standard, from matt black alloy wheels to a 7in touchscreen with sat-nav and reversing camera.
Ross at Travelworld reports strong interest across all Hymer’s Camper Van range, right up to £90k Mercedes 4x4 models, saying, “We have seen a really diverse customer for our campervans, but the main attraction is always the size and practicality of them versus larger motorhomes. Campervans definitely appeal to young and old customers, with many of the older generation downsizing from larger motorhomes and the younger customers using them as a main mode of transport.”
They’re not campervans according to Knaus but CUVs – Caravanning Utility Vehicles – but whatever you call them, this German brand can now claim almost 15 years of pedigree in the sector, with the Knaus (and Weinsberg) campers coming from a state-of-the-art factory in Hungary. And now, for 2021, it’s added a pop-top to certain models in the range.
The new Knaus Pop-Up Roof is offered on the BoxStar and BoxLife and is built using LFI technology (long fibre injection). Said to be aerodynamically optimised for low air resistance on the road, the roof rises manually and comes with USB sockets (plus a neat tray for your devices), ambient lighting, integrated reading lights and heating vents, as well as a mattress measuring 2.00m by 1.35m. There are ventilation channels for the mattress, in addition to an extra fabric to efficiently prevent moisture formation.
On the longer six-metre and extra-long 6.36m floorplans, in addition to the pop-top, an extra roof window in the rear or a roof air-conditioning system can be specified, while in order to retain the silhouette of the campervan, the frame of the pop-up roof has been extended to match the length of the Fiat panel van.
Carthago’s sister brand, Malibu, is another that’s adding pop-tops to the range. Its new Family-for-4 has a pop-up roof that has been developed in-house and is manufactured in the company’s own factory. The sandwich construction of the roof (weighing 105kg) consists of a robust GRP covering on the outside and aluminium with breathable microfibre covering on the inside, plus an insulating core made from RTM hard foam in the middle. In the roof, the bed measures 2.00m long and there are two reading lights.
The new pop-top is offered on all Comfort models in the Malibu Van range, as well as the new First Class ‘two room’ layouts where the end bedroom and the washroom can be separated off from the rest of the living area. The roof is also available in combination with the Coupé model (with full-height walk-through into the cab) or with the GT’s Skyview overcab sunroof.
This French brand has offered elevating roofs as an option on its Fiat-based Van range for the past three years. Today, it offers five models that can be ordered with a pop-top, starting with the completely redesigned V540G – a medium-wheelbase Fiat with transverse double bed at the back. Six-metre and 6.36m Ducatos are also offered, as well as single bed layouts, but a pop-top is not available on the V630G.
The elevating roof option adds 12cm to the height and 115kg of weight, while the extra cost is £3,552 in white or £4,278 if colour-coded.
In addition, you can order your Pilote Van in Standard or Premium finish, while a variety of options packs is available to increase the spec even further.
Like its parent company, Knaus, Weinsberg has a new elevating roof option on its Fiat Ducato campervans this season. It is fitted with a 2.00m by 1.35m double bed, USB sockets, ambient lighting, reading lamps, heating vents and ventilation for the upstairs mattress and even an inductive charging pad for your gadgets.
On the longer models the roof has been designed to allow a rooflight or air-conditioning unit to be fitted at the back of the pop-top, over the rear bedroom, but the new roof can also be fitted to the medium-wheelbase layouts. On all versions there’s a huge mosquito net section at the front which can be completely unzipped for the full panoramic effect.
Weinsberg’s Pop-Up Roof is offered on 5.41m, 5.99m and 6.36m versions of the Ducato, with double bed, double bunk and single bed layouts, as well as in the CaraBus range and the more upmarket CaraTour. In fact, every Weinsberg layout in the H2-height Ducato can be specified with the company’s new elevating roof.
One of the most prestigious campervans in its class, the Westfalia Columbus (on Fiat Ducato) can also be equipped with a pop-top roof featuring a 2.00m by 1.35m double bed mounted on plastic springs for additional comfort.
It comes painted in the body colour of the vehicle, equipped with two reading lights and adds 85kg to the vehicle – less than most rivals. However, for 2021, there are two further options to consider – electric operation of the roof and an internal insulation system. The roof is available on Columbus models 540 D, 600 D and 601 D but not the extra-long-wheelbase variants.
Westfalia also offers a Pop-Up Roof version of its flagship model, the James Cook, based on the rear-wheel drive Mercedes Sprinter. This ultimate campervan is 5.93m long but has a rear slide-out to extend its bedroom area on site in less than 40 seconds, allowing lengthways sleeping in a relatively compact vehicle.
In this model, the roof bed measures 2.10m by 1.15m while the lower bed is 2.07m by up to 1.70m.