Electric Bikes Video Guide

We have something a bit different for today, a video guide from Practical Motorhome on electric bikes. Many caravanners and motorhome owners bring their bikes with them to site, but over the last few years electric bikes are been seen as a serious alternative. Electric bikes can aid those who really need it or just make trips easier and more enjoyable for others.

There are two types of electric bike, those that provide assistance and those that can power the bike completely off the electric motor. There are also bikes that provide a combination of the two. If you use the assisted mode the bike battery will obviously last longer than if you make it do all the work. The maximum power of the bikes to conform with EU laws is 250W and the fastest you can go is 15 MPH.

There are some important aspects of electric bikes you need to consider. One of the most important for caravans and motorhomes is weight if you are going to store the bike on board. But also as the video shows if you are going to load them on a car. Picking up a heavy electric bike onto a car roof rack may not end well for you or your car. A lot of the weight of the bike is in the battery so if you can remove if before trying to lift the bike.

In terms of battery’s you really want to find a bike with a lithium battery, they are more expensive but will last longer. Some of the bikes are folding which could be key consideration if you wish to store the bike in your motorhome garage for example. Some bikes have a claimed mileage of up to 50 miles, but its like a cars MPG figure, its a guide. Going up and down hills etc is going to reduce that figure down quite a bit.

In terms of price you can get a Chinese import for about £500 or end up spending £2,500 on some other bikes. The Chinese import bike maybe worth a look if you can find some good reviews. What might be a good idea is getting a battery upgrade as I would not expect that battery to last long unless its been sourced from a reputable brand.

Chris

BMW X3 Tow Car Video Review

This is a video review from Practical Caravan on the second generation BMW X3. As the reviewer comments the first generation X3 was definitely a bit of a low point for BMW. It was expensive, had a hard ride and there was a surprising amount of body work that BMW didn’t paint for some reason leaving it bare plastic. This second generation though is a much improved car.

The engine in this version is a 2.0 litre diesel that provides an impressive 184 BHP and even more impressive you can get 50+ MPG. To be able to get power and economy in one car is a significant advantage. The BMW X3 was able to tow a 1500 kg caravan from 30-60 MPH in just 10 seconds which is very good. It also apparently handles well at motorway speeds and is generally all round a stable drive.

You get quite a bit of space for the passengers and boot space is more than reasonable. The tow ball on the X3 is very odd, its motorised and unfolds its self from under the bumper. Quite a good trick to keep the back of the car neat when not needed. The only thing I would worry about is if that motor fails you have got a big problem.

As with all BMW’s this is not cheap (£35,000+) but you do get a capable car with quite a bit of luxury that will hold its value. If you have got the cash and you need to tow the X3 has gone from an outside choice to a serious consideration.

Chris.

Swift Kon-Tiki 659 Motorhome Video Review

Todays we have a video review from Practical Motorhome on the Swift Kon-Tiki 659. So as you can see from the video this is a large motorhome, but this is not a van for lots of people just for two to tour in luxury.  Its based on the Fiat Ducato and has a second tag axel to support the back of the motorhome.

This video review is less of a complete review and more of an update on the improvements that were made to the Swift Kon-Tiki 659 in 2012. The most significant improvement was it started to use the modern Euro 5 engines. The motorhome in the video is the top of the range unit with a 180 BHP engine, but the standard 150 BHP was the most common. These more modern engines saw an improvement in MPG and C02 of 18%, which can make a significant cost difference on a long run.  However the engines also provided a 12% increase in acceleration performance. Therefore if you are looking to pick up a Swift Kon-Tiki 659 as a second hand buy its a good idea to get a 2012 or newer if you can.

A new feature on the 2012 version is the slide out external locker which I think is a great feature and the other locker gets the gas struts to hold it open while you access the locker. There are also improvements in the cab in terms of better plastics, a better radio with MP3 support and a TOM TOM docking port. There is also a rather nice leather steering wheel with radio controls.

In terms of the layout of the Swift Kon-Tiki 659 you get a reasonable lounge, a very nice kitchen with large work top and a fixed bed with rear washroom. Altogether this is a very nice premium motorhome for two and well worth a look for a second hand buy with the Euro 5 engines.

Chris

Practical Caravan Tow Car Awards 2011

Now it may seem a bit strange that I’m writing a posting of the 2011 awards, however its still very relevant for many caravanners who will be purchasing a second hand tow car.

The first part of the video explains how they setup the cars and caravan for the tests.  The car and the caravan are appropriately ballasted, the caravan to 85% of the cars curb weight. They then show a clip of a hill start test, unfortunately for the little Hyundai shown it seems to be struggling quite a bit. The lane change test is quite dramatic as it would be to avoid obstacles in real life. The constant radius bend test will also shown the stability of the vehicle and its control of the caravan. Apparently as stated in the video a reasonable result is stability at 40 MPH but the better tow cars can exceed this. Some of the tests are targeted at stability and breaking where others are testing how quickly and smoothly the car can accelerate with the caravan.

They then also look to the practical tests such as boot volume, spare tire type, tow bar installation and also how easy it is to fit additional mirrors. The Practical Caravan awards are looking for great tow cars that are also great everyday cars.

In 2011 VW did particularly well with the Golf and Passat estate winning the lower weight class awards. Next came the Ford Mondeo estate and the BMW 5 series estate. When it comes to large caravans it was the Land Rover Discovery which came out on top which is the same today in the 2014 awards.  There were other awards such as for fuel economy for the 1.7 Diesel Astra. The overall award went to the VW Passat estate.

If you are looking to purchase a second hand car that you also want to tow with its worth popping over to the Practical Caravan website to read the reviews of these cars.

Chris.

Swift Escape 696 Motorhome Video Review

Sleeping 6 people in any UK motorhome which is not a large A class is going to be tricky, never mind when its at the budget end of the market as is the case here with the Swift Escape 696. Below is a video review below from Practical Motorhome about this budget offering from Swift that was priced at just under £37,500.

Its an over cab coach built motorhome on the Fiat chassis. In terms of sleeping there is space for two over the cab, two bunk beds at the rear and then a central lounge area which makes up a double. You also get a large garage space at the rear of the van which comes in very handy. With the optional extras pack you get the automatically retracting electric step. As mentioned by the reviewer, trying to fit in space for 6 within a van less than 7 meters long is always going to be a challenge.

Dinning for 6 there is another slide out under the dinning table which extends to provide a dinning table for the two extra children on the side seat. Another nice feature for transit is the table bolts to the floor. The over cab bed can potentially sleep two adults, but its designed for two children. Getting in and out of the bed could potentially be an issue as shown in the video due to the fact the ladder cannot be in place when the lower bed is in use. So probably best to put the kids that sleep through in that bed.

The kitchen on the Swift Escape 696 is pretty good, particularly for the price bracket. You get reasonable work space, a good sink and practical three burner hob with oven/grill. However you will notice no mention of a microwave, but this maybe a cost option.

The rear bunk beds are an interesting working of the space. There is a ladder fixed to the wall for the top bunk. The lower bunk is actually part of the garage and lowers down. So obviously you can only use the bed when the garage is not full. What this really tells me is if you are using this van for six people you need an awning to unload the contents of the garage.

Now in terms of the negatives for the Swift Escape 696 its really the washroom which its space has been sacrificed to make up the 6 berths. Again though really this is an understandable choice as really in many instances a van such as this will be taken to sites with full facilities.

Really to be able to get a motorhome to sleep six for under £37,500 is very impressive, and as a second hand buy if you need to sleep six this could be a very tempting offer.

Chris

Karrivan 720 Trailer Acommodation Video Review

Today we have a review below from Practical Caravan on the Karrivan 720 and I have to say I have literally never seen anything quite like it. On first impressions it comes across as a sort of caravan/trailer tent blend. However the Karrivan 720 does have a specific purpose. The idea is if you wish to take your quad bike or any other leisure equipment you can, by loading it actually into the Karrivan 720.

There are is a large drop down back door to load the equipment in and the whole construction is out of aluminium to keep weight down and you can also hose out the whole internal living space as well.

So really the Karrivan 720 is the ultimate adventures trailer with living space, and it appears very well designed for the task.

RS Elysian TS230 A Class Motorhome Video Review

Today we have a video review from Practical Motorhome on a large A Class van from RS called the Elysian TS230. This is a premium motorhome and looks more similar to something you would see in the US than the UK. The base for the vehicle is the Iveco 6.5 tonne chassis as standard, however if you want the slide outs as seen in the video you will need to go for the 7 tonne chassis. There are two slide outs, the first extends the lounge area and the second extends the bedroom.

As this is a premium van it has a few tricks up its sleeve as you would expect. It features an automatic levelling system using the air bag suspension, but you can also set it manually if you would prefer. You also get an on board generator so you can camp pretty much where you want, however I’m not sure what the fuel tank size of the vehicle is for how long it could run or if it runs on its own tank. The high gloss wood work is very similar to many of the US motorhomes and leather is as standard, but the colour choice is up to you.

In the RS Elysian TS230 there is a double bed will pulls down over the cab and you can view the flat screen TV which comes down from below the lockers. You can specify either a right hand or left hand vehicle to suit where you will be spending most of the your time driving. The kitchen area on the RS Elysian TS230 is not really as large as you would expect however its still more than functional. This particular owner has decided to sacrifice work top area for a rather large coffee machine. However the kitchen is put together well and the materials used is obviously a much higher standard than you can get in most motorhomes, partly of course because weight is not so much of an issue.

The RS Elysian TS230 also features a wet central heating system which is becoming more common on top end vans. The washroom is done in black granite effect tiles and therefore it does come across pretty dark. Also I’m not really a fan of the small bowl sink, it may appear stylish but its not very practical. The shower is stand alone and the washroom space can be separated from the rest of the van. However as the review states really you would also want a separate door on the toilet so it could also be used privately if someone was having a shower. Also the clear window in the toilet is a strange design choice. Another benefit of the wet central heating though is that you do get a heated towel rail.

As the rear bed slides out there is enough room to walk around the bed. You also get a large TV directly in front of the bed and I do like the amount of natural light you get over the bed. Storage is also good around the bed and underneath with gas struts to hold it up.

This is an A Class motorhome inspired by US RV’s, as such you may like it or you may not. At a price point of just under £160,000 there does appear to be a niche UK market for the RS Elysian TS230.

Chris.

Kia Sorento Tow Car Review

The first generation Kia Sorento was a very popular tow car with caravanners, it was relatively cheap and could tow 2.5 tons and reliability was good. Below is a video review from Practical Caravan on the second generation Kia Sorento.

One of the first important things to note is this second generation car is its much lighter than the previous generation. Kia will have done this for two reasons, first to improve the MPG figures but also to get the CO2 figures down because of the new Tax bands. However as a tow car this is not going to please many people as you need sufficient weight for stability. In the review Practical Caravan found the Kia Sorento to be less stable in the lane change tests at motorway speeds. Apparently owners have reported that stability is improved with the optional self levelling suspension, however its unclear if that makes it comparable to the old Kia Sorento.

The reviewer does praise the engine for its increased power output and higher MPG figure. The manual car can take 100 kg nose weight on the tow ball, but that does drop to 80 kg if you choose the automatic. You still get 7 seats and there is a lot of room in the cabin.

The final view from Practical Caravan is that as an overall car it is improved, and with self levelling suspension can be a reasonable tow car.

Chris

Elddis Aspire 240 Caravan Video Review

Below is a video review from Practical Caravan on Elddis’s first attempt at a luxury motorhome, the Aspire 240. From the outside I do think this is a very good looking van, I do like the black panel graphics around the windows to give it a sleeker look. Its based on the Peugeot Box chassis and you do get alloy wheels. Having a reversing camera as standard as well is a good feature. Though it is disappointing that Elddis have decided to add the awning as a £900 option on the Aspire 240, especially as they have been previously known for value, that seems a bit steep.

The living space is a rear lounge layout, for sites such as ours where the view is the main attraction this layout works well to enjoy the views no matter the weather. The lap table appears to work well and the generally colour scheme and finish of the seats and lockers does give a premium feel. Now the Elddis Aspire 240 is a fairly long 2 berth but what that does give you is options when it comes to sleeping arrangements. You can set the lounge up with two long 6 foot plus single beds or a double.

As standard you get the 3.5 tonne chassis but due to the premium features of the van you are only left with a payload of 260 kg. Therefore for many people particularly if you are looking at taking a long trip, upgrading to the 4 tonne chassis maybe more practical. Storage under the seats is good, but I agree with the reviewer, really you also want access to at least some of that space from outside the Elddis Aspire 240.

The kitchen space is one of the best you will see in any large motorhome or caravan. The work space is excellent, storage is good and the tap on the sink is going to be very practical. Ideally for safety reasons I would like to see the microwave lower down, but its a small issue.

The washroom is to a very high quality as you would expect, it appears that there is a ceramic toilet but that’s not confirmed in the review and the heated towel rail gives that premium feel. The washbasin is quite special and one of the nicest I’ve seen in a motorhome of this price bracket. The separate shower cubicle is a decent size and its nice to see they are thinking about practicalities with a built in seat. The lack of two drain plugs is disappointing, it can be really helpful when not on a level pitch and again the cost to install would very minimal so its a strange absence.

The Elddis Aspire 240 is a good premium 2 berth, the lack of an awning for £50,000 is maybe something you could haggle on.

Chris

Peugeot 3008 Tow Car Video Review

Instead of a caravan review today I’m going to cover a review that Practical Caravan did on the Peugeot 3008 on how it performs as a tow car. First off as a comment on the YouTube page points out the review is of the 1.6 litre 112 BHP model where really you would want the 2.0 diesel for a towing car. You will obviously get better MPG with the 1.6 but you don’t want to get caught out with a lack of power on a hill climb. Its kerb weight is roughly 1,500 kg/h which is average for the competition.

Apparently the 1.6 can achieve 55 MPG (obviously not while towing) but a 30-60 MPH with a caravan on of 18 seconds is very leisurely. However the Peugeot 3008 did apparently perform very well at motorway speeds with good stability. Lane change again was good at slower speeds but started to loose grip a bit at higher speeds. Its surprising to hear from the reviewer that rear leg room is tight, because from the outside of the vehicle you wouldn’t think so. I do like the full length sun roof though.

The storage space in the back of the Peugeot 3008 is all important to caravanners as we know, and this car has reasonable space for its size but lots of clever ways to setup the space. You appear to have to reach under the car for the 13 pin plug connection which could get annoying. The nose weight for the tow ball is only 70kg and I would have expected a bit more from a car such as this.

All in all it seems a reasonable tow car and second hand you can get some quite nice Peugeot 3008’s with low mileage for better value than many of their competitors.

Chris.