We invited Nick Harding to give us an independent view of our Staycation campervans.
Nick has reviewed thousands and tested hundreds of campers – as well as owning a few – in a journalistic career spanning over three decades.
Here are his thoughts:
In the ever-burgeoning world of Volkswagen-based campervans, it takes a lot to come up with something that’s a bit special. All credit, then, to Southern Motorhome Centre for having the courage to introduce an all-new brand, Staycation, with no shortage of new ideas. .
No outsourcing here, Staycation represents a significant investment in full production resources and a commitment to producing the best. There are two models initially – Coastline and Shoreline and, with all respect, it’s the Coastline that really catches the attention.
All about the base
It goes without saying, key to any campervan is the right base vehicle. Volkswagen’s Transporter dominates the camper scene, with good reason. In latest T6.1 guise, it’s well-equipped, it’s a genuine pleasure to drive, with a great performance/economy mix and a good dose of pure character.
With Staycation, the plan is to build on new (or, nearly-new) T6.1s. The initial batch of Staycations came with the 150PS engine allied to the DSG automatic gearbox – arguably the best of all the engine/transmission combinations currently offered by Volkswagen.
They’re also Highline versions – the one to go for if you want an extra level of specification, such as air conditioning, heated windscreen, body trim upgrades, full alarm system and more.
You might want to have a tailgate, too (rather than the more van-like barn doors offered by some).
Staycation conversions – key aspects
If you’re going to assess any campervan, focus early on the rear seat and elevating roof fittings especially. These give an instant indication of the overall quality you can expect.
Staycations benefit from the well-regarded Skyline elevating roof. It’s UK-made using a vacuum-moulding process that means no unsightly external fixings. The manufacturer also claims a 100% waterproof rating for its canvas.
Just as importantly, it’s easy to use, with zipped coverings for the mesh panels on each side as well as an acrylic window at the front. In addition, for those balmy days, the whole section can be unzipped and rolled up – the ultimate in ventilation!
A clever folding mechanism for the bed base also means you have more head height when the roof is up.
Staycation has experimented with rear seats, opting for RIB units on all except early models. These are generally reckoned on being among the best for engineering quality as well as safety. They’re properly sculpted for sitting on and have adjustable head restraints. For turning into a bed, the squab section folds out and backrest hinges over – it’s a fairly straightforward process to master.
Then you get into other aspects, such as the flooring. Staycation uses the products of Altro, arguably the best supplier of campervan flooring.
The main furniture units, meanwhile, are made exclusively for Staycation. Lockers are fully lined, hinges and those exclusive brushed aluminium catches are all premium quality. There’s a wide choice of colour finishes, too.
Electrics are taken care of by industry specialist supplier CBE – the name on the electrical distribution box, three-way switch mode charger, and main control panel. Gas is supplied via a 15-litre tank that’s fitted under the floor – it’s a far superior alternative to an on-board locker housing cylinders.
Staycation Coastline – it’s a bit special
What Staycation has done is gone with the usual winning VW campervan floorplan – side furniture unit plus rear bench seat that converts to a double bed. But, the Coastline goes on to forge very much its own identity.
The exterior look extends to bodywork touches such as full colour-coding, side bars and even a “splitter” at the base of the front grille. All these help distinguish a Staycation from “just another campervan”.
For upholstery, start with Volkswagen’s own hard wearing fabrics. Or you might fancy leather, or upmarket Alcantara trim, complete with hand stitching to match your chosen exterior colour – and that includes the armrests.
Note, also, you can choose your cab seat configuration – with either a single or a double passenger seat, both on swivels.
It’s hard to see how you can improve on what has become the best kitchen set-up for a campervan. A two-ring gas hob and sink combination in stainless steel is the perfect design here, accompanied by a 45-litre compressor fridge with a freezer compartment.
There’s also a table attachment that slides on a rail – again, the best arrangement in restricted living quarters like this. It’s easy to stow away at the end of the kitchen unit for safe travel, too.
There’s a handy cutlery drawer under the hob, while other kitchen storage includes the top-opening section of worktop to the right of the sink, two drawers plus a locker directly underneath, plus a taller, shelved locker immediately adjacent – all with a soft-close action. There are also two upper level lockers, with radiused metal edges, complementing the leading corners of the rear locker unit.
Unlike some campers, there’s a proper splashguard at the back of the whole kitchen area.
The Coastline is a full four-berth as standard, proving a perfect base for families.
For the roof bed, it’s simplicity itself to pull down into position. There’s a memory foam one-piece mattress on a solid base here, plus a slide-out section that allows for complete privacy.
The lower bed is slightly smaller in its dimensions, but is nevertheless more suited to adults (kids will love having their own room up in the roof), especially as you can still gain access to important fittings like the fridge!
Note, also, with the RIB rear seat you can specify leather for sitting on during the day while still having a standard fabric for lying on when you make the bed up.
Concertina blinds, which offer good insulation as well as heat deflection, are fitted to the side and rear windows – all of which are tinted for daytime privacy and to cut down glare from the sun.
You’ll have no problems keeping cosy when the weather turns, either. A programmable Eberspächer heater is standard, sipping its fuel from the vehicle’s own diesel supply.
There’s also a fresh water tank, slung underneath so as not to impinge in interior storage, while a steady supply is ensured thanks to the in-line pump.
An absolutely critical aspect of any campervan, the Coastline has it licked for storage. Not just the aforementioned gas and fresh water tanks (they really do free up locker space), but also with fittings like the high-level lockers over the kitchen, two-way wardrobe access etc.
Take your pick here, with a mood lighting strip over the kitchen area that’s not just dimmable, but you can actually choose your colour – red, green, blue or “normal”, as well as flashing. There’s even a “mixer” function so you can blend to suit!
Like the other lights, located conveniently throughout, they’re highly efficient LEDs that don’t draw too much power.
Don’t forget the Shoreline
This is the more basic of the initial two models – a scaled -back version, if you like – but it still offers plenty. Like its sister model, it’s the classic side furniture with rear seat/bed floorplan that’s so perfect for a campervan. And, of course, there are still lots of opportunities to have a Shoreline to your very own specification.