Considering its compact size, Chausson has done a brilliant job of the packaging here. The Smart Lounge is excellent, with decent travel seats and a comfortable side settee lounge, while the drop-down bed works equally well. The separate shower and roomy washroom make it an excellent two-berth and the sub-6m length and 3,500kg weight limit make it ferry and licence-friendly.
Base vehicle: Fiat Ducato Price from: £50,230 Berths: 4 Travel seats: 4 Length: 5.96m Width: 2.35m Height: 2.89m Gross weight: 3,500kg Payload: 668kg (standard spec), 581kg as tested
You can always rely on Chausson to do things differently and, for many showgoers, a visit to its stand to see the brand’s latest unique prototype can be one of the highlights of a motorhome exhibition. From the ingenious 711 with a habitation door on either side to the (discontinued) Suite with its central island kitchen, this French firm knows how to wow.
While a few of its more radical ideas (a whole side wall that opens, for example) may not have been such successes in the mass market, some of the company’s designs – such as the incredibly popular 640 – have proved to be a hit all over Europe.
One of the reasons for this is the 640’s clever lounge, which allows it to offer both the on-site convenience of twin side settees and family-friendly rear travel seats, thanks to its clever Smart Lounge design. The aim for the new 520 model is a logical progression – to fit the same lounge into a sub-six-metre low-profile.
Base model prices start at £50,230, but most UK models will feature the Premium and VIP packages that add just under £4,000 to the price tag. As these packs include must-haves like a passenger airbag, cruise control and air-con, as well as a flyscreen to the habitation door, it would be madness to delete them (and, if you did, you could struggle with resale).
The test vehicle had also been treated to a few other well-chosen options that brought the price up to £56,125. That sounds a lot, perhaps, for a compact low-profile, but included here are a lot of clever design features and practical kit.
Stepping inside the cab, the Aspen trim on the seats matches the rest of the interior trim, while the cab’s optional kit pleasingly includes a leather steering wheel and gearknob. This might be a £220 option, but it really makes the driving controls so much more tactile and more pleasant to grasp in both hot and cold climate conditions.
Speaking of the latter, it’s worth noting that, as well as the cab heating, the 520’s Webasto diesel-fired blown-air heater can also be used on the road, so rear seat passengers can keep warm in winter.
The Smart Lounge converts into a pair of travel seats, which each feature a three-point belt, an adjustable headrest and, crucially for parents of young children, Isofix mounting points.
These metal hooks allow child seats to be securely clamped in place and are far safer than using just a seatbelt to secure infants. The backrest angle is also adjustable on these rear travel seats, so they can be tilted to suit your needs. The Chausson gets a big family-friendly tick for these flip-up travel seats.
On the road, this 3,500kg, 6m motorhome drives well and feels reasonably agile thanks to its upgraded 140bhp engine (standard for the base Ducato is a 120bhp motor). The more powerful engine makes sense as it’s only £435 extra, but you can also opt for a 160bhp unit for £2,175 or the 178bhp engine for £3,915. For most buyers the 140bhp engine will be ample.
Uniquely in the market, but like other Chausson models, the 520 can alternatively be specified on a Ford Transit, which saves £630 and features a 130bhp engine as standard (though you might not be able to resist the 170bhp upgrade, which is a very reasonable £1,305).
The Transit is still under 6m long, but is 3cm longer than the Ducato version. The living area is identical but, with more comfortable suspension and added modernity in its cab, the Transit would certainly be our choice.
If you want an automatic, you’re better off going with Ford, too, as the option only costs £2,165. You’ll need to spend at least £4,170 to get an automatic Ducato, as it packages the 140bhp engine, Eco Pack and alloy wheels with the auto’ gearbox.
Once parked up, with the two cab seats rotated rearwards, you can really appreciate why this lounge design has proved such a big hit in Europe. Those clever travel seats simply fold down flush like the attachments of a Swiss Army knife and the lounge magically transforms into a pair of generously sized side settees. It doesn’t feel like a 6m coachbuilt at all. It feels more like an A-class.
The downside to this flexibility is that you do lose a little bit of storage space when the travel seats are folded down, but it’s a small price to pay for the convenience. As with all low-profiles sporting a drop-down bed there’s no Heki sunroof overhead, but as the VIP Pack includes the overcab skylight, this really doesn’t matter.
The Premium Pack also includes a raft of LED lights of varying degrees of usefulness. The mood lighting around the kitchen window does add a little ambience, as do the tiny blue individual LEDs inset into the settee bases, although these are, perhaps, unnecessary garnish.
The quadruple reading lights inset into the cab roofline are also a little fussy and not as useful as an adjustable light on a stalk. But there are lots of LEDs scatter-gunned around the interior, so illumination options are plentiful.
With windows in the habitation door, behind the kitchen and to either side of the lounge, plenty of natural light floods into the lounge, too, making it a pleasant place to unwind.
Central to both settees is the dining table. This features a flip-over section that doubles its surface area, so four people can dine in luxury. As the table can also be rotated and moved from side to side, you can position it to suit almost any requirement. The only irritation is that its height adjustment is electric, with the switch located on the side of the kitchen, so you have to get up to alter the height – and it then moves rather slowly.
To lower the dining table to make up the lower bed you also have to access this switch (it’s next to the drop-down bed control, so that’s the logic behind it).
The kitchen itself has all you need, with a Thetford Triplex cooker in charge of grub warming. As well as a combined oven and grill and two gas burners, this also includes a mains electric hotplate, so gas misers on 230V hook-up will be happy (the water boiler also has a 1.3kW mains element).
The gas locker is only suitable for one 11kg cylinder but, as the blown-air heating is diesel-fuelled, you’ll probably not use much Propane anyway – compared with space heating, the hob, fridge and boiler are not big guzzlers of gas.
The kitchen worktop has a modest circular sink inset into it (you’ll want to add a removable plastic draining board) and a reasonable amount of preparation space. While there is a flip-up worktop extension, keen chefs will want to use the dining table for more elaborate menus.
Kitchen storage space includes a couple of overhead lockers and an angled cutlery drawer and shelved cupboard beneath. Thanks to the jumbo-sized 167-litre three-way Thetford fridge, you’ll not struggle to keep the pinot and foie gras cool.
Thanks to the wrap-around cab blinds and the pull-down blinds covering the side windows, night-time set-up is a doddle and the countless LED options mean you can have the lighting set to either Dental Surgery Dazzle or Gothic Dark, depending on your preference.
To make up the lower bed, you press a button and wait, and wait, for the dining table to descend flush with the edge of the settees. You can form a single bed or a narrow double for kids without adding any extra cushions, but to make it into a proper adult double you’ll need to add the extra cushions that normally live in the wardrobe.
This creates a pretty reasonable and usable double bed that’s 1.92m long and 1.55m across at its widest point.
With just two people on board you’ll probably prefer to use the drop-down bed and this descends smoothly on seatbelt webbing to sit just above the settee bases, so no ladder is needed (in four-berth mode, you’ll need to use the supplied steps).
The upper bed features a comfortable memory foam mattress suspended on sprung beech slats and measures 1.91m long and 1.41m maximum width. At its lowest setting you still have access to the two side windows, so you can cross-ventilate the space in hotter climes. Naturally, there are plenty of LED lights close at hand when you’re in bed.
Go past the kitchen and up a small step and you’ll find yourself in a spacious washroom. On the driver’s side is the obligatory Thetford swivel-bowl loo with electric flush, plus a rectangular white resin basin fed by a reasonably stout-feeling chromed metal tap.
There’s a little worktop for your toiletries and an overhead cupboard with a sliding mirrored door. A toothbrush mug and a soap bar holder are thoughtfully included (does anyone still use bars of soap?). As you’d expect, a dazzling LED light is close by. You also get an opening window, which is a good, practical addition.
Opposite the loo is a separate shower cubicle that’s tall enough for those over 6ft. It has a dedicated tap (backlit by blue LEDs, obviously) and, with an overhead vent, plastic doors (not clingy shower curtains), two drain holes in the shower tray and even a flip-down hanging rail, it’s a first-rate shower. The Premium Pack fitted here even includes a wooden duckboard base so you don’t have to stand in a soapy puddle.
Thanks to a tambour door for privacy and an extra-large rear wardrobe, the washroom also makes a great changing room. The wardrobe includes three shelves and a couple of slide-out hanging rails for maximum clothing storage flexibility.
Drop-down bed layouts force you to rethink how you use the storage space and this Chausson 520 is no exception. There are very few places to stash kit around the lounge area, so you’ll need to use the rear wardrobe for any bulky items and the majority of your clothing.
There’s a shelf over the cab area, but we’d not advise keeping stuff here while driving as there’s nothing to hold it securely in place. On the plus side, though, bedding can be left in place on the drop-down bed and it’s only if you’re also using the lounge bed that you’ll need to put extra sleeping bags or a duvet in the wardrobe.
There are three overhead lockers on either side of the kitchen area, but you’re bound to fill these with crockery and foodstuffs, so you’ll need to pack with care.
A big plus, however, is the rear boot. While it might not be large enough for a bicycle and it doesn’t qualify as a true ‘garage’, it will swallow your mains hook-up lead, barbecue and fold-up outdoor furniture. As you can access this space from the large rear hatch or a side door, it’s also easy to get into and there are two handy flip-up shelves that allow you to stash whatever kit you want in it.
Chausson thoughtfully provides built-in mounting points for a Fiamma bike rack as standard, too.