The Campster is built by Globecar and that means the quality of the conversion is excellent, both in terms of its design and construction. Meanwhile, the SpaceTourer is lovely to drive and offers a good alternative to the popular VW T6. But what’s really unique about this campervan is the removable furniture, making it ideal for anyone considering single vehicle ownership who needs a regular van or people-carrier during the week that transforms into a cool camper at the weekend.
Base vehicle: Citroen SpaceTourer Price from: £41,395 Berths: 4 Travel seats: 2-7 Length: 4.95m Width: 1.92m Height: 1.96m Payload: 460kg
Words and photos by Geneve Brand
The first time we met was a couple of years ago in Germany. I was staying at an amazing hotel in a beautiful mountain location. With the Austrian Alps for a backdrop, a bright green example of the Campster caught my eye across a crowded forecourt. Glistening in the sunshine, it looked stunning and a crowd had gathered like bees around a honeypot to admire it. But I stood back, forlornly, pondering why the Campster would not be coming to the UK.
I had flown over to Germany for the Globecar launch along with brothers, Gavin and Alistair Briggs-Price, of SMC Motorhomes. These Newark-based guys are the main importers of Globecar over here, and we were there to check out the bigger, gutsier Fiat Ducato-based campervans.
Back then the UK market was not very keen on less expensive alternatives like the Peugeot and Citroën base vehicles. Fortunately, this seems to have changed and SMC has just this year introduced the Peugeot Boxer-based Globescout Plus and now the Campster, which is built on the Citroën SpaceTourer.
Why was everyone so interested in the Campster when it was launched over in Germany? Well, it has quite an unusual design and, in a world where we get used to seeing the same old same old, innovation is quite rare.
What’s innovative about it is the fact that you can choose almost any configuration of seat set-up, with a maximum of seven seats. And all of these, along with the side kitchen unit, are fully removable. This allows for a true day van-cum-campervan because you can store the furniture out of the way in a garage when you don’t need it and put it in when you do.
The flexibility of the travel seats is thanks to a track system. It has five tracks that run the full length of the rear section of the campervan. The demonstrator model that we tested just had a two-seater bench fitted in the middle of the vehicle, giving it a total of four travel seats.
However, a further single seat could be added next to the bench to give a third rear travel seat, and another two-seater bench can be positioned behind this to accommodate five passengers in the back. If you need to transport awkward items like a bicycle or a kayak, you can instead position two single seats one behind each other. This allows enough room in the galley, next to the side kitchen, for such items while still having a total of four travel seats.
So it’s flexible – but how practical is it? Neil Garland of SMC was quick to demonstrate, and it’s pretty straightforward. There are a couple of quick-release clips securing the bench to the tracks.
Once these are released, it’s easy enough for a couple of guys to grab an end each and lift the bench out, or back in – I watched them do it and it didn’t take very long at all! It’s also made easier by the fact that the van has double sliding doors – one on each side – so both ends of the bench are easily accessed.
Neil was also keen to explain that all the seats fitted in the Campster are the original Citroën ones, rather than being after-market additions, which means they have been subjected to all the crash testing that car manufacturers put their vehicles through.
As is commonplace in campervans of this size, the bench seat folds down to create a double bed at night. There is a quick-release lever at the side of the bench – press this and the bench can then be easily pushed down or pulled back up again.
Another nice thing about this bench/bed system is that you can leave it in any position between fully up or down, which is great for reclining after a few too many glasses of wine! The bench seat foam is also flat, rather than being contoured, and the seatbelts push out of the way, so this makes for a super-comfy mattress that measures 2.06m long by 1.04m wide. However, while it’s great to have such a long bed, it’s worth noting that it’s in a campervan that’s just 4.95m in length, so the compromise is there’s barely any room between the end of the bed and the cab seats for getting undressed come bedtime. But if you’re used to tenting it and are therefore used to doing the bed dance in order to wriggle into your jeans in the morning, this won’t be a problem.
There’s another bed up in the pop-top. This one measures 1.86m long by 1.00m wide and is also very comfortable, thanks to a spring system. The sides of the pop-top are made out of sturdy canvas (rather than the flimsy stuff found on some campervans) so it doesn’t rustle and flap about too much in the breeze, and two mesh windows will keep you cool on a hot summer’s night. There’s no room for a ladder so you just have to clamber up via the cab seats.
At 5ft 1in myself, I found it easy enough to scramble up and down and thought the pop-top was so relaxing and comfortable that I would probably choose to sleep up here rather than down below.
The pop-top itself is also easy to put up and pull back down again. I often struggle with these due to my height and a lack of the Hulk-like strength sometimes needed. In the case of the Campster, there’s an easy-to-operate clip on each side that you just twist and lift off. Give it a push and struts do the rest. To bring it back down, I did have to stand on the passenger seat to reach the straps but a slight tug was enough to cajole it back down again.
The clips are easy to fasten again and, rather neatly, there’s a faux leather cover with poppers that covers the cab section and keeps straps from dangling in your face. With the pop-top down, the height of the Campster is just shy of two metres at 1.96m, meaning you’ll be able to sneak into most multi-storey car parks and under pesky height restrictor barriers.
The only thing lacking from both sleeping areas is lighting. There is none in the pop-top while all you get down below is two LED strip lights – one on each side of the Campster. The young couple portrayed in the brochure are using candles… I don’t mean to kill the romance but burning candles should be discouraged for reasons so obvious I’m not going to tell you what they are. It would be much better – and safer – if Globecar could fit a few reading lights or LED spots, please. In the meantime, you’ll have to make do with lamps and torches.
As is often the way with campervans of this ilk – because it’s a tried-and-tested layout – the kitchen unit is down the side. However, the Campster has a few tricks up its sleeves.
Those double sliding doors I mentioned earlier (the second door on the passenger side being optional, costing £540) are handy here because it means you can easily get at the back of the kitchen unit and access the 10-litre fresh water and 10-litre waste water tanks that live here, along with a 1.8kg butane gas cylinder (although these can also be accessed from inside).
On the top of the unit, you get a standard Dometic two-burner gas hob with a small sink and cold tap, with two black glass covers to conceal the lot when the kitchen’s not in use.
However, what’s really special about the kitchen is the fact that the whole lot can be removed. It’s secured to the floor with two bolts that have knobs on, so you just twist these to undo the bolts to release the kitchen unit. You also have to disconnect the electric supply that powers the pump for the tap and the ignition for the gas burners. Then you can pick it up and lift it out. Although the unit isn’t massively heavy, it is a bit awkward because you just have to grab it bear-hug style and haul it through the door.
As an optional extra, £195 will get you an outdoor kitchen adaption kit that consists of a 3m-long cord to connect the electric (so you can use the tap and gas burner ignition outside), and a pair of screw-on stands to keep the kitchen from directly sitting on the ground. The whole thing is pretty cool and would be awesome to set up in the awning if you were away with a bunch of mates!
Another piece of nifty design is the table. When not in use, it clips to the underside of a board in the boot that forms part of the bed at night but functions more like a parcel shelf during the day. The table features a dog leg that’s attached with a hinge so it just pulls out. The table then clips to a rail on the removable kitchen unit, meaning it can also be used outside with the kitchen.
Both cab seats swivel – although you have to put the handbrake down to spin the driver’s one – and the table can easily be reached when you’re sitting in these. With the standard two-seater bench fitted to this demonstration model, four could happily dine or relax in comfort in this kitchen/diner.
This demo Campster also came with the optional (£200) tinted windows. These weren’t overly dark and they’re nice for keeping the glare of the sun out when it’s super-sunny. The two main windows in the sliding doors are also fitted with flyscreens, and the back window in the tailgate opens outwards.
Interestingly, none of the windows were fitted with curtains, blackout blinds, silver screens, or anything else that might provide privacy once the sun goes down. That’s how they’re built in Germany and the nice brochure photographs of the young couple with their dodgy candles confirm as much. However, I was assured that SMC would be fitting its Campsters with removable curtains of some sort.
Gadget-wise, there’s Webasto Air Top 2000 diesel-powered blown-air heating (an optional extra, costing £2,165), two three-point plugs (one in the kitchen and one at the rear of the campervan) and two light switches (one in the kitchen and one by the side door). The only USB port and 12V socket exist in the cab. This demo model also came fitted with the optional (£690) fixed compressor fridge that’s located next to the cooker. It’s essentially a top-opening coolbox with a single compartment that holds about eight drinks cans.
In terms of storage, there are three cupboards at the back of the campervan – two smallish ones that will hold stuff like toiletries, and one large one that would benefit from having a couple of shelves in it, as it would make a good wardrobe. There’s also another cupboard above the bench seat that’s very wide and deep, but extremely short. Furthermore, the kitchen unit has a cutlery drawer and a cupboard for food or pots and pans.
Behind the wheel of the Citroën SpaceTourer, it’s a smooth and comfortable ride. Both captain’s chairs have armrests and the driver’s seat is height-adjustable. Visibility is good throughout and even the headrests on the rear bench don’t obscure your view through the rear view mirror, as is sometimes the case.
The engine fitted as standard is the 1.5-litre HDi 101bhp motor, although the demo model we tested had the 2.0-litre 148bhp one, which costs an extra £1,970. It’s gutsy and fun to drive, twinned with a six-speed manual gearbox.
As standard, you don’t get much beyond a radio, hill hold and ABS, but the optional extras list is pretty extensive, so you can customise it to your own liking, very much like a car.
This review was originally published in the June 2019 edition of Campervan magazine - order a digital issue copy here. The magazine has regular campervan reviews every month.