This camper caters to those seeking a vehicle that can cope with the daily commute, the shopping and the school run and then transform into a campervan come the weekend. With an excellent washroom that’s unusual in a camper of this size and a good kitchen, it certainly delivers. The compromise is a fiddly bed set-up and a lack of storage on site, but with some crates and an awning, you’re sorted. With diesel heating and a 68-litre fresh water tank, it’s also suitable for off-grid living.
Base vehicle: Fiat Talento Price from: £43,995 Berths: 4 Travel seats: 4 Length: 5.40m Width: 1.96m Height: 2.06m Payload: 490kg
Once upon a time, the choice of campervans was pretty limited in terms of layouts and amenities, so it’s not surprising that motorhomes were popular for so long. With their glitzy washrooms and sparkly interiors, motorhomes could be compared to stylish Mediterranean apartments while little VW Bay window type campers felt more like an upgrade from a tent.
But that was a long time ago, back when Madonna and Jason Donovan were topping the charts. Nowadays, the range of campervans on the market is about as diverse as the choice of motorhomes. They come in all shapes and sizes, and the line that once determined whether a van was a camper or a motorhome is now often blurred. The Randger R535 is a case in point because it looks like a campervan from the outside with its pop-top roof, but the pullman dinette and rear washroom found inside are certainly more characteristic of a motorhome.
Campervans are typically smaller than motorhomes in terms of width and height, and that’s true of the Randger R535. Based on the Fiat Talento (Fiat Ducato's smaller sibling) it measures 5.4m long and 1.96m wide, making it handy enough for doing the weekly supermarket shop (if you don’t mind overhanging the back of the parking bay slightly).
At 2.06m high with the pop-top down, it will just – by the hair of a whisker – slide under the average 2.1m height restriction barrier like those found in many multi-storey car parks. But be vigilant because car park barriers really vary in height. So what’s all the fuss about height, anyway, you might ask. Well, the fact that we’re discussing it answers the question.
The popularity of campervans has seen a real surge in recent times, with many people ditching the car and motorhome combo in exchange for a camper, and that’s a reflection of the times. For many of us, multiple-vehicle ownership isn’t possible. Apart from the financial implications of running two vehicles, parking them is a real issue if you live in a busy town or city where space is at a premium.
So that brings us to the tricky business of finding a vehicle that offers all the practicalities of a family car yet comes with the added benefits of a motorhome, like a kitchen, a bathroom, and beds and travel seats for four. Step forward the Ranger R535.
The pullman dinette behind the driver’s seat features a forward-facing bench with two seatbelts and headrests, meaning four can travel safely. You don’t get boot space for your shopping because the back of the van (accessed via a tailgate) is taken up with a practical bathroom on one side and a good kitchen on the other.
With all this tucked out of the way, the front area around the diner is pretty spacious, so there’s plenty of room for storage crates on the floor. These are a great solution for any campervan because they’re handy for carting stuff around when you’re using it as a daily runner, but you can also use them for storing your camping gear in the house, meaning they’re easy to grab and go come the weekend. (Once on site, you can stack crates out of the way in your awning, too.)
Handily, the Randger features double sliding doors (with a slide-open window in each), so access to the habitation area is easy and convenient, too.
On the road, the Fiat Talento, with its 1.6-litre 125bhp Euro 6 engine is smooth and car-like to drive. In the centre of the dash, a 7-inch touchscreen accesses a satnav and a DAB radio/CD with an MP3 player. A USB port and Bluetooth handsfree is handy for using your phone while on the road, too.
Unfortunately, as a result of the rear kitchen and washroom, visibility through the rear view mirror is minimal during the day and non-existent at night, due to the blacked-out windows.
As standard, the Randger isn’t fitted with a reversing camera or sensors but you can add them for £399 for the camera and £250 for the sensors. Apart from being practical, such mod cons would also complete the upmarket feel you get in the cab, with its cream faux leather seats, complete with armrests.
The forward-facing bench with its two seatbelts and headrests is clearly designed for travel but, when parked up, two adults can dine here using the rectangular table that’s attached to the floor with an island leg.
When not in use, the tabletop is clipped to the wall in the bathroom while the leg is stored on top of the bench backrest, secured down with Velcro straps. An additional tripod means the table can also be used for dining al fresco.
Opposite the travel seat is another bench featuring a seat of the same size. So, in theory, four could dine here. However, the backrest on this one (which forms part of the bed in night mode) is quite small, measuring just 35cm high and 67cm at its maximum widest point, so it’s best suited to children.
Because of the pullman dinette, the swivelling cab seats more commonly found in campervans are absent here. Instead, there’s a small jump seat behind the passenger seat, measuring 37cm wide x 35cm deep, with storage for a couple of pairs of shoes below.
On a hot summer’s day, the double sliding doors here come into their own, as it’s great to be able to sit inside in the shade while still feeling like you’re sitting outside, enjoying the views and a breeze. Tinted windows throughout also keep out the glare of the sun in summer and provide privacy in the evening. Instead of the usual blinds or curtains, you get silver screens that attach with suckers.
A strip light in the dinette means candlelit dinners are only optional. If you did fancy a candlelit dinner, however, then designated chef would need somewhere to conjure up a feast. Fortunately, kitchen dramas are most likely to be off the menu here, as the kitchen in the Randger is pretty good.
A combined two-burner gas hob with piezo ignition and stainless-steel sink unit with a glass lid is nothing out of the ordinary, but the abundance of worktop space either side is. To the rear of the van is a 41-litre Webasto Isotherm compressor fridge, which provides further worktop or shelf space above that’s ideal for bigger items like cereal boxes and back issues of Campervan! The Randger control panel is also located here, on the wall, from where you can switch on the diesel-powered Truma Combi D4 blown air heating and hot water system.
Storage is, of course, always at a premium in a campervans and here it exists in good measures. There’s a cutlery drawer with a couple of large drawers (each measuring 70cm x 20cm) below that are perfect for bulkier items like pots and pans.
In the centre of this side kitchen is a good-sized (80cm x 60cm) cupboard with a central shelf that’s accessed via two tambour doors. To the right is a corner unit that has a bottle holder at that bottom, with room for four wine bottles, and a couple of smaller shelves above. The whole thing can be sealed off with a tambour door when in transit.
On paper, this is a four-berth campervan with sleeping arrangements consisting of a double bed made up in the lounge and a second double in the pop-top. But it was at this stage that I struggled a little with the Randger 535…
Typically (and as found in the alternative-layout Randger 499) the downstairs double bed in a campervan of this size consists of a rock ‘n’ roll-type bench system, whereby this pulls forward and the backrest drops flat to create a bed. The main benefit of this system is that you’re not left with extra sections that have to be stowed away during the day.
However, the bed made up in the Pullman dinette here requires three additional cushion sections that have to be stored in the bathroom when in transit, or in the pop-top/cab/awning when pitched up. Your bedding will also have to go here, as will the silver window screens, as the water tank is located in the space under one of the sofas while the heating system is in the other.
Assembly of the bed uses the tabletop on a couple of support bars to plug the gap between the sofas, and another couple of hinged sections to make it wider. Unfortunately, due to wear and tear, the hinges on this demonstration model had been broken and so I couldn’t assemble it fully. However, this technical difficulty aside, the bed would certainly be spacious and comfy when correctly set up, and should measure 1.85m x 1.31m. The only drawback is that there’s very little floor space left for moving around but, if you’re used to camping in a tent, you’ll be familiar with doing the bed dance to get your trousers on in the morning!
The second bed in the pop-top is of standard fettle and the elevating roof is easily lifted by unclipping one clip either side – a gentle push encourages the roof to go up and then gas struts take over. To bring it back down, simply reverse the procedure. I personally found the clips a bit on the stiff side to do up again, but I probably just need stronger and longer fingers! The double mattress (measuring 2.0m long x 1.17m wide) up here is a bit on the thin side for my liking, but a mattress topper should rectify this issue, and it should be fine for kids (unless they’re very fussy – in which case, you should probably trade them in rather than the mattress, anyway.)
A lack of lighting up here does mean you need a torch come bedtime. Access is via a ladder that sits at the back of the van but space for manoeuvring is certainly on the tight side due to the encroaching bathroom and galley kitchen. The gap measures 52cm x 52cm while standing (crouching) room under the roof bed is just 1.39m.
Anyway, let’s not dwell on sleeping arrangements because the reason it’s a little compromised is because of the awesome washroom you get here, which is quite unusual for a campervan of this size.
The washroom can be accessed from both inside and outside the van, which is super-handy because you can jump in and remove muddy boots without messing up your camper, and hang up wet coats etc. to dry in there. You get a swivel Thetford cassette too, and a removable duckboard that conceals the shower tray (with a single drainer) is a nice touch. A tap over the basin doubles as a shower head that can also be used outside – perfect for hosing down sandy dogs and kids at the beach! In winter, a heater vent in the bathroom means you won’t get chilly.
Storage-wise, a good-sized shelf to the side of the sink provides ample space for toiletries while a cupboard under the basin holds a few bottles of shampoo, shower gel etc. Space is good in the washroom, too. It’s wide enough to move freely and there’s ample standing room for washing and showering when the pop-top is up. It is worth noting, however, that it’s an open-top cubicle so you do feel a bit like a meerkat when sitting on the toilet, and you need to be careful not to drench the sofa when showering. You might also want to warn your other half to look the other way when you need to use the washroom!
Being able to access the washroom from outside, via the tailgate, is dead handy for unloading muddy gear and cleaning up when you get back from a wet weekend away. The toilet servicing hatch and gas bottle are also conveniently located here, at the back of the van.