Review: Neismann+Bischoff ARTO B5E

By: Bill Savidan, Photography by: Bill Savidan


NZMCD reviewer Bill Savidan steps inside the Arto 85E, a premium motorhome that doesn’t disappoint

Neismann+Bischoff (N+B) is steadily making its mark on the New Zealand motorhome scene. The new Arto 85E continues N+B’s tradition of innovation. Some 18 months ago, when I reviewed the Arto 88E, there were 11 different models.

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Now there are 14, with 21 different layouts. The Arto 85E has a twin-bed rear bedroom above the garage. At the front is a dinette/lounge, with the kitchen and bathroom between the lounge and bedroom.

Like its predecessor, it is a handsome-looking RV. It has a stylishly raked windscreen with a bold black frame that continues down both sides, visually ‘smoothing out’ the otherwise irregular pattern of the various rectangular windows. I liked the cheeky splash of colour introduced below the bumper and around the skirt.

This model is built on an AL-KO wide-axle chassis with a ‘tag’ axle. It has a Fiat Ducato 2.3-litre 180BHP turbo-diesel engine, front suspension and running gear and, in an innovative move, a ZF 9-speed automatic gearbox. To comply with the latest Euro 6D emission regime, Fiat has fitted the motor exhaust with the SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction), a process commercially known as ‘adBlue’.

Several benefits arise from the new motor/gearbox union, including improved performance – engine torque is improved by 12.5 per cent – and better fuel economy. With a broad ratio spread of 9.8, the gearbox starts in a lower gear and finishes in a higher one, and fifth gear has the 1:1 ratio, so gears 6 to 9 are all overdrive gears. This contributes to the Arto 85E meeting the Euro 6D emission standards.

Safety takes high priority. There are airbags for both driver and passenger, as well as four three-point safety belts. Driver assistance includes ABS brakes, traction control, hill start, electronic slip diff, and central/remote locking. The 85E can be driven on a Class 1 (car) licence, but the GVW of 5500kg requires a six-monthly COF check.

Stepping aboard

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Quality cabinetry and upholstery are hallmarks of N+B motorhomes

The view from the driver’s seat is excellent; 180-plus degrees from side to side. A rear-camera display on the cab monitor and two large rear-view mirrors ease the difficulty of reversing. Going forward is equally easy. Initial caution is understandable, but once comfortable with the Arto 85E’s size, it is easy to manage. The 9-speed auto contributes to this and helps the relatively small motor achieve excellent passage times.

Stepping through to the main cabin, I was impressed with the quality of the finish and the sense of space. The fit-out cabinetry of the model reviewed is ‘verade oak’ with gloss white doors and a grey slate floor, but here are other options available.

Lounge/dinette

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The traditional dinette is replaced with Face 2 Face seats either side of the dining table

In another innovative step for a European manufacturer, the traditional forward-facing dinette is replaced with seats either side of a centrally mounted dining table. N+B calls it Face 2 Face seating. When needed, the seats convert into forward-facing travel seats, one each side, both with seatbelts.

Upholstered in leather with separate fabric-covered back cushions the Face 2 Face seats are a comfortable height off the floor and have just the right amount of rake on the back cushions. The tabletop can be expanded, so it reaches diners on both sides, and movement in all directions is controlled by a single lock/unlock lever.

There are windows each side of the lounge and these, like those throughout the Arto 85E, all have a single-lever action lock/unlock, which activates all latches. The window blinds, including the large one on the windscreen, all rise from the bottom so they can be stopped at the point where sufficient privacy has been attained.

Bed over the cab

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The master bedroom has one of the largest beds you will find in a European motorhome

I love this style of drop-down bed. Unobtrusive when folded away, the modestly sized double bed (1910mm x 1320mm) lowers to a user-friendly height when needed. It has the same quality foam mattress and sprung base as the main bed and is very useful for accommodating occasional overnight guests. When in use, it doesn’t intrude into the lounge, and its curtains provide privacy for the occupants. It can be left made-up when folded away.

Kitchen

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A stylish cooktop and circular sink: note the corner chrome knob that opens/closes the sink plughole

The three-hob LPG cooktop looks premium, with cast-iron pot stands in place of the usual wire grate. Below the burners is an easy-clean black ceramic enamel surface. Two glass covers over the burners can be lowered to provide additional benchtop space.

Set into the simulated-stone benchtop is a circular sink with sides of the same material and a flat stainless steel bottom. It has a very different drain plug. No groping around in the murky washing-up water trying to find the plug. Twist a knob on the benchtop, and the murky mess just drains away.

There are other thoughtful details, too. The back edge of the bench finishes in a short upstand that helps keep that join clean and watertight. There’s a small upstand on the other three edges just high enough to prevent liquid on the bench from cascading onto the floor. Tempered-glass panels protect the walls on the left from hob heat and upholstery on the right from water splashes.

Below the bench are three drawers, one for cutlery, and two all-purpose. A small rubbish bin is fitted into the bottom drawer. This bank of drawers has electronic central locking and must be secured while the vehicle is in motion. If you forget to apply the lock, a buzzer will remind you.

There are several floor hatches. Three access useful under-floor storage of around 250mm deep. The others access equipment. The components of the kitchen have been well thought out, easing the task of preparing, cooking and serving meals.

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The fridge/freezer doors open to the right or left; whichever is easier

The two-door fridge/freezer has a very clever innovation; a mechanism that allows the doors to be opened from either the right or the left. For example, when working in the kitchen, it may be best to open the fridge using its left-side hinge. But the right-opening hinge might be more suitable when reaching in from outside via the habitation door.

The ‘wellness’ washroom

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The impressively large washroom

This washroom layout is both practical and spacious, ideal for those who intend living in the vehicle for extended periods. For a start, it is ‘en-suitable’, with a solid sliding door that closes off the bedroom, and a toilet door that can be swung through 90-degrees to close off the cab end.

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Semi-circular transparent doors close off the shower stall

To give you an idea of the bathroom’s size, the shower, toilet and handbasin could all be used by different people at the same time. It is an ideal changing room, too, with ready access to clothes stored in the locker beside the toilet and under the foot of the bed.

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Easily accessed clothes storage right next to the washroom

Other thoughtful items include twin plugholes in the shower tray to facilitate better draining, a duckboard in the shower to keep your feet clear of water if it doesn’t drain away, a central ceiling hatch for ventilation, a full-length wall mirror, and smaller mirrors on the cabinet doors. There is toiletry storage below the handbasin and in the wall-mounted medicine cabinet.

The backroom

The twin single beds are a generous 2030mm x 770mm and have memory-foam mattresses over a sprung slat base, so they are very comfortable. In the vehicle reviewed, the 490mm-wide centre infill cushions were in place, so the bed looked enormous.

It is wide enough to sleep across, or north/south on the single beds, whichever is preferred
With a hatch in the ceiling and windows either side, the ventilation in the bedroom is excellent. As well as the already mentioned foot lockers, six large overhead cabinets surround the bedroom.

Verdict

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Neismann+Bischoff ARTO B5E floor plan 

When asked about option choices for the Arto 85E, Zion Motorhomes proprietor Jonas Ng said: "When finalising a sale, that is the part that takes the longest time. There are just so many combinations of interior design and equipment options. N+B claims there are over 500 possible combinations. It takes time to decide what is best."

The Arto 85E is well set up for touring and freedom camping with a 1300kg payload, 200L fresh- and 150L grey-water tanks, two 95amp/hr house batteries, 4 x1 10kW solar panel, two 9kg LPG bottles, and is fully self-contained. Part of the Erwin Hymer Group, Niesmann+Bischoff manufactures the group’s top-of-the-line products. It aspires to make the best motorhomes available, and the Arto 85E is an excellent example of this. 

Pros

  • Face 2 Face seating in the lounge.
  • The 9-speed automatic gearbox.
  • Doors on the fridge/freezer that hinge both ways.

Cons

  • A few more horses under the bonnet wouldn’t go amiss.

Neismann+Bischoff ARTO B5E specifications

Chassis Fiat Ducato
Engine 2.3-litre, 180BHP turbo-diesel engine
Berths 4
Length 8427mm
Width 2320mm
Height 2950mm
Water tanks fresh 200L, grey 150L
Solar power 4 x 110W
GVW 5500kg
Tare 4200k
Payload 1300kg

Price as reviewed: $312,000, including GST and on-road costs

For more information, visit zionmotorhomes.co.nz

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