The lounge and the washroom are real successes, although the kitchen is a bit cramped. Here is a 'van that offers everything a couple is likely to need, including a comfy bed.
Berths:: 4 Travel seats: 4 Base vehicle: Fiat Ducato Camper chassis cab Gross vehicle weight: 3,500kg Payload: 380kg
For 2016, it has brought us Ixeos with lengthways drop-down beds, which means easier access and a longer bed than most transverse versions, and larger lockers.
There are three models in this new Ixeo range, but the most interesting is this 7-metre end washroom model, the 680 G.
Traditionalists can have their Bürstner Ixeo in white with the ubiquitous stripes, or with a Graphite, Silver or Champagne (as here) Design Pack for an additional £1,690. It’s a lot of dough, but the transformation is impressive, with metallic paint from stem to stern, and the extra cost does bring with it alloy wheels.
The ‘van’s three metres of height is very well disguised. And, with a rear overhang of just 1.5 metres, it becomes that rarest of creatures – a genuinely good-looking motorhome.
When the Fiat Ducato was facelifted a couple of years ago, the engine mods that were carried out to improve emissions and fuel economy looked good - on paper. In my experience, these mods have muted the base 130bhp engine’s performance. Choose the optional 148bhp unit (a far better state of tune for the same 2.3-litre engine) and, from a driving perspective, the 680 would be greatly improved. There’s no faulting the Ducato’s light, but responsive steering, though. Nor the view from the cab with that huge screen and large door mirrors, the slick six-speed gearbox and the brilliant brakes.
The lounge inside is large, luxurious and exactly what you hope to find inside a high-end motorhome. You could seat eight in here, so a family of four can sit harmoniously, reading or watching the neat little drop-down TV. You might think that cream leather in a motorhome that could contain kids or grandkids would be a huge mistake. But the material is very easy to keep clean, certainly more practical than a man-made fabric. The Ferra Arc leather upholstery is a £1,285 option, but it is worth spending the extra. But if the look is not to your taste, then there’s a darker leather, eight leatherette options, eight fabrics and three sude-like Nova upholsteries.
Storage-wise, there are two large lockers above the lounge on the nearside and a single locker above the smaller offside bench.
The drop-down bed above the lounge doesn’t intrude. It sits discreetly aloft, allowing for a floor-to-ceiling height of 1.86m. The only downside is that it blocks the single rooflight, so the wide array of LED lighting is likely to be used more.
What the kitchen lacks in floor space, it makes up for in storage space. There’s a couple of lockers above, plus a glass-fronted cabinet, three gigantic pull-out drawers below the hob, a large, curved-fronted cupboard under the sink and another cupboard opposite. The slimline 145-litre fridge sits across the aisle.
As standard, the 680 comes with a three-burner hob for cooking. An oven and grill (part of a Tec-Tower unit) come as part of an options pack that also includes a Pioneer sound system upgrade. This pack adds £820 to the bill, but proper cooking facilities would help to complete this well-designed kitchen. A serving shelf between the lounge and hob is a useful touch, too.
The dark wood panelling, which prevails throughout the motorhome, is more obvious in the washroom and, when this is mixed with the abundant mirrored surfaces and chrome, helps it feel like a bathroom from a high-end hotel.
Twin sliding doors behind the washbasin open up to reveal shelving and pull-out drawers for clothes. The full height shower gives as close to an at-home showering experience as it is possible to have. There are no fiddly curtains to enclose the cubicle - just a pair of doors that fold back to the wall when the shower isn’t in use.
The new lengthways drop-down can be used in two positions. Lower it all the way down to rest on the seat cushions if there’s just two of you, and it’s a simple step up. If you plan to convert the lounge below into another bed, the drop-down can be lowered part of the way down to allow room underneath. We found that by leaving 1.3 metres of headroom in the remainder of the lounge, the drop-down bed could still be accessed fairly easily. But with only 1.3 metres of headroom, the lounge becomes redundant so it’s bedtime for all. I found the downstairs bed, which is made up of the lounge cushions, uncomfortable and slightly claustrophobic.
So the 680 could be used as an occasional four-berth, but it is better as a two-berth that offers couples considerable comfort and space, and not just at bedtime.
The Truma Combi 6 (the more powerful model) was quickly up and running. The heat spread was even throughout the motorhome, which is no mean feat in a space so large. Hot water was rapidly received, too, and with a 120-litre fresh tank, seemingly abundant.
With its modest overhang, the 680 probably shouldn’t have as much garage storage space as it has. I loaded up our bags, bedding and all the bulky stuff I could find, yet there was still loads of room. The only danger is that you could quickly take the motorhome overweight. If you’re worried about that, go for the four-tonne upgrade if you can.
This is an abridged version of the full review appearing in the April 2016 issue of MMM.