If you’re looking for a mid-range low-profile and the Fusion range isn’t on your shopping list, then it should be. This model impressed with its build quality as well as its ‘everything as standard’ spec and the 360 model adds a huge garage, long double bed and excellent washroom to the package. Only the stepped floor in the lounge area and the lack of an alternative upholstery let it down.
Price from: £56,995 Base vehicle: Fiat Ducato Berths: 4 Travel seats: 5 Length: 6.99m Width: 2.33m Height: 2.95m Gross weight: 3,500kg
If you’re wondering about the origins of the brand McLouis, the title comes from the merging of two neighbouring airport restaurant names (McDonalds and Louis) spotted when its founder was waiting for a flight. It sounds British, Scottish even, but is no more Anglo-Saxon than linguine alle vongole, although the latest models do aim to suit our tastes with on-board ovens and now, for 2020, UK-handed layouts with a nearside habitation door, too.
McLouis motorhomes, which hail from Tuscany, like most Italian motorhomes, first came here in the early 2000s when the Italians majored on entry-level coachbuilts. The marque returned to the UK after a period away a year ago, imported by that most English of makers, Auto-Sleepers, to fit below its own range.
A touch more mid-priced than truly ‘budget’, however, the Fusion low-profiles kick off at £53,995 and top out at £58,995 (before options). A-classes are expected to follow in due course.
For now, though, there are five models, all equipped to the same high spec, with lengths varying from 5.99m to 7.41m. Even the Lux Pack (including a 120W solar panel amongst other valuable kit) is thrown in, so the only extra-cost items listed in the brochure are a chassis upgrade to 4,400kg (priced at £2,000) and an automatic gearbox (also £2k).
You’ll need to talk to your dealer about a bike rack (for which fixings are already in situ) or an awning, TV or satellite dish.
The fixed single bed and island bed layouts that you see in every brochure are featured from McLouis, too, but the Fusion range also includes a pair of transverse double bed models, the compact 331 and the one-metre-longer 360, which we’re testing here.
There’s little that’s remarkable about the McLouis’ styling; it simply comes from the modern low-profile coachbuilt rulebook, with all-white finish (including skirts and bumpers) and a big overcab Sky Dome window.
The alloy wheels and framed, flush-fit habitation windows give a hint of upmarket flair, while a glass-fibre finish underneath and on the roof (which you can walk on) talk of the practical side. Body construction is referred to as WPS, the key features of which are Styrofoam insulation, a 70mm-thick floor, polyester inner walls and a complete absence of wood.
Not only is the entrance on the UK side but it forgoes any external step, thanks to the lower Fiat Camper chassis. Inside, two small steps take you up to the living area, which is all on one level, bar a step up into the cab and the washroom.
It’s also worth noting that the offside gas locker is mounted low, and it places the cylinders side by side, so swapping gas will be relatively easy. But the really crucial exterior feature is the garage, which comes with large loading doors on either side, plus heating, lighting, four fixed corner-mounted lashing points and a small hatch into the living area. Internal width at floor level is 1.09m and headroom is 1.20m, so there’s plenty of room for a couple of e-bikes.
However, if you want to carry a more potent two-wheeler, there’s also an unusually generous 300kg weight limit for this garage (thanks to chassis extensions below). That might also encourage you to go for the no-cost upgrade to a 3,650kg gross weight, if your licence allows, thus upping the 360’s total payload to 593kg.
We drove the Fusion very lightly laden (and with just delivery mileage on the clock) but the experience was enough to suggest that, for many buyers, the standard 140bhp engine will be adequate. But for those travelling en famille and with the garage loaded to the max, plus perhaps the 4,400kg chassis option ticked, the 160bhp upgrade would be worthwhile (it’s a £1,000 option, although not actually listed on the Fusion sales leaflet).
The cab could, perhaps, do with a bit more bling, too. The Fiat’s black plastic fascia looks a little aged, especially here without any contrasting sections, chrome-ringed dials or a leather steering wheel.
The original seats are covered in a cream leather-look material, leaving the grey armrests also looking a little bit bare.
The cab specification is good, though, with a DAB radio featuring sat-nav, reversing camera, Bluetooth and steering wheel controls.
Cab air-conditioning, cruise control, passenger airbag, Traction Plus and hill descent control are all standard as well, and the remote central locking includes the habitation door, which certainly gets a big thumbs-up from me.
The cab’s cream leather-style upholstery (for some it may not be the most practical colour) is continued in the lounge, where it seems better finished, complete with double stitching. The lounge seats are lower than the cab chairs, though, meaning that the former feel just a tad low in relation to the table.
The table itself is a permanent fixture but it’s a good size for family dining and it rotates and slides in every possible direction, with just a single handle to operate it.
Five could sit in this lounge (a sixth person would fit but couldn’t easily reach the table) and there’s good natural light from the overcab sunroof and artificial lighting from a virtually unrivalled selection of LED strips and spots (none of them dimmable). There are no reading lights in the cab, though, and we did wonder why the nearside lounge window was smaller than expected and rather high up.
For travel, the L-settee includes two three-point belts, while the nearside settee converts into a rear-facing pew with a lap belt. There is no headrest here, however, and virtually no view – apart from a ‘selfie’ in the mirror by the entrance or of the TV.
On site, we also found the head restraints on the forward-facing bench too low but, as these are separate cushions, it shouldn’t be difficult to remove them.
Net curtains add a bit of continental flavour to the lounge, while removable carpets (not shown) are part of the standard-fit Lux Pack.
Blinds are the simpler flat type, apart from in the cab, which gets concertina-style blinds rather than curtains or insulated screens.
The Sky Dome is one of the biggest of its type and the overcab area has cupboards at either side, which are so much more useful than the usual open pockets.
If this is the most Anglo-centric McLouis motorhome yet, it is also much more robustly built than some of its forebears. We were genuinely impressed by the feeling of solidity and durability throughout this Fusion, which seems to have a feeling of no-nonsense quality that’s lacking in some of its rivals.
Everything feels built to last and rattles are relatively few.
The kitchen is, perhaps, where you’ll notice this most and the appeal here goes beyond the Thetford Duplex oven/grill and the tall, slim 142-litre fridge with automatic energy selection.
There’s a touch more (glossy white) worktop than you’ll find in some rival L-shaped galleys and disappointment at an apparent lack of drawers is quickly allayed when you open the cupboard under the sink and find two slide-out sections (although the top one lacks a cutlery tray). Better still are the twin (high and low) pull-out pantry units found between the fridge and the cooker – they’re ideal for bottles, tins and packet foods.
The spec here even includes an extractor over the hob and an en vogue illuminated splashback around the kitchen window.
When the first McLouis motorhomes landed here they were ahead of home-produced rivals in washroom design and that’s still the case in this Fusion nearly two decades on.
Although you step up into this washroom, headroom is not an issue at 1.93m (slightly more in the shower) and, while all the Fusion 360’s facilities are in one ‘room’, it is hard to fault the design. The toilet area has an opening window, plenty of room to use the swivel cassette loo and decent amounts of worktop and storage space.
A toothbrush mug and soap dish are provided, along with a loo roll holder hidden in a cupboard, but you’ll need to provide and fit your own towel hooks/rings.
Alongside, there’s a proper separate shower with twin drains and a tiny roof vent, but the usability of this (well-proportioned) space is increased by the step, which is perfect for feet washing, or even to act as a seat.
Transverse fixed double bed layouts like this may be a relatively rare sight in 2020, but (as well as the big garage below) they have a key advantage for taller motorhomers – as the bed runs the full width of the motorhome, mattress length is much better than you’d find with an island bed. Here, it’s a whopping 2.20m (and headroom in the kitchen area also suits the long ‘n’ lanky at 2.08m).
The one-piece mattress seemed to offer excellent comfort, but some may find sleeping under the rear cupboards claustrophobic. Of course, access is more awkward for the person on this side, too, as they’ll have to climb over their partner to get out, but you won’t have to use a ladder – two steps are built in, although you’ll still need reasonably long legs to get up to a bed that’s about 1.17m off the floor.
We’d also have liked to have the reading lights and opening window at opposite ends of the bedroom, as sitting up against a solid wall is preferable to leaning against a blind but, as there’s plenty of bedroom lighting, it’s not a big issue to sleep with your feet by the window. A net is provided to stop occupants rolling out, although there’s no privacy screen or curtain.
There is, perhaps, an alternative to climbing over your better half, though – a double bed each! The second bed is an electric drop-down one over the forward lounge. It’s operated by a simple switch on the side of the bed and lowers in seconds. Unlike many of its ilk, it doesn’t interfere with the kitchen or access through the habitation door and there’s no need to move any cushions (or even clear the table) before you deploy it.
You will, of course, need a ladder to reach this bed but, once up there, you have two individually switched spotlights, storage pockets for reading material, etc, and a mattress that’s as thick and comfy as the one in the stern. The bed narrows towards the nearside, dictating which way around you sleep, but it’s adequately sized for two, especially as kids are perhaps the likely occupants.
Headroom upstairs is restricted to 530mm but this leaves just enough room to sit below (only where the lockers suspended under the bed do not intrude) or to duck and scramble through to the cab (where headroom is unaffected).
Ventilation for the front bed shouldn’t be a problem as both the kitchen roof vent and cab Sky Dome are adjacent. Also worth noting is the unusually tall wardrobe (next to the rear bedroom), with hanging height to cater for the longest of dresses.