The Dalbury is the ideal campervan for solo travellers or couples seeking a versatile vehicle that can be used as both the daily drive and a campervan. With similar dimensions to a family car, it's great for city dwellers with limited parking space. We tested the diesel engine but a 100% electric version offering 173 miles on a single charge is also available, if you want to avoid emissions charges altogether.
Base vehicle: Nissan NV200 Tekna Price from: £28,995 Berths: 2 Travel seats: 4 Length: 4.4m Width: 1.69m Height: 1.92m Gross weight: 2,000kg Payload: 350kg
If you hanker after a camper but live in a city where you face daily bun fights for on-street parking, you won’t want anything longer or wider than your average car. High-tops are out of the question as well, if you regularly use car parks – especially multi-storey ones with those ridiculous spots next to the pillars that even Noddy would struggle to park in…
So you’re looking at a campervan that’s as practical and functional as a car but appointed with all the creature comforts needed for a happy camping trip, like a comfy bed, a well-equipped kitchen, a table… yeah, right.
Well fret ye not because Hillside Leisure are up there with the best when it comes to top-notch NCC-approved campervan conversions, and the delightfully dinky Dalbury, (based on the Nissan NV200) doesn’t disappoint.
Okay, so this isn’t a new conversion. Hillside first launched the diesel-based Dalbury back in 2013 while the first electric version (the Dalbury E) followed shortly after in 2014. But don’t diss it – the fact that they’re still building these Dalbury conversions is testament to their popularity. What is new, however, is that the latest electric Dalbury is now built on the new Nissan e-NV200, which comes with an upgraded battery offering a claimed 173 miles on a single charge.
Unfortunately, these electric base vehicles are sought after and are therefore harder to come by than their regular fuel equivalents.
That meant an electric demo model wasn’t available and we had to make do with the standard diesel-powered one. But let’s not dwell on this because the conversion you get is the same, regardless of which base vehicle you pick.
The reason for buying a Dalbury is for its petit dimensions so let’s take a look…
Well, measuring 4.4 metres in length and 1.69 metres wide, it’s about the size of a family estate car. With the pop-top down it’s 1.92 metres high, which is only a tad taller than a modern Range Rover. In sum, the Dalbury will go pretty much anywhere a modern family car will. With two three-point seatbelts (and headrests) on the rear RIB bench seat, it carries four people.
There’s also a reasonable amount of luggage space behind the bench so, if you’re after a daily runner to substitute the SUV, it ticks all the boxes.
Step inside and super-clever design features make excellent use of the space available, too. When parked up, the elevating roof provides that all-important standing room.
Operation of the pop-top is pretty standard – it pushes up and down and is secured with ratchet straps when not in use. Our only gripe is that the plastic handles have ridges on the inside that cut into your hands if you have to use your full weight to pull the roof down. Hillside, can we have some foam or rubber inserts, please?
The roof space isn’t meant for sleeping in so you get storage space up here, instead. A shelf runs all the way around the inside of the camper, providing a handy dumping ground for things like coats, toiletries, books, maps, etc. when you’re camped up.
This shelf is also studded with LED downlights, and there are a further two lights in the pop-top plus a couple of reading lights at the back of the van, so the whole living area is certainly well lit.
Nifty storage solutions are a running theme throughout, helped by having underslung water tanks. Access to the LPG gas supply is via the back of the van, where a couple of good-sized cupboards are handy for storing hook-up cables, and the like.
Inside, there’s a spacious cupboard under the bench that’s ideal for shoes, etc., and three tambour-door cupboards behind the kitchen area that provide room for more camping clobber. During the day, there’s probably just enough room to stuff your bedding behind the bench, too – depending on how many tog your duvet is!
In day mode, two adults can sit comfortably on the bench. The passenger seat also swivels, so there’s room for a gatecrashing third wheel.
A tabletop lives behind the driver’s seat while its Fiamma leg is located in the cupboard beneath the bench. To set it up, simply slot the sturdy leg into a hole in the floor and then position the table on the top. This provides a decent space for mealtimes.
At first glance, the kitchen is of standard fettle when it comes to side kitchen campervan layouts. There’s a sink with a tap above, and a good amount of workspace to the right of this. Above, you’ll find the Sargent control panel, a couple of three-point plugs, a 12V socket and a carbon monoxide alarm. There’s a nice 39-litre low-energy fridge with a built-in freezer compartment, but above this is where the magic happens…
A two-burner gas hob is concealed under a nifty slide-out cupboard! In drive mode, it’s just a handy cupboard with a lift-up lid but come dinnertime, push the driver’s seat forward to allow room and then slide the cupboard across to reveal the stove. A simple design perhaps, but a very effective one, to say the least.
In night mode, as you’d expect, the RIB bench pulls forward and converts to a double bed measuring 1.82 metres (6ft) long and 1.02 metres (3.4 foot) wide. The mechanism is simple to operate and the bed is very easy to set up and put away again. It’s also nice and comfy, and you’re not in danger of waking up with part of a seatbelt wedged somewhere unpleasant.
The only downside – and this is the drawback of compromising on a campervan that’s the size of a car – is that there is barely any room at the end of the bed for standing in to get undressed. But if you’re familiar with camping in a tiny two-man tent and are accustomed to the gymnastics required to wriggle into a pair of trousers, the space available in the Dalbury feels positively palatial, by comparison!
The cab is modern and comfortable, and it has everything you’d expect to find in a car, like a multifunctional steering wheel, a trip computer and cruise control. You also get safety and comfort features such as driver and passenger airbags, manual air-conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, a Thatcham-approved alarm system and a colour reversing camera.
Given the miniscule dimensions of the Dalbury, the driving experience is much like that of a car; thanks to the higher seating position of a van, visibility is better, too. Front fog lights, electric windows and mirrors, and an electric stabilisation program also remind you that you’re not driving a tank. But, let's just say this: you know you’re behind the wheel of a diesel!
Several members of Team Campervan have commented of late about just how car-like some of the bigger vans like the VW Crafter and Ford Transit are to drive these days. The cabs are laid out like cars, gearboxes are smooth and engines are so quiet that once you’re cruising on the open road, it’s very easy to forget you’re actually driving a big van.
So, by comparison, although this little Nissan NV200 is also smooth and easy to drive, the diesel engine is noisy and that surprised a little. This is accentuated by the fact that the top-notch Hillside campervan conversion behind is as silent as can be, so there are no squeaks, rattles and jangles to distract you as you’re chugging along!
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