At the Camping and Caravan show in February, we’d been looking at all sorts of camping units to fit diverse camping styles- different sized tents, caravans, campervans, tiny caravans- everything except motorhomes. Motorhomes were not on our radar mostly for budgetary considerations and none would fit our family… or so we believed!
Then we spotted one with writing on the windscreen: “7 berths, 7 belted seats”. We went to have a look and almost bought one. Seriously! (They had a very good salesman.) Had it not been for my long-time disdain for the bulb on the top, I’d have been chewing the Other Half’s ears off about how we could afford one and probably entering into serious negotiations.
The motorhome was a Rimor Katamarano 9 . We fell in love with the theory of what the Katamarano offered: space and easy touring.
When the salesman mentioned that she was available to hire and we could take her out to see if the reality matches up with the theory, I grabbed at the opportunity.
Those who know me, also know I’m not one to do things by halves: I decided the best place to test a motorhome would be by driving the North Coast 500 route in the far north of Scotland over 8 days- cliffs, narrow roads, hills to climb, sheep to avoid, cold, wet and rainy… perfect testing ground, if you ask me!
Now, I’ve driven a van before, the largest being a Ford Transit, and a tractor once (in which I won a driving competition… but that’s another story), but nothing as big as the Katamarano.
The Rimor Katamarano 9 is 2.4 m wide, 3 m high and nearly 7.5 m long with a fair overhang beyond the rear wheel (which means it swivels its bum out when turning).
I was just a “little” concerned as I pulled away from Motorhomes and Caravans Ltd in Hull (find them on motorhomesltd) about how I’d manage and how much of my £750 deposit would go on repairs.
I needn’t have worried!
This large more home is remarkably easy to drive.
As I drove off I already had one excited passenger, my 6 year old, and we were heading to pick up the others. We almost ended up with two extra children, as our friends’ 2 girls wanted to come with us rather than going skiing. And, with a bit of prep, we actually could’ve taken them, as there was enough space.
The high seating position with excellent mirrors was a great asset in quickly getting the hang of driving a large vehicle like this. Knowing my mirrors were my widest point also helped in squeezing in tight places. (The tightest being the entrance to Castle Mey where I had just 5-10cm on each side. )
Our Rimor motorhome was fitted with a reversing camera, which was very useful during daylight, rather useless in the dark. My reversing guide was the Other Half in the dark, who had to pop out, rain or shine.
Over the week, I got quite used to reversing and I was so pleased with myself for being able to turn is tighter places too. Not one touched bumper even! (OK I know: I chose the right location for this: no parking difficulties, no cities to navigate and so on.)
Driving up to Scotland, I soon got the hang of the vehicle by first weaving through Yorkshire countryside, then on the motorway and roads like the A1.
Gusts of wind affect driving stability, as do large lorries driving in the opposite direction. The Katamarano will happily travel at 70-75 mph in calm conditions, but in windy conditions, I found sticking to 60-65 mph more comfortable. At that 60-65mph it felt like it could drive to the end of the Earth: the engine hummed at a low 2000 revs and it stuck to the road beautifully. (I know I’m using real technical terms here, aren’t I? hahaha! )
The Renault base vehicle, the Rimor is built on, comes with 6 gears. I used all of these on motorways, but rarely on other roads. In fact, on a lot of days it was a pleasure to get to 5th gear on some of the single track roads in the Highlands.
The van has an Eco setting, which was switched onto when I drove off. At first, each time I stopped at a traffic light I thought I was stalling the engine, then realised that the eco function switches the engine off for me automatically when I take it out of gear and then restarts it as I press the clutch ready to put her into gear. I really liked this feature!
The cruise control is excellent on the vehicle- coped really well with the hills and valleys the roads threw at us, keeping us at steady speeds.
I found the controls on the steering column really well located and intuitive to use.
The headlight angle can be adjusted from inside at quite a wide angle up and down, this adjustability came in really handy on busy roads where I wasn’t able to use the main beams. My dipped headlights- by adjusting them slightly higher- allowed me to see a bit further without blinding those coming towards me.
The instrument panel was very logically laid out and is well visible. I adjusted the steering column height as soon as I got into the lowest possible. For me, personally, it could’ve gone even a bit lower.
The only thing I struggled with was the handbrake: this was one that was made to accommodate swivelling front seats (which our model didn’t have). Even when pulled in, it would drop down to its original position. This I had no problem with, but I had difficulty a fair few times undoing the handbrake. The button would not push in to release it.
I loved all the storage in the front! The nooks on the dashboard were perfect for all the brochures, maps and even cameras (which filmed some of our drives). There are two great big cubbyholes above the sunvisors. These were big enough for our bridge camera and all sorts. The doors have a couple of pockets too; one which is specially adapted for a large bottle of water. So practical!
Having 2 cigarette lighters on the dashboard was also great: one for my phone, one for OH’s. It’s a pity these cigarette lighters only work when the ignition is on.
The cabin air controls were all easy to use and logical. However, with the temperatures hitting 0C outside I had to have it on high to make a dent in the temps in the rear while driving. We did have the choice to use the other heating system too, which is a thermostatically controlled diesel heater. We used that in the evenings and mornings (at night we slept much better with it off).
Moving backwards from the driver’s cabin: there are 6 seats, 5 belted, in a configuration of 2 x 2 facing each other over a table and 2 singles facing each other on the other side. Both these turn into beds- a single and a double.
The only seats with high backs were the double forward-facing ones. All the others were low backs. Once when braking I could hear my 6-year-old’s head bang on the back of the board as he was in a rear-facing low backed seat.
There are storage cupboards around the top of the seating area. We used these for our clothes.
The kitchenette includes a large fridge with freezer ( I think I read 100l in some paperwork) and a oven and grill, a sink and double burner gas stove, cutlery drawer, pan drawer and cupboard under the sink.
High-level cupboards above these: The storage seemed sufficient for foods and all your cooking and eating accessories. (This rental Katamarano was fully equipped with pots, plates, cups, cutlery…everything we needed. The company had chosen to put porcelain plates and cup, real glasses. This was lovely to eat and drink from, but didn’t half make a rattle on some of the worse roads, especially when we forgot to pad them out on such roads.)
The sink’s a good size.
The fridge is a three-way fridge. It’s well- proportioned to the motorhome, in my view. It functioned very well. Though I didn’t like that it only ran off the batteries, when the motor was running. Switching between gas, mains and battery would be better with a simple dial switch.
I loved the stove for having a sink drain, which made it super easy to clean. It also cooked well.
Opposite the kitchen is the bathroom: It’s very functional, sized well. The cupboard space is good with a high-level cupboard and one under the sink.
We didn’t use the shower other than washing muddy clothes, but pressure seemed ok.
The thetford toilet is emptied from the outside. It has a flush button and a full indicator. Really well positioned for use by my passengers even when driving. I have to say if it’s one thing that makes a motorhome AMAZING for touring with kids, it’s not having to stop and search for loos or perch on the roadside.
This sounds silly, but it really does matter: the Katamarano had 2 great mirrors. There was one in the bathroom and one just opposite the rear door. I’m not particularly vain, but having the opportunity to glimpse in a mirror before you step out into the world is great. You can do a quick check that all is ok. (Saying this I probably should’ve had a glimpse before one or two of my daily reports…which are to come next week. ;-D )
There is a large double berth above the driver’s cabin. The headroom narrows considerably towards the front and there is also no barrier towards the back, which is a very high drop to roll out of bed accidentally. I didn’t feel comfortable with two adults up there, so shared this bed with the littlest, who was more than happy snuggling in the narrow bit, leaving me to be well away from the big drop.
There are two very good-sized single bunks at the rear end of the vehicle. (The bottom bunk folds up to provide more packing space and store larger items like bikes when not in use.) These beds are probably the most comfortable- they are really generous in width and length, with a single mattress making up each bed. Two kids can easily share one.
The two sets of seating both make up beds. These are a little too short: at 5’6 I was just about ok with the length. Poor Dadonthebrink, the tallest member of our family, drew the short straw for sleeping there most nights. The beds were, however, quite stable. I had worried about the lowered table feeling a little unstable. This was not the case at all.
All the windows had both mosi nets and draw up blackout blinds. There were great for getting a longer night’s sleep, especially as all beds had a window, including the bunks and the top bed.
Curtains were drawn in the driving cabin overnight.
There is a gas cylinder locker just behind the passenger door.
The Rimor has a large freshwater tank (I’d have to look up how big, but we never skimped on water, yet never ran out, even with 5 of us washing hands, dishes, etc. We refilled it every 2-3 days) and there’s a small 10 l boiler.
The water heats up in about 10 minutes.
There is a diesel heater for heating when the engine is not running. This is thermostatically controlled and works really well. We used it in the evenings just before bed and first thing in the mornings. Turn the dial and it gradually revs up and springs into action through the hot air outlets sprinkled throughout the motorhome.
The instrument panel for services is just above the kitchen. Here you can check the battery levels and switch water pump and lights off.
There is really good lighting throughout: each of the spot lights built in to the bottom of the cupboards has a little light built into the switch. These give a very soft illumination which is even suitable to leave on when driving at night.
The two main cabin lights have two settings: a blue light shone horizontally along the ceiling or white downward light. The blue is really cool, but not as practical as one might think. It makes for perfect mood lighting though.
The beds each have reading lights too.
We drove over 1500 miles with the Rimor Katamarano. I found it an utter pleasure to drive. The space was very well suited for a family of 5.
We drove both motorway and very rural roads, lots of climbs. The speed we averaged was just 29mph (at one point it was as low as 21 mph) and the average fuel consumption was 26 mpg, which is actually not bad for such a large vehicle (and that also accounts for some of our heating too).
I really loved touring with a motorhome and the Katamarano was a great one to start with. I’d like to explore something smaller for comparison, but I think we might have found our camping style: a motorised tourer of some sorts.
What’s your camping style?
This motorhome (Rimor Katamarano 9) was advertised for just over £37,000 at the Camping and caravan show 2015 by Motorhomes and Caravans Ltd