Here come the Fords!
The latest addition to the steadily increasing portfolio of campers from the highly-regarded Derby-based specialist camper producer, Hillside Leisure, is this, the Hillside Castleton.
Representing slightly unchartered territory for Hillside, it uses Ford’s Transit Custom as its starting point – completing a line-up that also includes Renault’s Trafic, Nissan’s NV200 and – but, of course – Volkswagen’s Transporter.
The Transit certainly isn’t daunted by such company. It more than holds its own, and arguably wins out altogether once you start comparing prices.
Comparisons with any VW-based camper are inevitable, of course. The Transit sits an important bit higher than its rival, so you won’t squeeze under 2m car park height barriers in something like this. More important for many, though, will be the fact that this latest Transit is a thoroughly modern and highly user-friendly unit that shows a clean pair of heels to its rivals when it comes to overall specification – and, most importantly, what you get for your £s.
The Hillside Castleton floorplan is certainly comparable with other campers – it’s traditional furniture along one side, with rear double seat-cum-bed arrangement. But, there’s a bit of a twist here, as Hillside makes that otherwise narrow furniture unit L-shaped, so that it can accommodate a higher level of kitchen equipment than you might expect in a leisure vehicle of this ilk.
That includes a 65-litre compressor fridge, three-ring hob with sink, plus a Smev grill. Also on the standard kit list are 40-litre fresh water tank, mains hook-up and 110ah leisure battery, and a gas locker that takes a single cylinder.
As with all its campers, Hillside puts its faith in a RIB rear seat and SCA elevating roof. Note the scissor hinges action of the latter – it adds a few vital inches of foot room, for a class-leading roof bed measuring 1.97m x 1.10m. Its mattress might be thin, but there’s additional comfort as well as ventilation from the plastic supports underneath. In comparison, the downstairs double is a somewhat cosier 1.82m x 1.19m.
The Transit has intrusive rear wheel arches with which converters have to contend. Hillside has put a neat storage unit on the nearside of the Castleton to overcome this – but it also explains the narrowness of the seat/bed.
If the lined curtains seem a bit incongruous, LED lighting and USB sockets show Hillside is in tune with current-day needs.
It’s early days as far as options and prices are concerned, but just ask Hillside – many additional items can be offered in terms of towbars, solar panels, awning and rails, bike racks etc, as per individual preferences.
Although that start price is for the Castleton based on the standard Transit Custom van with 100bhp engine, Hillside is predicting the more upmarket Limited version (as featured here) will prove more popular. It’s an extra £2,800, but it kicks off with the 125bhp motor, while added cab luxuries range from heated seats with ten-way adjustment, to air conditioning, DAB stereo radio, cup and bottle holders, and lots more.
It’s a particularly car-like setting, too, thanks to fittings like the chunky leather steering wheel with controls, easy-to-reach gear lever and quality plastics with chrome detailing.
The exterior Tectonic Silver finish here – with matching rear bumper, door handles and mirrors – is from a choice of nine colours. Automatic transmission is still in the future for these Fords. But, it’s coming.
Verdict: Great value and a lot of sophistication bode well
Plus: Transit base, well-engineered conversion
Minus: Small main bed, curtains seem dated
In-a-nutshell: Forward with Ford
There’s more information on the Castleton on the Hillside Leisure website www.hillsideleisure.co.uk. Find out more about insuring this or your current motorhome on our motorhome insurance discounts page.
Alternatives: Auto Campers Leisure Van, Wellhouse Terrier
Hillside Castleton factfile
|Base vehicle||Ford Transit Custom, 2.2-litre, 100bhp, Euro VI|
|Dimensions||4.97m L x 1.99m W x 2.08m H|
|RRP||From £34,995 on the road|
|Safety & security||Electronic immobiliser, remote central locking, ABS and EBD, twin airbags, emergency brakelight system|
|Key options||Transit Custom base vehicle (£2,800)|