Wellhouse Leisure i800 Camper high-top
A van for all reasons
It's hard to remember those golden times in the past, when cash-rich customers with life insurance windfalls, would simply walk into showrooms and lay down the money for the motorhome of their dreams. Pension pots were over-flowing and a house move in the right direction could often see people rich beyond their wildest dreams. An awful lot of motorhomes were sold during that glorious spell, many of them being bought without even the formality of a test drive.
How things have changed: motorhome buyers, now put value for money at the top of their list of priorities, in a similar way to the changes being witnessed in the motor trade. Take the example of Skoda; once a subject of ridicule, but now a brand renowned for both quality and value for money.
So now say hello to the inbetweeners, a fastidious new faction whose constant demand for versatility and value has led to the birth of a chimera - a catch-all solution that sits perfectly between the standard coachbuilt motorhome and the van conversion.
Meet the Hyundai i800 Camper from Wellhouse Leisure - a vehicle offering great value, but one that also has an almost unique cross-over appeal. In its native form it's a large MPV - a very large MPV, in fact one of the largest on the market. It's value-for-money credentials are enhanced by Hyundai's five-year warranty. It certainly worked for Bailey in the caravan market and I'm sure it won't go unnoticed here.
So who will it appeal to?
Typical customers might be those who rather fancied VW's California, but baulked at the price for what is really just an MPV, albeit one assembled with a watchmaker's precision. In spite of their unimpeachable build quality, their immaculately conceived interiors are - dare I say it - actually rather basic. By way of contrast, the i800 camper offers far for interior space and better storage facilities, especially in the high-top version shown here (an elevating roof model is also available.
The i800 Camper really sits in a class of its own: in my eyes it's too big to be thought of as a campervan but the feel is very different to that of a van conversion; it has a sliding side door, but its MPV status, provides it with far superior levels of trim and standard equipment. Although bewilderingly spacious inside for a vehicle of these dimensions, you do have to forego the luxury of even a simple toilet compartment. That might not be totally impossible, but it's far more practical to use portable facilities within a tailgate awning.
Poise and power
It began life as an 8-seater MPV which in its original form was a bit of a beast, with a 2.5 litre CRDi engine that developed 168 break horse power. The horses have now been reined in somewhat, with the later version tweaked and tuned to be Euro 5 compliant. There's no need to feel deprived though, as this 136PS (134bhp) this vehicle still has plenty of muscle to tackle its braked towing capacity of 2,300kg. If you go for the automatic option, produces that same 168bhp, delivering 440Nm at 2,500 rpm.
It's not as pretty as the California - its standard colours are either black, white, grey or silver, although Wellhouse will produce a metallic "Blue Diamond" finish to special order. Size-wise, it's slightly longer than a Range Rover, so perhaps not ideal for nipping into a vacant space in the High Street. It also shares the Range Rover's agricultural looks, with its load-carrying rear quarters suggesting that bales of hay might be accommodated as easily as passengers.
Early reviewers on the MPV felt that the driving position was rather van-like. I very much enjoyed the driving position, although not as much as I enjoyed the way in which the i800 climbed up steep hills without so much as a stutter. There really is a lot of reserve power at your disposal here and you might have to be careful about taking advantage of it inappropriately. The indicator stalk is on the right and the wiper control is on the left - and I promise you that you will attempt to indicate with the wipers. The i800 has five forward gears and a reverse that is selected by a straightforward change, with no pulling or pushing involved.
i800 Camper v VW California
In terms of motorhome functionality, the i800 Camper knocks the California into a cocked hat. One of the few paid-for extras is the roof bed for the elevating roof version. One obvious use is as a bed for children, but as most buyers tend to be couples, this £390 add-on might also be welcomed by those users who prefer to have the option of very spacious single beds. Of course, it also provides useful temporary storage space when on-site. Be aware that this extended roof space in the high-top is not a bedroom and was never intended to be. What is does provide you with is permanent storage in the form of roof lockers and shelves, with the considerable extra benefit of a rooflight and opening side windows, that flood the interior with light and extra ventilation when required.
The i800 Camper has a similar twin-burner hob and sink combination as the California, but here you have the addition of a Smev oven and grill, with plenty of space to use it. The 47 litre compressor fridge might sound mean compared to even one of the smallest absorption models, but virtually all of the space inside is usable, making it far more space-efficient. The bed is narrower that the California's, but it is formed from rear seats that have sufficient space for three passengers to sit side by side.
The Wellhouse build quality is very impressive, but the character is totally different from the California. Volkswagen's interior is decked in modern, high quality, grey plastic panels; it's immaculate, but not necessarily welcoming. The Wellhouse default style is a more traditional wood laminate, although alternative finishes are available on request.
Wellhouse Leisure Ltd
Originally published in Motorhome & Campervan