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If you’re in the market for a good-quality campervan on a brand new base vehicle at a reasonable price, or are looking for entry into the wonderful world of camping without the associated price tag, then take the Ventura for a test drive.
Berths: 2/4 Travel seats: 5 Base vehicle: Peugeot Boxer Payload: 794kg
Devon-based Ventura are new kids on the block in the campervan industry, but their parent company, GM Coachwork, has been converting vehicles for 30 years and specialises in mobility solutions for wheelchair users. A moment of inspiration over a coffee break led them down the campervan conversion path, culminating with their first offering to market – the futuristically named stylish VR200 which starts at just £29,995.
Based on a Peugeot Boxer L1 window van, it leaves the factory with 110bhp on tap and a six-speed manual gearbox, meaning progress along the road is at a stately pace rather than a brisk one. It’s really easy to pilot with the driving position high and commanding and, at just under five metres long and slightly over two metres wide, will fit down country roads as well as any large family saloon car will. The optional extras of a colour reversing camera and parking sensors are also available from Ventura Campers, which should make parking a breeze if, like me, you haven’t attempted to parallel park since your driving test. But, being based on the window van, it has excellent all-round visibility, no matter which way you turn your head.
Up front, you get two cab seats – the passenger one having a swivel base fitted as standard and a driver’s one being an optional extra. In the rear, a bench with three seatbelts and headrests means five happy people can be transported to the shops/campsite, with plenty of space behind the bench for shopping/luggage. As a result, the Ventura makes an ideal day-van-cum-campervan, but note that the height (without the optional pop-top) of 2.2 metres will prevent you from getting into some multi-storey car parks or under height restrictors.
In standard fettle, this campervan will cost you a shade under £30k. For that you get, amongst other things, air conditioning, FM/DAB digital radio with 4 speakers, electric windows, electrically adjustable and heated mirrors. Being a brand new van, it’s equipped with modern tech like ABS and ESP to help keep you and your passengers safely on the road. The ’van we tested also had the optional VR200 decal pack (£695), which adds exterior bling in the form of sporty graphics and coloured trim pieces, and SuperMetal alloy wheels (£549, available in a choice of three colours).
The internal layout is classic with a side kitchen and a lengthwise bed. The kitchen area boasts a two-burner gas hob next to a decent-sized sink with independent glass covers for each section to give a little more workspace when cooking, or just a handy place to put your cup of tea. Below this sits the kitchen unit, containing a Webasto Isotherm 49-litre fridge with a built-in ice compartment, the fresh water container and a small 598g gas canister.
The fitted Coleman C500 gas canister (propane/butane mix), which supplies the hob only, is a little small by my reckoning, as they don’t last very long and are quite expensive at around £6 a pop. But Ventura Campers do throw in six canisters, or offer the option of a setup for the larger Campingaz 1.8/2.75kg butane bottles, instead. The sacrifice is that you’ll lose fresh water storage capacity but the payoff is worthwhile if you’re going to be using your gas supply for more than making the odd hot beverage.
Perhaps a nod to their mobility solutions heritage, entry into the living space is made easy by the manual step (optional at £299) fitted to the tested VR200. It is a sturdy checker plate step, which is connected to the sliding door action so it swings out when the sliding door is opened using the door mechanism’s momentum. Often, slide-out steps are on the flimsy side and need their own electric motor to go back and forth; this, however, is ready when you are and doesn’t rely on electronics to work.
The available storage space in this ’van is better than I expected with plenty of room in the bench/bedside cupboard for the basics of camping life. In the kitchen, there’s a drawer below the hob and a little space in the cupboard where the gas and fresh water is housed. A couple of shelves above the cooking area offer space for a few more bits and bobs, too. This all adds up to a surprising amount of nooks to hide your essentials in, with more in the back below the bed for things you don’t need to get at as frequently. A further cupboard beneath the bed accessed from inside the living area is taken up with the grey waste tank.
When the sandman comes to call the blacked out windows and the curtains in the back prevent the glow of the site lighting or the full moon from disturbing your sleep. However, if you want the windscreen and cab side windows to offer the same coverage, it’s back to the options list, as £725 will buy you the Remis windscreen and side window blinds. Alternatively, to save a few quid, you could just get a curtain made up and mounted yourself to achieve the same level of privacy. When it comes to getting your head down, the VR200 really shines with an M1 pull-tested Titan bed on a mid-mounted system, which extends to 6ft (1.82m) long and 4ft 5in (1.34m) wide. Yes, you read correctly – that’s a full-size double bed in a campervan.
The ’van we tested also had the optional colour-coded pop-top. Now, if you’re on the fence about which options to go for in order to personalise your Ventura, then this would be the one I’d make sure I got, as I’m 6ft 1in tall. Yes, it’s the most expensive thing in the catalogue at £2,995, but unless you’re just considering this as a daily runner and occasional camper, and don’t mind stooping, it’s a small price to pay for the headroom you gain. With the pop-top, it also becomes a four-berth campervan, if you opt for the folding roof bed to go in it. This offers plenty of space for two kids – anyone of my size and weight need not apply, though.
If you enjoyed this review, you can read loads more like it in Campervan magazine. You can get a digital version of this latest issue of Campervan magazine here.