Base vehicle: Fiat Ducato (also available on Ford Transit) Price from: £52,905 Berths: 4 Travel seats: 4 Length: 6.36m Width: 2.35m Height: 2.89m Gross weight: 3,500kg Payload: 617kg
How long would you like your compact low-profile motorhome to be? Seven metres gives you space but is a motorhome that long really a compact model? Six metres is truly small, for a coachbuilt, but it entails some compromise. Meet in the middle, then?
You can understand the thinking at French firm, Chausson. Its Maxi-Lounge model, the 640, has become a best seller (with imitators following from Adria, Benimar, Bürstner and Pilote). The formula of side settee lounge, drop-down bed and rear washroom and garage has taken the market – right across Europe – by storm, so why not offer it in three sizes?
So, the 2020 range still includes the 640 (6.96m overall) but also gains the 520 (the baby, at 5.96m long) and the 650 (the perfect middle ground, perhaps, at 6.36m). Each is available on the ubiquitous Fiat Ducato or, for £630 less, on the 30mm longer Ford Transit.
We’d always pick the latter, especially in high-spec automatic-only Titanium form, but it does seem rather odd that the new 650 is actually smaller than the existing 640 – motorhome manufacturers and their incomprehensible numbering systems, eh?
It’s the Fiat version shown here, with the VIP Pack (£1,730), which adds cab air-conditioning, a passenger airbag, cruise control, electric/heated mirrors, colour-coded front bumper, black gloss grille and headlamp bezels, Techno dashboard trim, flyscreen door, seat covers, and a panoramic skylight. If that’s not enough kit, there’s a Premium Pack which adds further toys for another £1,715.
A look at the exterior reveals a smart-looking, modern motorhome with a garage. There are loading doors on either side but the rear hatch of previous Chaussons has gone, replaced by bike rack fixings on the back wall.
There’s internal access to this space and even full-height storage for skis, windbreaks, etc, on the nearside, but the gas locker intrudes and the garage floor is stepped (so internal height varies from 1.10m to 1.26m). It’s not as capacious as the 640’s garage but will be plenty for a lot of customers.
Another exterior feature is the Service Box, which places fuses, RCD, and the water tank filler and cleaning hatch together.
Inside, the settees are 1.55m long on the nearside and 0.98m on the offside, while there’s a step up into the cab. It’s a good-sized lounge but one that favours long-legged occupants. It can be reconfigured into a pair of forward-facing travel seats, too – no extra cushions need to be carried but two are left over in the transformation. The offside travel seat has rake adjustment on its backrest.
Remove the settee backrests, lower the table (electrically), and the bed can come down from the ceiling to seat level – it’s now only 0.72m off the floor for easy, ladder-free access. The mattress measures 1.89m by 1.39m, narrowing to 1.20m on the offside so as not to obstruct the doorway.
The fairly compact kitchen gets a Triplex cooker (not shown here) with oven/grill for the UK, while (opposite) the fridge/freezer is as big as they come, at 167 litres capacity.
But it’s the rear washroom that really belies the size of this motorhome. You step up into this area with its vast double-door wardrobe, basin with good worktop space adjacent, opening window, and decent-size shower with 1.98m headroom, a roof vent and drying rail.
A white tambour door closes off the bathroom when required and is held open with a simple Velcro strap when travelling (until the Velcro loses its stickiness, anyway).