AUTO-TRAIL V-LINE 600 reviewed on 26th September 2013

When Auto-Trail announced its first forays into the highly competitive van conversion market it immediately became big news. Could this builder of rally field giants successfully translate its ethos to the panel van? Peter Sharpe asks if down-sizers will make a bee-line for the V-Line.

There can be no denying that down-sizing has been gathering momentum, to the extent that even prime coachbuilders such as Auto-Trail feel daren't risk missing out on lucrative, yet highly competitive van conversion market. Yet the big problem for any company dipping its toes into this possibly over-populated sector is a question of identity. Layouts can be problematic, as there are only a small number of permutations that will actually work within such confines.

One common ply is to pack your van with more kit than anyone else, yet this arms race can obviously only go so far before prices start to look ridiculous. An alternative approach is to produce something which has genuine individuality; something that will stand out from the crowd and offer something just that little bit different.

In spite of its appearance, the V-Line isn't a hybrid. It is purely and simply a van conversion, yet its initial appearance deceives the eye into thinking it's a low profile coachbuilt - it's what you might describe as the Hymer Van concept in reverse. This is a very neat trick to pull off, as it in most buyers' eyes it will surely elevate it into a higher class than similarly priced rivals.

Essential to the overall look are the black side windows, although on the rear nearside, they are actually plastic panels that have been added for the purpose of continuity. Impressively, although virtually impenetrable from outside, they allow the occupants an almost unimpeded view of the outside world. The overall sleekness is also aided by the absence of one of those ugly fridge vents - not needed with the compressor model used here.

Now for the icing on the cake, so to speak, that custom-made GRP roof, manufactured entirely within the Auto-Trail factory. The reasons for this are two-fold: firstly, it provides the extra standing height necessary to compensate for the double floor; secondly, it permits the use of a full-sized skylight, equipping the V-Line with the same must-have feature that is all the rage with buyers of low-profile coachbuilts. Yet another benefit is that Auto-Trail has been able to incorporate a flush-fitting, wind-out canopy, eliminating wind noise and enhancing the streamlining.

Now for the icing on the cake, so to speak, that custom-made GRP roof, manufactured entirely within the Auto-Trail factory. The reasons for this are two-fold: firstly, it provides the extra standing height necessary to compensate for the double floor; secondly, it permits the use of a full-sized skylight, equipping the V-Line with the same must-have feature that is all the rage with buyers of low-profile coachbuilts. Yet another benefit is that Auto-Trail has been able to incorporate a flush-fitting, wind-out canopy, eliminating wind noise and enhancing the streamlining.

This demonstrator was obviously equipped with all the cost options, so without a side-by-side comparison, I can't really judge the extent to which all this automotive bling adds to the overall appearance. As well as the Sports Pack, the Media Pack Plus and the Starter Pack, the 17" Ronal alloys are also an optional extra, lifting the total cost from the £47,999 base price up to £51,902.

Voluminous and Versatile

The V-Line's imaginative storage facilities fully deserve a section to themselves. Making full use of the double floor, they provide the ideal cubby holes for all the items that you would rather not bring inside. Inside the rear doors, a draining board for boots has been placed on top of the gas locker, with a retaining bar to keep them in place. I'm sure people will also find all kinds of other uses. The double floor has allowed a shallow drawer to be placed here, making an ideal place to store a hook-up cable. The table top is neatly clamped to the outside of the washroom wall and the alternative table pillar with its tripod folding legs are tucked away in the corner.

The tripod base comes with the Starter Pack, as do the levelling chocks and the set of folding chairs, which are kept in a zipped holder attached to one of the rear doors. Auto-Trail has created a moulded lining for these doors, behind which is a layer of Thinsulate insulation, which apart from its main function, ensures that the doors close with a solid and satisfying clunk. The opportunity to build in yet more storage has not been wasted and there are also some useful vinyl pockets. The wardrobe can also be easily accessed from the rear, along with three cavernous drawers.

On opening the side door you have yet another drawer available to you, again courtesy of the double floor. The roof projection over the cab is quite shallow, but will hold spare blankets or even a duvet at a push. The main bedding storage is under off-side bench seat and held my double duvet, two pillows and a blanket with plenty of room to spare. There is a bit of extra space under the seat opposite if you need it, but it isn't so easy to access. When you add in the overhead locker capacity, there is more storage space than two people really need.

Vacillations (and roundabouts)

As with all van conversions containing a washroom, there will inevitably have to be a few compromises somewhere. At some point there will have to be a constriction of your walkway - it's inevitable; you simply can't avoid it. Although I await the alternative layouts with interest, my personal belief is that under these circumstances, this kind of front lounge will always be the most successful. One of the greatest benefits is that the two cab seats can be swivelled round to join guests at the lounge seating, whereas in other layouts, swivelling cab seats (if even possible) will turn to face a washroom wall and a kitchen. This works particularly well here, as the raised flooring eliminates that awkward step that usually leaves the occupant of the passenger seat with their legs dangling above the floor.

Initially, I couldn't get the driver's seat to spin round to face the rear, even after pushing the adjustable steering wheel into its innermost position; in fact I began to think it was physically impossible. After crawling on the floor I could see that the handbrake was the culprit - I had released it, but it came to rest a few vital millimetres below its lowest point of travel, which was all it took to block the movement. You will obviously have to be wary of this if you are parked on a slope.

Four people can sit comfortably around the pedestal table, whether with two in the cab seats or with four in the lounge. I found the table a bit obstructive when on its floor-mounted pedestal and actually preferred to use the moveable one with the tripod legs.


One or two people seemed a bit unsure about the kitchen at a recent show. Perhaps the flush-fitting drainer looked a bit radical, with just two gas burners emerging from its glossy black surface and a square, stainless steel sink recessed neatly just below its surface. The worktop is formed by two hefty covers, which are precision cut to form an uninterrupted surface. It's a shame that they completely obscure the window when held in their raised position by magnetic contacts, but that is quite unavoidable. I love the look of it and also its practicality.

Only two burners - no problem; how often are two people likely to require more than these, especially when there is an oven and grill, placed neatly opposite within its own insulated unit? There is no fitted microwave, but there is a mains outlet positioned to make this the perfect place to stand one, or indeed any other type of suitable appliance.

I was very impressed with the compressor fridge, which was chosen for two reasons. From a design point of view it helps the exterior appearance, because this type doesn't require an ugly external vent. From a purely practical point of view it is ideal for a van conversion as it is top loading, with removable baskets making it very easy to access the contents. I also noticed that the wire basket fitted perfectly over the sink for washing vegetables, although I doubt if that was intentional. Alongside the fridge is a slide-out holder for tin cans or even wine bottles.

Compressor fridges are 12V only, but with a 100Ah leisure battery and a 100 watt solar panel as standard, you should be able to keep everything running when parked up for several days. There is provision for a second leisure battery if you are planning on extended stays.


It's a quick and easy process to convert the seating into a double bed, although you have to do it in the correct order, bearing in mind that both the cab and the side door will be difficult (although not impossible) to access when completed. There is a correct procedure for the cushions, which I managed to get completely wrong at my first attempt. The shorter, nearside bench has a slatted extension that pulls across the door well. Its seat cushion should be pushed towards the passenger seat, followed by the backrest, which goes in sideways with one of the armrests on near-side to fill the gap. The gap at the pillow end is filled by the other arm rest and a tiny infill cushion, which is shaped to match the curving seat edge.

The longer, off-side bench has an extending base which pulls out to meet its opposite number in the conventional manner and the cushions laid flat in which ever order you prefer. The completed double bed is over six feet at its full length (a fraction under where it meets the nearside seat backing board) and also comfortably wide at well over four feet. You might wish to use a mattress topper shouldn't be necessary, as the cushions create a uniformly level bed base. With dimmable LED lights operated by a remote control, you need have no worries about reaching for the light switch when you are in bed.

To make up single beds, the fully swivelled cab seats are pulled to the extent of their travel to act as foot rests. The offside extension and back rest are now superfluous. Of course, this same arrangement also provides you with excellent feet-up lounging from the swivelled cab seats.

Vanity fare

The rear washroom is one of the reasons why I think this will be the most successful of the three layouts. Yes, it does create a narrow rear corridor and yes, the away-facing door is a slight nuisance, but these are easily outweighed by the benefits. The main one is that by closing the door, you have a self-contained washing and changing area, complete with the clothes drawers and wardrobe. Not only that, following a shower, you can step out of the wet washroom onto the mat outside.

The entire shell of the washroom is a one-piece moulding, so that you need never worry about the possibility of leaking seals. Showering is far more practical in here than in most van conversions, but you can also simply wash your feet while sitting on the loo seat - definitely a plus point for anyone with arthritis. Your soap and shampoo won't fall out of the wire baskets, but razors and toothbrushes might.

I would have liked to have seen some more suitable holders for those, as well as a proper cabinet, if only to keep the loo roll dry. Remember to close all the clothes drawers if loading through the rear doors; otherwise, if you want to nip to the toilet en-route, you won't be able to get in without running round and entering via the rear doors.


The eagerly anticipated V-Line is seen as a major move for Auto-Trail, a company that has long been associated with some of the largest coachbuilt motorhomes on the rally fields. There can be no doubt that this is imaginative and accomplished entry into the van conversion market is guaranteed to attract both down-sizers and those with a more impatient touring itinerary. Space didn't permit me to do justice to extras packs, providing such goodies as the built-in sat-nav, the reversing camera and the drop-down satellite TV, but I can promise you that although it breaks the £50,000 barrier, the highly desirable kit they provide is well thought out and good value.

I can imagine a few arguments beginning when buying couples negotiate with each other over the chosen colour. The white option, shown here, comes as standard, but you can opt for the 'carbon black' finish (actually a metallic dark grey included in the Sport Line pack), which imposes a significantly different, more masculine character. Vive la différence ...


Vital statistics
Base vehicle: Fiat Ducato Euro 5 (130bhp)
Comfortmatic - 6 speed gearbox available on 130/148 and 177bhp engines
(Extra: 17" Ronal alloys with Goodyear tyres and steel spare)
Overall length 5.99m
Overall height (inc TV aerial) 2.81m
Overall width (inc mirrors) 2.51m
MTPLM: 3.500kg (can be plated to 3,650kg at no extra cost)
MRO: 3,090kg
Max gross train weight 6,000kg
Belted seats: 2
Berths: 2 (double 1.85m x 1.36m; singles - 1.83m x 0.71m / 1.83m x 0.68m)
70 litre insulated external fresh water tank
70 litre insulated external waste water tank
Large bore fresh and waste tank outlets
Intelligent charging system
12v electric flush cassette toilet
12v dimmable LED under locker and mood lighting
12v LED reading lights; 12v LED awning light
100 amp hour leisure battery with provision for cost optional 2nd battery
Thermostatically controlled oven and grill 3
2 x gas burners and sink/drainer
2 x 7kg gas storage compartment including regulator
4 x 230V sockets
2x 12v sockets in cab area 1 x 12v USB socket in rear
Sport line pack
Carbon black metallic paintwork
Carbon black metallic painted front bumper
Heavy duty Polished stainless steel front protection bar
Techno dashboard embellishment
LED low level daytime running lights
Automotive style "Ash" upholstery
Chrome handle covers x 4
Media pack
15" drop down colour TV monitor
Built-in radio/CD/DVD player, Bluetooth with 7" colour screen
Status TV aerial
Western European satellite navigation
Colour reversing camera
Starter pack
Pair of chairs in storage cover
Tripod leg with base
Levelling chocks

See further reviews below:

Auto-Trail website

Motorhome & Campervan