Review: Benimar Tessoro T481

By: Cameron Officer, Photography by: Cameron Officer


Benimar Tessoro T481 The flat-screen TV can slide up and down for watching in bed Benimar Tessoro T481
Benimar Tessoro T481 kitchen The kitchen offers decent bench space Benimar Tessoro T481 kitchen
Benimar Tessoro T481 storage Overhead cubby spaces add to kitchen convenience Benimar Tessoro T481 storage
Benimar Tessoro T481 review Ford power for a point of difference Benimar Tessoro T481 review
Benimar Tessoro T481 interior Interior fabrics provide for a comfy environment Benimar Tessoro T481 interior
Benimar Tessoro T481 review Six-speed auto provides for smooth progress Benimar Tessoro T481 review
Benimar Tessoro T481 layout Benimar Tessoro T481 layout Benimar Tessoro T481 layout

MCD checks out the compact Benimar Tessora T481, an ideal motorhome for customers in the value-focused small van market

From some angles, the Beinmar Tessoro T481 will look familiar to readers. It is essentially the same layout as the Benimar Mileo 202 we had a look at a few months back. But there are some key differences to note as distributor TrailLite nearly doubles the local Benimar lineup by adding five different options from the manufacturer’s Tessoro range.

Benimar overview

Beinmar -Tessoro -T481-3

Benimar has been manufacturing motorhomes in Europe since 1979, with the first series run of models beginning in 1986. TrailLite brought the Spanish brand to New Zealand in 2015 and have had some big wins with the smaller motorhome.

As TrailLite product specialist Greg Campbell told me when I interviewed him around the launch of the Benimar brand, smaller motorhomes fulfil distinct duties for buyers just as larger ones do.

"Whether someone is new to motorhoming and wants a vehicle with a compact wheelbase or whether such a model is desired after the kids have left home and no longer venture out with the parents, having models on offer that the likes of Benimar are experts at manufacturing is ideal for us," he says.

TrailLi

te provides a full service backup on the Benimar models they distribute in New Zealand, so Benimar owners can expect the same level of customer service as the Pukekohe-headquartered company’s bespoke in-house brand clients can.

Benimar Tessoeo T481

Beinmar -Tessoro -T481-1

That familiar grille on the nose of the Tessoro T481 is your first clue that the Tessoro offers a few points of difference from what we’ve seen in the past; not insignificantly, Ford power in place of Fiat. The Tessoro range is built on Ford Transit underpinnings, although there are no significant differences in body dimensions between the Tessoro T481 I had a look at and the Fiat Ducato-based Benimar Mileo 202 we investigated a few issues back.

Open the bonnet though, and you’ll find a clever engine underneath. On paper, it’s a slightly smaller 2.0-litre TDCI turbo diesel, although that deficit in cubic capacity over the Fiat Ducato engine (which is a 2.3-litre unit) doesn’t mean the Ford lacks firepower. On the contrary, it offers up 170hp, which is 20hp more than the Fiat. Both engines are Euro 6 emissions compliant. There’s another difference noticeable when driving, too, in the form of Ford’s six-speed automatic. Fiat’s auto shifter also boasts six ratios but it is of the automated manual variety, where a certain finesse through gear changes is needed (although nothing that can’t be adapted to within a few kilometres).

The Ford gearbox is a conventional six-speeder that the motorhome industry got even before Ford’s light commercials; the local lineup of Transit vans are just receiving the auto option now.

There are four other Tessoro models of varying size on offer through TrailLite, from the 6510mm-long T413 to the large Tessoro T494, which features a permanent rear-sited double bed and measures in at 7350mm long. So there are plenty of options powered by Ford.

Other differences between the Mileo 202 and the motorhome on these pages? Not a lot to speak of really.

Lounge and dining

 Beinmar -Tessoro -T481-lounge

Inside the living quarters you’ll find the same layout comprising a drop-down double bed that lowers to half way, with a short detachable ladder easing access at night. The lowering and raising action is fully automated, with a key needing to be inserted into the bed’s control panel before it will move out of its position above.

The dining table raises and lowers to accommodate the drop-down bed, and once lowered, the sofa area utilises the table to provide for a second double bed area with infill squabs.
Sitting on an AL-KO chassis, the Tessoro T481 benefits from Benimar’s flat floor manufacturing process, meaning that even with the double bed in its overhead daytime position, headroom isn’t compromised too greatly. Like the Mileo version, the Tessoro features rear-sited kitchen and bathroom facilities across opposite sides of the back wall.

Kitchen and bathroom

Beinmar -Tessoro -T481-bathroom

For such a compact motorhome, the Tessoro T481's kitchen area is still utterly workable as a meal-prep space, with plenty of cubby storage and room on the benchtop. There’s also a 140-litre fridge and a three-burner hob/oven/grill with glass lid.

The bathroom is reasonable for a vehicle of this size, with a separate shower box and more storage above and below the bathroom vanity. Outside the bathroom door and alongside the fridge is a decent wardrobe as well.

The only major change between the two models is that the Tessoro’s entry door to the living quarters is on the right-hand (road) side rather than the left. I concede this will be an issue for some buyers, so weighing up whether it will make a difference to your journey will be a part of the decision process.

Freedom camping ready

Beinmar -Tessoro -T481-2

The Benimar Tessoro T481 is a camper you’d consider for those four- and five-night stays away. It has enough self-containment features to be a thoroughly comfortable home away from home for the open road, but its compact stature means you’ll not be away for weeks at a time without making some significant compromises to your itinerary.Still, while you’re away, you get to enjoy a light and modern-feeling interior, with just the right mix of premium-look wood and bright white surfaces.

Low energy LED lighting throughout adds a further touch of class, while there is a standard satellite dish ready for your flat-screen TV, which can slide up and down on a rail, allowing both those above and below to watch from bed.

While the short footprint surrenders the idea of a rear garage, there are still plenty of nooks and crannies for all your holiday items, with decently-proportioned cubby spaces throughout the living quarters.

The Benimar Tessoro T481 also puts its best foot forward at the time of purchase, offering a $10K margin of savings over the equivalent Mileo 202.

In fact, across the range, the Ford-focused Benimars are all around $10,000 cheaper than their Fiat brethren (although the Mileo range extends options by almost double over the configurations available for Tessoro customers).

Verdict

Modern motorhomes are all about options and now, Benimar’s New Zealand distributor, TrailLite, is giving its customers in the value-focused small van market the option of either Ford or Fiat power along with a slightly sharpened price for the former.

I have a bit of a soft spot for Ford, so I can see the appeal. Actually, even better, imagine a Benimar Tessroro T481 for those long weekends away, sitting next to a Ford Mustang as a nice point of difference for the working week. Now that’d be a driveway to envy.

For more information, call 0800 872 455 or visit traillite.co.nz.

Beinmar Tessoro T481 specifications

Berths: 4

Axles: 2

Approx. overall length: 5990mm

Approx. overall height: 2890mm

Max freshwater capacity: 120L

Max grey water capacity: 105L

GVM: 3500kg

Price: $122,000

Pluses

  • Value for money and accessible entry price
  • Ford underpinnings means parts availability shouldn’t be an issue
  • Clever layout for a compact motorhome

Minuses

  • Drop-down double bed won’t appeal to everyone

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