Inspired by a camper van 'down under' this layout focuses on a great lounge and bed layout in a compact vehicle, but it does mean compromises to the kitchen and cab walk-through.
SCOT Naylor, MD of Vantage Motorhomes, is a keen motorhomer himself and a recent motorcaravanning holiday in Australia provided the inspiration for his company’s latest model.
The camper in question was purchased down under for a six-week tour, and despite its diminutive Toyota base vehicle, it boasted twin settees at the rear long enough to act as single beds.
That set Scot thinking; if it could be done in a Toyota, then it could be fitted into the medium-wheelbase Fiat Ducato and there would be room to squeeze in a washroom, too.
The medium-wheelbase Ducato is an ideal size for everyday use and it seems as if this version is now regaining popularity after recent dominance by long panel vans. At just 5.41m long it has a real size advantage, especially for parking.
Vantage already had a medium-wheelbase model in their exclusively rear lounge range, but the Med (like rivals from IH and Auto-Sleepers) can only offer a transverse double bed and modest lounging space.
What Scot was determined to achieve with the Cub was a full-size rear lounge, just as you’d expect in long-wheelbase models. That meant limited space was left for the galley, which unusually runs across the vehicle behind the cab.
You lose your walk-through from the cab to the living area, but that means there’s the possibility of a three-seater cab.
Like all Vantage campers it comes as standard in silver metallic, and while the options pack adds alloy wheels, the subtle graphics and unpainted bumpers leave the vehicle looking a little plain. But not under-equipped.
Ours came with a colour-coded toilet hatch, roll-out awning, awning light and external TV point for on-site cable connections or the attachment of a portable aerial that sticks to the ’van with a suction pad.
Inside, it’s the same story. There’s part-leather upholstery, but owners will probably want to add cushions for colour, but you don’t have to look far to see the quality.
All the cupboards shut solidly, while the doors are devoid of push-on edging, there are no visible fixings on the outside of the units, and the eye-level lockers feature top-class hinges and powerful mini gas struts.
It’s a very well specified camper, too, but the £39,950 price tag is perhaps slightly misleading as we doubt if anyone will buy a Cub without the Excellence Package that adds £5k of options for exactly £4000.
For your extra cash you get a base vehicle with alloy wheels, steering-wheel mounted radio controls, an alarm linked to the remote central locking, reversing sensors, mud flaps front and rear, electric mirrors and cruise control.
Then on the habitation side, the pack includes a mixer showerhead, part-leather trim, 16-inch TV/DVD, the portable aerial, tripod for external table usage, external cab screens, a safe, auto-retracting electric step, draining board and awning. Phew!
And in addition to that lot, our test ’van also featured a £700 85W solar panel. Vantage say that virtually every vehicle they sell has a solar panel, and with the fridge being an all-electric compressor version that’s probably sensible (though you do get twin 105Ah leisure batteries).
So we had all the toys, and still room for our kit. Those long settees provide plenty of storage space. The offside bench houses the boiler and heater but these are compact boxed-in units.
That just leaves space in the back corner for the gas locker, which we would like to see better sealed and with access to turn the cylinders on or off without moving all the cushions.
Much more practical is the removable drawer under the centre of the wrap-around seating, easily reached through the back doors.
There’s room under the lounge’s false floor for the awning winding handle but not much else and there’s no external access to the nearside settee locker.
At the forward end there’s a useful slot for bottles and a drawer pulls out to reveal a waste bin and storage for the draining board and drying racks. It’s details like these that show evidence of practical motorhoming experience.
There’s not much to say about the Fiat Ducato that hasn’t been said before, but it’s hard to see how anyone could be disappointed by the performance of this 2.3-litre engine in such a compact vehicle.
The cruise control and wheel-mounted stereo controls add convenience and the reversing sensors make life easier still.
Pity about that basic-looking radio though, since you’ll need extending arms to reach it from the living area. And external Silver Screens are a faff – the only way of completing privacy in the Cub.
The rest of the vehicle’s night-time arrangements live up to the original brief, though.
You get upmarket pleated blinds on all the windows and a huge array of LED lamps, both for general illumination and for reading, though the truly picky might point out that none of them are directionally adjustable and the light in the washroom would be better placed over the basin than the toilet.
If the 6ft 3in single beds look inviting, they live up to that promise and the double bed is king-sized.
We suspect most owners will make up a three-quarter double, leaving a little more floor space for access at the foot (kitchen) end, while still having a full 3ft each of bed width at shoulder level. The beds are firm and flat.
The TV is conveniently positioned for lounge or bedtime viewing and the new Whale heating did all that was asked of it in keeping me cosy. For more serious winter camping we’d suggest you talk to Vantage about upgrading to a diesel Webasto system.
The only other aspect you might find wanting is the cooking department.
The transverse galley has a deep sink, 80-litre fridge and decent amount of cupboard space, plus (beautifully made) drawers for cutlery and crockery.
Keen chefs might look aghast at the little two-burner hob, which doesn’t have ignition, though Vantage are investigating a new hob/oven/grill unit that they may be able to offer as an option.
Worktop space is limited, unless you use the draining board cover over the hob or sink, or have the sliding door open and deploy the fold-up worktop. The pull-up tower of three mains sockets is a practical touch, though.
The washroom is practical too, and like the rest of the conversion, very well finished. There’s a bench cassette toilet, tiny mirror-fronted storage cabinet and the necessary hooks and holders for towels, toilet roll etc.
The shower curtain simply covers the door so you’ll need to remove the loo roll and towels, but unless you’re slim showering on board will probably be a rare event as that basin does rather limit space. It is possible though, and the trigger release showerhead is separate from the basin’s mixer tap.
But this vehicle is all about that lounge, which is superb. Two of you can stretch out in full feet-up laziness, while coffee and dinner tables (slightly wobbly on island legs) are provided.
As you unwind with space to spare you can’t help wondering how Vantage have fitted it all in, and questioning why you’d need to buy a bigger (more expensive, more difficult to manoeuvre) ’van...
A longer version of this review was published in the June 2010 issue of Which Motorhome magazine.