An impressive first test of a 2019 McLouis on the brand’s UK relaunch. This smallest model appears well-made and mostly well-designed. It has a level of equipment that adds value to a competitively priced motorhome.
Price from: £49,995 Berths: 4 Travel seats: 4 Base vehicle: Fiat Ducato Length: 5.99m Gross weight: 3,650kg Payload: 737kg
'Bigger, better and back in the UK!’ The McLouis brochure shouts the return of – it claims – a much improved range of motorhomes. This Italian brand stopped coming to our shores almost a decade ago – probably due to the challenges of the banking crisis and the consequent fall in demand, along with less competitive exchange rates.
For 2019, though, the range adopts the new Fusion moniker and presents a much-changed image – no longer bargain basement and with prices to match. We're also reliably informed that these ’vans are produced in a new factory to boot.
There are five models in the range and, unsurprisingly, all feature fixed beds. There are two island bed models, one twin single bed layout and two transverse double bed designs. Lengths range from six metres to just under seven-and-a-half.
The 331 comes in at 5.99m, making it the baby. A half-dinette-based front lounge heads up the central washroom and kitchen with a transverse double bed above a garage in the far rear. This is a popular and classic continental arrangement.
However, the 331 plays host to something extra: above the lounge, which converts into a transverse single bed, there’s also a second single in the form of an electrically operated drop-down bed. So, four berths, kitchen, washroom and garage, and all in a low-profile measuring less than six metres long. Sounds great – as long as all the elements can work in harmony in such a compact space!
Sitting in the cab, the view of the dashboard brought a smile to my face: not only is a passenger airbag standard – hurrah! – but so is cruise control, cab air-conditioning, Traction Plus and one of Fiat’s more upmarket touchscreen entertainment devices.
The excellent level of appointments in the cab are mirrored by the kit fitted to the living area. And that story starts with an upmarket habitation door – window, waste bin and central locking are all fitted.
And, while we’re on the subject, there’s also a 120-watt solar panel on the roof and the underslung waste water tank is heated to keep frost at bay. Heating is by the popular Truma Combi and it’s the more powerful 6kW model, running on both gas and mains.
The chassis comes rated at 3,650kg maximum weight, which produces a big payload that’s within striking distance of three quarters of a tonne.
However, if your licence is limited, downplating to 3,500kg is available free of charge.
Creating two single beds from the lounge starts with the seating. The press of a foot-operated latch in the table base – plus a good push downwards – sees it descend to seat level. A couple of infills are then added – one with a rigid back that sits on supports adjacent to the habitation door – and a quite decent single bed is created – far better than the vast majority of dinette-based beds I’ve come across. It might still benefit from an overlay – maybe a memory foam device.
Deploying the drop-down bed is simplicity itself: a key is inserted into the switch mounted on the side of the base and turning one way or the other has the bed lowered and raised in a fuss-free and smooth operation.
At first, the galley seems rather compact, but that’s the nature of kitchens in small ’vans. Aside from the fact there is only a two-burner hob, the rest is OK. There’s an oven/grill (small, and adequate and mounted safely low down), decent drawer storage, a big cupboard and even an extractor fan mounted overhead. The fridge offering 142 litres of chilled and frozen space defies expectations of something so small. The 331’s cooking department is really pretty good given its compact dimensions.
In the washroom there’s storage above and below, a deep basin set into a thick countertop, excellent lighting and one of the latest-design loos at the right height for comfortable sitting.
A large mirror and opaque opening window, complete with blind and flyscreen, brings more good news.
There is also adequate floor space to use the facilities. The shower is a semi-integrated device that has ablutioneers standing in its tray while using the basin – albeit on a floor-levelling duckboard. When it’s time for a shower, and with the duckboard removed, twin rigid screens make a cubicle, while the corner is home to the usual mixer/rail/shower head arrangement. This compartment may not be spacious enough for those of larger frame, but I found it fine.
Bedtime in the rear double is a bit of a climb as it is set high to allow space for a garage below that’s de rigueur with this design. McLouis does provide a metal ladder, which can live on the bed when not needed (or somewhere safer for travel). I found it rather awkward to use and far from foot-friendly. Once you’ve clambered aboard, the bed area impresses, with space to sit up, good ventilation from a window and Mini Heki rooflight, plus the aforementioned excellent lighting.
Climbing upstairs to bed will always have its challenges, but one of the main reasons to buy this McLouis should be the garage that lurks below. And it is a real garage – with an offside access door that’s just over a metre high and sufficient headroom inside for full-sized cycles, maybe even a very compact scooter. It is quite narrow, though, due to the fact that the gas locker, the wardrobe and the boiler sit here in a line.
Of course, there’s plenty of space for other kit and McLouis has thoughtfully provided a second – smaller – door on the nearside, so all your camping kit will be easy to get at.
In a belt and braces approach, alloy mounts for a bike rack are pre-installed outside on the rear panel.
Back inside, the under-bed wardrobe can be accessed through its door and also from the top, as a section of the bed base rises on gas struts. Inside is a jacket-length drop with full-width rail and shelving.