If you’re after a true two-berth campervan, this is well worth checking out. It has all the amenities you could need and comes with lots of kit, so it offers good value for money. The bathroom is a bit on the small side but is more than compensated for with a spacious galley and loads of storage room. Thanks to lots of windows and rooflights, it’s light and airy. Throw open the back doors on a sunny day and there’s no nicer place to be than in the rear lounge of this Twist 594!
Base vehicle: Fiat Ducato Price from: £40,540 Berths: 2 Travel seats: 2 Length: 5.99m Width: 2.05m Height: 2.61m Payload: 572kg
Words and photos by Geneve Brand
It was one of those days. The cat had eaten a toad and spent the night vomiting. I had trodden on a carpet nail and punctured my foot. On my way into the office, I got stuck behind a tractor that kicked up a stone and chipped my windscreen…
So you can imagine my mood by the time I grabbed my camera bag and keys to the pool car, and set off north. My destination? Lowdhams Nottingham, to pick up the Chausson Twist 594.
As I settled into the drive, the flat, dull scenery of the A1 through Lincolnshire soon turned to pretty villages and rolling hills. The grey clouds parted to reveal an unbroken blue sky and a warm spring sun. I sensed my day was about to improve...
If you’ve never been to Lowdhams, then it’s well worth a visit. It’s quite a big site with plenty of campervans, motorhomes and caravans on display, both outside and indoors. There’s also a camping accessories section and they even sell gas bottles, so it’s a handy place for stocking up on essentials.
Chausson are a French manufacturer that have been around for almost 40 years and are also part of the Trigano Group, who own a whole array of brands you will have heard of, like Auto-Sleeper, Auto-Trail, Randger and Roller Team, to name but a few.
Although the Chausson Twist panel van conversions have existed in France for a while, they’re new to the UK and are also being built over here in Grimsby by fellow Triganoers, Auto-Trail. The Twist comes on the Fiat Ducato chassis and is available in two lengths. The 594 is 5.99m long while the longer 697 measures 6.36m.
Both are rear lounge models, which have been designed specifically with British stereotypes in mind; because it never stops raining, British campers demand spacious rear lounges where they can indulge in the pastimes of tea-drinking and the drying of bowler hats. (On the Continent, as it never rains, everyone lives outside and therefore require little more than a mattress and couple of hooks for a mosquito net in their campervans.) Nevertheless, it’s fair to say that, as a result of our climate, we do tend to hibernate more in our campers than other nationalities might. That means we want more wintery stuff, like good heating and lighting, a well-appointed kitchen and, of course, a comfy lounge.
One of the main reasons to buy this campervan is for its lovely rear lounge.
You get twin sofas (each measuring 1.40m long) with a pole-in-the-hole type of table in the middle (measuring 70cm by 55cm), which should allow enough room for four reasonably sized adults to dine here. The dark grey upholstery is a sensible touch - if you get messy and muddy everywhere, you’ll know pale colours in campervans just don’t work…
That warm morning sun soon turned into a scorcher come lunchtime, and that’s when a campervan with a rear lounge and barn doors really comes into its own. I found a pleasant spot by the river to park up, then threw the doors open, poured myself a cold glass of orange juice and settled down to watch the ducks and boats floating by – most relaxing! Even though I was actually parked in a very busy car park, the open doors seemed to block out the world.
Even with the doors closed, the lounge is still very light and airy thanks to its many windows and a skylight. Both rear doors feature square windows and a rectangular window sits above each settee. All four windows open and are slightly tinted (like nice sunglasses, not like the windows in security vans) and are also fitted with flyscreens and blinds.
Come evening time (or when it’s dark because it’s raining again) there are two long strip lights in the ceiling and four directional reading lights (one in each corner) to light the way. You’ll also find a TV aerial socket and a three-point plug in the lounge, as well as four overhead lockers – two above each sofa – which would come in handy for clothes, books etc.
Watching ducks paddling by is quite mesmerising and I could soon feel a siesta coming on – time to deploy the bed.
Beds in campervans are usually the bane of my existence, my nemesis even. When it comes to the types that need making up, I often find myself all in a tangle with cushions, boards and poles strewn everywhere, unable to quite figure out the jigsaw. I then resort to Google in the hope of finding instructions or, better still, a YouTube video. (The fact that people have to make videos to demonstrate how a bed is meant to be assembled says it all, really.) Then there are the rock ‘n’ roll type beds. These are generally less evil but I did once put my back out so badly while over-stretching to reach the ‘easy release’ mechanism, I couldn’t move for two days and had to see an osteopath…
So you can image my glee when I discovered that the bed in the Twist can be assembled – with ease – in about a minute. All you do is move the two backrest and settee cushions out of the way (if you're storing your bedding below). Then there is a slatted section on each bench that simply pulls forward, and support legs automatically down. After that, you just pop the four settee cushion back on top, and voilà – bed making, accomplished! It’s very comfortable and measures a good 1.86m by 1.38m (6ft. 1in by 4ft.6in).
However, it’s worth pointing out there are two backrest tube-sort of cushions that are fixed permanently to the walls and sit just below the windows. I personally liked these because it means you have a backrest when you sit up in bed – and the proximity to the kitchen unit means you have somewhere to rest your cup of tea (and bowler hat) when you’re in bed, too. However, if you’re very tall and like umpteen pillows, you might find the backrests get in the way at night.
Back in sofa mode, getting to the storage space underneath is pretty straightforward, as you just lift up the slats to access them, or go around the back of the van where there are cupboard doors. One is taken up with the Sargent power supply unit and the heater system, but the other is free for storing your camping clobber, and it’s spacious enough for a couple of sleeping bags and pillows.
The kitchen is where you’d expect it to be in this sort panel van conversion: down the side, and on the same side as the sliding door. Unlike some kitchen units that take up most of the door space, this one only encroaches slightly, so you can cook with the door open (when it’s not raining).
You get an LPG-fuelled Dometic two-burner gas hob with electric ignition, and a stainless-steel sink to the side. When not in use, each section is concealed with an individually hinged black glass lid. Both fresh and waste water tanks are underslung and each offers a 70-litre capacity.
However, what’s most noteworthy about this kitchen – because it’s quite unusual for a campervan – is the Daewoo microwave that sits below the gas stove, and is fitted as standard. An extendable worktop area means you get a good amount of space to operate in when you’re cooking while storage space is plentiful. At the bottom of the kitchen unit is a double-door cupboard with one shelf that’s ideal for bulkier items like pots and pans.
To the right of the microwave is a cutlery drawer and, below this, another good-sized cupboard with one shelf. Further storage exists in the two overhead lockers above the kitchen, which are perfect for storing food. The cooking area is illuminated by two strip lights directly above the kitchen unit, and there’s also a three-point socket, here. Opposite (and adjacent to the bathroom) you’ll find a large 80-litre three-way fridge.
I have yet to review a campervan that’s perfect in every single way and I feel confident when I say that I never will. That’s because we’re talking about a campervan – not a mansion. While we may crave a well-appointed kitchen, luxurious bathroom, comfy lounge, ample storage, enough space to do the twist – all on a base vehicle small enough to drive down country lanes – the reality is it doesn’t exist, because it can’t. So it’s a case of compromise. And, while there is a lot to love about the Twist 594, that compromise exists in the washroom.
The washroom features a Thetford swivelling loo with electric flush, above which is a tip-up washbasin. Above that is a mirrored cabinet with double doors and two shelves, so plenty of space for all your toiletries. Below the sink are another three shelves, so even more room for toiletries. Then there’s a separate showerhead with a shower curtain. Lighting is courtesy of three LED spots and there’s a heater vent. So, on paper, it has everything a washroom should, and is sufficient for catering for one’s wishy-washy needs when camping.
However, it’s all a bit cramped. Although the loo is fine for me because I’m a tiny person, normal-sized people might be in danger of becoming entangled with the towel hoop next to the loo on one side and the shower hose on the other. The shower hose is also prone to falling down when on the road and then clattering around on the floor for the rest of the journey. Then there’s a flimsy shower curtain that I would be inclined to remove altogether – it’s a wet room so you don’t actually need one apart from to protect the door, and there’s nothing worse than being attacked by a curtain when you're trying to shampoo your hair...
The shower tray has a single drainer, and lacks the removable wooden slatted boards often found in showers. There’s also no window and only a small vent in the ceiling. The lack of a rail also means there’s nowhere to hang wet towels, coats, etc. These are small details so it’s hardly the end of the world, but it does mean the washroom is likely to become very wet very quickly, and it’s not as practical or versatile as it could be.
However, step back out of the room and the reward for making do with a bijou area is obvious, because the passageway between the kitchen and bathroom is pretty spacious.
To the left of the washroom, behind the driver’s seat, there’s also a big cupboard that’s large enough to take rucksacks, boots, etc. If your designated driver is on the taller side, check that the cupboard doesn’t get in the way of the driver’s seat, though. Both cab seats swivel, so the cupboard doubles as a side table, and there’s a TV aerial socket and three-point socket here, too.
The cab area (as is normal on Ducato panel van conversions) is elevated, and so you step down into the habitation area. The step is illuminated with a row of twinkly lights, which is a nice touch. There’s also a Thule electric step for getting out of the van.
To the right of the washroom, above the fridge, is a wardrobe/cupboard, which features a coat rail (measuring 77cm high x 45cm wide) and a fire extinguisher.
There’s also a small tabletop that clips to the wall in here – using the same island leg from the main table, this one serves as a coffee table (measuring 55cm diameter) in the cab.
All in all, this is a very well specced campervan that comes with almost everything as standard and is fitted with the two-litre 115bhp engine. The only thing you would want to add – as you’d be daft not to – is the Travel Pack, which costs £1,890. This adds essentials like a satnav and an all-important reversing camera.