Avenir means future in French and, if this is the way Danbury is heading, then it is going in the right direction. The 63LG has an excellent washroom and a spacious kitchen, plus a practical rear lounge layout that’s pleasingly intuitive to use – but there’s no shortage of impressive rivals in this sector. There are a few minor niggles, but then this was a prototype.
Base vehicle: Fiat Ducato Price from: £49,650 Berths: 2 Travel seats: 2 Length: 6.36m Gross weight: 3,500kg
When you think of Danbury, the first image that springs to mind will probably be one of its classic VW Type 2 campers, or maybe a modern Volkswagen T6. What you probably won’t have in mind is a Fiat Ducato high-top conversion.
As you’d expect, there’s a reason for Danbury going large with its new Avenir range. In October 2017 the firm was acquired by the French Pilote Group, which was keen to expand into the UK and also owns other campervan-producing brands such as Bavaria and Hanroad.
Initially, all the models in the new Danbury Avenir range were rebranded Pilote Vans (with continental-style fixed bed layouts and sliding doors on the UK offside), but the latest entrant, the 63LG, is an all-new design by Danbury. As such, it has a very British floorplan and the door on the ‘correct’ side, although, like other Avenirs, it is built in France.
The name is significant, too – Avenir means ‘future’ in French – and this model gives a clear indication of where Danbury is heading with future models. So, that’s the backstory sorted, it’s time to get testing...
The first point to make is that the Avenir supplied to MMM for testing was a prototype, so there may be minor tweaks made to the production vehicle. The test model was based on the 150bhp, 2.3-litre Fiat Ducato in extra-long-wheelbase form. At 6.36m, it’s the longest vehicle in the Avenir range but, somewhat ironically, it also has the least berths, being strictly a two-berth.
Not having to cram in travel seats and an extra bed has given Danbury a much freer hand to create a luxury two-person campervan and the layout features a pair of swivel seats in the cab, a central washroom with a separate shower cubicle, and a roomy kitchen area. Equally uncompromised is the rear lounge area, which features two deep sofas that benefit from a great view when the rear doors are flung wide open.
As well as physically having more space than some other two-berth models, Danbury has emphasised the airy feel by using light grey seat fabric and smooth cream walls and ceiling. Together with stylish dark grey cabinet doors and grained wood cabinets, the converter has created an interior that looks both clean and modern, without losing the welcoming appeal.
The standard engine for the 63LG is the usual Fiat 130bhp unit, but the optional 150bhp engine (still a 2.3-litre but with a variable geometry turbo) is well worth having as it just makes the vehicle that bit more relaxing to drive. If you’re going to invest in a luxury two-berth, you might as well do it properly and the extra £1,306 hopefully won’t break the bank.
The cab of this test campervan also benefited from the Comfort Pack, which costs £2,505 and includes some must-have items, such as a passenger airbag, cruise control (with a speed limiter) and stability and traction control. It also features useful built-in cab blinds that don’t impinge on storage space and a flyscreen for the (UK-side) sliding door.
This example also came with the £774 Media Pack, which includes a Garmin sat-nav and reversing camera system; sure to be another popular choice.
The Exterior Style Pack includes colour-coded bumpers, foglights, daytime running lights and black detailing on the grille for another £999.
Then came the Relax Pack (awning, two-bike carrier and a thin 120W solar panel) for £1,662 and the TV Sat Pack (20-inch HD TV, satellite receiver and auto-seeking 65cm dish). The bike rack isn’t the most attractive of designs and prevented the offside rear barn door from opening fully, while the awning and solar panels are fairly essential on a campervan.
As the TV system costs a significant £3,133, we could happily live without it, though. A large tablet and a 4G connection could do the job almost as well for less cost.
In total, all the options on the test vehicle bumped the price up from the appealing sub-£50k entry figure of £49,560 to a total of £62,301, which pitches the Danbury squarely into the more upmarket part of the crowded Fiat/Peugeot/Citroën-based van conversion market.
The central washroom impresses as it has a proper sliding door to access it. Inside, to the left, there’s a Thetford electric flush bench-style cassette toilet, with a central washbasin mounted on a curved cream worktop. Recesses next to the loo can house toiletries and there’s a double-door mirrored cabinet above the basin and a vanity unit beneath.
The shower cubicle has 1.85m headroom and benefits from a proper split-fold door (no clingy shower curtains here). The base is deeply ridged around the edges, though, so you need to take care to stand in the middle. A decent-sized roof vent is overhead for ventilation, but the showerhead is mounted directly under this – it would be better positioned in the corner to give more headroom.
Equally, the shower’s separate mixer tap would be better offset to the corner to avoid getting knocked with your hip. Compared to motorhomes that use all-in-one shower trays and flip-up basins, it’s a much better space and adds to the premium feel.
There’s room to dish up about four dinner plates of food on the kitchen worktop and the counter is also inset with a larger hob than is usual for a van conversion. The cooker boasts three gas burners and is in combination with a roomy built-in sink. The black glass lid is split to cover either the sink or hob as needed.
A 230V socket and a double USB point are set next to the worktop and there’s an 85-litre Vitrifrigo compressor fridge located beneath, together with a Thetford Duplex combined grill and oven. With two handy racks for spices, coffee, tea and condiments, it’s a useful layout but room for crockery and pans is limited to an overhead locker or a cupboard under the oven.
There is a large door to the right of the oven, but it’s not very deep as it backs onto the sealed gas locker on the other side of the kitchen unit. This shallow cupboard is fitted with bottle storage in its base and is clearly ideal for your red wine...
The gas locker is conveniently located by the open sliding door and is impressively capacious, holding two 13kg propane cylinders. It comes with a Truma Crash Sensor regulator as standard so the heating can be used while you travel.
It’s a convenient kitchen to use and Danbury has struck the perfect balance between usability and features. Although this model is exclusively for the UK market, it hasn’t tried to squeeze in a microwave to the detriment of storage space.
This feeling of space extends to the two sofas, which are both 1.84m long and have deep bases with reasonably tall backrests.
With large glazing to both sides and two windows in the rear barn doors, together with a big rooflight overhead, there’s plenty of ambient light, making this lounge a pleasant place to be, even with the doors shut. When the weather allows it, you can throw open the rear doors to enjoy the view.
As the wardrobe is built into the rear of the washroom, rather than being sited on the opposite side, there’s a view through to the cab, which avoids the corridor effect you get in some ’vans and adds to the impressive feeling of space.
On this prototype, there was a small step up into the lounge area, which included a couple of shallow storage areas in the false floor. While it does mean that people with shorter legs won’t be left dangling, it does see the headroom reduce to 1.78m here. There’s 1.88m of interior height elsewhere.
However, we understand that the raised floor section will be deleted from production models, leaving a flat floor through to the cab, and the seats will be lowered to maintain comfort on site.
Storage for bulky items is limited as the spaces under the sofas are occupied by the leisure battery on the nearside and the Combi boiler on the offside. There are lockers to the rear of these sofas, but they can only be accessed with the barn doors open and are not that large. You’ll need to stuff bedding into the locker above the cab, while outdoor chairs will need to be chosen to fit the space. There are overhead lockers fringing the roof space, which are best suited for folded clothing.
With the dining table in place, there’s plenty of room for four people to eat but, with just two folk here, there’s easy access to both the washroom and kitchen. The fridge is hinged to allow access from the lounge, too, so it’s best to pick the nearside sofa if you have a thirst!
The rear bed is easy to set up. You only have to move the nearside seat base – which slides all the way across the central gap on castors, while the offside seat doesn’t move. Then, just place the backrests into the gap.
The bed is 1.84m long and 1.80m wide across the campervan. It’s supportive and flat, too, and, of course, with settees of this length you can also use them as single beds.
Decent concertina-style blinds seal the light out throughout (plus there were optional cab blinds on the test vehicle) and all are easy to use.
Although there are light switches inset in each rear pillar, at what’s probably going to be the head end of the bed, some multi-adjustable reading lights would also be a useful addition. The optional TV fitted to the test vehicle was handily placed for bedtime viewing, too.
As both cab seats swivel to create a small front lounge, you also have the option to keep the bed made up and use the cab seats for your morning cuppa.
If you enjoyed this review, you can read more loads like it in MMM magazine. You can get a digital version of the latest issue of MMM magazine here.