Vox Pop: The rise and rise of pop-up roofs

Compact leisure vehicles with pop-up roofs are proving ever-more popular. Touring Magazine picks out some of the best on the UK market

The rising roof has been the domain of small campervans in recent years, whether front, back or side raising or, in the case of classic VDubs, an all-round ‘pop-top’. Sometimes it’s to offer extra bed space, in other models to simply provide better standing room in a smaller van with a lower overall height. It’s not always been exclusive to smaller campervans, though; larger motorhomes of yesteryear have included raising roofs, such as Weinsberg’s conversion of the Fiat 238 fifty years ago. But, over the past couple of years, there has been a steady increase in the number of larger van conversions – or compact leisure vehicles/compact utility vehicles (CUVs) – on long-wheel-based Fiat, Peugeot and Mercedes that have added pop-up roofs. And, for the 2021 season, that steady increase has become an explosion of new models with almost every van conversion producer adding at least one pop-up roof option to its range.

Without the need to use a raising roof to gain height for standing room in these van conversions, all of these pop-up roofs allow extra sleeping berths.

They’re ideal for couples that might have the occasional use for extra berths, such as grandchildren visiting during a camping holiday, or for families that would prefer a compact vehicle for quick and easy weekend getaways rather than expanding to a larger-framed, longer coachbuilt motorhome.

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Touring Magazine picks out some of the best on the market:

Adria Twin Sports

Combining the best features of the award-winning Twin Supreme layout with a fully integrated pop-top roof, Adria has been able to introduce the Twin Sports 640 SGX, with accommodation for up to four people.

Adria’s exclusive designed SunRoof® includes a midi-Heki roof light in the rear, with the option for air-conditioning, and a roof-mounted awning while retaining Adria’s renowned panoramic front window for natural light. The roof construction is lightweight, by comparison to others on the market, yet sturdy enough to mount solar panels and also includes roof rack rails for extra luggage capacity.

The ‘cabin loft’ is made from an acrylic-based tent material that’s removable for cleaning and storing, and is breathable, water resistant and insulated. Side mosquito screens are fixed while a front screen can be opened independently of privacy windows for ventilation. The loft sleeping space includes storage, USB ports and reading lights.

Auto-Trail Adventure 55

Based upon the ever-popular Fiat Ducato – the most utilised model for coachbuilt and van conversion motorhomes – you get the very latest, increasingly environmentally-conscious engine and, in the cab, touchscreen display with, among other gadgetry, Western European ‘motorhome specific’ sat-nav and a colour reversing camera. In fact, for 2021, there’s a choice of cab styles – Cab Plus, as standard, which increases the cab headroom through an integrated curved ceiling, or Panoview, a cost option that incorporates a large panoramic roof skylight. There’s more external colours available for 2021, too, with a choice of seven to select from, including the modish Expedition Grey and exclusive ‘Adventure’ exterior graphics.

Downstairs, the living and sleeping areas are divided in two. At the rear are two parallel sofas – very comfortable for daytime lounging – or eating indoors should you erect the pedestal table between. These can be made into a 4’5”-wide double bed. Side windows plus the ability to open the rear barn doors (also with windows) means there’s plenty of natural light.

Taller folk might prefer the option of sleeping ‘upstairs’ in the rooftop bed as, though narrower, it’s longer at 6’7”. The mattress here is comfortable, laid on a platform of springy mesh ‘fingers’ for extra give. The canvas sides of the pop-up roof incorporate windows, including an opening mesh-gauze for ventilation. LED spotlights here allow reading in bed.

The rooftop bed is accessed via a ladder, stored during the day in an alcove above the cab, at the front of the van. Below, the swivelling cab seats turn to meet the two ergonomically-moulded front-facing passenger seats and a dinette table, useful for allowing kids to spread out their belongings on long journeys and a great area for adults to stay up and lounge if putting little ones to bed in the rear.

Bürstner Eliseo

While the respective vans from Adria and Auto-Trail mentioned above include a pop-up roof as standard, it’s an option for Bürstner’s brand new Eliseo. But, there are four layouts from which to select and add your pop-up roof to, from 5.41m to 6.36m long and with a choice of a transverse double bed or longitudinal twin single beds in addition to the double-sized loft bed. Plus, with a choice of four upholstery materials, including leather, and 11 external paint finishes, you’ll receive a very personalised van.

Three of the layouts – the C540, C600 and C641 – include a half-dinette at the front of the van, which, coupled with the rotating cab seats, provides room to make up an extra bed; allowing five sleeping berths in all. That’s pretty good for a vehicle that could be less than 5.5m long.

Dreamer D43 Up Addict

All of the compact leisure vehicles from French brand Dreamer, a part of the renowned Rapido Group, are insulated and designated for use all year round with the vehicles tested to below -15°C. That includes the new Dreamer Fun D43 UP, a vehicle that’s just 5.41m long yet is suitable for family getaways thanks to the pop-up roof. There’s also a panoramic Skyview roof window as standard.

Inside you’ll find a transverse double bed in the main living area along with a longitudinal double bed in the heated pop-up roof. There’s also a practical washroom with shower. and kitchen with hob. 

White is the standard external colour but we love the exuberance of the Red Addict paintwork, for when you really want to stand out from the crowd.

Elddis Autoquest CV80 / Compass Avantgarde CV80

Erwin Hymer Group UK introduced its new range of, now award-winning, ‘CV’ van conversions for the 2019 season. For 2021 the company has extended the range by adding a model with a pop-up roof, the CV80. It means that, what could only be 2- and 3-berth layouts, now increase to four sleeping berths.

Both the Elddis Autoquest and Compass Avantgarde, are almost identical in technical specifications (Fiat 250 Ducato Euro 6D engine, 3500kg MTPLM, 399kg payload, 5.99m long), layout and price, which, at £47,669 is very competitive, especially as an On-The-Road price that includes first year road tax. 

Where the two differ is the interior finish and upholstery design: opt for the Elddis Autoquest for the pale-coloured ‘Ashton’ cabinetry and beige ‘Sevilla’ upholstery, or the Compass Avantgarde for the slightly darker ‘Salinas Ash’ cabinetry and ‘Syracuse’ soft furnishings with trendy checked patterns. 

Either way, you’ll get Whale’s CompleteHeat underfloor heating and combined water system, an underslung LPG gas tank, fully functioning washroom with shower and cassette toilet, and kitchen with oven and grill.

These are budget-priced bargains, so choice is minimal (two external paint colours of white or metallic grey, for example, and no additional choice of furnishings), but there are plenty of extras to add, such as alloy wheels, solar panels and air-con if your budget affords.

Hymer Free 540

We’ve picked out two van conversions from German brand Hymer, synonymous with quality. The first – the Hymer Free – helps to keep costs down as it is based upon a Fiat Ducato; few would realise they can get a brand new Hymer motorhome for less than £45k on the road. At 5.41m long, it’s also a really compact vehicle, yet, thanks to the optional pop-up roof, can sleep up to five people.

That includes a rear transverse double bed and a half-dinette with two belted seats (therefore four passenger seats in all – your fifth-berth person will need to meet you at your destination) in addition to the pop-up loft space with double bed. There’s a compact shower/washroom cubicle and small galley kitchen, too. For a little extra space, opt for the 600 or 602, both of which are 5.99m long.

As for the pop-up roof, it’s available in an external paint colour to match the colour of the van, or in white, to offer a rather cool two-tone effect (unless you choose to go for an all-white van, of course)

Hymer Grand Canyon S

This is Hymer’s premium camper, based on a front-wheel-drive Mercedes Sprinter. Aside from Mercedes’ reliability, you’ll also find premium furnishings inside the four-berth Grand Canyon S – a choice of leather upholstery on the cab and rear-passenger dinette seats, for example.

The pop-up roof with double bed is an optional extra – without, the Grand Canyon S is a two-berth that includes a transverse double bed at the rear. Storage is excellent, including beneath this rear bed, accessed from the rear barn doors. More so, if you’re the ultra-adventurous sort and planning a trip ‘off-piste’, the Grand Canyon S is available with optional four-wheel-drive.

Knaus Boxstar 600 Street

Knaus have really gone to town with its new pop-up roof, introducing options to include it in both the Boxstar and Boxlife variants. Whichever you select, the pop-up roof remains the same spec, that, once up, includes a cosy interior with ambient lighting, reading lights and heating vents. There are ventilation channels for the mattress to prevent moisture formation and there are integrated pockets in the roof sides for books and ‘phones. 

Opening windows in the pop-up area include a mosquito net and a shade, so sleeping up here will really feel like tent camping with all the luxury of a heated motorhome. There’s even the option of an air-conditioning system for the roof area.

We’ve opted for the Boxstar 600 Street as our pick of the vans, with its fresh, contemporary design. It’s 5.99m long, includes a transverse rear double bed, small galley kitchen, shower/washroom and half-dinette with passenger seatbelts for two. 

Malibu Van Family-For-4

Malibu, a brand of Germany manufacturer Carthago, has developed and manufactured its own pop-up roof in house, with a sandwich structure that includes a robust GRP roof lining (providing protection from hail), a breathable microfibre covering on the inside and an insulating core. It means that many of its popular tried-and tested two-berth models can now be used by families or groups of friends.

There’s plenty of choice with the new family-for-4 van conversions, with no less than 9 layouts, utilising 5.99 and 6.36m-long Fiat Ducato base vehicles. These can include transverse rear double beds or longitudinal twin single beds and all feature a half-dinette with forward-facing belted passenger seats, kitchen and integrated shower/washroom with cassette toilet.

Opt for a ‘GT Skyview’ variant and you’ll have exactly that – panoramic views from a window above the cab.

Pilote V600G / V600S

Pop-up roofs are an optional extra with French manufacturer Pilote. What’s more, all but three models in its van conversion range are available with a pop-up roof, providing plenty of choice – four floorplans and 18 variations to be precise, with standard and premium external finishes. That allows you to have a 5.41m-long van with four berths if you wish, keeping things compact, or a 5.99m-long van when you’re looking for a little extra floor space.

We’ve picked out the V600G and V600S, both 5.99m-long motorhomes. The V600G offers, like many illustrated here, a rear transverse double bed with a large storage space beneath for holding bulky items and a half-dinette area at the front. A table here extends in order for diners in both rotating cab seats to also be able to reach it.

Pilote’s gem, though, is the V600S; with a pop-up roof it offers a whopping six sleeping berths, all in a van less than 6m-long.

You still get kitchen, washroom with shower and cassette toilet, and the half-dinette seating area (so four belted seats in all). But, at the rear are two double bunk beds in addition to the pop-up roof bed.

Westfalia James Cook AD

Westfalia, one of the oldest-established and renowned brands of compact leisure vehicles, also offer six-berth vehicles.

The company uses both smaller campervan-sized base vehicles for conversion, such as the Volkswagen T6 for the Kepler, and the larger Fiat Ducato and Mercedes Sprinter for motorhomes such as the Columbus and the iconic James Cook, which has been produced for more than 40 years.

We love the James Cook AD, perhaps the wish-list pinnacle of compact leisure vehicle van conversions with a pop-up roof. Based on a Mercedes, it’s just 5.93m-long, keeping things nicely compact for driving and ease of parking. But, in addition to the pop-up roof with double bed, the James Cook AD has a slide-out system whereby, in less than 40 seconds, a module moves outwards in the rear of the motorhome, creating a large, luxurious bedroom. Thereby, you don’t lose living space taken up during the day by a fixed bed.

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