A great-value front lounge high-top with plenty of space for two. Options offer particularly good value when compared to the competition.
Price from: £41,729 Berths/travel seats: 2/2
Weighing in at a maximum three-and-a-half tonnes and measuring a chunk of tin longer than six metres, Devon’s Provence looks purposeful dressed in chunky Renault Master styling.
The latest Master is far more of a tough truck of a thing than rival Fiat’s Ducato, but it’s the right shape to make a spacious camper.
Climb into the cab and you discover a driving department that includes sat-nav as standard, while things such as passenger airbag, air-con and cruise control are courtesy of Devon’s Designer Pack of extras.
The test vehicle also benefited from the 148-horsepower engine upgrade and Quickshift 6 automated transmission – both costing less than the equivalents on the Ducato.
The latest Master’s driving position is much improved over the old – with smaller steering wheel and improved clocks – while multi-adjustable seats impress.
However, the Master still feels more like a commercial vehicle than its Fiat rival. This enhanced Provence proved a pleasure to drive, though, with plenty of power on tap. And the Quickshift 6 gearbox (a robotised manual like Fiat’s Comfort-Matic, rather than a torque convertor auto’ like a new Merc) remains my favourite of the breed – to me, its operation is swifter and smoother than in the equivalent Ducato.
Talking of favourites, the Provence layout is another one of mine, as high-tops with front lounges allow you to take full advantage of the fresh air when the side sliding door is opened wide.
I know of at least two owners who sit with said slider open, enjoying the great outdoors – even on sunny winter days. The cab seats swivel easily – even the driver’s seat as the handbrake lever folds down out of its way. These pews come slightly higher than the rest of the lounge, but join in with its big L-shaped sofa to provide seating for half a dozen socialisers.
The rest of the Provence’s insides sees the kitchen aft of the sofa, with a wardrobe in the rear offside corner. Opposite, the bathroom lives against the nearside rear door.
Furniture is typical Devon: the mid-tone finish is very much in the practical vein, with light cloth to linings and white surfaces adding to the atmosphere. Dinner-time sees the table extracted from the rear wall of the washroom, and thankfully, this can be done with the adjacent rear door closed. Easy to set-up in front of the sofa, it’s spot-on for the residents of this two-berth ’van to eat at, but no more.
The kitchen offers plenty – plenty of stowage space and plenty of kit, including a three-burner hob, oven/grill, sensibly-sized fridge... The work surface is somewhat divided by sink and hob, but there’s another, higher, slab opposite and above the fridge. Cupboards and shelves – above and below – abound. Melamine crocks and tea/coffee/sugar containers are all supplied, fitted in nests above. Sensibly, a splash-guarding glass divider stands between kitchen-top and sofa.
The bathroom continues the common sense theme as it makes the most of limited space with a bench-type loo and a basin that’s set into a practical countertop that looks nice in solid wood. Showering is thanks to a pull-out tap showerhead and wet-room tray floor. There’s reasonable storage in here too, although the upper mirrored cabinet might be a tad high for some to take full advantage of.
Made from the lounge, the bedroom provides just a lengthways double, but it’s long enough for even tall folk. The less lofty can leave the aft end backrest in place to make a comfy headboard. To make your bed, you slide out the sofa base – its frame strongly made in metal – and push the cab seats forward. Then you must add several infills – some are a bit fiddly as they fit around the driver’s seat base and handbrake – and the bed is made.
In spite of its value-for-money psyche, the Provence’s equipment levels are impressive. Gas-and-mains-powered heating, a fitted gas tank, almost all-LED lighting (fluorescent in the bathroom) and top-notch Seitz S5 windows with the type of cassette blinds you’ll find in high-end motorhomes, all come as standard. Cab blinds are included too.
High-level lockers, cupboards and a useful slot over the cab are part of a stowage story that provides plenty of space. The wardrobe is big and there’s a tall cupboard beside that’ll probably have socks and undies living in it.