BÜRSTNER BREVIO T600 reviewed on 4th October 2012

The Inbetweeners

Suddenly, it seems, every motorhome manufacturer needs a "Van-style" coachbuilt and a rear-door model with a fold-up, transverse rear bed. Peter Sharpe looks over Bürstner's new Brevio, which combines both of these elements and adds a few tricks of its own.

Even though you can almost hear the creak of purse strings tightening, sales of the largest coachbuilt motorhomes appear to be holding up surprisingly well. Perhaps the doom and gloom has simply got too much for increasing numbers of empty-nesters, who are planning to get away from it all, and need vehicles that will support them during extended time on the road. Even so, there has been a noticeable surge towards the middle ground, spurring the rise of a style of vehicle that caters equally well for those who are down-sizing, and those who have outgrown their dual-purpose campervans.

Say hello to the inbetweeners, the new tribal faction which has led to the berth of a chimera - a catch-all solution that sits perfectly between the standard coachbuilt motorhome and the van conversion. In terms of size, Bürstner has fitted this new Brevio into a package that is actually smaller than many van conversions, yet has managed to squeeze in a lateral full-length double bed - one of the bugbears with this type of layout for taller campers.

The long and the short of it

Brevio - what does it mean? ? It certainly doesn't sound very German, so I looked it up: Brevio - first-person singular present indicative of breviare. None the wiser? Well as any fool knows (after sticking it into Google), it is derived from the Italian verb, to shorten... to abbreviate. So why Italian? Probably because it has a convenient "o" at the end, which fits in nicely with stablemates, Nexxo and Ixeo. Don't ask.

So the Brevio is a super-low-profile coachbuilt, which being abbreviated, has all of the go-anywhere qualities of a van conversion, with the additional advantages of a stronger body shell and an extremely space-efficient interior. But it has another trick in store, in the form of its over-sized tailgate, which is not only large enough to fend off the rain when loading, but will even find favour as a convenient sun canopy - one that requires no winding out and is ready for use in seconds. There is a cycle rack available as an optional extra, whicjh might seem a bit strange on a van with such a tall tailgate. But Bürstner has thought of that and supply one that swings round, enabling the door to lift while the bikes remain secured.

It also has a very smart looking Hartal door, but this premium version, complete with blind and flyscreen, is also an item from the extras list. Alloy wheels? Well no, they're actually aluminium wheel trims and yes, you've guessed it... they're on the extras list as well.

We can work it out

Let's begin by mentioning the basic price: at £43,730 for a brand new, smart and sophisticated motorhome such as this - well it's an absolute steal, isn't it? Well it would be; but if you were about to stretch your tight budget and abandon your plans to buy that plain budget coachbuilt, that was all you thought you could afford, then think again. Just about everything except the loo and the steering wheel requires extra expenditure. Now before you think this is a rant against the scheming manufacturers, it should be pointed out that many people prefer this way of doing things. After all, why should you pay for expensive carpets when you prefer the practicality of the vinyl floor - and the Brevio does have a rather nice one of those.

If you wish to mount an argument against, it does rather complicate your payload calculations, but you start with an impressive 775 kilograms and Bürstner does supply the added weights of every item on the list. If you decide to go mad and equip your Brevio to the hilt, you will almost certainly find then that you the power upgrade to 148PS also becomes necessary (at £930), but I doubt if anyone will actually need the £2,790 price hike for the 3-litre 177PS version, unless you intend to tow a large caravan up steep hills. Fiat's Comfortmatic gearbox is also an option for a more modest £1,512.

So the starting price is obviously unrealistic, but don't get too upset, because there is a configurator on the Burster website that enables you to see the price rising with each added item and see the available payload simultaneously going down. I added an engine upgrade, the Chassis Pack and a few of what I thought would be the most obvious extras, following which, the price rose to £47,839. I included the aluminium wheels, but you could knock off nearly a thousand pounds off that price by going without.

Are you sitting comfortably?

The standard Maldon upholstery is an excellent choice, being of a neutral colour, yet throwing sufficient texture and tone contrast to avoid being over bland. If that isn't entirely to your taste, there are seven alternatives to choose from, plus five others which incur an extra charge, three of them being in leather.

The Fiat cab will be whatever you specify, but there aren't any of the branded, personalised touches that some manufacturers pride themselves on providing. This shouldn't be of concern, because it is well laid out, the seats are comfortable and the Fiat is widely considered to be the best driving machine of its type. Any embarrassing gear ratio problems are now well in the past and the new Euro 5 engines are more economical than their predecessors - not hugely, but the real purpose was to lower harmful emissions, which can only be a good thing.

Both front seats have the freedom to swivel 180 degrees and importantly, they do this without the need to open the cab doors - I really hate it when you have to do that. Directly above you, a large skylight is fitted into the super-low-profile roof. This has become a standard style in German motorhomes and although this streamlining loses some of the over-cab bulk storage capacity, there are obviously plenty of buyers who regard it as a desirable trade-off.

The clip-on table is of the type where the extension swings round from underneath (released by a spring-loaded knob), bringing it within perfect reach for the driver and leaving the rest of the table for the passengers. There is a choice for buyers to make here: the default configuration is for two, individual rear passenger seats, although you can order a standard bench seat, which with the aid of an extra cushion (on the extras list), enabled you to make up a third bed at the front. Quite honestly, these individual passenger seats are so good, that I can't imagine many takers for the bed option. Not only are these seats contoured in much the same way as the cab seats, they also offer a degree of adjustment to the back rests and, best of all, the outer seat slides on a rail to provide a comfortable degree of separation.

This is a far cry from some of the often appalling, rear travel seats offered elsewhere, which usually offer no lumbar support whatsoever. I suppose it does seem slightly odd that such excellent seats have been provided in a two-berth motorhome that is too big to be used as everyday transport. It makes good sense if you intend to pack a tent for the rear passengers, but I wonder how many people will be doing that.

There is another seat that deserves a mention: at a glance, it is simply a bit of a curiosity; a narrow storage box with a cushioned, upholstered top. Then you discover that it lifts upwards and slides outwards, creating a fully cushioned stool that is ideal for sitting on while you take off your boots. A nice idea - I like it.

Snack attack

What is it about Germans that seemingly inspires them to survive entirely on pan-cooked meals? This kitchen really is a rudimentary affair, with only two gas burners to cook on, a large stainless steel sink, yet nowhere to drain the pots, never mind prepare any meal that you can't pour straight out of a tin. I really don't understand this; I could possibly get by with a hob alone, but I would require at least three gas rings and most certainly a grill - going without a grill is simply inhumane.

Aha - you might think - there must be a microwave concealed somewhere around here. But you will search in vain. There isn't even anywhere where you could stand one, even if there was somewhere convenient to plug it in. I can see this being a problem for many potential buyers. You might soon begin to feel that the space occupied by those two passenger seats could have been put to better use, especially when you begin to tire of beans on toast - without the toast. The Dometic 104 litre refrigerator has a removable ice box, which will be useful if you intend to survive on salads. It's not an everyday solution, but there is a mains outlet on the off side storage unit, just inside the tailgate. There's room for a kettle or toaster here – not ideal, but it could be done.

Wash 'n' go

Moving back, you find the shower/washroom on your right, with a small wardrobe opposite. There isn't room for very much in here, which is okay for us Brits, who can happily adopt a casual approach to holiday wear, although it doesn't leave much space for the evening wear, that those Germans must carry for a succession of restaurant meals.

The washroom is more or less of the size that you would expect in this type of motorhome and it uses the space well. The shower hose also serves the basin, but hangs free, allowing the basin to swing over the toilet if you need to make room for a shower. There is plenty of storage space here, including a small but adequate, temporary receptacle on the shower unit. The cupboard has ample capacity, but there are no lips to the shelves - not usually too much of a problem in a washroom, but something you need to be aware of.

I noticed that there was no seal between the shower moulding and its adjacent woodwork, but the shower curtain rail extends beyond it. I didn't test it, but I don't think it would come close enough to start attacking you - just for the benefit of those who have a phobia about clinging, wet polyester. A large rooflight provides plenty of daylight and ventilation, while multi-point LED down-lighting creates a pleasant night time ambience.

A trick of the tail

Now to what we might loosely term the rear bedroom. Loosely, because this is very much a multi-purpose space, equipped as much for transporting goods as it is for providing a good night's sleep. The folding bed employs a different mechanism to all others I've seen so far. Some designs are side hinged and meet in the middle: this one has a bed base of two hinged, slatted sections and folds away on the near side, resting on a large cupboard unit, which also provides part of the bed platform.

To make up the bed, you first need to lift up the lid of the narrow storage unit on the off side, then swing out the two struts to bridge the gap. Closing the lid again locks them into position. You then release the base from the restraining strap and unfold the base and its hinged mattress. The bed is completed with an in-fill mattress section. This requires a bit more effort than some other designs, but really isn't a long job. The only slight snag is that you can't really keep your bedding in place when you fold it up out of the way. When the bed is in position it is also slightly difficult to get your bedding neatly tucked in at the back - unless you go to all the trouble of getting out to lift the tailgate. Once achieved though, the mattress is thick and comfortable, forming a large double bed that measures 198 x 143 centimetres (78 x 56 inches).

There are high level lockers on each side, with LED lighting built into the underside of those at the head end of the bed. The heating controls are mounted at the bottom end of the bed, which might count as a minor inconvenience. To climb into bed, you need to retract the box step which pulls out from under the wardrobe door. It has a lid on top, so you can put your shoes in there, or as I found, it is also the perfect size for a laptop.

Folding the bed up is easier than folding it down, but I don't think there is any way to avoid removing the bedding, except perhaps a fitted sheet. This is no big deal, as if you use a duvet, you can simply sore it on the top of the folded bed with the pillows. It is secured in place by one of those almost ubiquitous clunk-click fasteners, although the one fitted wasn't holding all that securely. I also felt sure that the bottom strap had been fitted back to front. Of course, you could choose to leave the bed down all of the time, as if you don't mind a bit of crawling, the cupboards and storage space would still be accessible.

Lift and separate

With the bed lifted out of the way and the supports folded back into their recess. You now have a considerable space to use at your disposal. There doesn't seem to be any way of opening the tailgate from the inside, or if there is, I couldn't find it. I'm sure there are occasions when this would be useful, although perhaps there are technical issues which would complicate it in some way. With the tailgate open, you have a nice shaded area here, ideal for an outside table and within easy reach of the rear mains outlet. It might be a good idea to buy a double step to aid rear access to the motorhome.

Along each side, at floor level, robust metal eyes slide along a track and can be locked into positions suitable for tying down any items that are stored on the floor. There is a further one at waist height, which would help if you were securing bicycles

The Brevio in brief

Overall, this is a very stylish and highly versatile motorhome. It's a shame about the cooking facilities, but I assume that the Continentals must think that we're a bit odd for demanding such lavish facilities.
It's a good choice for dog owners, although large dogs would have to be content to travel with their cages firmly secured to the floor at the rear. They would certainly love the shade afforded by that tailgate and also their cave beneath the bed at night.
Those two splendid rear travel seats might seem superfluous, but you could at least cater for one guest with a full-sized single airbed underneath the rear bed. Just a thought.

Vital statistics

Fiat Ducato (facelift model) Euro 5, 2.3 litre, 130PS
2.3 litre 148PS upgrade - + £930
3.0 litre 177PS upgrade - + £2,790
Comfort Matic Automatic 6speed gearbox + £1,512
+ Berths 2 (option for 3)
Belted seats: 4
Length: 5.99m
Width: 2.10m
Height: 2.75m
Length in Meters 5.99
Width in Meters 2.10
Height in Meters 2.75
MTPLM: 3,500kg
Payload 775kg (minus extras)

May 2014 price: approx £46,000 depending on specification
Chassis Pack was originally £1,350 extra and included:
Passenger airbag
Electrically adjustable heated mirrors
Cab air conditioning
Cruise control

Thanks to:

Deacon Road
Tel: 01522 697070
Camper UK website

CamperUK Leisure Park
Church Road
NG23 7EE
Tel: 01522 697070
Camper UK Leisure Park website

Originally published in Motorhome & Campervan