There’s no shortage of rivals to this new Europa from British manufacturers both large and small. Its purely two-berth, rear lounge format is a popular classic, with the well-spec’d kitchen and practical washroom being the stars of the show here. We’d like to see more thought given to the under-seat storage, though, and increased access to this area from outside.
Base vehicle: Fiat Ducato Price from: £54,995 Berths: 2 Travel seats: 2 Length: 6.36m Width: 2.05m Height: 2.75m Gross weight: 3,500kg
Words and photos: Peter Vaughan
WildAx’s range stretches from small Ford Transit Custom-based pop-tops to the seven-metre Elara on a Mercedes Sprinter. In between, though, the majority of the line-up is based on the Citroën Relay, which on the UK motorhome scene is the least-known of the Sevel triumvirate that also encompasses the Fiat Ducato and Peugeot Boxer.
Previously, there was also an odd man out in this Yorkshire manufacturer’s portfolio – the Europa, built on the Renault Master. Once a popular motorhome base vehicle, the Master has, in recent years, been dropped by makers such as Devon, Hobby and Rimor.
Now WildAx, too, has seen fit to bring the Europa in line with the rest of the range and redevelop the model to sit within an extra-long Sevel van.
As standard, it will be a Citroën, but if you want an automatic (and WildAx reports massively increased demand for autos), then it has to switch to the Fiat Ducato.
The spec (engine and gearbox aside) is the same whether you go for a manual Relay or automatic Ducato but there’s a £4,000 premium to pay for the latter.
Aside from the usual accessories, such as a TV, awning, alarm or solar panel, there aren’t many other options to add. Certainly, the base vehicle comes fully equipped.
On the outside, the metallic paint, alloy wheels, reversing sensors and rear-view camera are all included. In the cab, the DAB radio, sat-nav, passenger airbag, cruise control, air-con and leather steering wheel with radio/phone switches are present and correct, too. I don’t think anyone will be too upset by the omission of the chrome rings on the speedo and rev counter.
Externally, the light metallic blue colour is sure to be a popular choice, while the flush-fit double-glazed windows look so much smarter than caravan-style glazing that sits proud of the bodywork. There’s not much else to mark out this new Europa from the crowds – no garish graphics and just the most discreet branding.
The sliding door is fitted with a flyscreen as well as an electric step that automatically retracts on starting the engine, but above the cab there’s no fashionable sunroof. WildAx has just introduced that feature as an option on its Constellation and Aurora models, but it’s not compatible with the Europa’s furniture – yet.
Instead, the newcomer retains the overcab shelf and you have to stoop when walking into the cab – a padded section is fitted to protect heads.
On the road, too, it’s all territory that we’ve covered many times before. The standard 140bhp engine is adequate, if not sparkling, and the highlight is the smooth nine-speed torque convertor transmission.
The handling is as surefooted as you’d hope, but the firm ride does elicit some rattles from the kitchen.
It’s the rear lounge that’s key to a campervan like this, though, so let’s go straight to the heart of the matter. While many of the Europa’s rivals (including models from Auto-Sleepers and Swift, as well as the non-Sport Auto-Trail V-Lines) have twin side settees, maintaining walk-through access via the rear, the WildAx keeps the U-shaped seating of its forebear.
The barn doors themselves are retained (with a pair of opening windows), but you can’t get into the vehicle this way and the only reason to open them is to access the rather small central cupboard under the middle of the lounge.
This is big enough for your mains lead, hose and levelling wedges, but not for any larger outdoor gear. Chairs for al fresco use will probably have to go on the overcab shelf, instead.
Inside, the end lounge is a good size, with a slightly longer settee on the nearside and an overhanging wardrobe reducing space a little on the offside.
Five adults could easily be accommodated here of an evening and there’s generous lighting, both in the form of LED strips and reading lights in the back corners.
The padded leather-style trim on the walls has a premium feel to it, and the same finish is used for the ceiling, but I was surprised by the lack of rear speakers as the radio is, of course, at the opposite end of the motorhome.
When it comes to ventilation, the nearside window can be opened without clashing with the sliding door and there’s a small, clear roof vent, rather than the large Heki sunroof that we’ve come to expect.
The seats themselves are firm and a tad high (550mm off the floor) for anyone lacking long limbs, but matching scatter cushions enhance comfort for sprawling. Aerial and 12V sockets for a telly are fitted on the side of the wardrobe (not a TV bracket).
When it comes to mealtimes, there are two small tables (approximately 540mm by 400mm), which can be used individually or together. Their bases use a single leg that twists into place and is then secured by a plastic sheath that screws down to keep the table reasonably steady.
One table is ideal for drinks; with both erected, access to the offside settee is prevented by the wardrobe.
The clothes store (with just the right hanging length for shirts) is also home to the twin table legs; pack too many garments and they may become awkward to extract. Better, perhaps, to relocate the legs in with the tabletops, which get a slim locker each, one above the other between the fridge and the washroom.
There’s no table socket in the cab, but both front seats swivel to create a secondary seating area on site. With a low-level curved cabinet behind the driver’s seat and the kitchen worktop extension just within reach from the rotated passenger chair, though, both occupants here have somewhere for a mug of tea.
Better still, that offside cupboard has a mains socket and two USB ports adjacent if you want to use a laptop or other device, while reading lights are fitted for both front seats.
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Whether you’re a fan of microwave ready meals or following a complex Gary Rhodes recipe, you should be happy in the Europa’s kitchen. My better half, who is much more knowledgeable than me on such matters, declared the grey furniture very on-trend and the spec is as comprehensive as you’d expect in a near-£60k British-built motorhome.
The main galley incorporates a Thetford Triplex cooker with three gas rings and a combined oven and grill, while opposite is a Dometic microwave (the motorhome-specific one that doesn’t require a rotating glass plate). At 1.56m above the floor, the latter is best suited to taller chefs.
With a folding worktop by the door and a useful surface between the cooker and sink (which comes with a chopping board and removable drainer), there’s a generous amount of preparation space here. Pity the twin mains sockets are awkwardly placed behind the hob.
There’s plenty of storage, too, including three deep drawers (not soft-close) and a pull-out pantry unit, as well as a large cupboard under the oven and a recess for spices and condiments behind the hob. There are eye-level cupboards with tambour doors all around the motorhome at roof level, too, but be careful not to stuff these so full it impedes opening their doors.
One of the best features of this kitchen, however, is the tall Thetford 141-litre fridge with automatic energy selection. It’s the model with the very useful bottle drawer at the bottom.
Opposite the kitchen, behind another off-white tambour door, is the washroom. Fully lined with wipe-clean glass-fibre mouldings and equipped with a stylish elliptical basin and opening window, this space immediately strikes you as a cut above the campervan norm.
It doesn’t have a separate shower, as is very occasionally found in van conversions of this size, but neither has WildAx had to fit a horrid clingy curtain. The showerhead (on a riser bar) is separate from the basin’s tap, too.
As well as the window, there’s a roof vent to let out the steam and a small cupboard is fitted above the bench-style cassette toilet (which has good shoulder and legroom). A towel ring, toothbrush glass, small mirror and a hanging rail complete the excellent bathroom spec.
To turn the rear lounge into single beds, you’ll just move the corner cushions and centre backrest to the cab, while the backs of the side settees can stand on the floor.
Bed lengths are 1.87m (offside) and 1.93m (nearside), so plenty for most people, but the overhanging wardrobe does dictate that heads go towards the back doors (where the reading lights are positioned anyway).
On test, I tried the huge double bed instead, created by filling the gap between the twin singles. Fortunately, you still sleep lengthways (the top section of each side’s backrest stays fixed to the wall, restricting usable bed width a tad). No one will be able to complain about the dimensions of a bed measuring up to 1.93m long (on the nearside) by 1.85m wide.
However, if this Europa was mine, I’d need to invest in a mattress topper as the bed, although completely flat with no noticeable joins or ridges, is very firm.
Making up the double bed involves two boards that slide out from under the rearmost settee and then lifting these into place on their supporting rails.
As with the seat bases, these panels are solid, not vented or slatted, so you may need to lift the cushions away from the seats if storing the motorhome over winter.
You’ll find plenty of room to stow bedding under the nearside settee but the two lockers here have lids that aren’t supported by stays or struts, so you’ll have to hold the lid with one hand while you extract the contents with the other.
The offside under-seat space houses the electrics, including the leisure battery, with the Truma Combi 4 E gas/electric boiler in the back corner. There’s a top-loading locker in the rear nearside corner but this space is hard to access without moving all the cushions off the sofa.
Its maker says that the Europa has been designed for use off-grid and in all seasons, with a 25-litre underslung tank supplying the gas and the 100-litre fresh and waste water tanks (also mounted underneath) being insulated and fitted with 12V frost protection. A second leisure battery is an option and most customers tick the box for the optional solar panel.
If you can stretch to paying an extra £4,995, WildAx has also just launched its Volt Pack, which is available on the Europa as well as other models. This replaces the standard 4kW heater with a 6kW unit powered by diesel and adds two 100Ah lithium batteries, a pair of 150W solar panels and a 3kW inverter (allowing mains appliances to be used even when there is no hook-up available).
If you plan to stay on a stellplatz or aire on your continental tours, or you’re a festival/rally fan, then this pack sounds like a must-have addition to your new WildAx.