Zefiro 696 review
The Italian brand has taken the winning mix used by its value-for-money line-up and added design flair. Gentleman Jack reviews the Roller Team Zefiro 696
The Ford Transit base vehicle is a highly desirable bonus at this price
Roller Team’s 2016 Zefiro range has pulled off two neat tricks. First, although the slim windscreen ticket confirms its position as the Italian manufacturer’s value-for-money range, it has had some nips and tucks. (Read about tweaks for Roller Team's 2016 motorhomes here.) These are joined by an improved standard spec, resulting in motorhomes that can compete against far more expensive rivals.
Second, by sticking with Ford’s finest, Roller Team has ensured that these motorhomes will attract Transit devotees in droves. Don’t even think about buying a motorcaravan with other underpinnings until you’ve put the Zefiro through its paces. Impeccable road manners plus compliant long travel suspension offer a magic-carpet ride without the downside of excessive roll in corners.
The all-new Zefiro 695 and 696 have similar layouts that feature an island-bed over a transverse garage at the far rear, an en-suite washroom, centrally placed kitchen and a front lounge. However, the 696 adds an electrically lowered transverse double bed over the lounge.
On the road
Ford’s latest generation of Duratorq engines are willing and smooth and the six-speed manual gearbox contains a ratio for every occasion. The standard-spec 125bhp engine is more than adequate for pulling along this sub-3500kg beauty, though some will find it hard to resist spending an extra ‘grand’ on the spirited 150bhp version.
Lounging & dining
The lounge-dinette includes the swivel cab seats and comfortably accommodates four, five at a push. The European-style permanently-mounted table will be like Marmite to potential purchasers: you will either love it or hate it. Moreover, the forward edge of the tabletop digs into the back of the cab’s passenger seat. A slight adjustment to either the shape of the tabletop or the position of the fixing bracket underneath it would sort this out.
Amidships, the Zefiro’s nearside kitchen boasts a compact, L-shaped work surface, a reasonable amount of storage space and a combined oven/grill. This was our first close encounter with Thetford’s new slim-tower fridge/freezer and we were impressed. The large separate cool drawer is perfect for storing fresh vegetables and the like.
We considered four factors when evaluating the island bed in the 696, as we do for any motorhome berth: ease of access and egress, sensible size, firmness of the mattress and a lack of joins. The last can be a problem with beds that are assembled from seat cushions. Not here, though: this island bed gets full marks from us. We also appreciated the individual hanging wardrobes, reading lights and an abundance of surfaces on which to place drinks, specs, Kindle and whatever else.
Many prospective Zefiro motorcaravanning parties will number just two – either young couples or empty-nesters. Thus they may be tempted to save £500 by opting for the 695.
We would urge caution here: the 696 with its additional over-lounge double bed is a far more astute buy. Empty-nesters may want to take along grandchildren and young couples may wish for the company of friends. However, just because the bed is there, it doesn’t mean you have to use it. The 696 will appeal to far more potential second owners at trade-in time than the 695, and it will have stronger residuals than its strictly two-berth stablemate.
The Zefiro 696's island double bed is 1.94 x 1.38m (6’4” x 4’6.25”). The over-lounge double bed is 1.94 x 1.28m (nearside) tapering to 1.1m (offside) (6’4.25” x 4’2.5”/3’7.25”).
The en-suite facilities were cleverly split either side of the bedroom entrance, and it was reassuring that closing the washroom’s tambour door behind you does not induce claustrophobia. The fixtures are arranged to allow plenty of elbow room; it’s what sorts the peaches from the lemons. Roller Team’s was sweet, not sharp.
Even with the island bed fully lowered, there is a fair amount of storage in the garage below it, although it will need to be raised if there’s to be room for a motorbike, scooter or mobility buggy. Inside the main salon the storage is varied and plentiful and we’ve already given the bedroom storage thumbs up.
Finally, rather than listing everything fitted in the 696, let’s say that most folk will find that it wants for nothing. There is another sort of equipment to consider: that provided by its Extreme Protection System (ExPS) construction. This includes the latest developments in replacing timber framing with inert man-made extrusions, improved insulation and GRP cladding on both sides of the walls and floor. The Zefiros are sold with a comprehensive five-year warranty on the conversion and base vehicle.
Roller Team has taken the Zefiros’ winning mix of good spec and low prices, and added subtler styling in the new range for 2016. The Ford Transit base vehicle is a highly desirable bonus at this price.