Two holiday homes on wheels
Humans have a deep-rooted instinct to sleep above the ground. Even modern houses don’t tend to be built with bedrooms on the ground floor, as this age-old need is still there, even subliminally.
hich is just one of approximately one billion and six reasons why camping doesn’t appeal to many people. To be on the ground, which is often wet and gnarly, with just a thin piece of flimsy material between you and your nightmares – shudder. Fortunately, both Mini and Mercedes-Benz have viable solutions, and they’re mobile too.
View them as self-contained shelters on wheels, one a car with a tent on top, the other a more traditional camper van in the shape of the Mercedes Marco Polo. We’ve gone for the 220d Sport model with long-wheelbase, which costs £53,825 before you add here about £7000 of extras. It’s pretty classy, with yacht wood flooring, an electrically sliding side door opening to the awning and many luxuries.
Inside you have a kitchenette with two rings, a fridge, a sofabed and even a wardrobe. Then you can put up the elevating roof and there’s a second double bed upstairs for those who think even the floor of a camper van is too near the ground.
The Mini takes a different route. We’ve started, in this case, with a Mini Cooper S All4 Countryman, the rugged one with four-wheel drive and a price tag of £36,610. Then you can add another £2762 for the ‘tent in a box’. That’s quite a lot of nights in a Holiday Inn for the money, but you can get the whole thing ready to go in just about one minute once you’ve got the hang of it.
You release some tricksy catches on the box and the glassfibre roof wobbles upwards on four gas struts. There is a mattress and a couple of pillows inside as well as the aluminium ladder so you can actually get up there without having to scale the bodywork. With this on the roof all stowed away you can just take off for an adventure and, if you need to, you can just stop and pitch the tent with ease. That’s the plan.
The idea is sort of like being a snail, so you have your home on your back. It’s something the Mercedes seems to emulate as it’s pretty slow unless you give the accelerator merciless attention. However, it lumbers along pretty well and doesn’t fall about in the corners so long as you’re halfway sensible. Mind the crockery.
The Mini doesn’t seem much affected by the penthouse apartment, and is still eager, lithe and fun to drive. You could drive this every day whereas you wouldn’t really want to with the Mercedes unless you were on a round the world trip.
However, once stopped, you can fit four round the table, sit about, watch someone do the washing up and generally lounge upright in the space under the elevated roof. Up there the double bed is really comfy and hard to get out of in many ways.
In the Mini you have a cosy space for two, with netting for gear, although you certainly won’t be standing up, up there. There’s a notable absence of kitchen as well, so you’ll have to descend to get breakfast unless you brought Jeeves along in the Mercedes. However, it packs away easily and neatly and quickly, and really does extend the options available to you compared to a base Mini.
It would be worth a thought if your life has space for some spontaneity and you’re not obsessed about bringing the best cutlery and crockery with you. If you want more comfort and more space, for more money, then the Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo is an accomplished and premium device, particularly if you plump for that double bed in the roof. Which is a sensible distance from the ground.