Length of five meters?
There are different opinions on the ideal length.
“In my opinion,” says Mike Reuer (Westfalia), “the ideal length is around 5 m. That leaves you some suitable space and functionality inside and still fits comfortably in a parking place.”
Of the same opinion is Klaus Rehkugler (Mercedes-Benz Vans): “Our Marco Polo models have a length of around 5 meters. The same applies to our V-Class and Vito. From our point of view, this length is ideal for providing customers with a companion for travel as well as for everyday life. A companion, which, if wished for, can also replace the standard passenger car, as mentioned earlier. With a length of around 5 meters, the campervan fits into all common parking spaces, whether at the supermarket, school or office. And with a height of less than 2 meters, it can even park in standard underground garages.”
This is the opinion of Andreas Kauth (Crosscamp): “Staying under 5 m is ideal. Of course, longer variants have a certain charm due to the larger interior space, but anything over 5 m becomes impractical in urban use.”
If the compact campervan is also to be used as an everyday car, the short length is rewarding, as David Elliot (Wellhouse Leisure) explains: “80 percent of what we sell is under 5 m long. However it must feel like a car to drive, which most modern base vehicles do.”
Bathroom: yes or no?
Should a compact campervan have a bathroom? Yes or no?
“No, not necessarily,” says Mike Reuer (Westfalia), “but it is an advantage to have a toilet on board.”
In addition to the small size of the living cabin, it is the absence of a bathroom that differentiates compact campervans from the rest of the RVs: there are a few models that have a bathroom, but these are almost all vehicles over 5 meters in length.
“In our opinion,” says Klaus Rehkugler (Mercedes-Benz Vans), “when dealing with a compact campervan, a built-in bathroom comes at the expense of a spacious living space. It would affect the feel-good atmosphere. Therefore, we offer an outdoor shower as an accessory for our Marco Polo.”
But the bathroom can be useful in some situations, so some converters supply emergency solutions, if not real toilet compartments in a reduced size.
“All our cars have a ‘porta potti’ toilet as standard. We do make a model on a LWB (long wheelbase) Ford which is 5.4m long and has a full cassette toilet and bathroom as standard. We have seen an increase in interest in this type of campervan because people want to be more self-contained due to Covid,” says David Elliott (Wellhouse Leisure).
Let’s not forget that to use a toilet compartment, it is necessary to have an adequate height of the compartment itself, and it is not possible if the roof raises at the front.
Robert Hein (Pössl) made this comment: “From my point of view, too much attention is paid here when buying, because, let’s be honest: how much time do you spend in the bathroom of your camper every day (e.g. compared to the time you spend in bed)? If you use it at all – there are showers and toilets available at the campsite.”
Building a compact campervan
Is it easy or complex to build a compact van? What are the major technical problems?
Mike Reuer (Westfalia) said: “It is easier to build a compact camper van compared to a panel van on Ducato, or similar base. It has no bathroom, smaller tanks and piping solutions, and smaller galleys, lockers and less furniture.”
According to Andreas Kauth (Crosscamp): “The difference between campervan and compact campervan is marginal. In contrast to empty vans, the first step in the case of car base vehicles is to remove the seats and interior trim and then to adapt them to the conversions later. Otherwise the processes are similar.”
But there are complex elements to be inserted in the small cabin, not to mention that the creation of the lifting roof requires skill and experience, as confirmed by Felix Holona (Reimo): “The major issues are the correct and safe installation of a homologated rear seat-bench. Also the installation of a pop-up roof, which comes with a large cut-out on a small campervan, can be difficult for installers who are unfamiliar with the compact campervans. Because of this, Reimo provides seat-benches and pop-up roofs only to Reimo-trained installers and requires each company to send their workshop crew to internal Reimo trainings, while offering on-site training to larger companies. However, the reduced size also leaves less requirement for internal trimming and means much more compact gas and water systems, making it, in some ways, also easier than a large campervan.”
But not everyone is of the opinion that it is easier to build a small campervan rather than a traditional model on a Ducato.
“We have built bigger Ducato-sized campervans over the years,” explains David Elliott (Wellhouse Leisure), “but the smaller, compact cars are much more complex to build as you don’t have the space to get everything in. When we design a new model, it’s all done by hand and when we have used CAD it’s not the same. You have to be in the car designing it so you can get the proportions right and the correct feel for it.”
Finally, Robert Hein’s (Pössl) opinion: “The type of furniture construction does not differ significantly apart from the size. Most of the time, the bathroom and toilet are not available in the camper van class, and you don’t have to worry as much about insulation as you usually work with a chassis that have already been removed by the manufacturer.”