Auto-Trail Delaware: Review

By: Malcolm Street, Photography by: Malcolm Street


With a new, more powerful engine, the four-berth British Auto-Trail Delaware motorhome is perfect for travelling with friends or family.

A large percentage of motorhomes built in Australia are built for just two people, whereas those built in Britain and Europe will often seat and sleep four. A typical example of this is the Auto-Trail Delaware that I took for a spin after prising the keys out of Sydney RV.

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Perhaps I should have opted for a boat instead, though! It was a very rainy day for my test drive and the driest location I could find, other than inside the motorhome, was under the M4 freeway overpass at Emu Plains! Further west in the Blue Mountains, where I intended on travelling, it was rain, rain and more rain.

There is a lot of debate about the relative pros and cons of motorhomes and caravans for travellers, and vans certainly have their conveniences, but not having to hitch or unhitch a motorhome when the weather is wet is a genuine bonus.

ENGINE

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I was interested in the new Delaware because it is powered by the equally new Fiat Ducato MultiJet 180 model with a 2.3L turbodiesel engine. Anyone familiar with the Fiat will know that the 2.3L engine had a lesser power rating than the larger 3L option but Fiat has now increased the power of the 2.3L to the same as the original 3L and to the latest Euro 6 specifications.

European truck designers seem to be forever squeezing more power out of smaller engines and Fiat claims that the new engine will use 20 per cent less fuel than the older 3L engine.

SPECIFICATIONS

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At 8.04m (26ft 5in) long, Auto-Trail’s Delaware is not a little motorhome but it still has a relatively light (for a motorhome) Tare weight of 3420kg which, with the specified GVM of 4495kg, results in very impressive payload of more than 1000kg. However, I’d be trying to carry a little less than that and just enjoy the space, fuel saving and lighter load.

The Delaware is built mostly using laminated construction for the walls (40mm), floor (45mm) and part of the roof (40mm). All the moulded panels are fibreglass.

Two other points of note are the entry door and awning. The door is typically European with a moulded garbage bin and umbrella holder, which came complete with umbrella – perfect for the rainy day I encountered while I travelled in the Delaware! While the door does have a sliding insect screen, it is not a security door.

INTERIOR

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I think the Delaware wins points on looks – it’s called the Hi-line model because of the Luton peak bed but, because of the minimal bulge at the front, the Luton almost goes unnoticed.

Of course, it always comes down to personal taste more than anything, but some motorhomes or caravans have a more welcoming interior than others. It might be the layout, it might be the colour scheme or it might just be the front lounge – which is exactly what attracted me to the Delaware. It was too easy to sit and relax!

However, this motorhome does have a slightly enclosed feel about it which, in my opinion, is down to the dark cabinetry that is popular on motorhomes coming out of Europe.

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The entry door is located midway along the motorhome, which means the lounge and dining area is all towards the front. Both cab seats swivel around to meet a sideways lounge on the nearside and the L-shaped lounge behind the driver’s seat. It’s one of those versatile designs that works well because it fully utilises the swivelling cab seats.

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In addition to the fixed and swivelling seats, there are two tables – a small round one fixed to the nearside lounge which can swivel between the seats, and a larger freestanding one that is stored in a purpose built cupboard beside the fridge. I like this sort of setup as there’s plenty of room for two with a choice of seats to occupy but you can also fit four for drinks or dinner quite easily.

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There are windows either side of the lounge, the offside one being awning style but the nearside is a slider, which is the simple solution for the common problem of not being able to have both the door and the window open at the same time.

KITCHEN, BATHROOM & BEDROOM

Just like the front lounge, the rest of the motorhome is designed for a comfortable lifestyle on the road with its European-style kitchen, split bathroom and island bed in the rear.

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Bed length can often be an issue in imported motorhomes but the Delaware scores reasonably well with the rear bed measuring 1.9x1.4m (6ft 3in x 4ft 7in) and the Luton bed 1.53x1.22m (6ft 1in x 4ft). The Luton bed folds back quite easily if it’s not needed, making access to the cab nice and simple.

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While the weather did its best to upset my test drive, it had no effect on the Delaware’s driving ability. I couldn’t detect any difference in power between the new uprated 2.3L unit and the older 3L unit but, unfortunately, I didn’t have the motorhome long enough to reliably check the fuel consumption over a long distance. However, I’m still glad Auto-Trail has opted for the most powerful engine in the Ducato fleet, not the lower rated engine that some choose.

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One of the criticisms directed at Fiat Ducatos is the perceived weakness of the front wheel drive. It’s certainly something to be aware of but, with care, the problems can be minimised.

I spend time manoeuvring the Delaware around for photos on wet grass for this job, so keeping the front wheels on firmer ground when turning around definitely helped, and it really doesn’t matter if the rear wheels dig in a bit.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Despite the inclement weather, I really enjoyed my time in the Auto-Trail Delaware. Indeed, the front lounge is just great for relaxing into and watching the wet weather go by outside.

Auto-Trail is a premium brand out of Britain and it really shows, with plenty of attention to detail. It’s an ideal motorhome for a couple and even more so if you have regular dinner or travelling guests!

HITS AND MISSES

Pros...

  • Front lounge with alternative tables
  • Storage capacity
  • Rear island bed
  • Split bathroom
  • New 2.3L Fiat engine

Cons...

  • Location of flatscreen TV
  • Rear passenger seat is a bit fiddly
  • Small kitchen
  • No security screen on entry door

Weights and measures

  • External length 8.04m (26ft 5in)
  • External width 2.35m (7ft 9in)
  • Internal height 1.99m – 1.85m 
  • (6ft 6in – 6ft 1in)
  • Travel height 3.1m (10ft 2in)
  • Tare 1960kg
  • ATM 3420kg
  • GVM 4495kg

Price as shown

$179,990 (drive-away, NSW)

The full feature appeared in Caravan World #563. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!