THERE’S nothing radical about the outside of the C-Class, but it does exude an aura of quality.
The way the sides curve gently into the roof or the rear, the skirts of aluminium rather than GRP, the wavy shape of the rear lights, and the chromed logo on the back all hint at the prestige of Hymer’s more expensive ’vans.
Then there are the practicalities – the folding flyscreen attached to the sturdy door which shuts with a re-assuring thunk, the long and large bore hose for dumping waste water and the excellent access to the gas locker.
Then there’s the full-width underfloor storage for slim items like folding chairs and tables, windbreaks etc. And even the wheeltrims that do a passable imitation of alloys. Only a horribly inaccessible spare wheel spoils the score card on the outside.
Similarly, the odd omission of central locking counts against an otherwise well-spec’d cab.
Driver and passenger airbags, cruise control, anti-lock brakes, an excellent radio/CD with supplementary speakers at high-level in the living quarters and fingertip controls for the driver, air-conditioning and plenty of cubbyholes (including much better drinks storage than in the new Fiat) are all here.
As is, unfortunately, another set of cheesy stick-on ‘wood’ trim.
A fixed steering wheel position and seats that you seem to perch on top of do not make for the best driving position, but strangely the Ford still seems more car-like than its rivals.
The C542’s layout is also an old favourite brought up-to-date with subtle tailoring to current trends.
The layout is an old favourite
The front lounge (with pullman dinette and side settee) mated to a rear kitchen and corner bathroom may be as old as the hills, but rarely has its interpretation looked as contemporary as this.
From the simple elegance of the Ligurian Alder cabinets to the part-plain, part-stripy fabric, the C542 looks ready for holidays.
Of course, the beauty of this layout is the spaciousness of the lounge. With big, top-hinged windows on either side and a Hymer-branded wind-up sunroof built into the sloping roof, there’s no shortage of daylight and the simple modern décor only enhances the feeling of space.
The big, family-friendly lounge is mated to berths for five and belted seats for six, although only four can get around the table.
All four of the dinette seats has its own seatbelt and head restraint, though one of the rear-facing seats makes do with a lap only belt.
As for sleeping, you can choose the instant single (aka the settee), the giant overcab or the double erected from the dinette.
The 542’s bathroom is well planned. Two very large mirrors create an impression of palatial interior dimensions and the de rigeur separate shower is here without any swinging wall malarkey.
In fact, this shower is as big as you’ll find in much bigger Hymers and it comes with diagonally opposed drain holes.
With towel rails on the sturdy bathroom door, good lighting and just enough storage, this washroom is another feature that appears to come from a more upmarket motorhome.
The kitchen doesn’t have the same wow factor, but it does avoid the cramped feel of many rivals with this layout.
There’s a 97-litre Thetford fridge, a huge stainless steel sink fed by a tall chromed mixer tap, a matching round three-burner hob and an absolutely enormous cutlery and utensils drawer.
And for the UK a Smev oven/grill (with ignition, rotisserie and light) has been added at low level. More unusual is the slide-out rail for tea towels.
The heating is the ‘full Monte’ Truma Combi 6000 EH with mains and gas boiler and heating. The cab has cassette blinds. The fresh water tank – inboard for winter camping, of course – boasts a generous 120-litre capacity.
The upholstery has Teflon stain protection. All the fittings feel built to last. The difference is in the details – details which turn a conventional layout into an exceptional motorhome.
Admittedly, our test ’van seemed to be loaded with options but this is how Brownhills order them to suit UK tastes, and we certainly wouldn’t argue with the end result.
Certainly there are lower priced alternatives to the C-Class 542 CL and some may prefer the sportier drive of the new Fiat, but few rivals can come close to the combination of comfort, practicality and quality on offer here. Not cheap, but worth every penny.
• A full version of this review appeared in the July 2007 issue of Which Motorcaravan. To order a road test reprint contact Tina Beaumont on 01778 391187.
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