The Great Kiwi Bach—and its best mate, the long summer holiday—seems to be drifting into that long-past twilight zone of misty-eyed nostalgia shared with Stubbies, Bata Bullets, and the old guys from the cheese advertisements.
Blame property prices, especially on the coast. In places where families used to while away those seemingly endless Christmases, New Years, and January school breaks—at Mt Maunganui, Nelson, Waikanae, and the like—seabed and foreshore bills can make the idea prohibitive these days.
A 2015 independent survey* of more than 6000 New Zealanders revealed Kiwis preferred the campervan/motorhome above the bach/holiday home. That survey showed that for 54 percent of people aged 45 plus, owning a motorhome was the preferred option above a nice car, a boat, or a bach. Or, for our South Island readers, a crib.
Only about half of the buyers of the country’s estimated 25,000 privately owned motorhomes are 60 plus, those who are cashing up in an over-heated housing market and downsizing into the grey nomad lifestyle.
So there’s little doubt that for many younger families, the motorhome is a far more achievable option than a bach and a far better option for getting on to the open road and showing the children more of the country.
That neatly brings us to the Benimar Tessoro T413, which importers TrailLite describe as “a small motorhome with huge bang for your buck”—just $130,000 for this four-berth, Ford Transit-based entry-level model.
The Spanish brand has been around since 1979, based on value-for-money recreational vehicles, and can claim to be the undisputed leader of its home market, although it’s been part of the French-based Trigano group since 2002.
Given that Pukekohe-based TrailLite has been on the scene since 1954, there’s a fair amount of history and experience going around both designers and suppliers.
However, it’s a grey old morning in Christchurch when I drive the Tessoro out of the yard and into the countryside. Immediately, a couple of four-letter F-words come to mind, but in a good way.
There are plenty of Fiat-chassis motorhomes on the market but not so many Fords. The Transit drives very nicely on the city arterial routes, the motorway, and the less pristine country roads.
The cab is up-to-the-moment, its dashboard not too far removed from the company’s passenger cars, and the driving position is comfortable, especially for someone who’s never going to meet the height requirements for the Tall Blacks.
As you’d expect from one of the tried-and-true workhorses of the commercial van market, the 170hp diesel is a powerful and capable engine, at the better end of the EU emissions scale, said to be among the quietest on the road today.
With a claimed fuel consumption of 6.6 litres per 100km and a 65-litre tank, my calculator reckons you can go close to 1000km without stopping to fill up.
The short, dash-mounted gearstick is smooth and positive, as are the transitions through the six-speed auto. The ride is comfortable, with some lean on the sharper corners, particularly at low speed; the rear axle has been increased to 1980mm to improve stability.
That said, the T413 doesn’t take up too much room on the road, your driveway, or the campsite. The tape measure runs out at 6410mm long, 2300mm wide when the large, helpful mirrors are folded, and 2890mm high if you don’t count the TV aerial.
Behind the cab, its swivel chairs, the L-shaped couch and bench seat, surrounding the fixed table with sliding extensions, form the lounge; it’d take a family of four easily, a couple of visitors at a pinch.
The kitchen comes with a three-burner electric cooktop, oven, grill, microwave, and range hood. Bench space is understandably limited, but there’s a 145-litre automatic energy fridge and a rather handy slide-out, floor-to-ceiling pantry.
Because I’m a mosquito magnet, fly screens are non-negotiable. Here, they’re on the entrance door and all opening windows.
Since this is conceived as a family motorhome, there’s a separate shower and toilet (cassette with 18-litre holding tank) with a good-sized basin and benchtop. At the rear are two bunks, longer but narrower than a standard single at 210cm by a snug 80cm.
The master bedroom is an electric drop-down over the front lounge, a smidgen or two more roomy than a standard double at 190cm x 139cm.
You need to use the ladder to reach it, and there’s not quite enough headroom to sit up—perhaps another indication that the vehicle is more suited to the, ah, shall we say younger and more agile stage of parenthood.
Mindful of the rather chilly Canterbury day, I check: yes, there’s a 6kW gas-electric combi heater and the winter pack comes as standard, with heated and insulated waste tanks, external pipes, and thermal screen cover. The T413 might be compact, but there’s more storage than you might think at first glance.
The rear garage could technically be described as ‘monstrous’ and the lower bunk could be folded away to make another space-saver. At $1782 and $729 respectively, the wind-out awning and bike rack seem like a couple of sensible extras to make this vehicle even more family-friendly.
Like the TrailLite brochure says, the Benimar range—and this little beauty in particular—“is perfect for people new to motorhoming”.
Benimar Tessoro T413 specifications
|Vehicle make/model||2018 Benimar Tessoro T413|
|Engine||2L 170hp diesel, rated Euro 6|
|Approx. overall length||6410mm|
|Approx. overall height||2890mm|
Benimar Tessoro T413 price (as reviewed): $132,000
For more details, contact TrailLite on 0800 872 455 or visit traillite.co.nz.