Going big on beds
Benimar motorhomes have got off to a flying restart here in the UK. Thanks to an exclusive tie-up with Marquis Leisure – the 11-strong dealer group that’s part of the Auto-Sleepers Group.
That’s been reflected in sales, too. Benimars were re-introduced to the UK for the 2015 season and here we are, mid-2016, and they’re claiming a significant five per cent slice of new motorhome sales.
Worth a closer look, then? Definitely. And key to that success has to be the careful blend of price, quality of build and – arguably the clincher – specifications that appeal to us Brits.
As of now, there are 10 Benimar models to choose from – all coachbuilts: half low-profile, half overcabs. More are on the way, too.
This is one of the “second wave” introduced earlier this year. The Benimar Mileo 346 tops the range, though, as a full six-berth in all meanings of the term – passenger-carrying, sleeping and having the wherewithal to cope with the whole family on board.
It’s all based on the Maxi version of Fiat’s ever-popular Ducato. That means a maximum vehicle weight of 4,250kg (check your driving licences) as well as a more than healthy one tonne-plus payload.
There’s true versatility here, too, thanks to a back section that comprises a height-adjustable transverse double bed set over a capacious garage. The whole bed can be moved up or down so you can optimise garage space or bed accessibility, as it suits. It’s very clever – the only possible enhancement would be electrical operation, to save going outside to adjust things manually.
There’s also some clever thinking in the main lounge area – where the doubled dinette can be extended once you’re parked up on-site. Extra cushion sections, along with a swing-out table extension mean you can, indeed, just about cope with six at mealtimes.
It’s only in the kitchen area where the Mileo 346 loses it a bit. It’s a very compact main unit. Storage is limited, too. The chef gets a Thetford Triplex cooker with two gas rings and an electric hotplate plus combined oven/grill. To the left is a 150-litre Thetford fridge/freezer, with microwave oven set above it – which could be too high for some.
The washroom is functional and a good size, with highlights including the plastic-lined shower cubicle (although, strangely, the shower itself is designed for hand-held use only). There’s also room for a fixed basin in grey plastic and Thetford’s swivel-bowl toilet.
Downsides? The soft furnishings are best described as “standard continental” rather than the rather better qualities we expect on home-grown motorhomes. And there really should be dedicated storage for the table, especially if you’re carrying rear passengers.
As for that long list of equipment, it includes modern-day “essentials” – from DAB radio with Satnav, to reversing camera (don’t forget Caravan Guard offer an insurance discount for motorhome reversing cameras). As ever, you’re best doing your own research as well as conclusions on what is essential, desirable, a real bonus or just pure gimmickry. But, features such as the 140Watt solar panel, Truma Combi 6 heating and hot water system operating from gas and mains electricity, pre-wiring for a second leisure battery, 12V and 230V sockets, as well as easily accessible spare wheel in the garage, external gas and shower points, and a whole lot more, surely do the Benimar cause no harm.
There’s a five-year warranty on the GRP-clad bodywork. Note, also, all the conversion work is switched to UK use, starting with the motorhome’s habitation door on our nearside. Now that tells you something about how serious Benimar is in its appeal to us.
Verdict: Superb value in a multi-berth motorhome
Plus: Generous UK-friendly specification, clever rear bed/garage
Minus: Small kitchen
In-a-nutshell: Hit for six!
Find out more about insuring this or your current motorhome on our motorhome insurance discounts page.
Alternatives: Rimor Seal 5, Roller Team Zefiro 690G
Benimar 346 factfile
|Base vehicle||Fiat Ducato Maxi, 2.3-litre, 150bhp, Euro V+|
|Dimensions||7.18m L x 2.30m W x 3.05m H|
|RRP||From £47,995 on the road|
|Safety & security||Electronic immobiliser, remote central locking to cab doors, ABS and EBD, EBA (emergency brake assist), twin airbags, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, fire extinguisher, colour reversing camera|
|Key options||Truma Aventa-Comfort air conditioner (£2,495)|