This is a well-equipped, comfortable motorhome built on an excellent chassis with a peach of a motor that made the whole experience a pleasure. A few design details need to be looked at, including that rather too short island bed.
Berths: 4 Travel seats: 4 Base vehicle: Renault Master Gross weight: 3,800kg Payload: 506kg
In 1679, Giovanni Cassini made the first scientific map of the moon. Fast forward to the first moon landings and it was then that Lunar Caravans was born, taking its name, maybe, as a kind of tribute to the achievement, but probably just good marketing for the time. Fast forward again to 2017 and the Cassini probe finished its 20-year mission to explore Saturn and the Lunar Cassini range was born.
Perhaps surprisingly, Lunar has rejected Europe’s favourite base vehicle, the Fiat Ducato, preferring to use the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter for its high-top van conversions and Renault’s Master for its six-model range of coachbuilts.
The Cassini comes with a reduced specification – and a lower price – compared with its Roadstar relatives. The Roadstar version of the TI layout is £12,000 more expensive – the extra cash justified by extras that add up to nearly 20 items. These are decorative, such as a metallic painted cab and alloys, or functional, such as Alde radiator central heating and a built-in awning, to name but four.
A chunk over seven-and-a-half metres long, the TI has its island bed arranged lengthways. Moving forwards, the kitchen and washroom are located either side of the aisle. Up front, a classic Euro lounge means swivelling cab seats, a half-dinette (with two fully belted travel seats) and an inward-facing single seat opposite.
All of the above is a very common layout for a low-profile coachbuilt; however, there are no current competitors based on the Renault Master – could that swing the deal in the Lunar’s favour?
The standard motor on this test ’van produced 130 horsepower, while £1,299 gets you another 15bhp, courtesy of twin turbos. Other standard-fit cab items of note are a multi-function steering wheel (with Bluetooth) and high-level shelves that should be pretty good for stashing maps and the like. The very good value Driver’s Pack (£1,399) adds cab air-conditioning, cruise control and an upgrade to a DAB radio with sat-nav. Expect it to be one of those ‘options’ that is effectively standard-fit.
It’s no surprise that the living area is a symphony in neutral shades, like most of the competition. But it proved a pleasant place to be, even during the dark days of winter. Proper, functioning lined curtains in both lounge and bedroom add a drop of cosiness, as does the removable carpet set.
The Cassini TI’s lounge is sufficiently generous to incorporate a large wall-mounted table with a swing-out extension that allows the five people who can sit in here to dine in comfort as well. The lounge does duty as berths three and four – a transverse double constructed in time-honoured fashion: the table is lowered, a couple of support sections slide out from the seat bases, and seat cushions and four infill cushions are added to complete the mattress.
Good aspects include a support structure that is strong and a bed that’s quite flat. There are plenty of cushion-to-cushion joins, but that’s no different to most beds of this type – a mattress topper will help here. Two features are less impressive, though: the table (which must be lowered manually) proved back-achingly heavy, while the infill cushions, when not in use, steal storage space. You’ll probably have to stow them in the locker beneath the island bed.
Plenty of boxes are ticked in the galley: a microwave, a decent sink, an oven/grill, a three-burner hob and enough working surface to give the cook an easy life. Ambitious meals might be made and storage provision scores reasonably well, too, with two lockers below and two above. I’d be pretty happy operating in this kitchen, but would miss the presence of drawers (there’s just one and it’s inside a cupboard) and not be too pleased that, to get at the microwave, you have to open a locker door. More than the one mains socket would be good to see, as well.
The small room kit includes a countertop washbasin, separate shower, cupboard below and roomy locker above, swivel-bowl Thetford cassette loo and a large area of mirror.
The main reason to buy a TI-layout Cassini is its domestic-style island bed, which sits alone in the rear with a good level of space around its foot. And there’s even more room on offer as the mattress slides back, the head end of the bed folding allowing one to sit upright against the headboard. This deep, padded headboard gives very comfortable sitting up, the mattress is comfortably deep and two spotlamps should make for easy night-time reading.
The design is much the same as many others, with night-table surface and a wardrobe on each side. Below, shelves on the offside and a cupboard on the nearside provide extra stowage space. Against the washroom wall are more shelves and a TV bracket, served by 12V and aerial sockets. A concertina screen is a simple but effective solution to provide privacy from the rest of the interior.
Strongly constructed with metal under-framing, the island bed base rises, supported by twin gas struts, to give internal access to a reasonably sized locker that’s divided across its width. There’s another access point, an external hatch on the nearside, but it’s rather small – fine for loading longer, flat items like windbreaks. Bulkier stuff will have to be wrestled through the interior. There’s no height adjustment for the bed/locker.
Payload is decent (at just over 500kg), but bear in mind that the 3,800kg maximum weight means you will need a C1 category on your driving licence. News from the life support department is mostly fine, with a frost-beating inboard fresh water tank and Truma Combi heating that runs on both gas and mains electricity.
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