Campervans hold a special place in the hearts of many motorhomers. For some, they are an affordable first step into the world of RV travel. For others, they’re the last, as they downsize into something easier to manage.
The latest campervan to hit the New Zealand market comes in the form of Kiwi Autohomes’ Esprit II, built on a Renault Master Van. Kiwi Autohomes general manager Keran Miller says building on the Renault Master was an easy choice for the business. “The vehicles are competitively priced, economical, and offer all the bells and whistles that today’s tech-savvy driver demands,” he says.
Upfront in the cab, the standard offering includes cruise control, a speed limiter, audio streaming Bluetooth, CD/ MP3, two USB inputs, and a 12-volt aux outlet. But, most importantly, there are more cupholders and compartments than you could find cups and compartmentrequiring items to place in them.
Powered by a 2.3L diesel engine, the Renault Master has plenty of grunt with a 110kW turbo AMT transmission or 120kW twin-turbo manual transmission. The model reviewed is a 110kW, and being automatic, was enjoyable and easy to drive around Auckland’s busy streets.
And being able to drive into the supermarket car park – most car parks for that matter – and grab a standard ‘car’ park, is a nice advantage of a campervan over a larger motorhome. Being built on the Renault Master means that the Esprit includes a guaranteed servicing cost of $600 maximum anywhere in the country, plus a three-year 250,000km warranty.
The model reviewed is long wheelbase(4332mmm), but buyers can also choose from a short (3182mm) or medium (3682mm) wheel base and can opt for a high-roof option, which provides an additional 154mm in total height.
Quality, New Zealand made build
In 2015, Kiwi Autohomes partnered with Auckland Coach and Motorhomes (ACM), owned and managed by ex-boatbuilder Chris Cunard. “Our partnership with Chris and ACM has been invaluable for clients looking for quality, Kiwi-made motorhomes,” says Keran.
“As a craftsman and a perfectionist, Chris and his team bring a high standard of technical and innovative insight to every build. “This also means that, as with all of our motorhomes, the Esprit ll can be tailored to suit the individual needs of each customer.”
Entering through the side door (passenger’s side), the kitchen is upfront on the right, with the bathroom tucked away tidily to the left. Further down, the lounge/bedroom set-up in this model is U-shaped, although a walk-through model is also available.
The walk-through offers twin face-to-face settees, but no rear seat– which, of course, reduces sitting space but does create a good indoor/outdoor flow allowing occupants to enter/exit through the rear door easily.
The review model is finished in a contemporary colour scheme of soft blue upholstery, vinyl flooring throughout the rear, and light/dark timber cabinetry. It comes together nicely to create a relaxed, modern atmosphere that’s tidy and practical – important in a compact space such as this.
It’s fair to say a campervan bathroom is never going to compete with that of a larger motorhome or caravan, but nor would you expect it to. Yes, it’s a bit of a squeeze with the curvature of the vehicle intruding on headspace.
If you’re particularly tall, shower time is going to involve a bit of a crouch (although bear in mind, the high-roof option will provide more headroom). But it’s functional, tidy, and easy to clean.
Inside, the Thetford toilet sits on one side, the slide-shower and corner handbasin on the other, plus there’s the must-have extractor fan overhead. And, most importantly, a full-length mirror on the door exterior means you can check you’re presentable before you head outside for the day.
For a relatively small vehicle, the Esprit II’s kitchen offers a generous amount of storage and workspace, but not so much that it sacrifices lounge space.A three-burner Dometic hob and sink sit side-by-side with glass covers that keep the bench tidy when not in use.
There’s sufficient space to prepare meals and leave dishes to drain. And there’s a good amount of storage, with four drawers, a double cupboard, and a handy drawer under the fridge. Two overhead cabinets provide extra storage, and all the cabinets and drawers have lockdown handles to prevent them swinging open during travel.
Small vehicles are prone to building up heat over summer, and that can make for unpleasant travel and difficult sleep. The Esprit II has tinted windows to reduce heat build-up and provide privacy.
Keran and Chris have purposefully left the interior window frames free from velour or coverings, making them easy to keep clean and providing a handy spot for parking that cuppa. For extra privacy and winter warmth, Roman blinds are installed and each has the handy inclusion of magnets along the bottom, ensuring they sit tidily against the frame.
As mentioned earlier, the model reviewed offers a U-shaped layout. The U-shape has its merits – one being that it creates extra storage space beneath the rear settee, but I’d prefer the walk-through option.
It would be nice to open out those back doors when you’re parked somewhere beautiful and just hop in/out through the rear door. Or even better, create a third option that allows the rear seat to lift/ swing out, so you have the best of both worlds.
Whichever way you choose, you can be assured of a good quality build. The settees are covered in durable, goodlooking fabric, and they’re set on solidly built frames with storage space included. Soft-close overhead cabinets along both sides provide additional storage for short trips away.
Again, the quality of Chris’ boat-building standards is evident in the sleek and tidy handle-free finish. The gentle downward curve maximises internal space without intruding too much into the living-area headspace. A sturdy table can be set up for mealtimes.
It simply screws into the floor and just as easily can be removed and unobtrusively hidden away in a specially designed space beneath the settee. LED lighting has been thoughtfully placed throughout, and an Evoke HD/ LED TV is included as standard and is set up on the wall behind the bathroom.
When it’s time for sleep, the couches quickly and easily transform into quite a comfy double bed. The cushions are firm, and the bed length is long enough to cater for about 6ft (or about 1.8m). It’s not five-star comfort, but it’s good enough for short trips away – especially when you’re parked up somewhere beautiful to to wake up to. And after all, isn’t that what it’s all about?
The Esprit II includes a 240amp/ hr battery, diesel heating, awning and a satellite dish making it a good option for those looking to go off-grid. Come February, this model will be built on Renault’s Facelift model, which not only includes a new-look front grille, and a smarter-looking cab interior, but the nifty addition of wireless phonecharging capability.
- A good selection of extras
- Buyers can work with Kiwis to tailor décor and layout
- Space is a little tight in the shower
Kiwi Autohomes ESPRIT II specifications
|Renault Master Van
|Gas (bottle capacity)
|1 x 9kg