134 live-in test.indd

On Test Romahome R25
NIGHTS IN WIGHT’S SATIN
Romahome R25 on 1.6-litre Citroën Berlingo
Super-smooth GRP encloses the latest mini
motorhome to come from the Isle of Wight
R
omahome and small
Citroën vehicles have been
synonymous for over twenty
�
�
years. After the little Honda Acty
�
and Bedford Rascal bases, the
�
�
Isle of Wight company moved
on to the Citroën C15, never
looking back. As base vehicles have changed
- from C15 to Berlingo - so the Romahome
designs have been developed and refined.
The Romahome range has expanded too, now
starting with the R10, (a single berth, two-seat
conversion on the diminutive Nemo van), via
the R30 (formerly known as the Dimension and
based on the short-wheelbase Citroën Relay
van), to the acclaimed R40 - a small coachbuilt
on the Dispatch. The mainstay, though, has
always been the mini coachbuilt R20 - sitting on
the sturdy Berlingo – the definitive Romahome.
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BASE MATERIAL
Ever since Citroën introduced a larger,
much-changed model of this base vehicle,
Romahome’s new conversion has been
eagerly awaited. It’s now arrived, in the
shape of the R25. We tested the brand new
134 I FEBRUARY 2010
prototype, collecting it from dealer, Freeborn’s
showroom in Southampton.
We’ve owned three of the older-style
Berlingo Multispace estate cars over the
years, and found them tough, capacious,
economical and comfortable - and, over a
total of ninety thousand miles, very reliable.
So, we were looking forward to trying the new
model although, personally, I find the styling
changes to the Citroën base unappealing. But
beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
On inspection, Romahome has done an
excellent job with this model. The coachbuilt
body is beautifully crafted in gleaming, satinsmooth GRP - a clever ‘flying R’ decal on
the side - melding smoothly with the chassis
cab of the base. Slightly less rounded than its
predecessor, the body-shape is more modern,
and similar to that of the larger R40, especially
from the rear. Looking small and neat, it’s
something of a shock to realise that R25 is
nearly a foot longer than the old R20 - at 5.18
metres (17ft 0in) - and no longer a midget.
The body is narrow, though, at 1.88 metres
(6ft 2in) with mirrors folded - an important
consideration on crowded British back roads.
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Live-in Test report
1
Words & pictures
by Andrew Bromley
1 View forward to the
lounge in ‘Jammy Dodger’
2 ‘Jammy Dodger’ upholstery
and colour scheme is
cheerful without being brash
3 Great ingenuity produces a
compact, quality coachbuilt
4 The cockpit is supplied
in standard Citroën trim
2
3
AT A GLANCE
n PRICE FROM: £30,885 OTR
n BERTHS: 2
n LAYOUT: Two longitudinal sette
es
ahead of rear kitchen
n ECONOMY: 39.7mpg
ROAMING
4
particular example having noticeable turbo
whistle. Conversely, the second R25 we drove
later in the test, didn’t show this characteristic.
There were no internal rattles apart from the
usual cooker-top noise, easily silenced with a tea
towel. However, road noise from the wheels was
intrusive and tiring. I’d fit a noise-deadening kit.
‘Our’ R25 was a brand-new conversion, on
a 2008 base vehicle, and the computer gave
an overall reading of 39.7mpg. The second
‘van was newer, and it claimed 44mpg, which
is more what you’d hope for.
Once parked up, first job is to lower the
steadies, without which, seasickness on site
would be a hazard! Once they’re deployed, the
’van is rock-steady. Entrance to the living area
is through a door in the rear panel, which is
quite high, so a portable step (or the optional
electrically-operated Omni-step) is essential.
The door opens sufficiently wide to allow easy
access and is sturdily made, with a tall opening
window (with blind) in the upper half. Personally,
I’d like a second, lower window too (as in older
Romahomes) - improving rearward visibility. The
door in this prototype needed adjustment, being
slightly proud at one corner: on one windy night
FEBRUARY 2010 I 135
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First job, extracting oneself from Southampton
city centre in an unfamiliar ’van - navigating
through contradictory road signs and lots of
traffic isn’t easy. You sit low in the driving seat
- below the coachbuilt body - so there’s little
visibility through the rear side windows, while
the standard Berlingo mirrors are too small
to give a good view. There’s no interior mirror
on this prototype, either (they’ll be standard
in production vehicles), so it’s a relief to reach
Black Knowl Caravan Club Site in the New
Forest - our home for this test.
With a tall body overhanging the wheelbase
by quite a margin, the ride is, as you may
expect, somewhat lollopy, and you navigate
speed humps with circumspection, lest the
raised (standard-fit) rear steadies ‘kiss’ them.
Learn to adopt a smooth, genteel style
of driving and the R25 becomes a pleasant
companion. Although the driver’s seat height
is low and non-adjustable, reach and rake on
the steering wheel can be altered considerably,
and should suit most folk. Performance from
the (1.6-litre, 90bhp) turbo-diesel engine is
brisk, although it’s gruff when extended - this
On Test Romahome R25
there was literally a ‘howling’ draught!
Immediately inside the rear door, the kitchen
unit sits along the nearside of the central aisle
- opposite a tall cupboard, followed by a large
work surface. Forward again, is a comfortable
lounge with twin settees. The cockpit is
lower than the main ’van body, therefore the
capacious overcab is lower and more easily
accessible than in other motorhomes. Access
from the cab to the living area isn’t easy; the
athletic and slim might manage it, but there’s a
tray between the cab seats that gets in the way,
as does the driver’s armrest. Most folk will use
the rear door.
In the test ’van, all cupboard doors were a
smooth, glossy dark red, with the trademark
Romahome white GRP surfaces elsewhere.
The ceiling - excluding the overcab - is finished
in a beige fabric, the floor a tough, speckled,
off-white vinyl-faced board. High quality foam
soft furnishings were in a beige and red pattern,
apart from those in the cab, which were
standard Citroën grey. Matching trim for the
cab is an optional extra. Romahome calls this
colour scheme ‘Jammy Dodger,’ which shows
a nice sense of humour! We liked it, and also
appreciated the ‘Café Latte’ colour scheme of
the second R25 we tried, which probably has
more mainstream appeal. Whichever colour
scheme, we couldn’t fault the quality of finish
- it was superb throughout.
LOUNGE AND DINE
On either side of the lounge there’s a big opening - double-glazed window with a pleated
Seitz cassette blind. The two settees are 1.18
metres (slightly under four feet) long and at
just the right height (440mm, 1ft 5.5in) for most
people to find them very comfy: no dangling
feet here. For sprawling - feet up - there’s a tall,
slightly raked seatback to lean against. Sit more
formally, and there’s ample legroom across the
aisle. Removing the middle cushion on each
settee gives you two proper travel seats, with
three-point seatbelts (an option costing £265).
Here, however, there’s not much foot-room
for bigger hooves and the seatbelt stalks are
a little untidy. Even so, this facility helps make
the R25 a viable sole vehicle, and will be much
appreciated by Romahome’s typical clientele.
5
For dining, there’s a large freestanding
table (with folding legs), the same design as
found in many motorhomes. It lives in the
overcab, so to remove it you must first shift
all the junk you’ve piled on top. It’s also quite
heavy, and awkward to erect between the
settees. Once in situ, it’s a tight squeeze to
insert yourself between seat backrest and
table. We’d prefer a smaller table, and if it
could be stored in a rear cupboard so much
the better.
Remove the travel seat backrests,
however, and four people could very easily
be fed and watered here - the table should be
amply big enough.
‘Our’ ’van had no television for wiling
away long dark evenings, and the radio is
a fair stretch away in the cab. However, the
‘Café Latte’ ’van we tried later had all the
extras you could desire, including a neat
drop-down television above the cab:
very desirable.
KITCHEN
Rona was impressed with the kitchen facilities,
especially given the size of the ’van. The long
surface includes a good-sized, stainless steel
sink, with mixer-tap and glass cover, plus a
two-burner hob with electronic ignition. No
drainer though - a pity, especially as the work
surface is that lovely smooth (wipe-clean) GRP.
You wouldn’t dare place a hot pan here - indeed,
a discreet notice warns against it. However, a
wooden chopping board is supplied. Below the
hob, there’s a grill behind a drop-down door.
Again, there’s nowhere to rest a hot grill pan
- the open door dropping below horizontal.
Ideally, it would be held level and faced with
metal. Under the sink is a Dometic three-way
(55-litre) fridge that includes a small freezer
compartment. We noted that cooking sessions
could create condensation on smooth surfaces even in the overcab. I think the (optional) kitchen
extractor fan would be very useful to have.
Plenty of kitchen storage is supplied, with
8
136 I FEBRUARY 2010
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Live-in Test report
6
both high and low-level cupboards, including
a capacious cutlery drawer above the fridge
and a dedicated, high-level crockery cupboard.
Opposite the kitchen, there’s a most useful - large
- GRP work surface - with two mains sockets
above - ideal for the kettle. Another mains socket
lives above the hob opposite - not so useful, but
its position is determined by a regulation distance
from the sink. A white curtain mysteriously
disappears into a tailor-made gap at the rear of
the work-surface: more on that later.
We don’t generally wash-up in our ’van,
or any ’van, as sinks can be rather small and
draining boards are becoming
a rarity. Also, it’s a faff
organising sufficient
hot water, and you
end up with a
waste tank full
of old food
oddments
- yuck! We use site facilities wherever
possible. However, it’s worth noting
that this ’van does have enough
elbow room to work, plus hot water
quickly supplied by the dieselpowered Webasto ThermoTop
C300. Where to hang a wet tea
towel is a poser though, and one
would be loath to drill holes in the
GRP to fit hooks or rails! Doubtless
Romahome would fit them for you.
7
LAYOUT PLAN
n OVERALL LENGTH:
5.18m (17ft 0in)
n OVERALL WIDTH:
1.88m (6ft 2in)
5 A comfy lounge, with settees
at a convenient height
6 You can cook and enjoy excellent meals in the R25
7 Two rear belted seats mean the
R25 can be used as a practical four-seater
8 The kitchen is a good working area, with lots of storage
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9 The unit containing the loo is multi-functional, offering a cupboard
and drawer, with sockets above the work-surface. Wardrobes are aft
FEBRUARY 2010 I 137
On Test Romahome R25
BEDS
So, after a good meal and a nice drop of red
wine, what about sleeping arrangements?
We’re tall folk, so for us, the transverse
double bed isn’t an option. It makes up easily
enough though - the table’s legs are folded, and
it rests on ledges on the settee bases. A small
extra surface, which also stores in the overcab,
makes up the full width, and the settee backrests
fit on top to make a level bed (5ft 9.5in long and
3ft 10.5in wide) that’s big enough for many, and
comfortable. So, where do we sleep?
Simple: remove the cab seat headrests, fold
seatbacks forward (quite awkward, because
of the position of lever, low on the outside of
each seat) and push them flat. Next, detach
and remove rear travel seat backrests and lay
them on top of flattened cab seats, having first
remembered to set the steering wheel as high and
retracted as possible. The resultant single beds
are very long at 6ft 7in. The maximum width of
each single is 2ft 1in, minimum, the cab section,
is 1ft 7in. We made up the double bed and the
singles (sleeping longitudinally), so each of us
would have plenty of room for their top half, and
the beds were only narrow where our legs would
lie. An infill cushion between the front seats
would make a gigantic double bed - Romahome
confirmed that this is in development.
In theory, the single beds are fine. In
practice, the offside bed rises towards the foot
- the travel seatback (used here) needs more
shaping. More importantly, the end of the
seat cushion rests against the steering wheel:
lie down on the bed - and the horn sounds!
Oddly, the ‘Café Latte’ ’van (although it looked
identical) didn’t seem to suffer from ‘horny bed
syndrome’ to the same degree. In any event, I
slept satisfactorily, although the cab-to-body
bulkhead impeded my legs somewhat.
Between the cab and the body there’s a
curtain rail, with sandy-brown, lined curtains
stored behind the cab seats. At bedtime you
pull these across, then popper them up to the
ceiling like a Bedouin tent around the bedend. Very clever, I thought.
12
TOILETING
Small ’vans often have cramped loo
facilities if, indeed, any at all - apart from
maybe, a minute potty. Romahome has
really tried here - the large work surface
and cupboards opposite the kitchen
conceal a proper fixed cassette loo. It’s a
Dometic model (with ceramic-lined bowl
and its own water supply - filled from outside
the ’van), rather than the ubiquitous
Thetford swivel device. The work surface above
hinges up, and two cupboard doors open to
allow access. The purpose of the previously
mentioned white curtain is now revealed, as
it draws across the ’van to give at least visual
privacy to the occupant. The interior surfaces
of the loo compartment are smooth wipe-able
GRP, with no difficult-to-clean crevices.
For hand washing, the sink is nearby,
across the aisle.
Underfoot, and extending into the aisle,
is a lift-up section of floor. Beneath is a small
GRP shower-tray, but ‘Jammy Dodger’ had
no shower. It’s an optional extra, and ‘Café
Latte’ came so equipped. Shower controls are
mounted in the side of the loo compartment
(behind the curtain) and double-capacity fresh
and waste tanks are fitted to allow for extra
water use. There’s no shower curtain around the
shower though, the idea being that one should
use the shower hand-held (in a controlled
fashion), whilst sitting on the loo - washing rather than for a full-on ‘shower experience.’
Perhaps, but we anticipate a flooded floor.
There’s another problem. The loo already
sits high above the floor - we measured it at
500mm. Remove the shower tray lid, and it
becomes 580mm, so most people will have
dangling feet. And the loo’s lid is slippery!
Romahome is aware of this and modifications
are in hand. We also feel that the curtain
is too close to the toilet and could impede
‘operations.’ We’d prefer a more solid divider,
as the toilet is too near the living area of the
’van for us to be entirely comfortable without.
Maybe we’re just squeamish?
13
10
STORAGE
Storage is excellent for a ’van of this size;
quite enough for two to holiday successfully
with all their clobber, and probably enough
to absorb much of the payload. Starting at
the rear offside, there are two cupboards (or
wardrobes), one above t’other. Both have
hanging rails, the top having 810mm of drop,
the lower 845mm: that’s hers, then! Alongside
the loo there’s a shelved cupboard and a
drawer, and above, a further shelved cupboard.
The kitchen has two overhead cupboards
- with strong magnetic catches - and at low
level, has the large cutlery drawer and a slim,
shelved vertical cupboard. There’s another
large shelved cupboard under the cooker.
The lounge features two high-level lockers
per side, again with magnetic catches.
Remove the settee cushions (the bases have
WE LIKED
n Overall finish and high quality
of construction
n Long-term GRP guarantee
n Comfy lounge with good settee height
n Wipe-clean surfaces
n Generous kitchen work space
n Quality ceramic-bowl toilet with
its own water supply
WE WOULD HAVE LIKED
n Stainless steel surfaces/drainer
in kitchen
n Seat height adjustment for driver
n An infill cushion to fit between cab
seats to make a huge double bed
n Another, lower window in back door
n Better lighting over kitchen work
surface and control panel
n Smaller, more manageable table
WE DISLIKED
n Toilet curtain too close to toilet,
and gives little privacy
n Shower tray lid - remove it and the
toilet is too high. Impractical to
use the (optional) shower
n Too-small door mirrors
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Live-in Test report
11
10 Short, but comfy
transverse double bed
will be fine for many,
but not for us
11 Long single beds, ready
for occupation – note
the offside bed rises
towards the foot
12 ‘Café Latte’ shows off
the toilet, with optional
shower controls - tray lid
removed
13 ‘Café Latte’ ’van boasted
the optional, removable
twin bike rack. You can
have bikes on the rack
yet still access the
entrance door
14 Offside under-settee
cubby contains the
leisure battery
open tops) and the cubbies revealed contain on the offside - the 110 amp hr leisure battery
and - on the nearside - the Webasto space/
water heater. One cubby on each side is also
available for storage, and you could keep
boxes in the spaces between the seat bases.
Then there’s the huge overcab, where you
can stash your sleeping bags, and all the
lighter clutter. An exterior locker, for hose,
cables and wellies, is promised for production
’vans. All in all, Romahome has done us proud
for storage.
EQUIPMENT
Even in base specification, the R25 is well
equipped. The Webasto heater is a little
noisy, but quick to warm the ’van through,
even though it has but one vent in the front
of the nearside settee base. The body is well
insulated, but water tanks are underslung and
uninsulated. Romahome will insulate them
if desired, but you could still use the ’van in
winter by emptying the tanks, carrying fresh
water in a water porter and putting suitable
antifreeze in the loo’s flush water tank. There’s
a spare wheel, but it’s a Space-Saver; still,
that’s better than none.
Lighting is by LED: two ceiling clusters are
controlled by a switch conveniently situated
by the rear door - offering two levels of
illumination. A second switch in the lounge
would have been helpful. In the lounge, there
are two swivelling reading lights on either side,
and two more over the kitchen. Rona felt these
were insufficient, and would prefer a fluorescent
strip light. It would be useful to have another
light illuminating the control panel over the back
door, where it’s very gloomy. There’s a Midi-
VEHICLE SUPPLIED BY
Romahome Limited, Prospect Road,
Cowes, Isle of Wight PO31 7AD
(tel: 01983 292451;
web site: www.romahome.com)
WE STAYED AT
Black Knowl Caravan Club Site,
Aldridge Hill, Brockenhurst, Hampshire
SO42 7QD (tel: 01590 623600;
web site: www.caravanclub.co.uk)
Heki above the lounge and a basic roof vent
(with flyscreen but no blind) at the rear.
Optional extras-wise, the only limiting
factors are your payload and your pocket.
The ‘Café Latte’ ‘van had an external gas
barbeque and mains electricity points, and
we tried out Romahome’s new bike rack. This
fits into a rear mounting and can be slid out,
enabling access to the rear door - even while
bikes are attached. Although ingenious, we
found it somewhat cumbersome, and feared
the ensemble could exert excessive leverage
aft of the back axle.
CONCLUSION
Romahome has used great ingenuity to
produce a compact, quality coachbuilt with
all the necessary features to enable a couple
to enjoy long holidays. In addition, the ‘van
can still be used as a daily ‘car,’ with its
extra belted-seat passenger capacity and
good economy. Using lightweight materials
throughout, Romahome has made thoughtful
use of the extra 50kg of payload offered by
the new-model Citroën Berlingo. All this is
available at a starting price of around £30,000
- quite an achievement.
In our view, this early prototype had some
problems which need tweaking - the ‘hoot’
of a single bed is one! We would want to
improve some aspects of toilet usage, and
would check weights (fully laden) on a public
weighbridge. However, there’s no doubt this
is a worthy successor to the old R20 (which
will continue to be available for a little while
longer). The many loyal Romahome fans (and
new customers) should be very impressed. n
FEBRUARY 2010 I 139
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14
On Test Romahome R25
LIVE-IN TEST DATA
ROMAHOME R25
TYPE:
Low profile mini coachbuilt
PRICE
Note: all prices include VAT at 17.5 per cent
n From: £30,885 OTR
n As tested: £31,150 OTR
BASICS
n Vehicle: Citroën Berlingo platform cab
n Berths: 2
n Three-point belted seats: 4 (including driver)
n Warranty: Three years base vehicle, three
years conversion, ten years all interior
and exterior GRP
and coil springs
n Features: Remotely-operated central locking
(cab only), electrically-adjustable door mirrors,
electric windows, driver’s airbag, radio/CD
player, headlamp height adjustment, heightadjustable (cab) seatbelt top mountings,
reach-and-rake adjustment to steering wheel,
space-saver spare wheel
CONSTRUCTION
LOUNGING & DINING
Moulded GRP body and caravan door.
Caravan entrance in centre of rear panel
DIMENSIONS (*manufacturer’s figures)
n Length: 5.18m (17ft 0in)*
n Width: 1.88m (6ft 2in)
n Height: 2.66m (8ft 9in)*
n Wheelbase: 2.72m (8ft 11in)*
n Rear overhang: 1.46m (4ft 9.5in)
n Max authorised weight: 2225kg
n Payload: 285kg (after weight of all available
options, driver, front seat passenger,
90 per cent fuel, 100 per cent gas,
15 per cent fresh water)
INSIDE
Twin-sofa lounge (converts to two forwardfacing belted travel seats) ahead of nearside
kitchen, offside toilet, wardrobes
n Insulation: Floor - 40mm, walls - 30-50mm,
roof - 50mm
n Interior height: 1.88m (6ft 2in) max
THE VEHICLE
n Engine: 1.6-litre turbo-diesel producing
66.2kW (90bhp) 4000rpm
n Transmission: Five-speed manual gearbox,
front-wheel drive
n Fuel consumption: 39.7mpg overall
n Brakes: Servo-assisted discs all round
with ABS
n Suspension: Front: Independent on
McPherson struts and coil springs.
Rear: independent on trailing-arms
Two inward-facing settees provide comfortable
lounging for four. Freestanding table (with folding
legs) erects between settees giving ample
surface for four to dine. Table stores above cab
KITCHEN
Nearside kitchen unit has GRP surfaces,
hinged glass lids over sink and hob, cutlery
drawer, shelved low-level cupboards, high-level
cupboards, large GRP work surface opposite
n Sink: Smev stainless steel bowl with mixer tap
n Cooker: Smev two-burner hob and grill with
electronic-ignition
n Fridge: Dometic 3-way with freezer compartment,
manual energy selection. Capacity 55 litres
WASHROOM
No separate washroom. Although a unit in the
kitchen holds a Dometic CTW3110 ceramic-bowl
toilet with built-in flush water supply, privacy
curtain, and shower tray with removable lid
BEDS
Transverse double
n Length: 1.77m (5ft 9.5in)
n Width: 1.18m (3ft 10.5in)
Longitudinal singles
n Length: 2.00m (6ft 7in)
n Width: 630mm (2ft 1in) max,
480mm( 1ft 7in) min
STORAGE
Nearside: Two high-level cupboards above
kitchen, cutlery drawer, narrow, shelved cupboard
next to fridge, large shelved cupboard under
cooker. Offside: Two wardrobes in offside rear,
drawer and shelved cupboard alongside toilet
compartment, shelved cupboard above work
surface to side of toilet. Lounge: Four high-level
cupboards, open-topped cubbies below settees,
large overcab storage area. An external wet
locker to nearside rear is proposed for production
vehicles
LIFE SUPPORT
n Fresh water: Underslung (uninsulated),
capacity 34 litres (7.5 gallons)
n Waste water: Underslung (uninsulated),
capacity 34 litres (7.5 gallons)
n Water and Space Heater: Webasto
ThermoTop C300 diesel-fired boiler with
blown-air
n Leisure battery: 110 amp hr
n Gas: 1x 7kg cylinder
n Lighting: All LED-powered. Two ceiling
lights, two swivelling reading lights above
each settee, two over kitchen surface
n Sockets: 230V: 3 (one above hob, two over
offside work surface); 12V: 1 (over offside
work surface)
n Control panel: Mounted above rear
entrance door: Zig CP400 battery condition
gauge, Zig water contents gauge, pump,
lights and auxiliary switches, fuses,
Webasto heater controls
n Blinds/curtains: Seitz blind/flyscreen to
rear door window, Seitz pleated blinds/
flyscreens to lounge windows, lined curtains
to cab
n Badged as NCC EN1646 compliant: Yes
OPTIONAL EXTRAS
Fitted to test vehicle
n Base: None
n Conversion: Rear seatbelts (£265)
Other options
n Base: Cab air-conditioning (£750), reversing
sensors (£185), rev. camera/monitor (£370)
n Conversion: Electric step to rear door (£360),
bike rack (£395), extractor fan above kitchen
(£230), matching upholstery to cab seats
(£230), drop-down TV, aerial, auxiliary socket
(£669), shower and larger water tanks (£450),
exterior BBQ point and power point (£275),
external 230V socket (£73), grab handle (£55)
An external portable step is essential unless the optional Omni-step is fitted
140 I FEBRUARY 2010
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