FEATURE: CaravanTimes continues with its long term testing of the AutoTrail Tribute

Van conversion motorhomes have always been popular for the short breakers
Van conversion motorhomes have always been popular for the short breakers

Friday, 14, Jul 2017 04:43

by Daniel Cartwright and Tom Evans

In the second blog of our long term test of the Auto-Trail Tribute 670, we look at how the Tribute performs for the short getaway, that weekend reprieve or the impromptu break.

As you probably expect and I hinted to it in the Vehicle practicality review last week. This is the where the Tribute really excels. Being so pleasant to drive and having everything you need and more, means you can go away at a moments notice and have the time of your life.

Van conversion motorhomes have always been popular for the "short breakers". They are the mainstay of people who use a leisure vehicle to support another hobby such as cycling, surfing, climbing, hiking, snorkelling, model airplane flying, paragliding and even dog showing or even following country music festivals up and down the country. It's easy to see why, their manoeuvrability and facilities mean you pack up and go at a moments notice, you can stay anywhere and you chase your desired weather, waves, snow, sunshine around the country. For this blog we will be reviewing the Tribute against this class of vehicle.

So what is a Van conversion motorhome? Well essentially it does as described it is a motorhome fitted in the full shell of a production van as opposed to a coachbuilt motorhome that has a purpose built shell around the cab. Van Conversions can range from small VW T6 conversions where the back seats drop down to bed and there is a small "burners only" kitchen, and no bathroom to the likes of the Auto-Trail which are bigger with all the mod cons. Each have their benefits and limitations but this gives you an idea of the scale of the class. A quick note on cost, the cost of the vehicles are based around the work that goes into fitting the van and the components used rather than the size or specification. So you can pay as much or even more for T6 conversion as the Tribute, but it is what suits your wants and needs.

In this short break blog there will be a bit from me, Dan - at 36 I have a wife and an 18 month old Toddler daughter - and a bit from Tom - a 27-year-old who has been using the tribute with his girlfriend for short breaks.

Dan's Family Trip

As described above, if your idea of a good weekend is leaving work on Friday, sitting in traffic for hours until you reach a remote destination, sleeping for 6 hours and waking up at the crack of dawn to squeeze yourself into some lycra and spend Saturday braving the elements then you probably already have a vehicle like this. and if you don't already, buy one! There you go, a short review for the thrill-seekers. If like me, however, you're an average Joe, is the Tribute going to inspire you to get out more, to get away at the weekends and justify the investment?

I think so - I'll explain this with one simple story. Whilst my family and I have used the Tribute for planned weekends away this one example I hope will tell you more than you would expect. It was a very sunny Saturday in July. We decided to do something we have done a number of times even before we had the Tribute on test, visit the Beach! So an hour in the car, get sandy, have some lunch then head back home whilst the baby has a nap and stop at the local swimming pool to clean up and get the last of that toddler energy out before tea (I'm northern) and bed.

Again, as you can predict from my previous blog, the Tribute is about the best vehicle ever to take on this day trip, so I detached the table, strapped in the baby car seat and away we go. We had great hour by the beach, the Tribute again provides us a place to change whilst keeping our drinks cold. After an hour it is obvious that our daughter needs an early nap. No problem in the Tribute just put her down and we can sit outside, have a drink, some food and wait for her to get up in a better mood! About lunchtime the baby awakes (she never misses a meal) and demands food straight away - luckily we have it all stocked in the Tribute, so with food done we're back on the beach. A couple of hours later we hit decision time, we were all having loads of fun at the beach but if we didn't leave quickly the pool would be closed before we got there! My wife said maybe there's a swimming pool round here that is open later. Two mins of thumb tapping and scrolling later, my wife proclaims all the swimming pools round here are in holiday parks!

You can see where the story is going, one quick call and we had booked a pitch on a local campsite with heated outdoor swimming pool (all of which was less than £10 more than swimming for all 3 of us!) and relax and enjoy another hour by the beach.

Now this is where the Tribute's flexibility but also specification come to the front. We get to the holiday park and we are still uncertain about whether we will stay or not. I'm for it, my wife less so but the beauty of the Tribute is because you are using it anyway you can decide as you go. It turns out the holiday park was a lot of fun, the baby played in the pool, on the playground and with other children until way past her bedtime. We put her to bed in a cot (yes that's right, a cot.. explanation later) and my wife and I eat oven pizzas alfresco, sat watching the sun go down over the Suffolk coast.

So a wonderful and unexpected weekend away, that cost us less than £10. More to the point would my wife had agreed to this to smaller van conversion without space for a travel cot, limited fridge space and having to walk to toilet every time she wanted used a bathroom? No, the fact that the Tribute crams so much into a small space does limit things like bed sizes and storage but what it adds to versatility and comfort is huge. Could I do that weekend in my caravan? Yes but not without planning, I would never randomly take my caravan on a day trip. Would that weekend have been different with a coachbuilt motorhome? I don't know - I think now that maybe I would be less inclined to take a big motorhome on a day trip but maybe that will change when I live with a big one!

Tom's Weekend Away

Having worked in the industry for many years I, like Dan have reviewed and stayed in many leisure vehicles. My significant other on the other hand has not. Introducing the fact that I was about to do a weekend test in the Tribute was met with the usual displeasure at the prospect of not seeing her for a whole weekend. When I informed her she would be coming with me that changed initially to confusion then to trepidation. Having spent years reviewing leisure vehicles of many types at Ferry Meadows Caravan and Motorhome Club site I decided this was our spot. Nestled in the Nene park area of Peterborough this is not only an amazing country park but also close to Peterborough for shops, brasseries and coffee shops, for the less committed camper.

The drive up from Croydon to Peterborough on Friday night gave her the opportunity to get acquainted with the benefits of the Tribute. When stuck in traffic, yes there is your favourite drink in the fridge, followed by the big captains seats allow you to recline in comfort and space with your feet on the dashboard.

Arriving on site late Friday night she said "OK so what do you have to do set up, will it take more than 20 mins because love island is on in 20 mins?". Three minutes later after "hooking us up" we were done, I was about to tune the TV but she had already logged on to the wifi and was watching.

Having had a good night's sleep the next morning things had changed, with the other half up and out for a run, I sorted breakfast - evidently Ferry Meadows is a much more inspirational place to go for your Saturday morning run than Croydon as she came back happier than ever.

The weekend continued in this way, the Tribute literally dealt with everything, from hairdryers to changing rooms, nipping into town and parking was a breeze too when the shopping bug hit. I think the biggest sign of approval was being asked "so how do you hang pictures in here.. and what about the carpets Can do you a different colour in the bedroom".

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