And so on to the big names in the 'new motorhomes' category. This year's winner is... Dethleffs.
Continental motorhome makers dominate at the top of the table. Not far short of Dethleffs' Gold Award score of 83.9% is Bürstner with 81.9% and another Gold Award. There's only a chink of light between Bürstner and Carthago in third place with a score of 81.8%.
There's real strength in depth this year, with five manufacturers earning Gold Awards. Hymer (80.6%) and Roller Team (80%) also make the grade. What's really pleasing is that's an increase on 2019 when just one manufacturer earned a Gold Award.
Last year's winner, Adria, will be disappointed to have missed out. But the Slovenian brand tops the list of Silver Award winners, with a score of 79.8%.
In total, 15 manufacturers earn either a Gold or Silver Award. That's down from 17 last year. However, the proportion of Gold Award winners is much higher in 2020 than it was in 2019, and the list of manufacturers achieving high scores but not reaching the minimum sample size is a long one. So there's some evidence that overall standards are improving.
New base vehicles
So, those are the most satisfying manufacturers, but which base vehicles are best? Who builds the most comfortable, economical and reliable vehicles as starting points for really great motorhomes?
Fiat accounts for the majority of base vehicles, with some 667 of 1279 vehicles in the new survey. That's 52% of the total.
It's not the most satisfying base vehicle to drive or live with, however. That honour goes to Volkswagen, with a satisfaction rating of 91%. Renault is not far behind with a score of 89.3%, closely followed by Mercedes-Benz with 88.1%.
In general, satisfaction with the base vehicle is high, with strong scores for most manufacturers. Ford scores 86.5%, Citroën 84.3%, Peugeot 82.6%, and Fiat 82.1%. There's a bit of gap to Iveco, with a score of 76.7%.
Congratulations to WildAx, top of the tree among direct sales brands with a superb score of 85.5%, well over the threshold needed for a Gold Award. That’s a healthy 5.5% improvement over WildAx’s score last year.
There’s a strong supporting cast, with Vantage (82.4%) and Shire (81.5%) rounding out the podium. Two other Gold Award winners are close behind: Murvi (81.4%) and Wellhouse Leisure (81.1%).
More often than not the best of the Silver Award winners are only just short of the scores achieved by the Gold winners. This year, though, there’s clear daylight between them, with no direct sales band scoring between 70% and 80%. However, that’s not to belittle the achievements of IH (66.2%), Bilbo’s (65.3%), and Hillside Leisure (64.8%) in earning a Silver Award.
What of the big name brands, available from dealers up and down the country?
Adria has leapt up the results table to take the top spot. Ninth in last year’s combined direct sales and multi-dealer table, it sits on top of the pile in 2019. The score of 80.4% is good enough for a Gold Medal.
It’s disappointing that more manufacturers don’t join Adria – there are no other Gold Award winners this year. However, the list of brands collecting a Silver Award is a long one.
In 2018, across both direct sales and multi-dealer brands, there were seven Gold Award winners. This year there are six, but all but one are direct sales, whereas in 2018 the majority were available through several dealerships.
Across both types of manufacturer, there were 17 Silver Award winners last year. In 2019, that increases to 19. So, a shake-up in the order but not a huge change in overall standards.
New base vehicles
A satisfying ownership experience depends on more than the quality of the conversion and dealer service. The base vehicle is also key.
The Fiat Ducato is the most common base vehicle, with more than twice as many new motorhomes based on the Fiat than any other vehicle in the survey. Owners are well satisfied with its performance, with an overall score of 80.4%.
However, if you are looking for the best base vehicle rather than the most popular, our respondents would point you in the direction of the VW Transporter, with an excellent score of 90.8%. It’s closely followed by the Mercedes Sprinter, with a 90.3% satisfaction rating.
The other brands to score over 80% are Citroën, Ford, Iveco and Toyota.