Berths: 6 Travel seats: 6 Base vehicle: Fiat Ducato Gross weight: 4,400kg Payload: 1,200kg
Did you watch last year’s Channel 5 programme Five Go Motorhoming? If you did, then you’ll have witnessed Melvyn Hayes (It Ain’t Half Hot Mum), Don Warrington (Rising Damp) and Nick Heyward (frontman for Haircut 100) touring as motorhoming virgins in a Benimar Mileo 313.
Well, maybe they’d have been better off with this 323 model, which has a similar bathroom and rear bunk beds but a much bigger lounge, thanks to 800mm of additional body length.
Unlike most other bunk bed motorhomes, the 323 also comes as standard on a 4.4-tonne Heavy chassis – so check that you possess a C1 category on your driving licence. It’s still a Fiat Ducato, but the beefier derivative allows you a massive payload of 1,200kg. And it comes with the 150bhp motor as standard, too, so you’ll not be relegated to life forever in the slow lane when you load up. If you want an automatic, Fiat’s robotised gearbox is available – for an extra £1,900.
Key to the layout here is the double pullman dinettes up front – surprising in a body that’s still usefully less than seven metres. There’s a ‘full-sized’ four-seater arrangement on the nearside, where the wall-mounted table has a swing-out extension leaf, while the smaller nearside dinette seats two, with a smaller table in between. The clever – and unusual – bit, though is that the larger dinette can be extended widthways, so the rear-facing seats actually join up to create a bench across the full width of the ’van. Meanwhile, the forward-facing squab can be made wider, too, for a little more ‘bottom space’! It certainly makes for a very family-friendly eating area that will also serve well for board games and the like.
But, then, this is a motorhome that can sleep four fully grown human beings and two smaller ones. The overcab bed is a huge 2.05m by 1.55m, and the rear transverse bunks are 2.10m by 0.80m, according to Benimar. And, if you need berths five and six, then the lounge can be converted into another bed that’s a more modest 1.67m by 1.33m.
The kitchen sits forward of the habitation door and on the nearside, with the large (145-litre) fridge/freezer opposite and the microwave above that (where shorter chefs will need to take extra care with hot liquids). The cooker is a dual-fuel gas/electric model with combined oven/grill and there’s an extractor hood above.
At the pointy end, the Fiat Ducato cab comes equally well specified, with alloy wheels, automatic lights and wipers, a DAB radio, sat-nav, reversing camera, ESP, traction control and Hill Assist. Meanwhile, the Benimar body has 99% wood-free construction, exterior shower and barbecue points, a 120-litre heated and insulated fresh water tank, a roof-mounted solar panel, Grade III insulation and a Category 6 vehicle tracking system with a one-year free subscription.
Few rivals can come close to this level of standard equipment either at this price (£55k) or in a true family ’van. Maybe it wasn’t enough to entirely convince Melvyn, Don and Nick of the benefits of a Benimar, but it could just sway you towards this Spanish import.
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