“A big THANK YOU to Colin and Janet for this wonderful review of their experience of camping in their R40 Romahome.
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Camping in a R40
“We haven’t even made a cup of tea in it.”
Yet we were loaded up for a three week holiday – ‘possibly to Wales, depends on the weather’. ‘Our’ R40 was the demonstrator and it was only ready for us less than two weeks before our first (and only), booked campsite of the holiday, and everything conspired to prevent us getting away even for a night before the real thing. So how did two adults and a lively young Rough Collie, (like Lassie, for non dog people), get on with three weeks of living with the R40?
What we were looking for
We’re very practical when it comes to choosing a van, but we both had to agree that the R40 looks good, particularly from the front. Our main criteria were: that the van should be significantly ‘thinner’ than our current coachbuilt van, we are prone to exploring those little white roads on the OS maps, whether by design or Tom Tom accident), the R40 gave us an extra 6 inches clearance; the fuel consumption should be better than the 22mpg of our current 2.8 engine, the expectation of the R40 is early 30’s on the roads we find; reduced length for parking, we are over 1 foot shorter in the Romahome; downstairs bed, no problem there we said.
Let’s start with something that isn’t there. The spare wheel, it should be underneath that overhang but it has been abandoned in favour of a tube of repair spray and a little electric pump. The upshot is that the freely supplied spare wheel now resides in a stylish cover in the roof pod taking up space, but we have removed the mattress. What you do with the wheel if you buy the van intending to use the bed is a different matter.
We met some classic slow, twisty hills in Wales and never felt that we didn’t have the power to tackle them with absolute confidence. On motorways the legal limit was easily within its capabilities and only the slight wind noise from the Luton disturbed normal conversation levels. Steering is light and there was hardly any body sway on a series of curves and I cannot remember any lorries overtaking, but the odd Merc. Sprinter white van and motorway coach had little effect on stability. Then there are the brakes –Wow – discs all round and do you know it. Really progressive for normal use but in one sudden event I was glad I had a seat belt on as the van seemed to grip the road as if a magnet had been switched on underneath.
Getting into the back is not much of a squeeze, so no need to get out in the rain if you stop for a cuppa. (Oops, forgot turning the gas on).
Clipping on small convex overtaking mirrors solved most of the driving situations but reversing was a nightmare. The answer cost £ 46 and consisted of a pair of caravan towing mirrors that suctioned on to the existing mirrors so that they could be adjusted by the drivers electric controls. So we now have three mirrors on each side and look like a sixties Lambretta scooter rally. We think this should have been sorted by Romahome as they knew there were no wider stalk Citroen mirrors.
And reversing brings us to the question of overhang, or rather ground clearance. We haven’t hit the under slung Webasto diesel heater but we are always very aware of the kerb height or distance we could safely reverse over any obstruction.
With one caveat, this van is up there with the best in motorhomes up to 5 or 6 feet longer. Given that most vans are used by two people it is hard to see what you would need to carry to fill the four under seat lockers, six enormous overhead lockers, (25” wide 12” tall and 14” deep), and that overcab bed area. And that’s without the dedicated kitchen storage and the two wardrobes.
We were downsizing from a big coachbuilt and yet the only things we changed were to substitute the bulky freshwater hose reel with a 3 metre tube, and replace the rigid clean and waste water containers with collapsible cube carriers. Even our plastic boxes, which we pack with clothes and then load into overhead lockers, fitted straight in.
The caveat? We think Romahomes have missed a great opportunity to provide a ‘dirty’ locker accessed from the outside and keep some of that unwanted weight away from the overhang. At the moment the electric cable, hoses, toilet fluid and grip mats are squashed in the gas locker, but the front n/side underseat space is nearly empty as access involves rearranging the seating, so only seldom used items are in there. Meanwhile, levelling blocks, dog screw and motorhome sign still have to be found a home inside the van.
Three burner hob, grill/oven, good size fridge, big roof fan, enormous drawer for all the pots and pans, including a wok which is 19 inches including the handle. Soft close cutlery drawer and loads of preparation and serving space. A real cook’s special and all in white GRP wipe clean curvaceous surfaces with downlighters and a couple of mains plugs. We couldn’t fault it, even after making more than several cups of tea. Especially as the mugs, tea and coffee pots can all be accommodated within easy reach in recesses at the back of the unit. It provides the best cooking area we’ve ever had in a van, and we’ve had a fair few.
Relaxing and eating
We often meet up with friends and so accommodating four or five of us sitting around chatting was a primary consideration in choosing a van. We can do this with our normal layout of a settee one side and a dinette the other, a set up which gives us the best of both worlds. We can also comfortably see the drop down TV/video player. By changing to a two dinette layout we can seat four spaciously with full access to the central aisle. And how many small vans can accommodate four people in proper three point belted seats, (with an extra two in rear facing lap belts if necessary)? Anyone with one or two young children to transport in car seats will appreciate those advantages.
We had decided to try it out as two singles leaving the aisle for nightime visits to the toilet without disturbing one another, a major problem we had with the overcab on the previous van. Easy to make up from the seats and throw on a couple of sleeping bags and pillows. The handbook describes the making of the double bed as ‘a learning curve’, code for ‘if you have infinite patience and a love of jigsaws, this is for you’. We tried it once, the extra cushions are now residing in the loft at home. There must be an answer and we are working on it, bearing in mind that Romahome have obviously had at least three different goes at it. Work in progress.
Toilet and Shower
The good news here is that the latest bench type Thetfords have tanks with suitcase type wheels and pull out handle so that arm stretching journey to the other end of the site is now a thing of the past. The sliding door into the toilet is a real space saver and the high, small window is a great idea for getting light and air without losing privacy whilst having a shower. And the diesel powered space and water heating can really deliver so no more shivering trips to the shower block. The fact that it is built as a single GRP pod means peace of mind over leaks.
Verdict so far
A great van for our lifestyle. All vans are a compromise and we hope we have highlighted the decisions we had to make. The van is very well built, exceptionally light and airy with that big Heki rooflight, comfy for relaxing and a joy to drive. What more can we say?
PS the dog settled in from Day One, so that’s another satisfied customer.
Colin & Janet