Berths: 4 Travel seats: 4 Base vehicle: Ford Transit Gross weight: 3,500kg Payload: 495kg
Now in its fourth season back in Britain, Benimar has risen rapidly to become one of the country’s favourite imported brands. Its success was initially built on high spec and the marketing expertise of the nation’s biggest motorhome retail group, Marquis. UK-handed layouts soon followed, first for the Mileo, then the Tessoro, while the Ford Transit base vehicle is yet another advantage in a predominantly Fiat/Peugeot-based sector
Adding to the appeal of the Ford chassis, an automatic is available for £1,750 – and it’s a smooth, torque convertor ’box rather than a robotised manual like the Fiat’s. There’s a smart new addition this season with Benimar fitting a touchscreen DAB radio with sat-nav and reversing screen built-in. The 2018 models also get automatic lights and wipers and a quick-defrosting windscreen. Already included were a metallic silver cab, ESP, traction control, Hill Assist, alloy wheels, air-conditioning, cruise control and remote central locking. Even the 170-horsepower engine is standard, giving the Tessoro really gutsy performance.
Of course, motorhomes aren’t just about driving but living, too, and having the habitation door on the UK side can be important to buyers who intend to do most of their touring on home soil. Few continental makers, however, have invested in mirroring their layouts in this way – the Tessoro joins the select band this year. The 483 also introduces a new layout, making it three models now that have the over-lounge drop-down double as their main sleeping quarters.
The Benimar’s bed is superbly comfortable and glides down to whatever height you like at the twist of a key. If you want to maintain a lounge, or use the second bed below, then a ladder is available but, alternatively, the mattress can be powered all the way down to seat height. Pleasingly, the electric bed is shaped so as not to interrupt the use of the entrance door or the kitchen. The 483 scores an even bigger victory over rivals as a four-berth, though. And the lower bed, for once, is a good one – very big and largely flat, while its make-up is not too complicated, either.
Possibly an even bigger drawback of non-fixed bed models in the past was the lack of externally accessed storage for all your bulky gear. The Tessoro 483, however, is one of the few low-profiles without a fixed bed that does have a full-sized garage – and, even better, one with three loading doors (one each side and another in the back wall).
Another key feature, of course, is the generous-sized lounge. With a long L-settee on the offside (incorporating belted travel seats for two), a two-person sofa on the nearside and twin swivel cab chairs, there’s room for at least six to gather around the large table. A telly is one of the few things not fitted as standard on this ’van.
What you do get, however, is powerful Truma Combi 6 gas/mains heating, an external barbecue point, a tracking system with a year’s subscription and even a year’s insurance (subject to terms and conditions). The bodywork is 99% wood-free with XPS insulation and water tank capacities are generous (120 litres fresh, 105 litres waste).
Then there’s a kitchen with giant (149-litre) fridge/freezer and a microwave (such a rare find in an imported ’van and one of the obvious signs of Marquis’ input). A combined oven/grill features, too, and the hob has a mains hotplate in addition to the two gas rings. But perhaps the most surprising aspect of this new Tessoro is the rear bathroom – and its humungous wardrobe behind two large mirror-fronted wardrobe doors. There’s plenty of room to get dressed and undressed in the washroom, while the shower is a separate cubicle that’s hard to fault.
So, this Benimar is a great all-rounder with a huge bathroom, big garage and large lounge, plus a comprehensive spec and the driver appeal of the Ford base. And you can buy one from Marquis branches all around the UK.