A good price and a popular layout makes the Twist a solid choice - but it's the light and spacious rear lounge that stands out as a genuine highlight.
Base vehicle: Fiat Ducato Price from: £43,840 Berths: 2 Travel seats: 4 Length: 6.36m Width: 2.05m Height: 2.61m Gross weight: 3,500kg Payload: 580kg
Chausson has built its reputation – and become one of the biggest importers of motorhomes to the UK – thanks to a line-up of mostly low-profile coachbuilts with good spec, keen pricing and, often, innovative ideas. It has had van conversions (A-classes, too) in its portfolio but those have stayed on the other side of the Channel.
It’s a reflection of the size and nature of the Trigano Group (which owns Chausson) that its van conversions are built in Italy, alongside campervans for other marques, rather than at the French maker’s home in the Rhône valley. But the Twist models coming to the UK are not the ones you’ll see on the Continent; in fact, they’re not even built across the other side of La Manche. Instead, they come from Auto-Trail’s factory in Grimsby.
If that leaves you thinking that the V697 seen here looks rather familiar, then we’re not surprised. Not only does this newcomer share much of its design with Auto-Trail van conversions, but also those from Benimar and Roller Team. There’s none of the one-of-a-kind Gallic design you might have hoped for, though the price looks good and the layout is one of the best sellers on our shores.
In fact, this is the longer of two models that adopt classic layouts – we reviewed the six-metre V594 in the February issue. The key difference here – made possible by the extra third of a metre or so of body length (the actual wheelbase is the same) – is that there’s a pair of rear travel seats in the V697.
And it’s not just a bolt-upright bench but a half-dinette with automotive-style shaping – just like you’ll find in an Auto-Trail V-Line or Tribute. Your rear passengers will certainly thank you for choosing the Twist over many of its rivals but, if they want to stay over, you’ll need to invest in an awning or tent – this is a two-berth ’van as far as sleeping is concerned.
The half-dinette isn’t just about travelling, though. It also creates a secondary seating area on site, which can be especially useful if your partner is snoozing in the stern. Of course, the cab seats swivel and the single island leg table can be used here or at the back. There are two snags, however – the tabletop is too large to be convenient here and there’s very limited knee-room between the swivelled driver’s seat and the rear bench.
It’s the rear lounge that will sell the Twist. There’s more daylight here, thanks to a push-up Heki sunroof (notable by its absence up front), and reading lights in each corner of the lounge are a big plus. The table works much better here, too.
Then, at night, the rear seats convert into a transverse double bed that’s 1.85m long. Or you may be able to sleep lengthways in a pair of singles if you’re not too tall – the offside settee is 1.78m, the nearside one 1.81m.
Returning to the front of the camper, the kitchen includes a microwave, a two-burner hob, an 85-litre three-way fridge, one drawer and two good-sized floor-level cupboards. The aisle between galley and bathroom (measuring 450 to 620mm across) should be generous enough for most buyers to work comfortably in this space.
Finally, the bathroom has Auto-Trail’s usual tip up basin and mirrored cabinets but, as in other models, the loo is a on a plinth so do check that you can sit comfortably.
The V697 comes as standard with the 130bhp motor, silver metallic paint, two airbags, cruise control and cab air-conditioning, while the Travel Pack (£1,490) adds alloy wheels, ESP, DAB radio with Bluetooth, sat-nav and reversing camera for a really comprehensive spec.