By Patrick James on 2020-05-17 - The author has been a motoring writer for more than 16 years. Formerly motoring editor at the Coventry Telegraph, he now produces motoring copy, on new car launches and road tests on a freelance basis.
Taste of the great
FEW motor vehicle manufacturers are able to turn what are pretty basic models into motoring icons.
But Volkswagen is arguably the leader with vehicles like the Golf and, originally, the much loved Beetle.
But the VW campervan is a true icon, perhaps even more so than the Beetle. It has been around for 70 years and taken many forms, from the battered, painted specimens of the hippie era to the latest highly-sophisticated models which offer the same levels of comfort and performance of cars.
So as someone who has some experience of motorhome holidays it was with some curiosity that we decided to go smaller and try our hand with a camper van - or VW's Transporter T28 T6 Highline to be more precise.
This latest version is a million miles away from the original, boasting all the latest creature comforts and hi-tech gizmos, but no amount of technology can do anything about lack of space. Or can it?
From a maximum 28ft on our first motorhome, this VW offered something a little more compact. Compact, but still ingenious in its practicality and the big advantage over the larger vehicle, is that you are more mobile. You can stow stuff away in no time and be on the road, even down to the local shops. Exceedingly difficult with the motorhome.
We were invited to test all of this by a motorhome and campervan company which has recently opened a new branch in the Midlands, at Beoley near Redditch but has branches in Scotland and London.
On arrival, it didn't look like there would enough space to store all our holiday paraphernalia, but with ingenious hidden cubby holes and storage areas under seating and overhead, an awful lot can be stored in what appears to be a limited amount of space.
So we loaded up and headed south west to beautiful north Devon and into Somerset where we stayed at a couple of Camping and Caravanning Club sites.
Based on the VW Transporter van, the Highline camper conversion is powered by a two-litre diesel unit mated to a six-speed gearbox, offering plenty of power, but crucially when touring hundreds of miles excellent economy. By my rough reckoning we were easily getting around 45mpg.
It is a typical VW, solidly built with high quality fixtures and fittings including satellite navigation and the creature comforts you need for long journeys.
These are usually set in picturesque surroundings, with enough facilities to be comfortable, but secluded enough to be away from the madding crowd.
We chose one in Lynton in Devon, above the cliffs and overlooking the beautiful the combined town of Lynton and Lynmouth and the other at Minehead in Somerset - again a spectacular view over the town from high on a hill with an incredible panoramic view.
Both offer peace and tranquility with all the basic facilities required for camping and caravanning as well as close proximity to nearby tourist centres. Daily rates at both began for us at around £22 and included electricity points and water and disposal facilities as well as clean and tidy shower blocks and a small shop for essentials and a friendly welcome and helping hand if needed.
Here we were able to explore the van properly. Space is at a premium but the rear seats and table are used to create a double bed, which features individual lights, while the two front chairs are captain style, which means they swivel around.
Also the fabric roof can be raised to accommodate a couple of, usually children, above the main bed. It is worthwhile taking an extra foldaway mattress, because without it, unless you like sleeping on a board, the bed conversion can be uncomfortable. We used the mattress from the overhead bed for extra comfort as there was only two of us.
The kitchen facilities offer a cooker and fridge, which is just about enough, otherwise, weather and site permitting, portable barbecues offer a rustic cooking alternative.
As said earlier, the size is an advantage as packing up takes minutes and allows for plenty of sight seeing.
A trip on the water-powered funicular cliff railway down from Lynton to Lynmouth is a must. Lynton is 700 feet above Lynmouth, which was the only place to expand to once all available space in Lynmouth had been built on.
From there we moved to Minehead, again a picturesque town with its own miniature railway, which offers 20 miles of heritage railway and typically British seaside welcome.
For those who want wall to wall entertainment the vast Butlins sight can be entered with day passes.
A new level of motorhome for us, and we loved the freedom. Cheaper too, as the smaller VW uses much less fuel. Rockin' Vans has a fleet of campervans and motorhomes to hire with a week's hire of a VW campervan, prices start at Â£413.
If you want creature comforts, then maybe hotel is for you but if you want a taste of the great outdoors with freedom to move at will, try the camper van.
: 102ps, 1,968cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox
: 3yrs/60,000 miles
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