This new T-Line takes the island bed low-profile recipe and really mixes it up. The result won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but there’s lots to like here – from the XL-sized L-shaped settee to the twin-fridge kitchen with worktop aplenty and the generous garage. Less successful aspects are the number of steps in the floor and the limited cupboard space inside the vehicle. It’s a model that’s certainly worth considering.
Price from: £55,540 Base vehicle: Fiat Ducato Berths: 4 Travel seats: 4 Length: 7.47m Gross weight: 3,500kg
Roller Team’s existing T-Line 740 adopts what is probably Europe’s most popular motorhome layout. This new ‘T’ – the 743 – is also an island bed model but, unlike its sister, it’s not just another lookalike design.
Initial impressions are good. With its dark metallic grey cab and new-this-season pale grey coachbuilt bodywork, along with a standard set of 16in alloy wheels, the latest T-Line is a long way from budget Italian motorhomes of yore. But then this isn’t an entry-level product. It sits above the Zefiro and Auto-Roller ranges and comes spec’d to match.
There are flush, fully framed side windows, a new skirt locker (ideal for mains lead and levelling wedges) and a factory-fitted bike rack, as well as central locking (and a flyscreen) for the habitation door.
And, the entrance is also on the UK nearside unlike most other imports. With its NCC-approved badging, you could almost think you’re looking at a British motorhome…
…Until that is you open the door and climb (easily, via just an internal step) aboard. We can’t imagine a major UK brand opting for this triple-tone grey faux leather fabric (called Georgia) as its standard trim.
But, more importantly, it’s rare to find any brand (Chausson apart) that’s prepared to so obviously throw away the layout rulebook and come up with a new version of a very popular design.
You realise that this is not just another copycat design as soon as you clap eyes on the kitchen, which faces you as soon as you open the door (trimmed with smart GRP mouldings and with a bin affixed). Yes, it’s an L-shaped galley, as you’d expect in a continental low-profile, but it stretches much, much further across the vehicle than is the norm – nearly one-and-a-half metres from the offside wall, in fact. And the lounge mirrors that with an equally long seat backing onto the galley.
What’s the big deal about a longer kitchen and a bigger settee? We’ll come to the details later but, crucially, it completely changes the feel of the vehicle as the gangway feeds down the nearside of the campervan, rather than through the middle.
In the kitchen, the other big news is the sort of worktop space that most motorhome owners will be more used to at home, rather than when they’re away. There’s preparation or serving space on either side of the sink (which has its own split cover, so more worktop) and a surprisingly large surface area in front of the triangular three-burner hob.
While admiring all this space and wondering what gastronomic wonders you’ll be creating on your tours, you’ll spot a trapdoor in the corner of the galley – one that lifts to reveal a chest-style 12V compressor cooler that can be used as a fridge or freezer.
If you’re groaning that such a fitting will never suffice, fear not, for below the counter (under the hob) is another fridge, this time a conventional, front-loading, three-way unit with removable freezer section. Lots of chilled wine, beer and pop, or a separate freezer for tonnes of frozen chips? You decide!
You’ll be able to cook those French fries in the Thetford Duplex combined oven/grill, so the only thing that’s really lacking in this galley is a drawer for your cutlery and utensils, although space for plates, pans and non-perishable food isn’t in overly abundant supply – there are a couple of (rather high) top lockers and a pair of slide-out shelves in the cupboard next to the oven.
Maybe you’d stow some tins under the trapdoor in the floor between the kitchen and lounge.
You know the old adage about European motorhomes having small lounges? Well, here’s another new motorhome where you can forget that stereotype, although there are other aspects that reinforce the imported motorhome vibe – the net curtains, the super-sized overcab sunroof, the lack of a lounge carpet (an extra-cost option) and the aforementioned leather-look upholstery, which seems very practical but, perhaps, isn’t terribly homely.
Of course, on the face it, this is just another L-settee lounge with swivel cab seats and a fixed table on a central pedestal leg. Again, though, the sheer length of the settee quite changes the feel of the layout. There is room here for even the longest legs to stretch out, while the seat also incorporates belts for a couple of extra passengers (and the base hides not only the 100-litre fresh water tank but also the powerful 6kW gas/mains Truma Combi heater, too).
The importance of stretching out here becomes obvious when you discover that the small nearside seat isn’t so much a place to park your derrière as a clever concealment of the TV, which pops up on a bracket hidden behind. With your partner in the swivel driver’s chair, feet up on the opposing cab seat, all you need is the popcorn for a cinematic night in.
That’s not to say you can’t get four (possibly five) around the table, which is remarkably stable for a design that not only swivels but folds in half, too. Unfolded, it’s a generous 740mm by 800mm. At half the size it’s ideal for drinks and snacks.
Transverse island beds are nothing new – they feature in the Tracker and Imala ranges from sister Trigano Group company and Roller Team importer, Auto-Trail. But it is rare to find an island bed running widthways in a European motorhome, several continental brands having tried them and then dropped the idea as it was seen as not offering sufficient storage for buyers in the key French and German markets.
An answer, of course, is to raise the bed to create more garage room underneath – it seems so obvious it’s amazing we haven’t seen such an idea before. So, here the mattress is just over a metre off the bedroom floor – and that is itself up a step (through the en suite area) that takes you 190mm higher than in the kitchen.
Then, of course, there’s the question of getting into a bed that’s significantly higher than your one at home, without a trampoline or pole vault. Of course, the answer is more steps – a 210mm step on the forward side of the bed makes for easy enough access here but the person sleeping closest to the rear of the motorhome will find two more modest increases in floor height as they shuffle around the foot of the bed.
With longer acquaintance - as in ownership – you’d surely soon get used to all these changes of floor level but not everyone will adapt so readily. Maybe Roller Team should consider a low-bed version of the 743 for those customers who don’t need the big garage. Or better still, perhaps, a height-adjustable bed?
As it is, we liked the comfortable and quite firm bed, the ‘his and her’ reading lights, two opening windows and a rooflight for ventilation and the solid, sliding doors to close off the bedroom from the rest of the layout.
The usual bedside wardrobes are present on both sides but are very slim, so a third, deeper, wardrobe has been incorporated under the forward-facing edge of the bed. There’s also a shelved cupboard under the foot of the bed, as well as a strange-looking trapdoor, which appears to be designed to allow for a cycle wheel in the space below.
Underneath the bed is a big, but irregularly shaped garage, with interior headroom of 1.21m and width in the centre of 0.92m.
The design of the bedroom means that there is only a full-sized loading door on the nearside, with just a small (370mm by 840mm) hatch opposite. Lighting and power sockets are not present here.
What you do get as standard, though, is a second double bed – an electrically operated drop-down one above the lounge. The position of the sole LED strip light, and the fact that the bed narrows to the offside, mean that heads go to the nearside but, when lowered, the bed doesn’t interfere with use of the kitchen or the door (although you’ll need to remove the ladder to enter/exit).
The toilet room door closes off the en suite in the usual style and, with the sliding bedroom doors deployed too, there’s a full-width washroom with separate shower on the offside – and private access from either bed.
Unusually, there’s plenty of room in the toilet cubicle even with its door closed, and all the essentials are here – towel rail and robe hooks, opening window, toiletries storage and even a backlit mirror with the Roller Team logo. The toilet is rather high if you have short legs but there’s little else to fault.
Opposite, you’ll need to lift the false floor before closing the heavily tinted plastic doors behind you in a shower with two drains, decent headroom, a roof vent and a clothes-drying rail.
With so much innovation in this motorhome, you might almost expect it to be based on some rarely seen base vehicle but, no, the cab is the most reassuringly familiar part of the whole vehicle. This might be the very latest Euro 6d version of the Fiat Ducato but, unless you open the fuel flap and spot the AdBlue filler under the diesel one, you’d be none the wiser. Only the most observant of Fiat fans will see the ‘140’ badge on the driver’s side front wing, indicating a power output not previously available.
In fact, Roller Team specifies the entry-level 120bhp motor as standard but the 140 seems a worthwhile upgrade (at £900) as it also increases torque by 30Nm. On the basis of our test drive, there wouldn’t seem to be much necessity to go further (160 and 178bhp units are available, both still 2.3-litre) but, if you want the superb new automatic gearbox (a pricy £2,994) it’s only offered on the 140 engine and upwards.
You will not have to fork out for the chassis upgrade (to 3,650kg) if you find the standard payload a bit parsimonious, nor will you pay extra for a reversing camera or DAB radio and sat-nav, all of which are combined in the double-DIN Xzent head unit. The essential Drivers Pack adds cab air-con, cruise control, passenger airbag, etc, for £1,250.
On the road, the T-Line was very stable, with typically surefooted handling, as we’ve come to expect with Fiat’s lowered, wide-track, camping-car chassis. The Ducato is still easy to drive with a slick gearchange but its firm ride did elicit quite a few rattles on Lincolnshire’s back roads and we can’t help feeling that an interior update of this cab is overdue.