Probably the most innovative new model from Auto-Sleepers for some years, the Fairford Plus takes a different approach to the popular rear bed layout and could prove especially popular with dog lovers. Its kitchen and its versatility are major strengths but it works better as a two/three-berth than for four, due to the number of extra cushions needed for the front double bed.
Berths: 4 Travel seats: 4 Base vehicle: Peugeot Boxer Gross weight: 3,500kg Payload: 424kg
The Fairford has been in Auto-Sleepers’ campervan line-up since 2016 as a four-berth offering with a very British floorplan featuring front and rear lounges in the extra-long (6.36m) Peugeot Boxer. Now we bring you the first ever test of its prototype sister model, the Fairford Plus, developed as a result of Auto-Sleepers’ export drive.
The forward two-thirds of the Fairford Plus look like the standard-issue Fairford (although, actually, the entire kitchen has moved forward by about 150mm along the nearside to create a wider rear bed). But, at the back, the lounge has gone, replaced by a fairly high-level transverse fixed bed. Or a huge garage. Or an occasional seating area. Or a giant dog bed. Let us explain…
You’re, perhaps, most likely to see the Fairford Plus in fixed bed mode. In this set-up there’s a transverse double, much as you’d expect to see in many imported van conversions, except that it’s mounted quite high at around 0.91m (3ft) off the floor. The bed itself has decent dimensions of 1.88m by 1.37m (narrowing to 1.22m on the offside), although the useful magazine pockets at the foot of the bed steal a couple of centimetres of spaces by your feet. The rear mattress had to be kept as thin as possible due to the ingenious way that it folds when not required for sleeping. It’s only about 75mm (3in) thick, so Premier Furnishings developed a triple-layer sandwich to improve comfort
Of course, there’s generous storage under the bed and, if you need more, then it’s a simple job to fold away the mattress and its metal frame (supported by two steel crossbars that stand upright adjacent to the washroom when not in use). Here, the Fairford Plus differs not only in eschewing the usual wooden slatted bed base, but also in the way the mattress folds and stores on each side.
The garage area is also wider than in many rivals (a fact that was a key part of the design) as the usual cabinets at either side are slimmer and do not have to include gas or water storage. The 69-litre fresh tank (along with the modest 40-litre waste) is underneath the ’van, where you’ll also find the 25-litre built-in LPG tank and the Whale space heater. Moving the services outside creates a generous garage space that’s 1.38m square with the full interior height of the vehicle (1.88m), and still with some useful locker space at the sides for mains lead, hose, etc, and even extra bedding. The Whale eight-litre boiler is also housed here, on the offside, and there’s a fitting for an external hot and cold shower, too.
Having such a big area to play with opens up all sorts of possible uses, not just the obvious bikes and sports gear. Auto-Sleepers has trialled mobility scooters here (it’ll take two) and, via Premier Furnishings, it can even offer a dog bed tailored to fit the area. With a pair of seatbelt clasps to attach Fido’s and Rover’s harnesses to (in addition to the usual tie-downs for other gear) and that fan in the roof, the Fairford Plus seems especially well suited to our four-legged friends.
If your needs are more for a workspace, then you’ll be impressed by the next neat feature – a second roll-out awning (in addition to the usual one over the sliding door) above the Peugeot’s rear barn doors. The bed frames unfurl again but this time using built-in legs, rather than the crossbars, for support. In a little over a minute, and with the dogs/bikes/sports gear outside, the Fairford Plus transforms again to offer a rear lounge. The seats are narrow (the squabs are only about 340mm front-to-rear) but, if you want a true rear lounge, there’s still the standard Fairford (or its countless competitors).
Of course, the Fairford Plus still has its sister model’s forward seating area, too, and, unlike nearly every continental camper in this class, it’s a pullman dinette rather than a half-dinette. That means forward and rearward-facing benches (each a generous width for one but a tight squeeze for two), two three-point seatbelts on the front-facing one, and a swivel base for just the passenger seat (which is rather higher than the rear dinette seats). In a further nod to the export market origins of this vehicle’s development, the table has also been changed here to a fixed type with solid central support.
Another benefit of the new table is that it lowers simply, using a foot-operated lever, at bed-making time. In fact, turning the dinette into a 1.77m by 0.90m single bed for a child or small adult is remarkably easy. The Fairford Plus, however, is one of the few full four-berths in its class (achieved without a canvas-sided pop-top that is best for summer use only) and creating a double bed up front takes a bit more time and effort – and four more cushions. The system has been refined since the first Fairford debuted, but there is still the question of keeping all the extra cushions on board – it fills both the overcab shelf and what would otherwise be a really useful space under the rear-facing bench.
Too often, fixed bed campervans have a very small galley squeezed in next to the sliding door and offer the cook just a two-burner hob on which to compose dinner. The Fairford Plus’ chef, however, has a lot more space – and more options. There are generous areas of worktop both between the sink and cooker and forward of the hob, where the kitchen does the usual thing of blocking part of the entrance (but not obstructing access). The cooker is a Thetford Triplex with three gas rings and a combined oven and grill, while above the sink is a new motorhome-specific microwave (now without a plate). Only the fridge (81 litres and lacking automatic energy selection) might seem a bit mean if you’re catering for four.
Storage is mostly generous in the Fairford Plus, but less so in the washroom. There’s a towel ring, a loo roll holder and toothbrush mug, but no cupboard or cabinet. Space to use all the facilities is more generous than in some campervans and you can shower without getting all tangled in a curtain, but the sliding basin, which looks like a clever idea to create more room for showering, needs a bit more development. As it is, the showerhead (which doubles as the tap) tends to spray over the soap dish (not into the basin) and sometimes splashes your loo roll at the same time. That’s one aspect that we’d have hoped would have been addressed in the move from Fairford to Plus, but there have been other useful developments introduced.
There’s a new on-board WiFi system (just add a SIM card and pair your phone or other device) and new simple-to-use 6kW Whale heating (with up to 3kW on mains power). On the outside it’s classic Auto-Sleepers in some ways – with Peugeot factory-fit athermic glass side and rear windows, alloy wheels and a choice of metallic colours – but the new graphics look a lot more contemporary and the roof rails (here with optional canoe rack) go with the Fairford Plus’ multi-purpose vibe.
The test vehicle was powered by the familiar 2-litre 160bhp Euro 6b unit but production models will get the new 2.2-litre Euro 6d motor with five extra horsepower and, more tellingly, 20Nm more torque.
If you enjoyed this review, you can read the full version and more in the October 2019 issue of MMM magazine. You can get a digital version of this latest issue of MMM magazine here.