2003 review by UKMotorhomes.net
Autostar? never heard of them you may say. Well they are one of France's biggest motorhome manufacturers, but until recently they have not been officially imported into the UK. All that changed earlier this year with the setting up of The Camper House. (The Camper House ceased trading a few years after this review was written, as far as we know there is currently no official UK importer for Autostar motorhomes)
Based in Oxford, they are the sole importers of Autostar motorhomes into the UK, and they invited UKMotorhomes.net to look at their demonstrator - the Mercedes based Aryal 9
|The demonstrator had the 3800kg chassis and included an additional extractor fan, TV aerial and booster, roof air con, wind out awning and refillable gas bottles, which are all extras to the standard specification. The cost of a standard specification Aryal 9 is £50,808 (3500kg) or £52,117 (3800kg). All prices quoted are valid for 2003.|
We met the proprietor of The Camper House, Martyn Cole, at their base in Oxford and had time for a good look around the vehicle before he drove us north out of the city to our photo location.
I was pleasantly surprised by the way the Mercedes drove (albeit as a passenger this time), there has been some criticism of the Sprintshift gearchange being jerky, but I certainly didn't notice it. Martyn commented that first time users do sometimes experience this, but with a slight adjustment to driving technique it is easily overcome.
|The layout of the Aryal 9 is pretty conventional one and one of the most popular with UK users. The entry door is toward the rear of the (UK) offside with an externaly accessible locker and wardrobe immediately to the left. Opposite the door is the toilet/shower room with handbasin, swivel bowl Thetford cassette toilet and a reasonably sized separate shower compartment.|
On the right of the door is the L shaped galley with sink, three burner hob, and very small waste bin set into the worktop. We felt that the waste bin was so small as to be next to useless and would have preferred extra workspace. Opposite the galley is the superb Electrolux AES fridge/freezer and above this is a built in Smev oven (an oven/grill unit is available as an option). Below a small worktop alongside the fridge is a useful pull out storage unit with the 'baguette' bag now commonly found in French built motorhomes - perhaps with a bit of ingenuity this could be converted into a more usefully sized waste bin?
Moving on to the 'living' space we have a lounge/diner where the L shaped seat and bench opposite provide plenty of room to seat 6 around the drop leaf table in comfort. One fully belted forward facing seat is provided.
The drop-leaf table fits between on a pedestal, the lower section of which is permanently fixed - I appreciate that this makes the whole thing much more secure and obviously safer in the event of an accident, but I did feel that it was obtrusive and a potential source of stubbed toes and bruised shins.
The seating was certainly comfortable but the plastic looking inserts were, I felt, a bit out of place.
Both cab seats swivel, and have booster cushions supplied so that the seating height can be made the same as the dinette.
|A neat touch is the dedicated TV cupboard. Located above the worktop alongside the fridge, its base lowers so the the TV can be positioned at a convenient viewing height - no more stiff necks after a night's watching!|
Heating is provided by a 'wet' system, the Alde boiler heats water that is circulated through hidden pipes to fined radiators located under the bench seat and dinette seat, under the floor at the back of the cab space, under the galley work top and in the bathroom. The system is reputed to be very efficient, but does mean that there need to be gaps so that the heated air can rise from the radiators. I would be concerned that these, particularly the one in the floor, are potential dirt traps that might be difficult to clean.
There is no fan assistance to the heating - heat distribution is purely by convection, I'm assured that the efficiency is such that you don't get the 'hot head, cold feet' syndrome when starting from cold. I'd like to try it out in the winter just to see how it compares with a blown air system though.....
Domestic hot water is also provided by the Alde, and, when hooked up to mains electric, the system can run off a two stage heating element. Gas and electric can be run together to give a fast warm up. The system can also run from waste heat from the engine via a heat exchanger, the system circulating pump can be kept running whilst driving, drawing heat from the engine to keep the living space warm and heating the integral domestic hot water tank.
This is really a luxury 2 berth motorhome, despite the belted seat in the dinette, so most couples will probably use the pull-down A-Class bed 1.85m (6ft 1in) x 1.4m (4ft 7in) and with headroom of approx 1.02m (3ft 4in), it should provide a comfortable night's sleep.
The dinette can be made up as a small double 1.8m (5ft 1in) x 1.06m (3ft 6in).
The bench seat can be used as a single bed (children's) 1.8m (5ft 1in) x 0.66m (2ft 2in), it is possible to expand this independently to make a width of 1m (3ft 3in).
The whole lounge seating can also be drawn together to make a large transverse double 2.05m (6ft 8in) x 1.8m (5ft 1in).
Outside we'll start as the business end with a look under the bonnet.
No problems here - the local Mercedes commercial dealership have had a good look at it and report that there is very good access to all the essential bits.
We've already covered the tall offside locker, at the back is a large 'boot' containing the easily accessible spare wheel with room to spare for more odds and ends. Then, handily located on the UK nearside, are all the other external accesses
left to right above: Full width under floor locker, cassette access with external shower point above, slide out gas bottle cradle, access panel for fridge servicing
Obviously this is not an 'in depth' review, more of a taster to give an overall impression of the motorhome. It should, I hope, give enough of an idea for anyone looking for this class of motorhome to be able to decide whether it's worthy of further investigation.
All in all, I liked it, Autostar certainly know how to build motorhomes and the construction and quality of materials is second to none. That however does put it near the top of the price bracket in a very competitive class. Thank you to Martyn and The Camper House for giving us the opportunity to put it to the test.
We like to give the space for a response to our reviews, here's what Martyn Cole, Director of The Camper House, has to say:
I am pleased that you liked the Autostar Aryal 9 & considered the build & materials to be of a high order. This is particularly gratifying as Autostar hold these points as key principals in the manufacture of their motorhomes.
Whilst an Autostar is not the cheapest purchase available in any market sector, they are widely acknowledged in the European press for offering very good value, when the high build quality & standard equipment levels are taken into account, & their durability is held in high regard in European markets.
To allay your concerns about the effeciency of the Alde heating system I invite you to try this system for yourself during the coming winter. Thus far this system has had universal acclaim in all it's intallations, not just in Autostar, & the best way to appreciate this system is to use it under real life conditions.
I have noted your comments about the waste bin.
All the elements built into the worksurface are flush & this offers the user a degree of flexibility in day to day practice.
The size of the waste bin itself is, I'm sure you would agree, a matter of personal taste & requirement. I would counter your "so small as to be next to useless " claim by saying that in use it actually proves quite adequate in day to day use. It is actually approx 26% of a cubic foot in volume. The larger the volume of rubbish stored the greater the risk of smells & other associated problems.
Your suggestion to place an alternative in the large drawer in place of the "baguette basket" is possibly not ideal, as the remainder of this storage is intended for vegetables etc. & rubbish placed here would not be hygienically perfect.
However, in line with Autostar's commitment to improve their products & The Camper House's active role in that regard (I remind you of the examples of development we have already achieved) I am putting forward the following recommendation. That a secondary bin be considered to the inside of the lower interior door which accesses the tall locker next to the entry door. Ideally this will swing out with the door & it's location will allow for the bin to emptied from the outside as well, should this be required.
Should this proposal be accepted I will advise you accordingly.
Thank you again for your insight & my good wishes to UKMotorhomes.net in it's endeavours to bring insight, information & inspiration to the motorhome fraternity on the Internet.
Sadly The Camper House has ceased trading, as far as we know there is currently no official UK importer for Autostar motorhomes.
www.autostar.fr lists dealerships in France and some other EU countries.
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