LIFE RE­ALLY CAN BE A PIC­NIC WITH SSANGYONG’S NEW CAMPER VAN

Si­mon Davis takes to the New For­est for a night’s camp­ing in Ssangyong’s Turismo Tourist. What’s it like to bring a ver­sion of home with you?

Belfast Telegraph - NI Carfinder - - Front Page - SI­MON DAVIS

GROW­ING up in New Zealand, camp­ing was al­ways a big part of my child­hood. A con­ti­nent as var­ied and di­verse as Europe wasn’t on our doorstep, mean­ing the vast ma­jor­ity of sum­mer hol­i­days for fam­i­lies in Aotearoa were spent in a tent or car­a­van on the beach.

So when I heard we had a Ssangyong Turismo Tourist Camper com­ing into the of­fice, I im­me­di­ately vol­un­teered to put it to the test and spend a night in it.

De­signed and man­u­fac­tured by Well­house Leisure of Hud­der­s­field, the Tourist Camper looks ex­actly the same as a reg­u­lar Turismo MPV, but open the door and you’ll find some se­ri­ous con­ver­sion work has gone on.

The boot has been stripped out to make way for a minia­ture kitchen, com­plete with fridge, sink, gas hob and stor­age cup­boards, while the front four seats can be eas­ily con­verted into two sin­gle beds.

The roof even pops up to re­veal a third bed suit­able for chil­dren.

In short, it had ev­ery­thing re­quired for an overnight stay - even a por­ta­ble toi­let, but we quickly de­cided we wouldn’t try that out.

Af­ter a speedy get­away from work one Fri­day af­ter­noon, we set course for

the New For­est and our camp­site, happy the sun was shin­ing and it didn’t look like rain was on the hori­zon.

One thing that be­came im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent was the Ssangyong’s vast size.

Mea­sur­ing more than five me­tres long and with an in­cred­i­bly high driv­ing po­si­tion, you did feel like you were be­hind the wheel of a yacht rather than a South Korean peo­ple-mover.

De­spite the car’s size, how­ever, its 2.2-litre Euro 6 diesel en­gine did a good job of get­ting the camper mov­ing.

With 176bhp and 400Nm of torque on tap, the Turismo wasn’t as slow as you might ex­pect.

In fact, cruis­ing along the mo­tor­way in the Ssangyong was a rather pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence. Its size and tall driv­ing po­si­tion cer­tainly give it a com­mand­ing pres­ence on the road, and its soft sus­pen­sion set-up means it doesn’t crash about over bumps.

That said, these two char­ac­ter­is­tics mean it can be a bit of hand­ful when you in­evitably pull off the mo­tor­way to those tiny coun­try lanes.

There is an amount of lean through the cor­ners and you’re con­stantly con­scious of its width.

We ar­rived at the camp­site just as it was start­ing to get dark and im­me­di­ately started set­ting up be­fore we lost the light.

Luck­ily, the roof is only held in place by a cou­ple of straps, mean­ing it’s in­cred­i­bly easy to pop up.

Get­ting the beds made up took a bit more thought, as you have to po­si­tion the front and rear seats cor­rectly so that when they fold down, they fold down flat.

Over­all, though, this was a sim­ple task, and it took us about 10 min­utes to get ev­ery­thing or­gan­ised – al­though we didn’t put the rear awning in place, as we were only stay­ing for one night.

Af­ter a bar­beque and a cou­ple of drinks, we de­cided it was time to call it a night.

It was only at this point I re­alised I had made the amateur mis­take of for­get­ting my sleep­ing bag, but fig­ured it would make for a good test of how well the Ssangyong re­tained heat.

Safe to say it didn’t fare too well, and I went cold – but I re­ally only have my­self to blame for this.

Aside from the cold, sleep­ing in the camper­van was made even more un­com­fort­able by the nar­row beds – even with the in­fill cush­ions and mem­ory foam topper in place.

So, the big Ssangyong loses some points in the com­fort depart­ment which is a shame, be­cause I liked ev­ery­thing else about it.

Then again, un­like full-size camper­vans and car­a­vans, the Ssangyong Turismo Tourist doesn’t give the im­pres­sion it’s de­signed for lengthy ex­cur­sions.

As a place to stay over a week- end, the Turismo Tourist is an in­cred­i­bly like­able piece of kit.

If I had spare £35,995 knock­ing around, I’d se­ri­ously con­sider it.

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