The original Nugget impressed with its top-notch build quality, twin sliding doors, superior roof bed and unique layout, but it lacked storage space. The Nugget Plus takes all the attraction of its little brother and adds more stowage, as well as a cassette toilet and roomier kitchen. There’s no other campervan quite like it and none based on the Transit Custom that has quite so much all-round appeal.
Base vehicle: Ford Transit Custom Price from: £70,422 Berths: 4 Travel seats: 5 Length: 5.34m Width: 1.98m Height: 2.06m Gross weight: 3,400kg Payload: 920kg
Words and photos: Peter Vaughan
Volkswagen now has a whole suite of Transporter-based California campervans and Mercedes has its Marco Polo. If you want an OEM camper, the third option is the Ford Nugget which, like the Merc, is actually converted by Westfalia.
Many will see the Ford as a direct rival, especially to the best-selling Cali, but it already has some USPs, including twin sliding doors. Now, it also comes in this Plus guise, which is not only the only long-wheelbase camper in this class but, crucially, it has a fitted cassette toilet. For some older customers, or those planning to camp off-grid, that will be enough to seal the deal.
The Transit Custom is also becoming quite the force to be reckoned with in the camper market. Not only are there myriad specialist converters that have seen the advantages of the Ford over the VW (more space, less cost for a start), but even big brands like Auto-Sleepers and Swift have launched Custom-based campervans. None of them have a layout like this, though...
You’ll not notice the extra length of the Plus unless you’re trying to park it in a tight bay. It’s only really worth noting if you’ll be doing a lot of town centre driving, but remember, too, that the Nugget is over 2m tall with the roof lowered, so some car parks will be out of bounds.
Motoring, you could be in any Ford vehicle – just a higher one. All the controls are intuitive and the small, leather-bound steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake. The seats are as good as you’d expect in a family car, too, featuring lumbar and tilt adjustment, twin armrests and heaters that can toast your derrière in minutes.
Visibility is excellent forwards and via the double-lens door mirrors, but the centre mirror’s view is severely restricted by the height of the back seat, so it’s a good thing that parking sensors (front and rear) are standard, but I’d consider the optional reversing camera (priced at £300 on its own or included in the £660 Premium Visibility Pack) to be an essential upgrade.
Standard spec on the Nugget Plus includes 16in alloy wheels, front fog lamps and static cornering lights, automatic lights and wipers, the Quickclear heated windscreen and a DAB radio with 8in screen. Here, that had been enhanced with the ICE Pack 25 (priced at £912), which adds a sat-nav, as well as giving you speed sign recognition and upgrading the standard cruise control to the adaptive version, in which you can adjust how closely you want to get to the vehicle in front. On a busy A1 heading up to Yorkshire, that made for a very relaxing drive, in combination with the potent 182bhp (185PS) engine and six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission.
Performance was indeed impressive, as was economy, topping out at just over 40mpg on the dual carriageway. But, sadly, this engine option has already been usurped. Now, the Nugget Plus comes with 128bhp (130PS, manual only) or 148bhp (150PS) power units, although, weirdly, the shorter Nugget gets 168bhp (170PS) if you order an auto. Torque drops from 415Nm (as tested) to 360Nm, still available from 1,600 rpm.
Thankfully, there aren’t too many other optional extras to consider, although you’ll be paying for paint unless you want a white campervan. Non-metallic Race Red and Blazer Blue are £360, while the other seven shades (including the Chrome Blue seen here) are £780 or SVO special paint is priced at £960.
The only other additional cost on our test campervan, was the pair of side steps, which Ford calls running boards. Here, they are just 10cm across, so you’ll need to tread carefully, putting your feet sideways, when using them as steps. If you’re reasonably agile, you might be better off without – it’s around 490mm up from road to the floor inside.
More central to the Nugget Plus’ design – and appeal – is the fact that it has sliding doors on both sides (and you can enter, but not exit, via the rear tailgate, too). This gives the Plus a clear plus over the California and Marco Polo (with their off‑side entrances) and even most UK-built campers (featuring just a nearside slider) when you head off to the Continent. It also emphasises the Ford’s role as a great everyday vehicle, for shopping and school runs as well as for camping.
Slide back either door and you’re greeted by a comfortable three-person bench seat with Isofix positions for a pair of child seats. This isn’t just a place that children will be happy to travel, either, as good legroom and visibility are matched by the raked backrest and full-width head restraint.
Parked up, the cab chairs revolve easily, without opening the doors, and then it’s just a matter of popping up the roof to complete camping mode. There’s just a single catch at the rear to release before giving the top a shove and letting the gas struts do the manual labour. In fact, lifting the roof bed into its stowed position requires more effort than raising the roof itself. Lid up, there’s a large plastic window in the back to allow lots of daylight in, while mesh panels at each side provide plenty of ventilation. You won’t be short of headroom, either – it’s more than 2.40m in the galley, although this reduces to 1.77m in the lounge (not that it matters much here). Lowering the roof isn’t strenuous but you do need to take care not to leave canvas hanging outside untidily at the back.
Everything inside the Nugget Plus feels very automotive – and finished to the very highest standards. The plastic mouldings around doors and windows are what you’d expect of a motor industry product – there’s not an inch of old-fashioned carpet trim. No carpet on the floor, either; a wood plank-effect is used behind the cab.
Despite the tinted privacy glass, there seemed to be just enough artificial illumination of the interior. Strip lights line the nearside wall front and rear, while a vertical strip and two flexible wand reading lamps (serving kitchen or roof bed) are featured in the stern. A novelty is the extra light that plugs into one of the camper’s 12V sockets – used over the lounge, it provides the necessary extra illumination here, especially if you want to read in the cab seats.
There’s heating as standard, too, fuelled by diesel and blowing warm air into the lounge and galley.
Had this been a road test in hotter weather, I might have been less impressed by the small (hinged) opening sections in the side windows, rather than the usual sliding glazing. However, the item that foxed me was the table. This is a lightweight item stored behind the rear bench and mounted on a single pole. The first couple of times I used it, I was taken with how sturdy and wobble-free it felt. Then, mysteriously, I couldn’t get the leg to locate in the floor socket at all! Nugget owners please advise – is there a knack?
One solution is to eat outside. Not only does the Nugget Plus come with a roll-out awning (on the offside), but a free-standing table (mounted on the tailgate) and a pair of camping chairs, which stack in the rear corner.
Lift the tailgate and it’s not the stowed seats that you’ll see first, though, but the cassette toilet on the opposite side of the camper. This is the Nugget Plus’ ace in competition with its OEM rivals, as well as other Ford-based campers, such as the Auto-Sleeper Air and Swift Monza.
There’s plenty of room to use the loo and a reasonable amount of privacy is achieved by pulling a roll-out screen, as well as deploying the kitchen and tailgate curtains.
Westfalia has even fitted a mini fold-down washbasin that’s supplied with hot and cold water – hot is via a 12V/230V three-litre boiler. Having hot water also helps with the washing up, of course, while increasing the usefulness of the exterior shower. The attachment for this clips into place next to the handbasin, with a bracket holding the showerhead using a suction cup that sticks to the side of the campervan.
Back inside, the kitchen is broadly similar to that of the original Nugget. It is L-shaped and incorporates a two-burner hob, sink and top-loading 40-litre fridge. There’s adequate preparation space but, more notably, the counter is 960mm high – more like a coachbuilt motorhome than a small camper. The galley includes a cutlery drawer and enough room for all your crockery, pans, etc, but not much else.
Where the Plus gains over the standard Nugget, though, is with its tall, shelved locker on the nearside – vital extra space for folded clothes, towels, etc (or, in my case, camera bags!).
Behind the loo, there’s a shallow wardrobe, which looks too small to be of much use but holds a lot more than you’d think, if you use wire hangers. More storage space is found in a top-loading cupboard just aft of the offside door and beneath the bench seat. The Plus still can’t match the stowage capacity of a well-designed side kitchen layout but it beats the shorter Nugget and should be enough for a couple.
One thing you don’t have to worry about finding a home for is your duvet for the downstairs bed. The make-up of this is typical (slide the bench seat forward and fold it flat) and, at the same time, quite unusual (because the bed is up front and your feet go underneath the kitchen).
That void under the hob and sink is what gives the Nugget bed its length and, while it narrows at this end, the mattress is completely flat and quite a good size for this type of camper. And, when you fold the bed away, you can simply roll up your duvet and pillows and stuff them into the space behind the back seat.
It might sound odd, almost putting your feet into a cupboard but it works fine, as long as you don’t have terrifically large tootsies.
If you do, try the bed for yourself, and note that the mini-boiler intrudes into this space on the nearside.
Access to the loo or kitchen with the bed made up is as easy as in the daytime, but the aisle alongside the back seat is quite narrow, so that’s another aspect to check for yourself.
If you fancy a bigger bed, or want to avoid the (fairly minimal) hassle of changing the downstairs for sleeping, the Nugget Plus has a second double in the roof.
Not only is this of very generous length (more than 2m), but it’s wider than you’d find in a VW because the Ford is a broader, squarer van. Here, the bed is mounted on Froli springs, too, for superior comfort and it’s also easier to access than many roof beds because a short ladder is provided – the last ‘rung’ is the kitchen counter.
Read our review of the original Ford Nugget campervan here.
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