Berths: 2 Travel seats: 2 Base vehicle: Fiat Ducato Gross weight: 3,500kg Payload: 500kg
If the rear transverse fixed bed is the staple diet of continental van conversions, then the rear lounge is its UK equivalent. Whether you think of mainstream brands like Auto-Sleepers and Auto-Trail, or campervan specialists such as Vantage, they almost all offer a selection of end lounge layouts within a panel van body of differing overall lengths. Some – stand up Auto-Trail – do nothing else.
Vantage does offer front lounge layouts but it made its name with models that put all the seats in the stern and, frankly, we reckon it’s what the company does best. There are no less than seven rear lounge models offered – all Fiat Ducato-based, but within short, medium, long or extra-long panel van bodies. All are pure two-berths; nothing in the range has rear travel seats.
The latest 2018 models do, however, have a few extra items of kit – colour-coded front bumpers, alloy wheels, a black Fiat grille and Remis cab blinds. It all helps to reinforce Vantage’s position as a maker of high-spec, high-quality campers, but, surprisingly, cab air-con and cruise control remain on the options list.
That reputation has been hard won and the company is now celebrating its first decade in business with a Diamond Edition Package – priced at £3,950 – available on all the 10 models in its line-up. Following the February NEC show, it has confirmed that the limited edition pack will be available for the rest of this season.
So what do you get for an extra four grand? Well, you’ll spot the Diamond models initially by their special anniversary graphics, colour-coded rear bumpers and painted side mouldings. Inside, the high-gloss sand beige cupboard doors and full leather upholstery seem at odds with the ethos of Vantage founder, Scot Naylor, who kept all his vehicles looking the same and, it has to be said, rather plain for some tastes. The extra spec is then completed by additional reading lights and a Turbovent in the bathroom.
Another sign of the change of ownership at Vantage is that there is now more colour choice. Where once the pallet was as varied as for a Model T Ford (but silver only, rather than just black), you can now opt for Lake Blue or White Gold. But new MD, Michael Hardicker, has not thrown out the baby with the bath water. The vehicles are still instantly recognisable as Vantages and the company’s top-notch build quality and practical design seem unchanged.
Turning to the specifics of the Sol, here is a spacious rear lounge – crucially, long enough to convert into single beds or a king-sized lengthways double – that has a full, wraparound U-shape. If you want to make the most of that, you can go for a rear-doors-replacing fixed panel, albeit as a pricey £2,950 option.
You won’t need to add anything to the kitchen spec. It already comes with worktop extension flaps at both ends, three gas rings and a combined oven/grill. The sink has a removable draining board, plate drying rack and washing-up bowl, while, opposite, the compressor fridge resides under the wardrobe. And there’s a waste bin and Vantage’s trademark pull-up mains socket tower.
A second, circular table makes the cab (with its swivel seats) into a useful second seating area (perfect for when your partner is asleep), while the washroom also impresses with its bench toilet and fixed corner basin (where some make do with flimsy folding ones).