It’s more than a few years since I last approached a new Hymer high-top van conversion in a state of some excitement. The layout was nothing new – in fact, it was, and is, one of the most common and popular in Europe: front lounge, midships kitchen and bathroom and transverse fixed double bed in the rear.
What did get me all excited was the prospect of said layout with Hymer’s high design and quality standards applied. This ’van was going to get the competition seriously worried for sure. Wrong! Not quite mediocre, but Hymer’s version was little different from its rivals and probably more expensive to boot. And that was the end of the story; the HymerCar merged into the pack of near identical high-tops also built by the likes of Adria, Globecar, Pilote, Rapido, Tribute and even British Autocruise.
Then, last year, Hymer launched a VW conversion – its Cape Town features a rather quirky layout that’s part campervan, part day-van. Having discovered that its downstairs bed saw you sleeping on top of the kitchen, I must say I was less than impressed. What did impress, however, was the quality of the furniture – beautifully made and curvy – and some clever design ideas.
And now, for 2015, Hymer has applied those standards to its bigger HymerCar models like the Grand Canyon tested here. It contains the classic-and-popular layout, and a frisson of excitement returned as I travelled to Telford-based Travelworld – eager to leave sticky finger marks all over one of the first Grand Canyons to make it across the North Sea.
Unsurprisingly, it’s Fiat’s 5.99-metre Ducato that provides the foundations for the Grand Canyon, now enhanced by a facelift that sees a smarter nose and cab interior, plus enhanced kit levels. Suspension is improved too.
Hymer’s standard specification is very good, with items such as climate control, passenger airbag, cruise control, higher capacity fuel tank, more powerful alternator and bigger engine battery all present. The Fiat also includes new, more comfortable seats for 2015. Even so, the test vehicle was fitted with over seven grand’s worth of extras – many of them on the base and including alloys and black metallic paint.
The most interesting conversion extra fitted is the rising roof – the ‘twist’ that converts this Hymer into a very practical four-berth campervan.
The roof can be had for three grand, less the cost of a tank of diesel, and contains a very comfortable and roomy double bed that kids should love – just post ’em through the hatch (there’s a two-piece ladder available) above the lounge. Bear in mind though, that the roof’s canvas sides mean that this bedroom is really only suitable for two-season use – it’ll be a tad chilly up there in December in the Dolomites.
Downstairs it is all very attractive with lovely furniture that curves in the right places – this interior really is a cut above most of the opposition.
Clever design ideas in here are really just common sense – a table that folds in half, then also folds against the wall and opens up the lounge nicely. This table design is inherited from the Cape Town – why hasn’t it been done before?
The bathroom includes a new take on a space-saving design that’s as old as the hills. A tip-up washbasin makes the most of limited space, with loo and shower tray floor below. It’s a great design and beautifully made.
The kitchen unit is backed by stone-effect splashback and includes lots of roomy drawers. There’s only a hob to cook with, and there’s no drainer, but there is a useful strip of working surface between the two. The compressor-type fridge is roomy, and there’s plenty of stowage spaces throughout the interior.
The rear fixed double bed is a good size and lifts easily to make the most of the storage area, now full-sized bikes and the like can be loaded. Services see 100-litre capacities for the fresh and waste water tanks, and the gas locker is equally generous – a pair of 11kg cylinders can be fitted in. Heat and hot water is courtesy of Truma’s Combi, here fitted with the mains operation upgrade and easy-to-use LCD-equipped controller that’s also programmable. Lastly, a good range of lights – spots and flush strips – illuminate the interior well.
There is a more comprehensive review of this campervan in the December 2014 issue of Which Motorhome magazine, you can order a digital copy, which can be downloaded and read immediately, of Which Motorhome magazine by clicking here
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