Like the majority of European motorhomes, ours is built on a Fiat Ducato van base. It has a 2.8 litre 150 BHP engine, so it’s pretty powerful and has good acceleration when needed. The gearbox is what’s called Comfort-matic – essentially an automatic with manual override (useful when climbing over the mountains) though it doesn’t have a Park mode where the brakes are engaged. I drive it in automatic mode most of the time and I really like it. It also has cruise control, which is very handy when chugging along motorways and dual carriageways.
It has good alloy wheels, and we’re fortunate to have a spare tucked away underneath the van. When buying a new van, a glorified puncture repair kit is provided as standard, with a spare wheel being an expensive optional extra. I’m told that using the puncture repair kit effectively writes off the punctured tyre, so not buying a spare wheel can be a bit of a false economy.
The van’s a bit on the large side to drive – the exact dimensions are: height 3.08m; width 2.32m; and length 7.49m – though it didn’t take long to get the hang of it. I also quickly tuned into road signs for low bridges, which you typically ignore when driving a car. I found that the most difficult thing to adjust to was the rear overhang, as if you’re not careful you could quite easily hit trees, low walls, road signs etc when parking up or turning corners. Reversing can be a bit of a challenge, though the reversing camera helps. Carol usually jumps out of the van when I’m reversing to guide me in.
The area at the rear of the van is known as the garage and ours is a decent size, large enough to hold a mountain bike, several crates containing food, clothes, tools etc and two large gas cylinders.
Being a German built motorhome, the habitation door and awning are on the right hand side, which is the nearside when driving in Europe (these are on the opposite side on UK build vehicles). When parked up on a camperstop this typically means that our hab door doesn’t open out facing towards another van’s hab door, giving a degree of privacy when sitting outside.
Having read stories about other people’s difficulties sourcing RHD spare parts on the continent, we fitted the van with headlight protectors and mirror guards. The headlight protectors are clear plastic and clip into place over the headlights, secured in place by the bonnet. I added some tape to deflect the beam, as is required when driving on the wrong side of the road. The mirror guards are there to cushion any blows and take the main impact if someone clips the mirror. Ours are white so that they stand out to oncoming drivers. Whilst that didn’t prevent bashing mirrors with a van in Italy, the other guy’s mirror disintegrated whereas ours is still perfectly usable.
There’s nothing very exciting inside the cab. The onboard entertainment is pretty basic – Fiat’s standard sound system with Bluetooth and USB, and their licensed version of TomTom’s sat nav. Unfortunately, the sat nav is the same as you’d get in the Fiat 500, and there’s no facility to enter vehicle dimensions, so it’s pretty useless and we use the tablet based sat nav app CoPilot instead. The display screen in the dashboard still comes in handy though, as it’s used for the reversing camera.
There’s a sound system which is pretty good, and we mainly use it to listen to podcasts when driving along. We also use a dash cam just to be on the safe side.
Like any other home, a motorhome has its own electrical, gas, plumbing, heating and sanitary systems, so I’ll be covering these individually.