The motorhome and campervan trends of 2021 – sub-seven metre models
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Seven metres is a practical, manageable size of motorhome and the type of drop-down bed layout we’re focusing on here is, perhaps, the most fashionable floorplan of the moment.
Low-profile motorhomes with a drop-down bed have been with us now for up to a decade. Some use the lowering berths as additional sleeping space (rather than rearranging settees), while there are still fixed beds (usually singles or an island double) aft. Others have the drop-down bed as the main berths, and it’s this type that has seen a massive growth in popularity.
The first examples of this breed were compact, six-metre motorhomes and there are still some popular models at this size, but soon customers discovered their one shortfall – a lack of storage for bulky gear.
After all, there’s only so much you can fit into a vehicle that’s around 5.99m by 2.30m (not much bigger than a campervan, really) and, without a fixed bed, there’s no obvious home for your big outdoor chairs, bikes and barbecue to live.
It was the ever-innovative French brand, Chausson (part of the Trigano Group), that came up with a solution. You still have the big front lounge that draws in potential buyers (especially at shows) for a closer look.
The bed glides down over the seating at night, so there’s no fiddly juggling of cushions at bedtime (although a lower bed, under the drop-down, is usually possible for very occasional four-berth duties).
But now, with overall length stretched from 6m to 7m, there’s room to include a huge rear washroom and an even more gigantic wardrobe, to create a super dressing room. The really clever bit, though, is the inclusion of a garage underneath that clothes store. And so the Chausson 640 was born – and the company has not looked back since.
However, whenever a new layout or trend appears in the motorhome world, rivals are quick to copy, or to try to improve on the original. Chausson’s Export Manager, Pascal Lidôme, said he spotted the first competition a year or two ago but that, at the last NEC motorhome show (February 2020), few buyers were directly comparing the 640 with other models. He feels that this will remain “a very trendy layout” and has insisted that Chausson “still believes that the Smart Lounge – as in the 640 – will be a big seller.”
Now let’s see what the opposition marques have come up with…
We rewarded the Matrix Plus 600 DT with the award for ‘best coachbuilt without fixed bed (over £60k)’ in 2020, so clearly this is a serious competitor.
Much of its appeal centres on a lounge that sports a pair of long settees (1.66m and 1.36m) and swivel cab seats at the same level, sitting under a huge overcab sunroof (now 15% larger) for plenty of daylight.
The sofas are well proportioned for comfort and the interior of this Matrix, which has been comprehensively updated for 2021, has a very contemporary vibe. The new season model also has a double floor containing the utilities and creating a step-free living area, while the exterior is sharper than ever.
As with its key rivals, the Adria is equally impressive at the back end, where the palatial washroom includes a plinth-type washbasin, a separate shower and massive wardrobe with his and hers drawers in addition to the lengthy hanging rail. Under here, the garage has twin access doors and 1.17m headroom (up to 2.22m on the nearside).
Even the kitchen has everything you’d expect – plus more worktop than you’d anticipate. An oven/grill is standard and so is a 167-litre fridge/freezer. Finally, of course, there’s the electric drop-down bed that comes down to seat height.
There are cheaper options – the 600 DT is £58,900 plus £3,060 for the inevitable Luxury Pack and a further £1,820 for Pack 1 (including cab air-conditioning) – but this Slovenian motorhome should be on your shortlist if you can stretch to it. It’s probably the most stylish and prestigious option here.
This brand-new Bailey – the Adamo 69-4 – is the Chausson’s closest competitor and the Bristol firm makes no secret of the fact that its newcomer is targeting imported motorhomes (which currently account for more than half of the UK market).
Like some versions of its French rival, the Bailey is based on the latest front-wheel drive Ford Transit but, here, it comes with just one spec – a 158bhp (160PS) engine and six-speed automatic gearbox.
In fact, Bailey’s all-inclusive specification, with no pricey packs to add, nor even an optional upholstery to mull over, is a big part of the appeal. Everything is included in the £57,999 on-the-road price tag.
So, you get alloy wheels, a silver metallic cab, automatic lights and wipers, cruise control, cab air-conditioning, ESP, a radio with Bluetooth, reversing camera, an overcab sunroof, TV aerial, 142-litre fridge, and (beating its European opposition) a Thetford K-Series cooker with mains hotplate and a separate oven and grill.
As with other similar layouts, the long side settees convert into a pair of individual forward-facing travel seats and, although they lack Isofix, the fact that Bailey has fully crash-tested its new range (and incorporated changes to features like the TV mounting to improve safety), adds a great deal of peace of mind.
Meanwhile, the fold-in-half, electrically lowerable table is a very continental-style feature in the lounge.
Another positive is that, when lowering the electric bed right down to seat height (730mm off the floor), you don’t even have to move the backrest cushions off the settees. The mattress measures 1.83m by 1.52m but usable bed length is more generous.
Like Bailey, Benimar’s importer, Marquis Leisure, tends to go for a high standard spec and few options. With the Tessoro 487, which was introduced early in 2020, the only extra cost items are a towbar (£1,350) and an automatic gearbox (£2,000).
Everything else that you’d expect in this 6.98m Ford Transit-based low-profile is included in the £58,995 list price. The base vehicle comes with a 168bhp (170PS) engine as standard, as well as alloy wheels, cab air-conditioning, automatic lights and wipers and even a 9in touchscreen radio with sat-nav, as well as a reversing camera.
A Trackstar Leisure Category 6 security system is included, too.
To suit the British market, this Spaniard is NCC-approved and has its habitation door on our nearside, but the leather-look upholstery doesn’t feel very warm or tactile. Another UK-style touch is the removable, free-standing table, although its storage position (in the garage) is not very convenient. Better is the fact that this area has 1.31m headroom and internal access (via the washroom), as well as a full-sized spare wheel.
The lounge feels huge (one of the settees is 1.85m long – that’s over 6ft!), and the cab has reading lights with built-in USBs, while the travel seats have Isofix as standard. Above, the electric drop-down bed measures 1.88m by 1.39m and comes down to 860mm above the carpet. It’s a very comfortable bed, too.
Even the galley has been tailored to suit British buyers, as there’s not only an oven/grill and a mains hotplate alongside the two gas rings, but a built-in microwave above the 149-litre fridge/freezer. Our favourite galley feature, though, is the tall pull-out pantry unit alongside the fridge.
If you prefer a slightly more ‘old-school’ L-shaped lounge (with more instantly available belted travel seats), then the Tessoro 486 offers much of the same appeal, but a less spacious washroom at the same price as the 487. And, if a Fiat cab is more your bag, then the Mileo 286 (also £58,995) mirrors the 486 layout on the alternative base vehicle.
This Erwin Hymer Group brand was one of the first to compete in this sector and its Lyseo TD 680 G Harmony Line immediately shot to a starring role in the company’s sales charts. Now, for 2021, there’s also a similar layout in the new, more affordable, Delfin range.
In the UK, the Delfin T 680 G is based on the Fiat Ducato (a Citroën Jumper cab is used on the Continent) and is priced from £58,995 with the standard 120bhp engine, compared with £65,995 for the higher-spec Lyseo with the same Euro 6d power unit.
The Lyseo Harmony Line’s spec includes a silver cab, alloy wheels, twin garage doors, an overcab sunroof, premium extra-wide habitation door and indirect lighting throughout.
Special features include scratch-resistant kitchen worktops and a coffee capsule holder in the galley, plus an entrance area unit with TV position and shelves to hold Bürstner’s special magnetic glasses. The galley has a Thetford Triplex cooker with combined oven/grill and a neat rotating cover over the sink provides additional preparation space for the cook.
For 2021, Chausson has simplified its range, but the top-selling 640 continues – and it is now offered in three different specification levels. The entry-level First Line looks stonking value at £47,940, while the Titanium VIP (£53,440) and Titanium Premium (£54,340) offer more spec for those seeking an automatic gearbox, as well as a bit more bling.
Based on the Ford Transit with 128bhp (130PS) engine, the First Line is the only option for those who prefer a manual gearbox. Chausson’s Pascal Lidôme described it as having “real potential for the entry-level sector” and says that such a model would not have found favour with its dealers two years ago but, now, with used stock in such short supply and first-time buyers dominating motorhome sales, its debut could not have been timed more perfectly.
Not that the 640 First Line is especially basic. It still comes with cab air-conditioning, a passenger airbag, cruise control, DAB radio, diesel-fired heating (which can be used while you drive and reduces your dependence on gas, so is ideal for touring abroad), a flyscreen door, overcab sunroof, USB ports and Chausson’s Technibox with service items neatly grouped and accessible via an external hatch.
Step up to Titanium VIP and the base vehicle switches to a Fiat Ducato with 140bhp motor and nine-speed automatic transmission. Grey side walls give a more upmarket external appearance, along with alloy wheels, and extra features include an external shower and barbecue point.
Top of the tree, Titanium Premium spec (exterior image right) returns to the Ford Transit but now with the 168bhp (170PS) motor and six-speed automatic gearbox.
Cab blinds, a premium habitation door with central locking, a roof vent with fan, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, additional interior lighting, a duckboard in the shower, scatter cushions and premium furniture and fabrics are all now included.
Pascal is confident that these vehicles “keep the Chausson design culture inside” and we wouldn’t bet against their continued popularity in the UK, despite stiffer competition. There’s also an improved version of the shorter (6.4m plays 7m) Chausson 650, which has a very similar layout and costs a grand less, while now being able to accommodate two bikes in its rear garage.
This is the odd man out in this feature because it’s an A-class, not a low-profile. Normally, that would push it out of contention on cost, but Itineo is one of the few brands that produces very keenly priced A-classes – this model starts at £58,200, although you’ll need to add the Pack Life for goodies that include cab air-con and a Kenwood multimedia system.
The Itineo FC650 is also modest of length – just 6.55m overall – and yet, with the full-width A-class cab and panoramic windscreen, as well as a neat galley design backing onto the bathroom, it feels as big inside as some of the longer motorhomes here.
It also has the benefit of the bed (1.90m by 1.40m, according to its maker) coming down into the cab, so the lounge area is relatively undisturbed and the second double bed is alongside, not underneath the drop-down one.
Built in the same factory as the motorhomes of its parent company, Rapido, the FC650 has a modern design and bags of appeal.
Launched in 2020, the Fiat-based Pilote P696D was immediately worthy of comparison with the best in its class. It feels really spacious, with 1.90m headroom under the drop-down bed and up to 2.12m in the kitchen.
It has a super-sized, fold-in-half dining table and plenty of LED lighting and, while the settees are slightly narrow in the squab, the nearside one measures 1.76m long. The size of the electric bed is really a star feature, though, at 2.00m by 1.55m, and it sits just 780mm off the deck.
The garage has an internal height of 1.20m, twin loading doors and access from inside the vehicle, too. The important news for 2021, though, is the arrival of the P696D Evidence (£59,940) with an enhanced spec for British customers.
The extra kit includes the 140bhp engine, nine-speed automatic gearbox, Chassis Pack, Comfort Pack, Media 8in Pack, Energy Pack, an awning, Skydome overcab sunroof and faux leather upholstery.
Also available in Evidence trim is the P696D’s new little brother, the 6.20m P626D, which offers much of the same appeal but with reduced garage space and a different galley format. UK agent for Pilote, Martin Storey, is especially hopeful for this debutante.
He described it as “a perfect alternative option, not only for the coachbuilt low-profile market, but as an alternative to the van market – 6.2m length, shorter than an extra-long-wheelbase van conversion, with coachbuilt insulation and incredible space/room.”
Another brand-new entrant for 2021, Rimor’s popular and well-priced Seal range gets the addition of the 67 Plus model this year. Based on the 140bhp Fiat Ducato, it is available from just £49,995 on-the-road.
That price includes cruise control, twin airbags, Truma Combi 4 heating, a three-burner hob and a tall/slim fridge with separate bottle drawer in the kitchen, plus dimmable LED lighting.
Optional extras include the 160bhp engine upgrade (£2,195), automatic transmission (£2,000), alloy wheels (£895) and a Skyview overcab sunroof (£1,295). Those new to motorhoming or with restricted parking space at home will also welcome the fact that it’s shorter than most rivals, at 6.45m long.