Since 1997 Bessacarr motorhomes have been built by Swift, at first denoting more upmarket, more conservative designs. These days, however, Bessacarrs carry a ‘by Swift’ logo to link them to the parent company and, rather than a brand in its own right, Bessacarrs are simply Swift Esprits with different graphics and décor and some extra kit.
Sharing all Swift’s latest construction features, Bessacarrs come with the new SMART timberless framing and 10-year bodyshell warranty. The eight Bessacarr models are all on the facelifted Fiat Ducato chassis-cab, but only the new 494 layout (tested here) offers an island bed, placed transversely at the rear.
Island bed layouts generally require more space in a larger motorhome – at 7.75m the 494 is no exception, but it’s neatly styled with a sleek roofline and grey-green graphics. Fiat’s recent cosmetic surgery has refined the nose, made the grille more friendly, and LED daytime running lights emphasise the more slender ‘eyes’. Bessacarrs have a recessed 4.5m awning as standard, plus door mirror covers, and an excellent twin-lens reversing camera, whose monitor occupies half of the internal cab mirror.
The lounge contains a small nearside settee, swivelled cab seats and an offside half-dinette with two forward-facing travel seats. To provide sufficient payload for the extra passengers, this layout requires a chassis weight of 3,700kg, which means it will not be suitable for some licence holders. Alternatively, at no extra cost, you could choose a 3,500kg chassis, drivable under all licences, but the internal layout would have twin parallel settees and only two (cab) travel seats. However, all Hi-Style 494s currently ordered by Lowdhams have the rear travel seat option.
The well-equipped and practical kitchen unit contains Thetford’s latest Aspire cooker, with three gas burners and a mains electric hotplate under a glass lid, and a separate grill and oven below, plus a pan cupboard. To its right, the large round composite sink has a small integral draining area and external mixer tap, plus a chopping board lid and separate plastic draining tray. The work surface alongside (with two wall-mounted mains sockets behind) is extendable by a lift-up flap.
There’s an easily-accessible microwave above the sink and the 110-litre Dometic AES fridge – with removable freezer compartment – lives below.
Storage is provided in two good-sized overhead cupboards, one with crockery racking, and in a slim cupboard with internal drawer between the cooker and fridge. There’s also a useful cutlery drawer above the fridge. All is well lit, with a window behind the unit, a strip light below the overhead cupboards and ambient lighting above. As part of Bessacarr’s spec there’s also an Omnivent fan.
The Hi-Style 494’s USP is its island bed, something new to Bessacarr’s range. Instead of projecting from the motorhome’s rear wall (as is more usual), this bed lies transverse, its head against the nearside wall. There’s ample access around the foot – especially if, during daytime, you remove the 9in infill cushion at the bed’s head and push back the bed base, so that it measures just 5ft 6in long. However, even when fully extended, it’s still possible to walk around – because the bed is rather short at just 1.84m (6ft 1in) maximum. At 1.32m (4ft 4in), width is adequate, rather than generous. However, even if your feet do protrude over the end, you should be comfortable – resting on sprung slats, the Duvalay mattress is exclusive to Swift.
Payload is a reasonable 517kg (with the heavier chassis) and to utilise this there are plenty of high-level lockers throughout the Hi-Style (though only small cubbies either side of the cab). At lower level, storage is more compromised, with the power unit and water pump under the dinette seat and the external gas locker intruding under the settee base.
This is an abridged version of the full review that appears in the April issue of MMM magazine