Crazy-versatile camper van transforms into 8-seat MPV and cargo van
German camper van brand Pössl has arguably the most versatile mini-campervan on the road today, the cute, industrious Campster. Since we first saw it a couple years ago, the Campster has been our gold standard against which to compare other camper/cargo/passenger vans, and no matter how many different multipurpose configurations come along, not one seems to offer quite the same level of seamless versatility. But now we've finally found a brand up to the challenge ... Pössl. Its all-new 2020 Vanster builds on the versatility of the Campster, debuting as a lighter, simpler triple-threat camper van with more flexibility, less price.
The Campster sets itself apart with a kitchen block that can be used inside or out and removed completely when extra seating or cargo space is desired. So instead of simply being a camper van that can squeeze a couple of rear passengers in next to the camp kitchen during the work week, it's a camper van that can transform on demand into a family car or cargo van. It can also be rearranged with various configurations of seats, cargo space, gear carriers, and camp equipment, meeting the challenges of all kinds of work, recreation and people-moving trips.
The 495-cm (195-in) Vanster reaches for a similar level of all-in-one supremacy, but starts out as a basic sleeper van, its only permanent camper equipment a double bed in the pop-up roof and swivel driver cab seats. So in standard trim, it's a simple MPV in which two can comfortably spend the night.
Where the Vanster steps into full-blown camper van territory is with the available Campbox range. Built of an aluminum sandwich construction, each Campbox includes a frame that mounts just inside the van tailgate, providing three compartments for kitchen gear. Instead of drawers and slides mounted directly to the frame, Pössl fits in self-contained left and right modules that remove completely out of the van. This frees campers to create an ideal indoor/outdoor camp kitchen however they see fit, whether cooking under the open sky, under the tailgate or a combination of both. The center compartment doesn't have a removable module but slide-outs for a dual-burner stove and fridge or cooler.
One module houses the self-contained sink with water tank and 12-V pump, while the other has storage drawers for dishes and cookware with a flat top that can be used as a small table, workstation or bench. The two boxes also stack neatly so that you can raise the sink and stove up to comfortable working height, using the cabinet as a base.
When it comes to installing and removing the Campbox, the multi-piece design pieces out all that weight you'd get if you had to deadlift a single all-in-one box, as you do with other camper-in-a-box systems. Install the frame on its own, then slide in the modules and equipment. The system can also face inward and find use as an indoor kitchen, a nice option to have in inclement weather.
To complete a four-person family camper van, Vanster buyers will have to add the optional folding bed. Much like the beds of Ququq camper boxes, the Vanster's bed folds out into the cabin at night.
Since the entirety of the Vanster's camping equipment, save for the sleeper roof, is integrated into the Campbox, owners can remove every trace of #vanlife from the cabin, making it a totally empty cargo van or dropping in rear seats or benches for a total of up to eight people. This beats the Campster, which is limited to seven seats or a smaller cargo area due to the permanently installed rear console.
Pössl keeps its flexible Vanster vision flowing right into the pricing sheet. Unlike the Campster, based solely on the Citröen SpaceTourer passenger MPV, the Vanster can be built on either the SpaceTourer or the more commercial-oriented Citröen Jumpy Kombi, bringing the price of entry down to €27,990 (approx. US$31,250) for a 101-hp 1.5-liter diesel Jumpy variant with five seats, swivel driver and front passenger seats, and a pop-up sleeper roof. The 118-hp SpaceTourer base model brings a higher-level of comfort and trim – think carpets, armrests, cupholders, that kind of thing – starting at €31,990 (US$35,725). Additional BlueHDI diesel engines options are available for each van, rising to 174-hp in the SpaceTourer.
The Campbox is sold optionally, and while pricing is still listed as "on request" in the Vanster catalog, the pricing sheet we looked over during the Vanster's 2019 Düsseldorf Caravan Salon debut put the kitchen box at €2,000 and the kitchen/bed kit at €2,500. Add the latter to the lowest Vanster base price, tack on an extra €750 for the eight-seat upgrade, and you have the four-berth camper van/8-seat MPV/gear-hauling cargo van promised in the headline for €31,240 (US$34,875), including 19 percent tax. Make that package €35,840 ($40,000) if you prefer a SpaceTourer base (the seat upgrade is €1,350 on the SpaceTourer). Those prices are before checking off any additional options, of which Pössl offers many, but either way, the Vanster definitely offers a whole lot of utility for a modest sticker price.
The €39,699+ (US$44,325+) Campster has the nicer floor plan with driver-side kitchen, storage console, removable dining table and 95-Ah battery, but we think we prefer the Vanster's added flexibility and fully removable camping hardware, especially for the lower price. Packing an eight-seat everyday driver, capable cargo hauler and four-berth camper into one garageable van is quite a feat, especially for under €32K to start.
So it seems it took Pössl itself to come up with a smart, multifunctional camper van in the same league as the Campster, though Volkswagen did recently step up its game with the California Beach 6.1 and its hideaway door panel kitchen. We'll see where the competition takes it from there.