Norm Guthartz

See other caravan reviews written by Norm Guthartz

Practical Caravan’s experts review Dethleffs stylish and aerodynamic pop-top model, the Tourist HD 460 DB

Overview

Dethleffs is a German firm best known for manufacturing motorhomes – indeed it produces more motorcaravans than any other brand. However, it also does a respectable line in touring caravans. One of its caravan ranges, the Tourist, is sold exclusively in the UK by Automotive Leisure in Poole, which also sells Eriba and Knaus tourers.

Our first impression was that it’s very different from the regular white boxes we see at big caravan shows and on campsites. For starters, our test model came in an attractive pastel shade called Laguna Blue (a £450 cost option – it comes in white as standard). The Tourist models are also available in Cacao Grey (which is oddly a golden brown) and silver.

Our test van was a 2013 model, but the only real change for the 2014 season is a differently engineered roof, which is lighter. The result is a higher payload than before. 

Pitching and setting up

On site, the thing you notice immediately is its pop-up roof, which is rare in touring caravans (others sold in the UK include Eriba and the Trigano Silver range). It increases headroom significantly. Dethleffs denotes this with the suffix HD to the range name. It’s one of two roof options – the second is an elevating roof, which raises considerably higher in front than at the rear to accommodate two extra berths overhead. The three models with this roof bear the suffix SD.

The obvious benefit of having a pop-up roof is that the caravan is not as tall as a fixed-roof model, which can improve the outfit’s aerodynamics on the road. The Dethleffs is just 2.42m high with the roof down, and is narrow at 2.1m (barely 7ft) wide, while its rounded roofline and front panel reduce drag. These factors should help a car get better fuel economy than when it tows a conventional tourer of similar weight.

The Tourist is built on an Al-Ko chassis, with an AKS stabiliser and heavy-duty steadies. With a standard chassis rated at 1300kg, it’s a tourer that’s easily towed by most family cars without the need for the B+E licence entitlement required to drive outfits weighing more than 3500kg.

It has a small, square gas locker in front, with a door that raises and clips to a plastic stay.

Lounge

Inside, you’ll find a compact front lounge furnished with short parallel bench seats. It is suitable for two diners facing each other over the table, which clips to a rail on the central chest of drawers. Amidships on the offside is a basic kitchen, and a small washroom is opposite.

The pop-up roof is elevated manually by releasing four plastic catches and giving it a push; it lifts easily. Internal headroom measures 2.1m with the roof raised, and it has two massive, opening rooflights and multiple spotlights built into it.

The one disadvantage of the pop-up roof is its vinyl sides and zipped vents – they’re not designed for year-round touring on these shores, at least not with the roof up.

Without the roof raised, headroom at its centre point is 1.8m, so not everybody will need to raise the roof on every trip. Also, like many Continental vans, the interior windows come with blinds, flyscreens and net curtains, rather than full curtains as used in UK-made vans.

Kitchen

Compared with most British-manufactured caravans, the equipment levels in the Tourist are basic to the point of being minimal. There’s a simple gas-only space heater, albeit with an electric blown-air unit. The kitchen doesn’t come fitted with an oven or grill as standard, but does provide a three-burner gas hob, although without spark ignition you’ll need a ready supply of matches at meal times.

There’s a square stainless-steel sink, and an 86-litre fridge-freezer, but forget about such frills as a microwave oven. The rest of the space in the galley is given over exclusively to storage. In some ways, this is closer to campervan or tent camping than it is to luxurious caravanning.

Washroom

The compact washroom has a Thetford swivel toilet and a decent-sized corner washbasin, but no shower; it lacks even a showerhead and tray. There are plenty of shelves, though, and towel hooks. Some may find it a little odd that, under the pop-up roof, there’s no ceiling to close off the washroom.

Beds

Although the 460 DB is billed as a four-berth, it is better suited as a couple’s caravan. The massive fixed double bed across the rear is comfy, with small shelves.

Should you need more berths, the lounge can be converted into a double bed. Simply unclip the table, fold it at the knee, reattach the table by clipping it to the lower rail and drop the backrest cushions in. It may need a mattress topper to make for a more even surface. This would only serve as a double bed for very young children, though.

The fixed bed’s base is also home to a 38-litre on-board fresh-water tank and a spare wheel with carrier, both fitted as standard. A hot water system costs an extra £500.

Storage

The Tourist HD may be a compact caravan but it is packed with storage options. There are overhead lockers everywhere from the lounge to the washroom, and these are bolstered by drawers, cupboards and cubbyholes.

There is plenty of room in the bed boxes at the front and the rear, where the fixed double can be raised on gas struts. They’ll support the weight of the mattress when you have to step in to lift heavy items from it. It can also be accessed via an external hatch, which oddly fouls the ground on level pitches when opened.

The gas locker’s space is beautifully organised, which is a Dethleffs signature. For example, a small clip holds the waste-water container while in transit. Its door is secured with sturdy finger latches, as is the outside hatch to the fixed bed’s base. They feel much more robust than the usual rotating locks.

Technical specs

Berth4
MiRO1125kg
Payload175kg
MTPLM1300kg
Interior length5.12m
Width2.1m

Verdict

The Tourist isn’t a caravan aimed at people who rally, spend 100 nights a year on site in all weathers or rely heavily on the on-board facilities. Anybody interested in this van should be prepared to use site washblocks. And with a starting price of £18,999, it’s not cheap considering the basic spec. But if your idea of touring involves frequent trips, this lightweight, compact and cool-looking van may be a perfect fit.

Conclusion

Pros

  • The Tourist HD's good looks will have heads turning
  • It is robustly built to last
  • The height, width and shape help make the outfit more aerodynamic
  • This van may be compact but it's packed with storage options

Cons

  • It is short on equipment, especially in the kitchen and washroom
  • The caravan is rather expensive for what it offers
  • This is not a van for people who tour year round
  • The washroom is not closed off from the rest of the van because of the pop top
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