The compact size of this Pilote brings a new dimension to this category of drop-down bed motorhome, but there's so much more here to like than the 6.20m length. The Evidence spec makes for a great-value vehicle, while the huge lounge and the superb bed will ensure that the P626D is a popular model for Pilote. It's hard to find downsides, except for the two-burner hob.
Base vehicle: Fiat Ducato Price from: £57,940 Berths: 4 Travel seats: 4 Length: 6.20m Width: 2.30m Height: 2.85m Gross weight: 3,500kg
Words and photos: Peter Vaughan
One of the most popular layouts of last season was the 7m front lounge/end washroom design with a garage and drop-down bed. Initially seen from Chausson, it has since been added to the brochures of several rivals, the latest such newcomer being Bailey’s Adamo 69-4.
It’s easy to see the appeal of this format for couples, and even those requiring an occasional 2+2-berth motorhome, but what if 7m is a bit longer than your ideal? Would a more compact motorhome offering most of the same facilities be even better?
That is certainly the thinking behind Pilote’s new P626D layout, which takes a lot of what we like about the seven-metre P696D and condenses it into a 6.20m body. That’s 16cm less length than its closest rival (Chausson’s 650) and shorter than an extra-long Fiat/Peugeot panel van.
Clearly, Pilote thinks it’s onto a winner with this new compact model because it has also added it to the Évidence range, which is another novelty for 2021. Whilst the full line-up of 21 low-profiles (with and without drop-down beds) continues to be available here in a mix of Essentiel and Sensation trim levels, from these just four key layouts (and one A-class) have been selected to make up the UK market’s Évidence range.
This quartet comes with a one-spec, one-price strategy to include all the features that British buyers usually order, but at a lower cost. So, while a P626D can be purchased in Essentiel spec for £53,250 (to which you can add the options of your choosing), the much better spec’d Évidence version (in which you can’t change the décor or the kit list) is £57,940.
Just how good that offer is becomes transparent as soon as look at the list of extra features. It starts with the 8in Media Pack (with touchscreen DAB radio with Android Auto/Apple CarPlay and reversing camera), the Energy Pack (95Ah AGM battery, 100W solar panel), the Luxury Pack (fancier cab trim, leather steering wheel) and the Comfort Pack (habitation door with central locking, flyscreen and window, electric step, cab blinds and carpet).
That’s not all, as Évidence models also get leather-look upholstery, oven, Skydome overcab sunroof, Truma Combi 6 EH gas/electric heating, 16in alloys, awning and more. Perhaps most importantly, this spec even includes Fiat’s 140bhp engine and nine-speed automatic ’box.
With the alloy wheels, all-white bodywork (bumpers, skirts, etc), overcab sunroof and neat graphics, the P626D is a smart-looking motorhome. Not only that but the remarkably short rear overhang promises great on-road manners with excellent stability.
That was certainly the case on our test route and, although not totally silent, the general absence of conversion noise backed up first impressions of good build quality.
With just delivery mileage on the clock, the 140bhp motor initially seemed a mite lethargic but, as it warmed up, it provided adequate go and more miles should see it loosen up to give plenty of performance for such a small motorhome. Certainly the slick automatic gearbox makes driving a Ducato feel like a more sophisticated experience, even if the cab interior is showing its age.
At least the 8in touchscreen adds a bit of twenty-first century tech, although you have to sync it to your phone for sat-nav.
Manoeuvring is a doddle with the reversing camera and compact size and herein lies a major part of this new Pilote’s appeal. Unlike so many other small coachbuilts, however, the P626D doesn’t forgo external storage.
There’s a useful slide-out lidded drawer in the nearside skirt (ideal for mains lead, levelling wedges, etc), and the gas locker will accommodate a pair of 13kg cylinders side by side with a shelf above. Then, of course, there’s the garage, which is accessed from the offside rear.
It’s not a full-sized garage as you’ll find in 7m-long rivals or Pilote’s P696D, but it stretches 1.85m across the ’van and has an internal height of 780mm, rising to 1.45m for the first 600mm inside the door, and it even has a small section that is the full height of the vehicle (somewhere to stand skis or a windbreak, perhaps).
It’s also worth noting that, if you want to use the P626D as a four-berth, then the two large additional bed cushions have to store here, taking up quite a large amount of space, although they can be pushed into the lower section of the locker. On the plus side, you can also access the space from inside the vehicle via a sliding door underneath the fridge and wardrobe, so it might be possible to use the area for a dog crate.
If the garage is a touch petite, the lounge is anything but. Pop in through the offside habitation door (340mm up to the external step, then a 190mm step inside) and you’ll scarcely believe that you’re in a 6.20m motorhome.
Even though the overcab sunroof is nothing like as big as some we’ve seen, there’s plenty of daylight, with a very large nearside window and, unusually, a sliding window (that you can open for rear passengers) opposite. With 14 spotlights in the ceiling (including the cab), there’s a plethora of artificial illumination, too, although it would be nice to add some directionally adjustable lights for reading.
The key aspect, though, is the amount of space here, with the longer, nearside sofa measuring 1.74m. The fact that the table folds in half also opens up the feeling of space, but it can also become a large (820mm by 890mm) dining platform for when you are en famille or with friends.
The table can also be manually adjusted for height – in its tallest position it suits the cab seats, but this puts it a lofty 830mm above the lounge floor, so it’s better to reduce its height and dine from the settees.
Although the cab floor is 140mm up from the lounge, that doesn’t stop the front seats being a great place to recline with your toes stretched out on the settees and the TV lowered to a comfortable height on the bracket by the door (the telly itself is one of the few items not included in the spec).
Another plus is the neat way the lounge backrests ping into position, secured by magnetic strips – no more arriving on site and finding a pile of cushions on the floor! And, if you plan on carrying passengers, the nearside bench can also convert into a pair of travel seats with three-point seatbelts – one forward-facing and one rearward-facing. The conversion is simple and requires no extra cushions (two settee cushions are left over) but we’d like to see more metalwork in the seat structure.
You might also be a tad disappointed if you’re expecting to stow a lot of gear beneath the settees. The offside seat base is filled by the generous 130-litre fresh water tank, while, on the nearside, are the leisure battery and Combi boiler, leaving only the section in between (which disappears when converting to travel seats).
Do remember, though, that there’s all that external storage, as well as a surprise addition – a trapdoor in the kitchen floor revealing space for spare shoes, perhaps
You don’t need to find room for bedding when using the P626D as a two-berth, either, as your duvet can stay on the bed when it’s raised to the ceiling. And, if the lounge has you looking online for your nearest Pilote dealer, then the bed will have you direct dialling it.
The turn-a-key and press-a-button type of motorhome bed-making has become the norm in a lot of low- profile models but this Pilote goes straight to the top of the class in the bedroom department. Firstly, the bed comes right down to seat height (once you’ve lowered the table and removed the sofas’ backrests); better than that, the raised kitchen floor, which is adjacent, makes access even easier. Effectively, the mattress sits just 610mm over the (galley) floor, so you can just sit on the edge of the bed and flop straight in!
When you do, you’ll be amazed by the size of the bed. At 2.00m long and 1.58m wide on the nearside, this has to be one of the biggest drop-down beds on the market – remarkable in a compact model. Yes, it narrows (to 1.28m) on the offside, but that ensures that you can come and go through the habitation door without the bed getting in the way.
Of course, if you’re using both beds, then the electric one needs to be stopped in a higher position to give space for the sleepers below and the short ladder provided leaves only enough room for kids to use the berth beneath.
That’s a pity, perhaps, (although easily rectified with a longer ladder) as the lounge bed is also a good size (2.08m – with the settee backrests removed – by 1.22m). It’s unusually easy to make the lower bed, too, as you just lower the table and add the two extra cushions. It’s maybe just a shame that those bed infills are so bulky to store.
There’s a 190mm step up into the galley area, as we’ve already mentioned, but headroom here is still excellent (a minimum of 1.91m). The galley gets a good score, too, for everything, but the number of rings on the hob – just two.
There’s a decent amount of worktop (especially with the loose cover for the sink deployed) and there are 230V sockets at either end (12V and USBs at the forward end, too). An oven and grill is part of Évidence spec and it’s sensibly sited, while the 139-litre automatic energy selection fridge is even better placed, so you never have to stoop to fetch the fromage.
Even better is the storage, with a super-deep drawer for pots and pans, a large cutlery drawer and an unusual eye-level locker in the corner, next to the fridge. This great addition is perfect for crockery, cereal packets and more.
Then, opposite the galley, is the washroom. Here, behind a tambour door, you’ll find the Dometic cassette toilet, a fixed basin that you can get your head over for face washing and a tall locker with lipped shelves to keep your many toiletries and medicines in situ. The party piece, though, is the swing-wall that moves the basin over the loo to create a good-sized shower cubicle with soap dish, roof vent and 1.95m headroom.
Only the small step in the shower tray and its single drain are negatives, although we noted that actual draining of the waste tank is easy via a T-handle under the offside skirt. But then Pilote had long ago got this sort of detail sorted.
When you step out of the shower, you can pull a concertina screen across to turn the whole kitchen area into a changing room. That works especially well as the wardrobe is here (next to the fridge).
With a width of 600mm and hanging height from the rail of 0.87m or 1.30m, depending on whether you leave the shelf in or remove it, the wardrobe is also a lot more generous than its slim door would have you expect.