Not so long ago, I was at an RV show checking out the latest and greatest from Smart RV. I’m reasonably familiar with the Bürstner, Carado and Hymer ranges from Smart RV but hiding at the back of the stand was something I had not seen before. Unlike the more usual coach-built motorhomes, the Carado Vlow is a large van conversion.
A surprise from the Carado — a large van conversion
It’s based on a Fiat Ducato Multijet 130 van and has an external length of 5990mm. Van conversions are a little different to those based on a cab chassis because the motorhome manufacturer has to work within the van’s interior and, externally, has to cut several holes in the bodywork for items like windows, toilet cassette, heater vent and electrical sockets.
All the goodies, including a Thule Omnistor awning, are supplied
In the Vlow 600’s case, a few other details such as the Thule Omnistor awning and the electric step get bolted on, but the end result, enhanced by a flashy decal scheme, is a stylish-looking motorhome. There isn’t an external gas-cylinder bin - that is located behind the rear doors on the nearside and contains two 9kg cylinders.
The gas-cylinder bin is behind the rear doors
A little surprise for me when I jumped into the driver’s seat was that the Vlow 600 had a manual gearbox, something I know that many wouldn’t particularly like but, being a bit old-fashioned, I do. I reckon the six-speed manual change works well with the 96kW/320Nm engine, better than the hesitant AMT box.
Apart from the gearbox, everything else is pure Fiat Ducato, including the swivelling cab seats. A little note here for those who like a little more right-foot grunt, the Vlow 600 is also available in a Ducato Multijet 150 van with the more powerful 109kW/350Nm engine.
European motorhome manufacturers are the masters of using space, but sometimes in large van conversions, the interior feels rather confined, unlike similar New Zealand designs. However, the designers of the Vlow 600 have managed to create a ‘spacious feel’, which is essential to any motorhome design.
For a reasonably small vehicle, this is reasonably well-equipped, with a 90AH house battery, 150W solar panel and a 1000W inverter. Combine these with the 120-litre water tank, and there’s capacity for camping off the grid.
The four-person seating is an asset
It’s a German-built motorhome, so the entry door is on the offside. Behind the front seat are a table and a seat, complete with seat belts for two forward-facing passengers. The offside wall area and part of the sliding-door space are taken up by the kitchen bench area, leaving the space opposite to be filled by the bathroom.
That leaves the rear area for a large double or a short single bed. More about that in a moment. Downlights are fitted everywhere they should be, and there’s plenty of reading lights, which are on a track system so can be moved to where they are most useful.
There are plenty of windows fitted around the van, including the rear bedroom area. I had the impression that European large-van converters didn’t like to put windows, especially opening ones, in the rear. Not so here, with both the walls and doors having opening windows for plenty of fresh air and ventilation.
The Fiat cab looks familiar except for the manual gearbox
Some things are a bit fixed in time and space such as the front area of the Vlow 600, which uses the two swivelled cab seats and the table and rear seat to form a dinette area. Given the size of the van, it’s not an overly large space and, indeed, the cab seats are the ones to use if you want to kick back.
Swivelled cab seats work well in a confined layout
From the sliding door, there’s a step up to the dining area, and Carado has retained the original cab roof. The upside is valuable storage space. The downside is the risk of head contact every time you move to and from the driver’s cab. An overhead locker is fitted above the table and, in between, is a good-sized window.
Max’d out space usage on the kitchen bench
Given the size of the Vlow 600, it does not surprise that the kitchen bench is relatively small. However, there is enough space for a two-burner hob and stainless-steel sink, as well as three good-sized drawers and a useful amount of cupboard space.
There’s a wall power point fitted above the sink, which does seem to be a slightly odd location - maybe a bit further along the wall? At the rear end of the kitchen bench, a floor-to-ceiling cabinet contains the 96-litre fridge above and cupboard space below.
The space-saver roller-shutter door fitted in the bathroom
Fitting a bathroom into a motorhome of this size involves some fancy design work, helped by the roller-shutter door. Squeezed in are a cassette toilet, small handbasin, a cupboard or two and the flexible hose shower. Naturally enough, it’s a wet bathroom. A large roof hatch and a small window provide the necessary ventilation.
Multi-purpose rear area
The raised bed base gives rear access
The rear area can either be used as a double bedroom or, by lifting the middle-section bed base, a walkway to the back doors. The walkway can be used for the storage of large items such as bicycles or a surfboard/paddleboard. Tie-down straps on the floor are provided for that purpose.
There are reading lights on both sides of the east-west bed
The 1970mm x 1570mm east-west double bed is a fair height off the ground; indeed, there’s a small (removable) step for clambering into bed. Overhead lockers are fitted on each side above.
Good storage capacity in the rear area
One of the reasons for the bed height is that it provides a useful area underneath for storage. The only disadvantage to this arrangement is that the central bed base and mattress have to be lifted to get to the under-bed storage.
Carado Vlow 600 floor plan
I reckon the Vlow 600 is an impressive van conversion - and I understand it’s now only available in limited numbers. It has a reasonably practical set-up with the ability to carry large items if required. Its size makes it a pleasure to drive on the highway, and it’s easy to park.
For those who would rather have a north-south bed with a similar layout, the Carado V460 is available. It’s about 370mm longer than the Vlow 600 but offers a surprising amount of space for not much more money.
- Easy to drive.
- Manual gearbox.
- Reasonable storage for a large van conversion.
- Not too cramped inside.
- Window area.
- East-west bed.
- Bed base has to be lifted to get to under-bed storage.
Carado Vlow 600 specifications
|Fiat Ducato 2.3L 96kW
|Approx overall length
|Approx overall width
|2 x 9kg
Price as reviewed: $107,900 incl GST & on-road costs
More information: smartrv.co.nz
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