We found a few more issues with the Tribute F72 than its smaller F60 brother but nothing that would prevent us recommending it over its obvious competition. The Ford Transit cab, spacious twin-lounge layout, drop-down bed, generous storage and keen pricing combine to make this a family-friendly motorhome that has loads going for it.
Price from: £47,345 Base vehicle: Ford Transit Berths: 4/6 Travel seats: 4 Length: 7.34m Gross weight: 3,500kg
In February’s MMM, we called the compact two-berth Auto-Trail Tribute F60 'a star performer', going on to add, 'if you’re looking for a £50k British coachbuilt, start your search with the class-leading Tribute.'
That was the baby of this all-new four-model range; now we’re looking at the much longer (7.34m) F72 model with its family-orientated two-lounge layout. The specification (and options) are similar, as is the Ford Transit base, so this entry-level Auto-Trail is off to a good start.
As with all 2020-season Auto-Trail coachbuilts, there’s a choice of cab colour for the latest Tributes. Blazer Blue is standard, with a choice of six metallic shades – including the Moondust seen here – offered at extra cost (or as part of the £1,499 Drivers Pack).
Oddly, our test vehicle also had cab air-conditioning, but not the full gamut of pack features (which include a colour-coded front bumper, automatic lights and wipers, and front foglamps with cornering function). Put that down to this being a pre-production model; we can’t see buyers resisting the whole caboodle.
Nor would we advise against the 168bhp (170PS) engine upgrade fitted here. The standard 128bhp (130PS) unit is certainly adequate for the F60 but, if you plan to travel en famille in the larger F72, the extra urge will be welcome and you’ll never find this motorhome underpowered.
On a wet road we even managed to inadvertently spin the front wheels pulling out of a T-junction!
The 2-litre Euro 6d motor was mated here to a six-speed manual gearbox that lives up to Ford’s reputation for slick shifts. If you’d rather have an automatic, that’s offered, too, for an additional £1,740.
Before you’ve turned a wheel, though, the Transit is already starting to win you over. The driver’s seat and steering column have plenty of adjustment, the leather-bound wheel is car-sized and the fascia looks much more modern than the rival Fiat’s.
Better still, Auto-Trail adds a Zenec Xzent touchscreen DAB radio with satellite-navigation, if you order the Lux Pack – which, surely, everyone will. Its 9in display serves the reversing camera, while this £1,399 pack also adds the TV aerial, barbecue point, Omnivent, upgraded door with flyscreen and carpets.
Driving the Tribute, it was immediately obvious that the Transit’s suspension is also a good deal softer and more compliant than the ubiquitous Ducato’s. So, there’s a bit more lean around roundabouts but, generally, it feels more comfortable and its compliance results in far fewer rattles from the living area (less than in many Fiat Ducato-based motorhomes that I have tested in recent months).
Although the F72 has both front and rear lounges, the standard spec is still a side settee seating configuration up front, with none of the clever transformation into travel seats that we’ve seen elsewhere.
Instead, if you want to carry passengers, you’ll need to order the HD dinette option (priced at £825), which swaps the straight offside sofa for an L-shaped arrangement featuring a high-backed forward-facing section equipped with a pair of three-point belts.
With the cab seats swivelled, this is still an open and spacious area in which to relax on site. Even on their highest setting, the cab chairs are a touch lower than the settees, while the cab floor is a modest 3cm higher than the living area (which then runs flat and stepless from front to back).
There’s room for five people, perhaps up to seven if some are little ‘uns, and the extra-large overcab sunroof and generous side glazing help with the feeling of space. The fact that there’s no permanently positioned table makes for a more open lounge, too.
When you’re ready to dine, the table is a free-standing unit that stores further aft in a bespoke locker next to the fridge. It’s not too heavy or cumbersome to erect, but neither is it wide enough to be comfortably reached from both settees at the same time. It’s also all too easy to find that you’re trapped in your seat by the table’s legs.
As the sun goes down, you’ll be surprised to find posh pleated blinds (as well as net curtains) in a motorhome that starts at under £50k, and the range of interior lighting is pretty good, too.
You’ll notice the lack of reading lights in the front lounge, though (we particularly missed having spotlights over the cab seats). And, if you return to the motorhome late from an evening out, you’d better have taken a torch because there are no light switches near the entrance.
The door does come with a bin, flyscreen and brollie holder as part of the Lux Pack, plus magazine pockets and a simple (rather high) TV bracket are located adjacent.
If you want to put your feet up with a good book, it’ll be the rear lounge that you’ll choose. This is the British classic of a wraparound U-shape, with windows on three sides. The window in the back wall could be bigger for more panoramic vistas, but some may see this as offering more privacy when combined with the net curtains.
The two corner reading lights here are certainly welcome and there’s a second TV point (but no mounting bracket) on the offside, above the table’s cupboard.
The roof vent is a small opaque one but, as a space to unwind, I preferred to be back here – at least as long as I got to the offside settee first.
At almost 1.60m long, this one is plenty long enough to sprawl on, especially with one of the contrasting scatter cushions added for comfort. Sit opposite and you’ll probably have to keep your toes on the carpet as the wardrobe intrudes into the lounge on the nearside, reducing the sofa here to 1.13m long.
This causes a further issue if you use the table (there’s just the one to use in either lounge), as it is then only practical to leave the table if you’re sitting on the offside. With no corner shelves for drinks, you’ll wish for a second, smaller coffee table to use in the rear lounge.
Still, the table provided has the extra benefits of being usable outside and easy to stow away. We’d reserve it for use only in the forward lounge when eating inside.
The F72 is a four-berth motorhome in which both lounge areas convert into beds. However, if you plan to carry four people on a more frequent basis, the drop-down bed option (at £800) is a must.
The key-operated switch for the electric bed is over the fridge (well out of the way of temptation for tiny fingers) and the bed glides down to seat level, once you’ve moved the backrest cushions out of the way.
A ladder is provided in case you want to park the bed in a higher position but, in its lowest setting (only 950mm off the floor), none is required.
You will have to sleep with your heads to the offside, as the mattress is much wider at this end. There’s an LED strip light here, too, and safety nets to keep younger occupants from rolling out, although a 200kg limit means adults can use this bed.
The bed does narrow considerably (to just 860mm) at the foot. Of course, this is to preserve access through the habitation door and, on balance, I think that’s a compromise that is worth making.
You could always turn the front lounge into bunk beds by rearranging the seats into another berth but we found the lower bed slightly fiddly in its make-up and lumpy to sleep on. There also seemed to a gap in the bed, with the cushions not quite filling the space available.
There are no such problems with the rear double, which is formed using caravan-style pull-out slats to support the centre of the bed.
The berths are as quick and simple to create as any bed-from-seats conversion.
The only issue in the stern is where to store the one-piece backrest cushion from the back wall – you can leave it in situ but then it reduces the bed width by 130mm (bed measurements quoted here are with the backrest removed).
Families will also yearn for some form of division between the front and rear sleeping areas but it shouldn’t be beyond the DIY capabilities of most owners to add a privacy curtain.
If your kids sleep at the rear, you might inadvertently wake them with the washroom door, which swings right round and can hit the light switches on the wall and inadvertently turning on the ambient lights! We expect that, for 2021, Auto-Trail will move these, as well as adding some light switches by the habitation door.
More obviously, opening the washroom door reveals a 190mm step up into the ‘little room’. That still leaves a minimum of 1.83m (6ft) headroom, slightly more in the separate shower cubicle.
It’s not the largest space in which to shower, but having a proper cubicle with folding doors is still a boon if you ever intend to be independent from site facilities. We had a good shower here with plenty of water pressure, so the only negative is the lack of somewhere to put your gel and shampoo.
Not that washroom storage is generally lacking, as there are cupboards under the basin and above the worktop. There’s a towel ring and toilet roll holder, too, but the cassette toilet is on a small plinth, so you’ll need long legs to be comfy.
Opposite the washroom, the star feature of the kitchen is the tall ‘n’ slim 142-litre fridge with freezer compartment and bottle drawer (not automatic energy selection).
Worktop space is limited to the area between the hob and sink but, with three gas rings and a combined oven/grill, the chef has enough options for cooking up family feasts.
Kitchen storage is adequate, too, and includes a large cutlery drawer in the cupboard under the sink, as well as top lockers in which the shelves can be evicted to house cereal packets.
There are five more top cupboards (each with a removable shelf) in the rear lounge and much more petite lockers hanging under the drop-down bed.
Then there’s a large, double-doored wardrobe on the nearside with a huge shelved cupboard below.
You’ll find more storage below the seats in the front lounge, but bigger (and more easily accessible) is the space under the rear settees. On either side, this can be reached by lifting the slatted seat bases or through exterior hatches (something regrettably not always found at this price point).
In fact, the Tribute has rather more storage than you might expect, thanks to the fresh water tank and the Whale heating system being mounted under the floor. You’ll need to add tank heaters, though if you plan on using your F72 all year round.