New Frontline Factory
2016 was an extremely busy year for Frontline with the launch of a larger factory at Brookvale in July. This new area allows us to have a greater number of vans on the production floor at any one time. This investment has improved efficiency due to larger work space, more parts storage and general modernisation of space and equipment. This area also offers a bright fresh factory for our great team of builders.
New Frontline Showroom
September 2016 was the opening of a larger showroom in Brookvale. This area was previously used for manufacturing all frontlines. This has now been converted to a great display area 3 times larger than the previous showroom. This gives customers an all-weather under cover area to view our great Frontline products. With additional space we are able to display up to 14 new campers inside ready for purchase, additionally we are able to display awnings, attachable rooms and a range of colours and accessories to make your knowledge of our products greater. Both our sales staff are trade qualified and have previous experience building the frontline product. This means the passion and product knowledge is second to none. During your visit we will show you through the product range carefully explaining the benefits and features of the frontline campers. While here, we will take notes and present a detailed quote for you to take away and consider your next step. We respect the fact that you may be considering other types of products or companies, so this process is handled without pressure hoping you will make a return visit and purchase.
So if a new Toyota Hiace or VW T6 campervan is on your mind, why not make a visit, we have the best display in the country.
Showroom trading hours 8 – 4.30pm Monday to Thurs, Friday 8 – 3.30pm
For your convenience we are open most Saturdays from 9am-2pm.
Closed some Saturdays during trade shows and long weekends.
When Leonardo da Vinci penned, ‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’ 500 years ago, could he have had the foresight to be referring to Frontline’s 2015 Toyota Hiace campervan?
Probably not. But Frontline has well and truly weaved its customised magic to make the latest Hiace conversion shine. The Sydney company that has been specialising in Hiace conversions since 1987 has turned the 2015 Hiace into something beautiful in its simplicity, but well beyond a standard camper.
The fuel injected 2.7 litre petrol engine never misses a beat. On the open freeway, the Toyota sat comfortably on the 110 km/h speed limit urging me to put the foot down even further. When I took the back road to the hinterland, the Hiace came into its own. The light yet powerful vehicle loved the challenging winding roads.
The responsive motor is tucked into such a simple yet comfortable driving setup so I thought I was throwing a standard vehicle
around those bends, rather than a four and a half metre long van. It left me pondering what was capable of the optional three litre diesel model or the 2015 six-speed auto petrol model.
When it was time for a rest, setting up for camping mode couldn’t have been easier. In no time at all I chose a pleasant riverside spot and got to work. The simplicity of the side awning and the rear tail gate offers plenty of shade and weather protection. The optional canvas/flyscreen room to suit the standard Fiamma awning instantly doubled the size of my lodgings; mozzie-proof, sun proof and waterproof.
The kitchen setup is also straight forward. The two-burner stove is removable for alfresco cooking or cleaning and the sink and ample cupboard and storage spaces that are well thought out. The 80 litre fridge/freezer and the optional microwave oven are perfectly slotted into the kitchen, offering ample cooking space.
My only regret at this point was not having a few friends with me to enjoy the generous seating arrangements of the versatile four seater. The compact dining table offers convenience and ease of setup allowing for the comfortable option of a fully prepared meal.
In all Frontline offers six clever options for the internal layout of the new Hiace, so there’s certain to be one to suit most buyer’s needs.
The electrics of the 2015 Hiace are fool proof. The auxiliary battery is kept charged by the vehicle’s engine or plugged into 240-volt mains. The battery can run the vehicle’s numerous appliances for up to two days without charge. There is also a solar powered backup option for more remote trips.
The Hiace stereo was up to speed with modern connections available for my iPod. Nothing too fancy, but safe. The sweet tunes led to me effortlessly setting up the comfy double bed for a quick energy recharging afternoon siesta. Plenty of room and plenty of ventilation for a good night’s sleep. The internal height with the top-popped offered 1910mm head height – reasonable for even a lanky traveller. The option of a roof bed in this space is perfect for an extra bed for a teenager or two kids.
Talking to a Frontline Hiace camper owner who turned up at the campsite later in the day and was only too willing to sing its praises really convinced me of their value and versatility.
“Mate, I can fit my surfboards in easily, load up my wife and her artwork and we can disappear down the coast for a few days trouble free. All the modern cons,” he said with a smile. “And on the way home, we can park easily around town and stop in to do some errands. Cleaning the van after a road trip is a breeze.”
Over the years Frontline has converted thousands of campervans and the 2015 Toyota Hiace conversion comes with a good list of standard inclusions. Better still, the optional extras are also reasonably priced, making it affordable to put together a package that meets your needs but won’t cost you and arm and a leg.
In summary, the Frontline 2015 Hiace Campervan is an excellent RV. Smart, simple and when you look at the base price for a Hiace van alone, it’s exceptional value for money.
The sophistication this vehicle embraces through simplicity, reliability and comfort is everything the weekender or extended tourer expects in a campervan, plus a lot more.
Body length: 4695mm
Body width: 1695mm
Body height: 2040mm Internal height: 1910mm
Tare weight: 2000 approx
Dual air bags,
Central door locking,
Power windows and mirrors,
Fuel tank 70L,
Rear wheel drive,
3 year 100kms warranty,
Steering wheel controls,
Pull out cup holders,
Centre console box.
2.7L petrol VVT-i inline DOHC,
6 speed auto also available,
111Kw 241Nm @ 3800rpm,
3L diesel turbo intercooler, 16 valve DOHC,
100kW 300Nm @ 1200 – 1600rpm.
The great escape vehicle
Since the advent of the original VW Kombi, having a camper van as a second vehicle has been the dream of many Aussie families. And why not? You get the luxury of a reserve set of wheels in the garage and a great escape vehicle for holidays and weekends away.
Tried and Tested Frontline Adventurer Review and photos by Paddy McCann
Of course, the downside in the past has been the bulk of the van. Fine for leisure trips, but not very zippy or much fun for a quick dash across town.
But times have changed. The Powerful 132kw diesel engine in the latest VW T5 drives so well, you have to pinch yourself to remember you’re actually getting around town in holiday garb. Frontline Camper Conversion’s Peter Farrugia and and Jeffery Verhagen have been designing and building camper conversions in Sydney since 1987. Today they focus on three base vehicles the Toyota Hiace, Landcruiser and VW. The VW T5 is more “car like” due to the out front engine and this translates to a vehicle that is just a little bit nicer on the road. It also has a walk through cab which is brilliant and the front passenger seat also swivels to face the rear, adding to the usable space in the vehicle when camping. Frontline offer four different layouts in the VW T5, the Freedom, the Adventurer, the Vacationer and the Avalon.
The Adventurer is one of their best sellers due to the addition of a rear bench seat and the fact that the vehicle is fitted with four seat belts, making it popular with families. Frontline Camper Conversions point of difference begins in the back of the vehicle and their approach to fitting the vans pop-top roof. From their very first pop-top campers back in the 1980s through to the current 2014 iteration, not a lot has changed in Frontline’s approach which is to create a robust, highly usable, value packed camper that is as affordable as possible without sacrificing quality. For example, Frontline still opt for the full pop-top rather than the tilt style of many European vans and in the T5, the top is completely seamless with the look of the van underpinnings right down to an exact match on the paint. (not sure what underpinnings are?) Frontline even takes the trouble to disassemble and colour match paint the Fiama awning that they optionally offer with all Frontline campers. This attention to detail is typical of Peter and his teams commitment to quality and there is no denying that the final finish reflects the extra effort. Our test vehicle took the custom camper look a step further with a black and orange colour scheme, extending to the custom wheels and chunky all terrain tyres. Around the vehicle, the air ventilation grills, 240v power plug and even the water inlet have been painted a gloss black. The overall look is very striking and it makes you realise how sophisticated Frontline production technology has become in recent years. This vehicle looks like it came in one piece straight from the VW factory. In the back, the general layout to around the van’s midway point is consistent throughout the Frontline T5 range. There is a sink plus bench space directly behind the driving seat with a compressor driven two-way (12v / 240v) fridge below.
Out the back
Behind the passenger seat, there is a swing out cupboard which houses an ever-reliable mentholated spirits cooker. Peter says they moved away from LPG cookers and gas lit refrigerators several years ago with the gain of more space, reliability and safety. “The fridge, lighting and pump will run for around two days with the included camping battery but it can be extended to 7-8 days with an optional solar booster or four days running simply by adding an extra battery”. From the midpoint back, the Frontline VW T5 design varies slightly depending on your chosen layout. In the T5 Adventurer, it has row of perfectly fitted cupboards extending down the drivers side ending with a cabinet containing a retractable shower that can be accessed by opening the rear door of the camper. The shower is pump fed and the flow is excellent. The 55 litre water storage is more than enough for a few quick showers and it’s also perfect for washing off sandy feet or hosing down a mucky dog. When the shower is fully retracted, there is no sink or catch tray to protect the cabinetry from drips, although the internal construction of all cupboards is a lightweight plywood covered in a high pressure laminate similar to a kitchen worktop. This makes for a very tough interior and a couple of drips of water will not hurt it. Next to the row of cupboards and rear shower is one half of the double bed with the bench seat in front. During the day, the bench seat is comfortable seating for two. At night, the rear bench seat is folded flat to join up with the cushioned area directly behind it forming a large double bed. There are even convenient cubby drawers under the bench seat, one of which provides storage for the optional Porta- Potti which was fitted to our test vehicle. On our road test, the cab was remarkably quite with very few rattles and creaks. Invariably, campervans and motorhomes do get noisier as they start to cover more kilometres but it’s hard to imagine the quality of the Frontline fit out giving much slack over time. Every cabinet is precision milled using Frontline’s computerised routing machine and then screwed together by talented craftsmen. Peter himself is a cabinet builder by trade so quality cabinetry is part of the company culture.
The Frontline Adventurer is a practical and well put together vehicle which also offers good value for money. When you consider the price of a base model VW Transporter van is around $50,000 and the price of a baseline Frontline T5 Campervan is around $64,800 (or $76,740 as tested which included 120w solar amongst other premium goodies), tried + tested | camper review there is not really that much in it. For travellers who like to travel a little fast or people who want to take weekend getaways at every opportunity, this camper van has great appeal. Not only can you get an adventure vehicle that will take you almost anywhere under your own steam (Frontline even offer an all wheel drive model), you also get incredibly low depreciation – enough even to keen an accountant happy.
Frontline’s conversion of the revamped HiAce is an attractive, entry-level motorhome.
FAIR AND SQUARE
Frontline Camper Conversions is a Sydney-based company that has been in the van conversion business for quite a number of years. Using all makes of conversion vehicles – Sprinters, Ductaos, VWs and Toyotas – Frontline has quite a repertoire of conversion designs in its stable.
One of the more popular light commercial vans for the campervan conversions is the Toyota HiAce. Leading up to the advent of a new model, the older HiAce van became scarce, but with the appearance of the new Toyota van, HiAce conversions are back of the recreational vehicle scene again.
The new HiAce looks a little different: the front is rounded but the rear is more square, which makes things easier for campervan converters.
On the mechanical front, the HiAce has a new 2.7 litre petrol motor which delivers 26 percent more power that the old model. A 2.5 litre turbodiesel motor is also available, which delivers more power that the previous three-litre motor.
Our review model came with the petrol motor and even though very new, tandem with a five-speed gearbox, it gave a smooth performance.
In some ways the HiAce is not as sophisticated as some of its European contemporaries and it lacks a walk-through because of the position of the motor but it does come with Toyota’s legendary reliability and cheaper spare parts.
Items such as dual airbags and power mirrors and windows are a standard features. About the only item I found a bit retro was the under-dash handbrake – haven’t seen one of those for quite a while.
Frontline’s HiAce conversion comes in three different layouts: the Pioneer, the Freedom and the Adventurer. The Freedom has two single lounges in the rear that can be converted into a double bed, the Adventurer has a rear seat that converts into a double bed and our review model, the Pioneer, comes with a rear-facing lounge and two forward-facing seats.
From the outside world the Pioneer looks relatively standard. The pop-up top roof has been designed to look like an integrated part of the roof line and apart from the Fiamma awning, the only other real change frontline has made is to remove the standard Toyota windows and add new tinted flush glazed glass. That enhances the appearance of the HiAce a great deal.
Both the sliding door window and the corresponding window on the other side can be opened.
Setting up the Pioneer takes very little time. Undoing a strap in each corner releases the pop-top; it elevates into a position very easily.
There’s a screened window in both the side walls and the front wall of the canvas gusset. Someone must have measured the Fiamma awning mounting points very carefully because the passenger door just clears the awnings arms.
The internal layout of the Pioneer can be divided into two halves: the front half is the dinning/bed area and the rear half hosts the kitchen and general storage. The kitchen area is a little cramped but that’s the nature of this layout design.
Along the offside, the kitchen bench has an Origo 3000 methylated spirits two-burner cooktop alongside a square stainless steel sink. Water supply is 12V pumped and gets to the sink via a flexible hose shower faucet; the shower head can be lifted out of the sink as used an external shower at the rear of the campervan. Although our review camper did not have a hot water heater, one is available as an option (a heat exchanger unit).
Under the kitchen bench are two sliding door cupboards has shelves. At the door end of the kitchen bench are three narrow, lipped shelves.
On the opposite side of the Pioneer is the rest of the kitchen – an Engel 85 litre fridge and an 800W Sharp microwave. The latter sits atop a small wardrobe and a shelved cupboard. At the rear of this cabinet is a small-hinged table with a lipped shelf underneath. If you happen to be a TV watcher, then the only place for it is above the fridge, where there is a flat storage area – it can only be used with the pop-top raised up.
The Pioneer can carry four people – two the driver’s cab and the other two in the forward facing seats in the rear room. Both have lap/sash seatbelts. The rear- facing lounge can be used for just that – lounging around – but it can also be used for to make up the bed by sliding the seat, which has two legs, towards the rear and filling the gag between the front rear seats.
The remaining space, i.e., between the two rear seats, is filled by detaching the rear offside seat back and sliding it in to position. This arrangement means you can stumble out of bed in the morning to make a cuppa without too much trouble.
When used for dinning, the table is mounted on a single pole such that it can be used between the seats in the back. It is strapped to the side of the van for storage. Under all the seats are the usual storage area: part of the lounge are is taken by the house battery.
Electrics are both 240V for the general powerpoints and 12V for the lighting. The 240V circuit breaker was tad awkward to get at – right at the back of the offside cupboard almost of energy-efficient fluorescents with two halogen reading lights behind the rear facing lounge.
THE BOTTOM LINE
It’s so nice to see HiAce conversions back on the road again as they are solid and reliable.
Their only real limitation is the lack of a walk-through and thus an inability to make use of front seats as part of conversions.
The kitchen has all of the basics required for cooking and clearing up after a meal and the bed really doesn’t take up any time to set up. Using a methylated spirits cooktop and 12V fridge is a plus in a campervan of this size. While metho does not quite have the calorific value LPG, it does save the space of a gas compartment.
One of the benefits of this layout is that of passengers in the rear are forward-facing and have full seatbelts. Frontline has done a nice job with this conversion and the price makes it an attractive proposition for anyone wanting to get into the campervan lifestyle for the first time.
Frontline HiAce PIONEER
BASE VEHICLE: Toyota HiAce
ENGINE: 2.7 litre
GEARBOX: five-speed gearbox
MAX TORQUE: 241Nm@ 3800rpm
EXTERNAL WIDTH: 1.695m
INTERNAL HEIGHT: 1.91m
FRIDGE: Engel ST990E 85 litre
HOT WATER: Optional
SECOND STAGE COMPLIANCE: In process
PRICE AS REVEIWED: $54,069
“There’s no doubt Frontine’s T5 Volkswagen conversion is well worth considering if you’re in the market for a new campervan” RR C&M 79
ORIGINALLY VIEWED BY RICHARD ROBERTSON C&M 79
The new Volkswagon T5 Adventurer, with 4Motion all-wheel drive, is the latest in Frontline’s stable of campervans. The “soft road” capabilities of the VW adds the extra dirt-road dimension to touring in what is a very comfortable camper.
With space at a premium, Frontline’s conversion has resulted a practical and user-friendly conversion. The bed converts from the rear seat to provide comfy sleeping accommodation, with the bonus of plenty of storage beneath. Kitchen and dinette are cosy but very functional.
The T5’s pop-top provides all the headroom you need inside, while a sick Fiamma awning on the side allows a spacious undercover outside living area to be utilised.
The Frontline T5 is a snack to drive, with plenty of power available from the 2.51l turbo-diesel. The Adventurer is poetry in 4Motion.
If it’s affordability you’re after, Frontline Camper Conversions offer a campervan that’s based on Toyotas new long-wheelbase Hiace van. We took a delux Pioneer model away and the only problem we had was having to turn around and come back.
STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN MAYNARD
Frontline Camper conversions, based in concord NSW, sees itself targeting probably the largest volume market in campervan stakes- the weekenders/tourers looking for a campervan with all the goodies but at an affordable price.
Whether it’s a question of your funds not stretching far enough to buy a larger motor home, or that you’d prefer a similarly equipped vehicle on a smaller scale, Frontline campervans can cater for you
There are many benefits to opting for the long-wheelbase Hiace Campervan over it’s larger motorhome counterpart. It’s lower and lighter than a motorhome counterpart. It’s lower and lighter than a motorhome, and, thanks to responsive engine, it’s able to send a swift touring pace.
If there is a drawback it’s that it offes less space than its larger brother. But then it all depends on what you intend doing with your RV.
I remember that last time Toyota invited me to witness the latest innovations with the hiace van range. It was nearly eight years ago, and apart from a couple of cosmetic differences, it was virtually the same as it had been for some time.
Back then, our assigned ‘new and improved’ hiaces were put through a grueling two hour test circuit amount the outskirts of Wollongong. Once that was completed it was down to the serious stuff – an enormous seafood banquet followed by a wonderful dessert. All in all it was a lot of fun and I was happy to be apart of it.
Sadly, I wasn’t invited to the hiace launch this time around- perhaps I ate too much at the last release. Damn shame! I could have found plenty to write about. It wouldn’t be just about the food either, as, thanks to Toyota’s latest refinements and gutsy 2.4-litre EFI petrol powerplant, the new model is a beauty and offers plenty to get excited about.
The responsive engine holds consistent power throughout the rev range. The Frontline conversion we tested sported an automatic transmission. It tackled hills comfortably, and it should be stressed here that we’re referring to a fully equipped campervan. But then again, the Hiace has always been designed to carry a fairly hefty load.
The new electronic fuel-injected, 2.4 litre engine has more get up and go than its predecessor and this hiace is a definite stayer. Last year marked it’s 30th anniversary, and with the beefier powerplant offering more grunt and better fuel efficiency that the somewhat thirstier carburetor engine it replaces, it makes the ideal choice in the less-expensive campervan market.
Among other features, the unit we trialed was equipped with gas stove, fridge/freezer and microwave oven. All were neatly integrated into it’s design without hindering access or usability.
An auxiliary battery system powers the fridge/freezer, ancillary lighting and water pump.
The interior provides ample headroom when the roof is raised meaning even tall people can comfortable walk through the van. A large sliding door at the side and a lift-up door at the rear provide easy access to the living quarters. Once in, it doesn’t mater if you’re cooking or simply relaxing in the back – there’s plenty of room to move around.
Frontlines pop-up roof system elevates fairly secure roof tags when the roof is lowered and kick the canvas out of the way to prevent damage. Frontline explored many alternatives until this excellent system was discovered.
Storage and sleeping
Frontline has excelled in its clever foresight, integrating abundant storage space yet stil maintaining a host of features with easy access. The result is an uncluttered unit that’s all the more livable.
Cupboards offer hanging space for clothing while shelves provide storage for other items. Underneath each seat is an extra storage compartment to keep everything out of the way until required.
There’s a swag of options you can order from frontline. They include a front crash bar and a rear crash/tow bar equipped with a site. It’s even possible to take creature comforts one old and/or hot shower.
Frontline also offers its services to convert range from $9,000 upwards.
From our point of view, we’re certainly looking forward to the next road test, only this time we’ll have to make sure it’s for more than a few days.
This Mercedes Benz Sprinter Conversion from frontline is just a little bit different to the rest. Frontlines latest campervan makes a change from the usual Toyota Hiace by converting the front-bonnet Toyota SBV van.
STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY MALCOM STREET
There are several things we like about the Mercedes-Sprinter: it’s easy to drive and maneuver; it’s large enough to be comfortable; and it’s small enough to get around easily. So it’s not surprising the frontline team have added a Sprinter to their motorhome and campervan range.
Most of the sprinters we’ve driven have been packing the Mercedes Sprintshift gearbox. It’s a cluchless gearbox that can be driven either as a full automatic or by manually changing gears.
However, frontlines jobbie had a five-speed manual gearbox. Forget about long-levered, truck-like gear changes – the gear-change lever is a short stubby item on the dashboard and the clutch is feather light.
The seating position in the sprinter is far superior to other vans, allowing you to sit above the rest of the traffic. All the relevant gauges and instruments are in front of the driver, but being of European extraction, the sprinter’s indicator wand is on the left and the wiper controls are on the right.
For engine capacity (2.15 litre), the turbo-diesel is good little performer. Another feature of the Sprinter design (of special interest to motorhomes) is the ease with which one can climb from the front rare of the van.
Speaking of the rear. Frontline have opted for a dinette/bed across the rear of the van with a kitchen bench along the nearside. Behind the driver’s seat is a shower/toilet cubicle; between that and the rear bed is a second dinette.
The inclusion of the second dinette means that the rear bed can be left made up all the time. Another feature, something not seen on other campervans, is a sliding door that only opens half way. This means the kitchen bench can be made longer, which is never a bad thing.
There’s plenty of window space, and with shower/toilet cubicle at the front of the van, the layout has a spacious feel. All the opening windows have flyscreens, and all windows are tinted.
General cupboards and an locker space is good except for kitchen, which only has two cupboards and overhead locker.
Starting from the front, the bench is angled back to allow easy access. It has a two-burner stove, a microwave and three drawers underneath the bench. No grill though.
The three-way fridge sits between the stove and stainless-steel sink. Given the amount of bench space, the drainage area of sink is rather small. Under the sink is a single cutlery drawer and two-shelf cupboard.
Like some larger motorhomes, there is a choice of two places to dine, depending, of course, on weather you choose to make up the bed each night.
The rear dinette can be swiveled around but can only be used with the long side across the van, otherwise it’s very difficult to get in and out. Together with a piece of ply hidden under the seat, the table is used to form part of the bed. The table for smaller dinette simply lifts out and slides out of the way when not required. All the seat cushions are flat, high density foam.
Under all seat areas are the usual storage compartments. However, part of that is taken up by the gas hot-water heater (nearside the seat), battery and battery charger (offside rear seat) and two 4kg gas cylinders (rear seat of small dinette). The rear-seat storage areas have lockers, accessible only when the rear doors are open.
Like other manufacturers, Frontline has used one-piece fiberglass unit for the shower with a frosted glass door. Inside is the usual flexible hand-held jobbie and Thetford cassette toilet.
On the road, the shower hose banged about behind my head, which I found annoying; however, wrapping it around the hose fitting a couple of times solved the problem.
In the cabinet beside the sliding door is a small electrical control panel that contains fuses for lights, water pump and general 12V electrics. There’s also a gauge for checking battery charge. At the opposite end of kitchen bench is a water-level indicator.
Lighting is all 12V, with twin mini-florescent above the dinette; it also has recessed halogens above the dinette, sink and stove and a halogen reading light above the rear seat.
Power points are located in a locker above the offside dinette and at the rear end of the kitchen bench. Given the length of the kitchen bench, a power point above the window might have been more appropriate, otherwise electrical cords will be trailing behind the kitchen sink.
There are quite a few Sprinter conversions getting around and frontline have opted to be slightly different by including a second dinette. It’s a great idea and means you don’t have to make the bed every night. The Eclipse adds to the selection of small motorhomes or larger campervans (depending on your point of view) that are appearing in the marketplace at the present time and goes one better.
Frontlines latest campervan makes a change from the usual Toyota Hiace by converting the front-bonnet Toyota SBV van.
STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY MALCOM STREET
If there is one thing in the campervan market that separates Japanese van-based vehicles from their European counterparts, it’s the ability to walk through from the back to the front. This has been a problem for those who were quite happy with a Toyota/Nissan/Mazda van, but really wanted a walk-through. : Well, the Toyota Hiace SBV with its front-bonnet 2.4-litre motor has solved that particular problem. Frontline have now capitalised on that in the design of one of their latest campervans. Our review vehicle was a sleek silvery-grey colour, which made a pleasant change from the ubiquitous white of so many vchicles. It has the usual driver and passenger doors, sliding door on the side and two `barn doors’ at the rear rather than a single lift-up door. Perhaps the only disadvantage of this arrangement (from a campervan point of view) is that a single lift-up door provides some shelter in the wet.
Climbing into the driver’s seat revealed controls and instrumentation in all the usual places. Both seats had armrests and front storage compartments, including a large centre bin underneath the radio. I thought perhaps the gear stick, in a reasonable location for the driver, might get in the way when getting into the back, but I did not ever trip over it. Behind the driver’s seat, there is a small storage bin that is good for storing maps, books and magazines. Although I did not travel a great distance in the Hiace, it was a reasonably easy and comfortable vehicle to drive. The external mirrors gave good rear vision and I had no problem manoeuvring in car parks. Both rear doors have individual wipers, ensuring good vision in the wet.
Giving a streamlined appearance, the pop-top fits neatly behind the front fairing. Raising the roof, so to speak, was merely a matter of undoing the four straps and pushing gently upwards. The canvas gusset has flyscreened windows on the front and both sides. It is a conventional campervan, with a kitchen at the front and a dinette/double bed at the rear. Immediately behind the passenger seat – and blocking the doorway somewhat – is a cabinet containing stainless steel sink, microwave oven and a cupboard. The sink is supplied by 12V pumped hot and cold water and the tap is fitted to an extension hose for use outside as a shower. The hot water is heated by a heat exchanger located under the rear offside bed. The cupboard under the sink, and the locker door for the under-bed storage area, is easily reached when standing outside the campervan door. However a shelf in the under-sink cupboard would not go astray. Quite conveniently on the doorway side, a hinged flap lowers to form an outside table. Perhaps a little high for a normal table, but useful for the wine, cheese and bickies or if you are just stopping for a cuppa somewhere. The kitchen arrangement is very simple – a twoburner Smev stove with Engel 240/12V fridge underneath. Naturally, there is very little bench space, so the smoked-glass stove cover is a welcome addition. On the right-hand side of the stove, there’s a double power point and a tea towel rail. Apart from the under-sink cupboard, there are two half height cupboards between the stove and the driver’s seat. A neat touch is the mirror on the inside of the top door In the rear the dinette table seats four people without too rnuch trouble. When folded down, it forms quite a wide bed at 5ft 3in ( 1600mm), with a usually standard length of 6ft 3in (1905mm).
Frontline have designed the seating in a `U’ shape, which results in a storage area across the van in the rear as well as the usual storage area under the bench seats. The offside area is occupied by the second battery and the water heater: The advantage of the rear seat area is that it can be accessed from inside the van via the usual storage lid, or from the rear by a hinged flap. There are definite advantages and disadvantages to this arrangement. If you are someone who likes to get in from the rear door then it may not suit. However for those who are happy to use the side door then it gives extra storage space, especially for items like deck chairs and an outside table. Perhaps it’sjust that C & M reviewers tend to climb in an out a lot. Although, I wondered if the rear flap might be too tempting to occasionally use as a rear step, and not be up to its unintended task? Internal lighting consists of two overhead I2V fluorescents and a halogen light above the kitchen sink. A couple of halogen reading lights above the dinette would not go astray though. As well as the double power point beside the stove, there’s another behind the passenger seat for the microwave. Although, I would imagine that this could be used for any appliances outside the vehicle.
Frontline’s use of the SBV van shows some potential for several design layouts. It will be very interesting to see how much interest it creates in the marketplace, especially with those who might otherwise favour the European-based campervans.