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On Test Bilbo’s De Zine & Wheelhome Panache
BILBO’S DE ZINE
CANNY COMPACTS
Two stylish urban-friendly
campers are designed to
be distinctly different
Words and pictures
by Jonathan Lloyd
T
he times they are a changin’
- one of Bob Dylan’s
anthemic protest songs
entered unbidden into my
consciousness as I considered
the raison d’être of this month’s
dynamic duo: relevant though,
as for some time I’ve sensed a warp-factor
shift in purchasers’ shortlists, away from everlonger tag-axle European coachbuilts and
back towards compact campervans.
Escalating running costs, ever-tighter
emission controls and overcrowded roads have
been the catalyst for a similar downsizing effect
on new cars sold in Blighty. It has become
apparent from speaking to readers at outdoor
shows and club rallies that many experienced
motorcaravanners are looking to sell their large
motorhome and second car and replace it with
one economical vehicle, which will fulfil both
roles. Regular readers may already be aware that
I am of the opinion that the only true MPV (multipurpose vehicle) is a compact motorcaravan and
not a glorified estate car, or worse still, a ‘bread
van’ with windows and extra seats - the like
of which, manufacturers’ PR departments are
currently claiming, deserve the moniker MPV.
Both Fiat and Mercedes-Benz were robust
in stating that our combatants this month were
not based on any sort of commercial van, but
on vehicles designed from the outset to be
people carriers, with a panel van derivative
available. Some may feel the difference to be
academic: so did I, that is, until these two were
LAYOUT PLAN
(16ft 4.5in)
■ OVERALL LENGTH: 4.99m
(6ft 3in)
■ OVERALL WIDTH: 1.90m
1 Mercedes driving environment: speaking purely
personally, I don’t like the foot-operated parking brake
2 The last generation of Fiat’s Scudo
was good, the current one is even better
114 I JANUARY 2009
1
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Head-to-head test
WHEELHOME PANACHE
put through their paces. Unlike their closest
rivals (motorcaravans based on elevating-roof
Volkswagen T5s which don’t drive like a car,
but like a very civilised van), the Panache and
De Zine do really get breathtakingly close to
driving like a car - or at least to driving like
a people carrier. I reckon it’s all down to the
height of the seat squabs, angle of the steering
wheel and the vehicle’s suspension.
Strangely, The blue Mercedes Viano-based
De Zine’s colour is actually called Lugano
Grey - the silver Fiat Scudo-based Panache is
labelled Aluminium Grey. Is it me?
Anyway, they both look sleek enough, mainly
because they are. To my philistine eyes they
actually look very similar, with just the height of
the headlamps to distinguish them. Access and
2
egress is good, especially via the
LAYOUT PLAN
twin side sliding doors, and these
(15ft 9in)
■ OVERALL LENGTH: 4.80m
come into their own in crowded car
2.5in)
OVERALL WIDTH: 1.89m (6ft
■
parks where space is tight. Forward,
and over-the-shoulder views were
panoramic in both, though the extra
wide-angle rear view mirror above the Panache’s
since 1972 when, those of us with long
normal one disseminated even more information
memories will recall, it had a base in Holland
than government ‘spooks’ have left on trains.
and exported ex Dutch army Vee-dub vans to
Both De Zine and Panache are designed to
the UK. These could be bought bare or with a
appeal to both experienced motorcaravanners
Bilbo’s camper conversion installed. Under the
and to those considering buying a ‘van for
professional and caring stewardship of owners
the very first time, perhaps using it initially to
David and Moira Latham, the company
support hobbies, activities and interests. With
has grown to become one of our leading
the latter group in mind, there follows a short
independent converters of the Volkswagen.
introduction to the companies involved...
Respected German motorcaravan
De Zine provider Bilbo’s has been trading
converter Westfalia is now back in private
equity ownership - after being owned by
Volkswagen until recently. The name is
synonymous with quality manufacturing
and owning a ‘Westie’ is something that
generations of European explorers and
travellers have aspired to. The De Zine is
produced by Westfalia, but specially modified
for the UK market: Bilbo’s is the sole agent.
Wheelhome builds the Panache at its small,
but efficient, facility in the Essex village of
Hook End. Here, proprietor Stephen Wheeler,
together with brother Ian, carries on the 23-year
family tradition of squeezing a motorcaravan
quart into a small-vehicle pint pot. Wheelhome
produces fully equipped motorcaravans (and
trailer caravans) that can be garaged and will
be able to slide into most car parks with height
barriers. All of the cabinetwork is built in-house
and Wheelhome conversions have SVA (Single
Vehicle Approval).
ON THE ROAD
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JANUARY 2009 I 115
▲
De Zine’s rear-wheel drive, five-speed torque
converter-driven automatic gearbox and 204
On Test Bilbo’s De Zine & Wheelhome Panache
3
BILBO’S DE ZINE
I LIKED
■ Awesome engine and silky-smooth
transmission
■ Fully integrated anglicised conversion
■ Option of additional crash tested rear
seat(s) with three-point restraints
■ Built to up a quality, not down
to a price
I WOULD HAVE LIKED
■ Fire extinguisher and fire blanket
I DISLIKED
■ Foot-operated parking brake
■ Restricted rearwards through vision
4
5
3 Classic layout of cabinets down one side: both cab seats swivel
4 Rear bench seat is equipped with individual, electrically-operated backrests
5 Comfortable relaxing and elbows-in dining for four
116 I JANUARY 2009
horses added up to indecently quick, Gatsotriggering, progress. At the other extreme, it
provided the most relaxed pootle I’ve had for
years! Unhurried, indolent and barely audible,
this V6/slush-box power train is so competent
that it brought a very broad smile back to this
old cynic’s boat race.
There were some less than welcome quirks
though: notably, Westfalia has managed to
reduce further the (already restricted by the
rear seat headrests) rearward vision by placing
a transverse locker that effectively blocks a top
hundred millimetres-plus of tailgate window.
Further, the uncluttered cab floor is to be
applauded, but why didn’t Merc just put a
hand-operated parking brake on the door side
of the driver’s seat like Fiat has. Instead, some
muppet has decided that a foot-operated/
hand-released effort - such as that fitted
to many American vehicles - is okay. Two
disadvantages were found: firstly, on release it
sounds like a jack hammer and secondly one
needs an operational left leg and foot which
(possibly mobility restricted) purchasers of
automatic transmission versions may not have.
Panache’s 2.0-litres and 120 nags sounded
paltry in comparison to the De Zine’s 204. Not
fair, of course: it might only have almost half
the power, but it’s certainly better than half as
good. More than enough get up and go for
most folks, plus a paltry thirst are in its favour.
Now add in the supremely smooth ride over
all surfaces, achieved by the self-levelling air
suspension at the rear and it’s no longer a one
horse race.
The fit and finish on the Panache Fiat
Scudo’s coachwork - especially concerning
the uniformity of gaps between the panels
- was mighty good. These gaps are called shut
lines and they are one of the hardest things
to control in the assembly process. Despite
claims to the contrary, it would have been
hard for the De Zine’s Merc to have been any
better than the Fiat in this regard. Subjectively,
I gained the impression that some of the body
panels might have been slightly thicker on
the Mercedes, or at least had been fitted with
more effective acoustic damping on the inside.
I’m not questioning whether Fiat is able to
match Merc’s build quality, the important ask is
whether it can consistently do it?
Fiat has blotted its copybook by allowing
some distracting reflections on the windscreen
and also by not allowing something... The
well-received Comfort-Matic auto transmission
is available on the Ducato and will be on the
new Fiorino, but is not an option on the
Scudo. Doh!
For me, personally, the three-pointed star
wins the day here, not because of the passwww.outandaboutlive.co.uk
Head-to-head test
I LIKED
■ Smooth tractable engine
■ Uncluttered central aisle and
WHEELHOME PANACHE
6
unobstructed side doors
■ Faultless ride
■ A different approach, featuring
very clever fabrication
I WOULD HAVE LIKED
■ Option of Comfort-Matic auto gearbox
■ Waste water tank (even a tiny one)
I DISLIKED
■ Annoying reflections in windscreen
■ Sink cover awkward to remove
storming motor (30-50 mph in an amazing 4.6
seconds), but because of the availability of
automatic transmission.
LOUNGE AND DINE
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7
8
9
6 The conversion’s front end is home to individual seating
7 Panache’s galley is located aft
8 Lounge and dine option one sees facing seats
9 Option two - the rear seats swivel to face the rear kitchen
▲
Before assessing these vehicles as
motorcaravans, they had to be converted
from transport to residential mode. Both
elevating roofs feature hinged GRP lids with
canvas sides equipped with glazed panels and
zipped covers. De Zine is hinged at the rear
end, while Panache is front hinged. Raising
and lowering is assisted by sprung dampers
(struts), though out of the two, I’d put the
Wheelhome slightly ahead, mostly because
the stiff over-centre catches on the De Zine
made my rheumatic hands and wrists ache.
Of paramount importance to purchasers has
been Wheelhome’s Knife-Edge roof, which has
the advantage of adding no more than a hair’s
breadth to the Fiat’s height of 1.89m (6ft 2.5in)
compared to the Merc’s 1.97m (6ft 5.5in). The
latter should go into most multi-storey car
parks, but may not go into as many domestic
garages as the Fiat will. For those requiring
an objective measure of a hair’s breadth, I
have it on good authority from the ‘consulting
engineer’ in the saloon bar of the Dog and Rat
that it’s bigger than a ‘smidge’ but small than
a ‘shade.’
Three lounge layouts between two ‘vans.
Both have one, but one has two: all clear? No?
I’ll have go at explaining then. Traditionally, the
main salon in most campers consists of two
swivelled cab seats facing the rear seating:
both interiors can be set up in this way.
In the De Zine the dining table attaches
to the fridge cabinet, while there are two
individual island-leg tables in the Panache.
The crash-tested split bench seat in the De
Zine can be pushed back on its tracking to
allow the cook a bit more manoeuvring space.
Not quite settled your feathers? The bonus is
that electrically-operated adjustment for the
back rake and squab can be set differently for
the optimum comfort of the occupants of each
half of the pew.
I felt more at one with nature in the
Panache, as each of the side sliding doors
can be opened to allow the outside inside.
Actually, both sliders can be opened in the De
Zine as well, though the fridge cabinet blocks
nearside access... More on that later.
Arranged like this, these lounge/dining
areas are socially inclusive for four and
offer feet-up relaxing for two. However, the
Panache has a trump card up its sleeve. An
alternative lounge arrangement is not just
possible, but recommended by the designers
and much appreciated, it seems, by owners.
JANUARY 2009 I 117
On Test Bilbo’s De Zine & Wheelhome Panache
10
Firstly, the front (cab) seats have to face
the front and be moved as far forwards as
possible. Next, the rear seats are swivelled to
face rearwards and hey presto, a really good
lounge is the result. Of course, it will only seat
two, but as the Panache is only a two berth,
this probably won’t be a problem. However,
just saying that the rear seats ‘swivel’ isn’t
really telling the whole story...
Most swivelling seats have the pivot on top
of the seat box. On the Panache, the whole
kit and caboodle swivels, including a circular
turntable for each seat ,which has been cut
out of the floor. You have to look closely
though, to see how this pleasing piece of
engineering operates. The rear seats are
not standard Fiat items, but made to
Wheelhome’s specification by a specialist
passenger seat manufacturer.
Both conversions use the base vehicle
manufacturers’ mounting points for a pair of
rear forward-facing seatbelts.
Once again it’s not all cut and dried though,
as just as the Panache looked to be out in front,
the De Zine catches up. Here’s how: the seat
tracking recessed into the floor of the De Zine
has been designed and constructed to accept
an additional crash-tested single rear passenger
seat with three-point belt, or to accept a
wheelchair which can then be safely secured
together with a three or multi-point restraint.
For those with brittle bones and other painful
conditions, the additional seat can be safely
located so that it faces rearwards if this is more
comfortable for the occupant, or if a carer’s
close observation is necessary. Fantastic.
COOK’S QUARTERS
De Zine opts for the traditional Vee-dub
layout of a run of base kitchen cupboards
along the UK nearside. Panache’s galley is at
the far rear, divided either side of a
central aisle.
Both feature a two-burner hob (the
Panache has push-button ignition, the De
Zine needs matches). Both are equipped as
standard with a 12V compressor-type fridge -
10 De Zine’s galley has a two-burner hob and
a top-loading 12V compressor-driven fridge
11 Twin sliding doors and removable fridge
cabinet also give easy access to UK kerbside
118 I JANUARY 2009
11
HEAD-TO-HEAD DATA
BILBO’S DE ZINE
PRICE
■ From: £37,950 OTR
■ As tested: £44,640 OTR
BASICS (*manufacturers’ figures)
■ Berths: 4
■ Three-point belted seats:
4 (including driver)
■ Warranty: 3 years base vehicle and
conversion
■ Badged as NCC EN1646 compliant: No
■ Construction: Steel five-door body with
GRP top/canvas-sided rising roof
■ Length: 4.99m (16ft 4.5in)*
■ Width: 1.90m (6ft 3in)*
■ Height: 1.96m (6ft 5in)* (roof lowered)
■ Wheelbase: 3.20m (10ft 6in)*
■ Rear overhang: 1.01m (3ft 3.5in)
■ Maximum authorised weight: 2940kg
■ Payload: 635kg-930kg (depending
on specification)
THE VEHICLE
■ Chassis: Mercedes-Benz Viano
motorcaravan specification window van
■ Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel
producing 204bhp
■ Transmission: Five-speed automatic
gearbox, rear-wheel drive
■ Brakes: Servo-assisted discs all round,
foot-operated/hand-release parking brake
■ Suspension: Front: Independent on
McPherson struts. Rear: Independent with
coil springs on trailing arms
■ Features: Remote central locking, electric
mirrors and windows, driver, passenger
and curtain airbags, cab air-conditioning,
trip computer, ESP (Electronic Stability
Programme) with ABS, ASR, EBV and BAS,
privacy glass, heated rear window, rear
wash/wipe
INSIDE
■ Layout: Swivelling cab seats ahead of rear
bench/bed, nearside wardrobe and kitchen.
Additional foldaway double bed in
elevating roof
■ Insulation: Closed cell polystyrene foam
in body cavities
■ Interior height: Roof raised: 2.20m
(7ft 2.5in) max
KITCHEN
■ Cooker: Smev two-burner hob,
manual ignition
■ Fridge: Electrolux 12V top-loading
compressor type. Capacity 40 litres
WASHROOM
■ Toilet: None fitted
■ Basin: None fitted
■ Shower: None fitted
BEDS
Downstairs double
■ Length: 2.00m (6ft 7in)
■ Width: 1.09m (3ft 7in)
Roof double
■ Length: 1.87m (6ft 2in)
■ Width: 990mm (3ft 3in)
■ Headroom: 1.00m reducing to 300mm
(3ft 3.5in - 1ft 0in)
EQUIPMENT
■ Fresh water: 40 litres (8.8 gallons)
■ Waste water: 27 litres (6.0 gallons)
■ Water heater: Diesel-fired with timer
■ Space heater: Diesel-fired blown-air
with timer
■ Leisure battery: 110 amp hr
■ Gas: 1x 2.72kg Campingaz 907 cylinder
■ Lighting: 12V: Three Mercedes luminaires,
swivel reading lights over tailgate,
stalk light for upper bed
■ Sockets: 230V: Four. 12V: Three
OPTIONAL EXTRAS
Fitted to test vehicle
■ Base: Upgrade to 204bhp engine with
automatic transmission (£4000), alloy
wheels (£530), electric folding mirrors
(£230), metallic paint (£585), steering wheel
multi-function control (£325), reversing
sensors (£495), privacy glass (£275)
■ Conversion: Grill (£250)
Other options
■ Base: Interactive satellite navigation (£POA)
■ Conversion: Additional single rear seat
(£525)
■ Sink: Stainless steel unit with pumped hot
and cold water supply
E&OE
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Head-to-head test
12
13
lounge singles
■ Lengths: 1.88m (6ft 2in)
■ Widths: 572mm (1ft 10.5in)
a conventional side-hinged door version in the
Panache, a top loader in the De Zine.
What is undeniably clever (and a result of
Bilbo’s input) is that the fridge cabinet is easily
removable so that the little ‘dahlings’ can be
let out safely on to the pavement (though the
nearside sliding door) when on the school
run. Further, it could be placed in an awning
when on site.
We used to have problems, or criticisms,
now they are all issues that have to be
prioritised. God bless America! Anyway, in
reverse order of importance my issues are
that I thought that the good-looking granite
worktop in the Panache had the disadvantage
of making the sink top/occasional table
heavier and more unwieldy than it needs to be.
Next, the combined sink and hob lid in the De
Zine made the interior a bit gloomy, as when
raised it blocked the adjacent window.
What impressed me hugely though, was
the quality of the Westfalia cabinetwork. De
Zine is beautifully executed, in a way that
only a big company with state-of-the-art
computer-controlled cutting and moulding
equipment can manage. But, and it’s a big
but, when considering the amount and variety
of available kitchen storage, the Panache was
the clear winner.
EQUIPMENT
BATHING SPACE
HEAD-TO-HEAD DATA
WHEELHOME PANACHE
PRICE
■ From: £32,683 OTR
■ As tested: £33,165 OTR
BASICS (*manufacturers’ figures)
■ Berths: 2
■ Three-point belted seats:
4 (including driver)
■ Warranty: 3 years base vehicle,
1 year conversion
■ Badged as NCC EN1646 compliant: No
■ Construction: Steel five-door body with
GRP top/canvas sided elevating-roof
■ Length: 4.80m (15ft 9in)*
■ Width: 1.89m (6ft 2.5in)*
■ Height: 1.90 (6ft 3in)* (roof lowered)
■ Wheelbase: 3.00m (9ft 10in)*
■ Rear overhang: 830mm (2ft 8.5in)
■ Maximum authorised weight: 2902kg
■ Payload: 499kg
THE VEHICLE
■ Chassis: Fiat Scudo Panorama short
wheelbase window van
■ Engine: 2.0-litre turbo-diesel
producing 120bhp
■ Transmission: Six-speed manual
gearbox, front-wheel drive
■ Brakes: Servo-assisted discs all-round,
hand-operated parking brake
■ Suspension: Front: Independent on
McPherson struts. Rear: Adjustable-height
automatic-levelling pneumatic system
■ Features: Remote central locking, electric
windows, electric (heated) mirrors with auto
fold back, driver passenger and curtain
airbags, cab air-conditioning, radio/CD
player, auxiliary driving lights, auto lights
and wipers, fire extinguisher, ABS with
EBA and ASR, privacy glass, heated
rear window, rear wash-wipe.
INSIDE
■ Layout: Choice of lounge layouts: either
swivelled cab seats with island leg tables or
rear seats swivelled to face rearwards with
tables attached to forward ends of kitchen
cabinets. Rear kitchen and wardrobe
■ Insulation: Walls covered in
insulating fabric
■ Interior height: 2.29m (7ft 6in)
KITCHEN
■ Sink: Stainless steel unit with drainer and
monobloc mixer tap
WASHROOM
■ Toilet: Dedicated cupboard for (optional)
Porta Potti 335
■ Basin: None fitted
■ Shower: None fitted
BEDS
■ Fresh water: 36 litres (8.0 gallons)
■ Waste water: No tank fitted
■ Water heater: Elgena 12/230V boiler
■ Space heater: None fitted
■ Leisure battery: 110 amp hr
■ Gas: 1x 2.72kg Campingaz 907 and
1 x 0.45kg Campingaz 901 cylinder
■ Lighting: 12V: Three twin-tube
fluorescents and reading lights
■ Sockets: 230V: Three. 12V: Two
OPTIONAL EXTRAS
Fitted to test vehicle
■ Base: None
■ Conversion: Elgena 12/230V water
heater (£410), Porta Potti 335 toilet (£72)
Other options
■ Base: 136 bhp engine upgrade (£881),
towbar (£485)
■ Conversion: Double bed infill cushions
(£180), Privacy curtain (£60), raised platform
for toilet (£45), Webasto diesel-fired
blown-air space heater (£1050)
E&OE
No washroom is present in these compact ‘vans,
so ablutions will be at the kitchen sink in both – or,
much more likely, at the site’s facilities. However,
although I don’t mind being a bit grubby, when
I’ve gotta go, I’ve gotta go, so it’s the lavatorial
provision which was of greater interest. Both have
an extra-cost option of a Porta Potti, which I guess
will only be used in emergencies. Panache won
the day here with a ‘royal flush’ as a dedicated
storage cupboard was provided, allowing easy
retrieval of the freestanding loo at anytime. In
comparison, the provision for the De Zine looked
like a bit of an afterthought. One has to remember
to retrieve it from beneath the rear bed extension
and place it close to the front seats before retiring
for the night.
BED TIME
12 Panache kitchen is divided either side of the aisle.
Granite worktops really are made from granite
13 Optional Porta Potti toilet has dedicated stowage
and can be easily accessed day or night
JANUARY 2009 I 119
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■ Cooker: Smev two-burner hob with
push-button ignition
■ Fridge: Waeco 12V compressor type.
Capacity 50 litres
On Test Bilbo’s De Zine & Wheelhome Panache
14
BILBO’S DE ZINE
‘Downstairs,’ both motorcaravans offer a
longitudinal double bed.
In the De Zine, the solo camper can convert
just half the full width, providing a single bed
and leaving a bit of lounge and a changing
area. Only in the Panache, can two single beds
(with a central aisle) be made.
However, only the De Zine has an
additional/alternative high-level double bed.
Located in the roof and hinging down, this
looked to be perfectly capable of supporting
two adults, providing neither is of too
generous a frame.
In both campervans it’s perfectly possible
to make the early morning hot drink (and
access the fridge) with the downstairs double
bed in situ. Enthusiastic knob twiddlers and
button pushers will actually enjoy converting
the De Zine’s rear seat into a bed (and back
to seating) as it’s all electrically operated.
Tee hee!
STORE ROOM
15
17
16
14 Split rear seat reclines electrically
to form a double or single bed
15 Tambour doors to rear cupboards offer easy access
in a confined space. Optional toilet stores below
16 There’s drawer-based storage under the rear seat
17 Dash-mounted control panel is an
example of just how well the conversion
integrates with the base vehicle
The trick to successful motorcaravan
downsizing - and to survive without coming
to blows - in what is literally a camping-car,
is to ditch all the cumbersome accessories,
buying new lightweight and folding ones to
fit the available space. Panache has the most
cupboards and cubbyholes, but De Zine
has more space for bigger items - notably
under the rear seat and rear bed extension.
Both have a wardrobe of sorts: De Zine’s is a
cupboard with a tambour door, plus another
rotating one in the far rear offside corner.
The Panache has a sealed space to hang a
few shirts, blouses and a couple of pairs of
trousers etc. This is located behind the hob
and is more useful than it appears.
It never ceases to amaze me how many
motorcaravan manufacturers (who should to
know better) fail to provide safe storage for
tables. Full marks to both manufacturers here.
De Zine’s is on the inside of a side door and
was so well camouflaged, it took me a while to
find it. The two larger Wheelhome tables have
their own dedicated cupboard at the far rear,
while the smaller one doubles as the hinged
sink cover. I love dual-purpose kit, the
smaller the motorcaravan, the more such
items are appreciated.
LIFE SUPPORT
Both have a similar size fresh water tanks, but
only the De Zine has a fixed wastewater tank.
Wheelhome supplies a folding bucket in lieu.
Simple to operate and not much to go wrong,
but that said, I would have preferred a waste
tank (even if it was only a tiny one), so nothing
needs to be outside the ‘van when making a
crafty cuppa in a car park.
Not so many years ago, hardly anybody
would have expected to find a 230V hook-up
in a campervan, but now they are
commonplace. Both these ‘vans have same,
a good-sized leisure battery and both were
equipped with a water heater. The Panache
was fitted with an extra-cost Elgena 12V/230V
unit, while the De Zine has a diesel-fired
combined water and blown-air space heater.
The control for this is integrated into the
management panel and mounted on the
dashboard in such a way as to make it look
like an original Mercedes fitting.
As presented for evaluation, the Panache is
a summer-only camper and the De Zine would
be classified as suitable for use then and also
in what folk now call the shoulder seasons (late
120 I JANUARY 2009
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Head-to-head test
WHEELHOME PANACHE
spring and early autumn). However, add the
optional Webasto diesel-fired space heater
and the Panache’s camping season will be
similarly extended. Don’t want to shell out the
extra £1050 required? Pop down to your local
electrical retailer or DIY shop, invest between
£10 and £20 on a thermostatically controlled
230V fan heater, and only stay on sites with
hook-up when the weather turns chilly. There
are other ways to keep warm, but as I’m
writing this before the watershed I couldn’t
possibly mention them.
CONCLUSION
Both of these fabulous vehicles are sold
by folk who are not only enthusiastic
motorcaravanners, but who have been away
for meaningful periods in these particular
models, tweaking the design as a result. If
only all motorcaravans were developed (and
sold) in this way...
Which to choose? Really, these are
so different that fans of one are unlikely
to consider the other. If you want the
performance of a pocket rocket (and the
best auto gearbox I’ve tested for years),
it’s the Mercedes Viano-based De Zine.
However, the more sharply-priced Fiat
Scudo-based Panache was a much closer
runner-up on the road than you might think
and should be more economical, especially
when urban jousting.
Conversion-wise, it will depend on whether
the option of two separate single beds
is important. In a nutshell, the Panache’s
amidships area is much less cluttered than
the De Zine’s, while the quirky alternative
lounge layout gave it quite a spacious feel,
but only accommodated two. Of course, if
you’re motorcaravanning/sleeping
compliment is more than two, then the
De Zine is more suitable.
Firstly, what is worth reiterating is that the
level of integration of the De Zine’s cabinet
work with the Mercedes interior is seamless:
it was difficult to know where Merc began and
Westfalia ended. Secondly, the Panache’s
layout is a grand example of (clever) lateral
thinking being used to create a different type
of campervan.
It is dangerous to make predictions about
anything when one doesn’t already know the
outcome, but that said, I predict that these
two will both be strong sellers. Of course,
they already are!
18
19
20
18 Seats flatten to make two single beds, while a double is optional
19 Forward storage over windscreen looked useful
20 Gas locker has room for a single Campingaz 907 and smaller spare cylinder
VEHICLES LOANED FOR
EVALUATION BY:
Bilbo’s De Zine
Bilbo’s, Eastbourne Road,
South Godstone,
Surrey RH9 8JQ
(tel: 01342 892 499;
web site: www.bilbos.com)
Wheelhome Panache
Wheelhome,
Tip’s Cross Garage,
Blackmore Road, Hook End,
Brentwood, Essex CM15 0DX
(tel: 01277 822 208;
web site: www.wheelhome.co.uk)
www.outandaboutlive.co.uk
JANUARY 2009 I 121
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