This Carado is, in many ways, a typical continental island bed low-profile. However, its combination of sturdy, durable build and relatively affordable pricing is not easy to find elsewhere (except with sister brand, Sunlight). It is refreshingly free of unnecessary bling, but you might need to add a few options/accessories to complete your ideal spec.
Base vehicle: Fiat Ducato Price from: £52,899 Berths: 2/5 Travel seats: 4/5 Length: 7.40m Width: 2.32m Height: 2.90m Payload: 557kg
This motorhome, loaned to MMM by Heart of England Motorhomes in Northamptonshire, aims right at the heart of the UK motorhome market. It takes Europe’s most popular base vehicle, the ever-dominant Fiat Ducato, adds a low-profile coachbuilt body (the best-selling type of motorhome) and completes it with what has to be one of the most frequently purchased layouts in recent years, the island bed.
It does all this in the typical overall length of just under seven-and-a-half metres (actually 7.40m) and, crucially, arrives in Britain with a price tag of around £55k – well short of the £70,000-plus you might be looking at with more prestigious Teutonic brands. At that level, it’s targeted straight at mainstream British brands. But that has always been the Carado USP – German quality at a price you can afford.
Carado vehicles would be even more affordable if they adopted the back-to-basics specification seen on the Continent. But, just as British motorists like their BMWs and Audis to come with more toys as standard, so it is with German motorhomes.
In its homeland, you’ll pay extra for a Carado with the Basic Package or Chassis Package, but here in the UK both are included as standard. The former adds a large push-up rooflight over the kitchen, an extra small roof vent, plastic panelling and a duckboard in the shower cubicle, a mirror and hooks in the entrance area, retrimmed cab seats with armrests and additional power sockets in the galley and garage.
Then, the Chassis Package goes on to include cab air-conditioning, ESP with hill start assist, electrically adjusted and heated mirrors, cruise control, pre-cabling, aerial and speakers for a radio and height adjustment on the passenger’s seat (as well as the driver’s).
However, with two packs as standard, there are still two more that you can add at extra cost, and both featured on this test vehicle. The Emotion Package swaps the white exterior for one with Champagne-coloured sides, while the Chassis Comfort Package completes the aesthetic transformation with the stylish 16in alloy wheels, blackened headlamp surrounds and a gloss black grille, as well as a bit of bling on the inside – namely chrome rings for the instruments, silver ‘Techno’ trim around the dashboard vents and a leather steering wheel. You can add both packs and still stay under £55,000, even on this most expensive low-profile in the Carado range.
As tested, the T449 certainly avoids looking spartan, although there are still giveaways that you haven’t spent more. The habitation door locks only in the centre and, more obviously, has no window. It does, however, come with a flyscreen and an electric step (which doesn’t auto-retract).
The exterior mouldings (where cab and body join) clearly reveal their fixings, and the habitation windows are the caravan-style ones that sit proud of the body, but more upmarket motorhomes could be criticised in exactly the same way. What you can’t fault here is the impression of sturdy build quality.
There’s the same feeling that Carado doesn’t stint on the important stuff when you climb on board. The habitation door shuts with a reassuring thunk and the Arctica upholstery (one of two choices) is well finished, especially on the double-stitched cab seats. Even the carpets feel a cut above entry-level. The attention to detail shown is pleasing; not only by a shoe locker just inside the door, but also the separate section of carpet here, removable so that you can take your boots off on the vinyl floor.
The lounge layout is the European favourite of swivel cab seats, a single side seat and an L-shaped settee incorporating two travel seats (with automotive-style height-adjustable head restraints). The backrest here is a good deal less upright than many, while the fixed table twists and slides in all directions. It doesn’t quite move far enough to be comfortably reached from the offside seat, though, and the nearside inward-facing section of the ‘L’ is too narrow for anyone but a child. There’s still sufficient room for four to dine here, however.
Lighting is primarily from downlights mounted under the top lockers and, although there’s a ceiling lamp just in front of the fridge, another one over the table and reading lights for the cab chairs would be welcome.
Even on a bright day you might wish for more natural light to enter the living area, as there are no windows on the offside of the lounge and the test model lacked the overcab sunroof, which is almost de rigeur these days (it’s a £439 option). That box might have gone unticked here but one option that was fitted was the pre-cabling and bracket for a TV (yours for £179). Hidden in a cupboard over the fridge, the TV is best viewed from the swivelled cab seats – and probably after the cook has finished work in the kitchen.
You might also want to consider adding cab blinds (not listed as a factory option but any dealer should be able to supply them) or insulated screens, as the long curtains fitted around the cab are rather thin.
You step down from the lounge into the kitchen (before stepping back up into the washroom and bedroom), so headroom here is up to 2.08m – enough for the chef to don his/her chef’s hat. Is such gastronomic attire justified? Well, it’s certainly a pretty well-appointed area, with only a slight paucity of preparation space as something you might whinge about.
The cooker isn’t the fashionable rings-in-a-row type but its three burners are decently spaced apart and the pan stand is one of those cast iron types that seems too heavy, but won’t rattle. The only free worktop is in the corner, next to the sink, so you might need to keep one of the glass lids closed when that’s possible; the inclusion of a Thetford Duplex oven/grill is another Brit-pleasing touch.
Under the oven is a useful drawer for pans, while the cutlery drawer beneath the sink is large enough for utensils, too – both are soft-closing. Under the cutlery drawer is a cupboard that hides a bin on its door, but you’ll need very long arms to reach anything at the back of this locker.
Opposite, the fridge/freezer is a tall, two-door model with 167-litre capacity, as well as the convenience of automatic energy selection. Underneath that is a cupboard tall enough for cereal packets.
As standard, the T449 is a two-berth motorhome (albeit with four travel seats). In fact, the most important aspect of the layout for many will be the island bed at the rear.
As with a number of rivals, the double bed has a system to create more space around the foot (especially important for dressing and undressing) by shortening the bed. In the Carado, it’s simply an infill cushion that slots in at the head of the bed, or removes when not required.
Without it, the mattress is just 1.79m long and, if that’s enough for you and your partner, great – you can leave the extra cushion at home. With the infill added, bed length grows to a much more generous 1.95m and, although there’s no additional support under the foot of the bed, that doesn’t seem to really matter. What’s more important is that there’s now a good-sized bed with a firm mattress and room to sit up with a morning cuppa and the Sunday papers.
Alongside are the typical his and hers wardrobes but, unusually, these have the added versatility of a removable shelf each. The bedside tables will cater for books, but these sections appeared to be longer than some, necessitating more of a sit-down-then-shuffle-along approach when getting into bed.
With top-hinged windows on both sides, the bedroom area doesn’t want for natural light and there’s a simple curtain to provide privacy from the ablutions area. Do check out the space between the toilet room on the offside and the foot of the (extended) bed, though, which some may find too tight for comfort.
There’s more room around the bed on the nearside because, unusually, the shower cubicle has its frosted plastic doors pinned open by a false floor when it’s not in use. Remove that wooden panel and you step down into a shower with 1.98m headroom, twin diagonally opposite drains, a roof vent and a reasonable amount of shoulder room. But with the shower doors unfolded there’s only 130mm between the cubicle and the bed (or just enough for an overhanging duvet), so you can see why it stows with the doors open.
The toilet cubicle is usable with its door closed, but works best when it is opened around to shut off the whole en suite bedroom. Then, you’ll appreciate its well-planned storage, large corner basin and generous mirror. There’s another mirror on the inside of the toilet room door, plus a selection of hooks for flannels, towels, and a folding drying rail in the shower. All in all, the ablutions facilities work well here.
Under the rear bed is a large locker that might not quite qualify as a full garage as its headroom is just less than a metre (0.97m). Nevertheless, it’s a good-sized space – more than 1.20m across at its widest – with two large loading doors, tie-down hooks, a mains socket, heating and lighting (plus a fix ‘n’ go kit rather than a spare wheel). Unusually, though, the gas locker does intrude on the nearside.
Still, you’ll have plenty of room for all your outdoor gear, even if you spec your T449 for family duties.
The test model was a three-berth, with the optional dinette single bed conversion (relatively easy to use, creating a long, thin, transverse bed). Alternatively, or even additionally, there’s an optional drop-down double bed over the lounge to make the Carado into a five-berth. And a fifth travel seat is also available.
Based on a 3,500kg chassis, the T449 has a quoted payload of 557kg in standard trim, so it could probably cater for a family without the optional upgrade to 3,850kg (priced at £219 and just a paper exercise; there are no chassis changes).
All Carado coachbuilts also come with the ubiquitous 130bhp, Euro 6 diesel engine as standard, although both the 150bhp unit and the Comfort-Matic gearbox are available as extras.
Despite the relatively high floor, the T449 does benefit from the Camper chassis’ wider rear track, although it may not feel quite as planted on the road as low-profiles with a lower floor.
However, on a short test drive (lightly laden) we found the 130bhp motor to be adequately powerful and the general handling to be well up to par.
And, while conversion noise wasn’t wholly absent, the Carado did, once again, come across as being a well-built vehicle.
This review was originally published in the July 2019 issue of MMM - click here to buy a digital version of the magazine.