The lack of a rear window means the 854F doesn’t offer the all-round views you expect in a rear lounge layout, but that seating area is still a great place to relax and the Rapido fights back with excellent storage (including a garage).
Base vehicle: Fiat Ducato Price from: £69,700 Berths: 4/6 Travel seats: 4 Length: 6.70m Width: 2.35m Height: 2.89m Gross weight: 3,650kg Payload: 550kg
Words and photos: Peter Vaughan
Rapido has previous when it comes to rear lounges. In fact, its very first motorhome (back in 1983) had a seating area in the stern and the maker from Mayenne has dipped in and out of the sector pretty much ever since. Most recently, its 8094dF had a rear L-shaped sofa (as well as a more formal half-dinette up front) in a 7.49m A-class body.
That was a model that had plenty of appeal to UK buyers but, oddly, it bows out in 2022. Its sort-of-replacement is the 854F, a smaller (6.70m) vehicle with just one main seating area (a U-shape at the back). Being an 8-Series, rather than an 80-Series model, it’s more affordable but it lacks the double floor and Al-Ko chassis of its forebear.
In common with other 8-Series motorhomes for the new season, it does get some added spec, though, including a heated waste water tank, a lengthways skylight and a new locking mechanism for the cab bed.
As always, Rapido also enhances the standard kit list considerably for UK vehicles. That means that the sub-£70k starting price includes gas/electric heating, a three-burner hob (not two), an oven and grill, a second leisure battery, removable carpets, an external shower (in the garage), twin-lens bus-style mirrors, rear corner steadies, and (on the base vehicle) front fog lights, Traction+, Hill Descent Control and a leather steering wheel with radio controls.
But that’s not the full story because, on top of that, there’s one of those optional, but not really optional, packs that obliges you find another £2,250. Why many motorhome manufacturers try to delude you like this is a mystery but the Select Pack adds lots of useful gear, including a reversing camera, Alpine 7in multimedia unit with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, ESC with crosswind assist, electric mirrors, height-adjustable cab seats, a pleated windscreen blind, flyscreen door and automatic gas inverter.
So, for £72k, you get a lot of specification. However, it’s the layout that’s of real importance here. The 8-Series range includes the expected twin bed and island bed floorplans, but here is something new. It’s a rear lounge, but not as we know it…
For a start, the 854F has a garage. Not a little bit of external storage under the settees that you might squeeze folding bikes into, but a proper garage. It has a full-sized loading door on the offside, a small hatch on the nearside and an internal height of 1.18m. Width is a maximum of 0.58m and maximum load is 150kg.
Including the garage, however, has made quite a difference to the interior design. There’s no back window because above the garage is a set of cupboards across the rear, with storage revealed behind three tall sliding doors. In the centre is a glazed section, putting your choice of wine on display in the cave while, to the left, is a generous wardrobe (hanging height 980mm, width 710mm). If you think that will be difficult to reach, stretching across the settee below, think again, as Rapido has added an arm that pulls the hanging rail out and down towards you, bringing your fresh shirt within easy grasp.
For some, I suspect, the huge amount of storage in these lockers will not compensate for the loss of the all-round views that normally come with a rear lounge layout. I would have counted myself in that camp after seeing the 854F on paper but in the metal/wood/plastic it’s a compromise I’d be prepared to consider.
This is, after all, an exceptionally comfortable place to relax, with well-judged seating – in a smart (optional) faux leather finish – that seems to strike exactly the right balance for firmness, height and backrest shape. The dining table is a permanent fixture but, because it rotates, folds in half and even lowers, it doesn’t seem intrusive. You can comfortably stretch out, feet up, here.
Artificial lighting is good, too, and there are rear speakers as well as no less than six USB ports. The only negative is that there isn’t a proper backrest under the offside window, so the seat here is more somewhere to rest weary legs than a place to sit to dine, unless of course you use the scatter cushions as back support.
The offside sofa does, however, hide another useful area of storage, while the seating also conceals the 120-litre inboard fresh water tank, the Combi boiler and the two leisure batteries.
There’s also a removable section of settee on the nearside – lift this out and you can have two rear travel seats, facing each other, pullman-style. Both pews have a three-point seatbelt and a head restraint (removable when on site) but, because the floor between them is raised, adults will sit in a slightly odd, knees up fashion. Probably best then to view these as seats for those still at primary school.
For grandparents, the rear travel seats could be a deciding factor as most, more traditional, rear lounge designs lack any facility for rear passengers. As standard, the 854F can also offer a bed in the back, by lowering the table and simply rearranging a couple of cushions. It’s not a jigsaw but it is rather lumpy, so you’ll probably need a mattress topper.
If you only require an occasional four-berth, don’t worry, because the main bed is in the cab, in the usual A-class style. Rapido needs to fine tune its new bed locking mechanism here, but the double berth swings down manually with little effort. With a magazine pocket, a spotlight at each end and a rooflight for ventilation, this bed ticks all the boxes – as you’d expect from such an experienced maker of A-classes.
However, the 854F also introduces another option – at an additional cost of £1,350. Over the rear lounge is an electric drop-down bed that is longer, but slightly slimmer, than the one up front. It comes down lower, too, (to just 900mm off the floor), so it has more headroom, although you can also stop the bed halfway, allowing use of both rear beds, but not the upper bed and the lounge at the same time.
Even with the bed fully lowered, you’ll need fairly long legs to find access easy without a ladder. It’s a shame Rapido hasn’t designed some form of pull-out step here, but maybe it expects most buyers to forgo the rear bed option.
As the back bed reduces headroom to 1.78m (less if you leave your duvet on top) and it precludes the large rooflight over the rear lounge that would otherwise be fitted, we’d not tick the box. The slow rise of the rear bed in the morning is another factor but the extra bed does mean you can have two proper beds and that might seal the deal for couples who like to sleep apart, each with their own BIG, comfy bed.
If that’s the case, you might also appreciate the fact that both captain’s chairs in the cab swivel, so there’s a second seating area when the back is still a bedroom. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the amount of space here, but the area is crying out for the addition of a small table for breakfast. The light and views through the huge, curvy windscreen would make it an ideal spot to munch those croissants.
You’d still take full meals in the rear lounge, of course, where the table unfolds to a generous 840mm by 940mm. However, while some French motorhomes suggest that our continental cousins must head to the restaurant as soon as they park up, this new Rapido has the wherewithal to please a keen chef.
The galley is surprisingly long and the L-shape towards the rear provides more separation between lounge and kitchen. That design adds extra workspace, too, as does the three-burners- in-line hob mounted well back in the counter. The raised serving shelf is a novel addition but, if you don’t like it, or need more clear worktop, it simply unclips. Removing the adjacent head restraint also makes for a more open feel.
The kitchen looks good, too, with its backlit splashback and contrasting black handles. The décor here is Bellagio (with the addition of extra-cost gloss top lockers) but you can alternatively choose Nacarat with white overhead doors, darker wood and light mineral work surfaces.
Whichever flavour suits your taste, you get a comprehensively appointed space with an extractor hood, an oven/grill that’s conveniently located, a slide-out unit for bottles and tins, a large cutlery drawer and a super-deep pull-out for pots and pans. There’s even a hideaway tea towel rail, while all the drawers are locked electrically at the flick of a switch.
Then, at the forward end of the galley, is a tall/slim fridge with generous capacity and automatic energy selection – as well as yet more worktop above. There’s a second 230V socket here, too, in a more practical position than the one behind the sink.
Opposite the kitchen, unsurprisingly, is the washroom, but very welcome is the fact that the furniture finishes well clear of the cab on either side, leaving plenty of space for the passenger to recline and for the driver to be long legged. There’s even a set of coat hooks fitted here.
Inside the washroom, there’s loads of leg and shoulder room when sitting on the Thetford swivel cassette loo, while two large mirrors and a rooflight prevent any feeling of this being a small space. The high-quality Argo metal tap is another plus, while shelf and cupboard space is pretty generous, too. But why has Rapido not fitted its usual elasticated straps to keep your toiletries in place?
It does provide a duckboard, although it conceals just a single outlet in the shower tray. Swing the mirrored wall to the right, so the basin moves over the toilet, however, and you’ll have no issues with the size of this shower. It even reveals a basket on the wall for your shampoo.
We won’t dwell too much on the drive of this new model because the prototype we tested was based on the last of the ‘old’ Ducatos, rather than the new Series 8. The facelifted Fiat will come with the digital dashboard display, Roll Over Mitigation, towing stability control and automatic post-collision braking.
What won’t change is the fact that the 854F’s ratio of long wheelbase to short rear overhang makes it feel exceptionally stable on the road. Nor the fact that 160bhp (an upgrade from the standard 140bhp) gives fairly spritely performance, combined with the excellent easygoing nature of the optional nine-speed automatic gearbox. This is exactly how we’d spec this Rapido.
You’ll also appreciate the multi-adjustable cab chairs with their integral seatbelts and the good visibility, with deep side windows, dual-lens bus mirrors and that huge windscreen. And, for once, it doesn’t matter if it rains – this A-class has triple windscreen wipers correctly set up for right-hand drive.
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