How Small Is The Smallest Campervan On The Market?
There’s a famous quote by the author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry that says “Perfection is achieved when there is nothing left to take away.” Or, how about the often used quote from William of Occam of Occam’s Razor fame “It is vain to do with more what can be done with less“.
Why are you hitting me with boring historical quotes I can hear you saying in your head? The answer is that they can perfectly explain the thinking behind the invention of the Micro Campervan.
With the use of faster computers than ever before, and of course smarter software programs to run on them, Design has taken an exponential leap forward, especially in the areas of space saving and ergonomics.
In parallel, those of us choosing the van life have now had many decades of real-life experience to decide, record and share what we actually do need, and just as importantly what we don’t need, to have in a Campervan.
These things in combination have created the birth of the Micro Campervan, and their birth has been a population explosion. They are popping up everywhere in all shapes and sizes, seemingly from nowhere.
I decided to take a good look at the world of Micro Campervans to try to figure out just how small the smallest Campervan could go to. Here’s what I found out.
Why Do People Want Smaller Campervans?
Let’s face it, if you own a Micro Campervan you are going to have a bit less space, but probably not as much less as you think. This is due to all the things you thought you needed but would never use being removed.
I did uncover several more good reasons to have a Micro Campervan too:
- Micro Campervans use less fuel
- They are lighter and easier to manoeuvre
- They are small enough to park in the average garage
- They cost a lot less than a traditional Campervan
- They are more suited to small roads and tracks when going off the beaten track
- They fit in public carparks
- They can be used as everyday transport as well as a Campervan
- They are generally more reliable than a large van
What Can You Fit Into A Small Campervan?
As I mentioned earlier, with the advances in design and ergonomics (making designed things fit humans better), unbelievable space savings can be made, so even the smallest spaces can become suitable with a bit of creativity.
Let’s have a look at the inside of typical Micro Campervan. As you van see from the images below, you can fit a lot in.
Headspace is limited due to the size of the Campervans, but pop tops can be added (at a cost) if this is a real issue for you.
Kitchens are either permanent or pull out versions
Wash Stations are generally some form of sink or bowl. I have yet to see a Micro Campervan with a shower, although I have seen a few with a pressured head attachment you can use at the read of the vehicle.
Grey Water goes in a waste tank as normal
Toilets tend to be all portable Thetford Cassette Toilets that can be used anywhere in the Campervan using the curtains for modesty
Front Seats tend to be Swivel Seats to give the impression of more living space
Beds come in Doubles (fold away) and Singles (fold away or fixed)
The Criteria I Used To Classify The Smallest Campervan
When I began my search I began to uncover all sorts of novel, home built vehicles, such as numerous pedal powered Campervans.
Although these are genius inventions, I am more than aware that you aren’t going to get very far on your travels if you have to pedal everywhere pulling your mobile home behind you.
So I introduced some criteria to make my search more realistic. My smallest Campervan had to be something for the average Joe and his Partner to travel around the country in, so it had to be powered at least.
- The Campervan must be powered by something easily available while you are on the road (Diesel, Petrol, Gas or Electric)
- The Campervan must have somewhere to sleep inside of it
- It must have somewhere to cook
- It must have a toilet (of some description)
These criteria are very relaxed, but in my opinion if the vehicle doesn’t have all of these it isn’t a Campervan, it is a Day Van or a Surf Van.
The Contenders from My Smallest Campervan Search
One of the first revelations that I uncovered during my search was that the quest for the smallest campervan is not something new. For example, I came across this VW Beetle Campervan from 1969.
VW Beetle Campervan
The VW Beetle had a Petrol, Air Cooled Engine and was capable of travelling 400+ miles on a full tank of fuel. This older conversion would have fitted right in to my modern search for the Smallest Campervan, if only it wasn’t so big!
The Piaggio Ape Campervan
When it comes to small vehicles, the Piaggio Ape is one of the smallest that I have personally ever seen.
The Piaggio Ape is a three-wheeled light commercial vehicle, manufactured and marketed by Piaggio as an adaption of the company’s Vespa scooter — in continuous production since its 1948 introduction and offered in numerous body configurations, serving a range of utilitarian functions.
Initially marketed as the VespaCar or TriVespa, Piaggio subsequently marketed the utility vehicle as the Ape. The name is derived from the Italian word for bee; its scooter is marketed as the Vespa, meaning wasp. Source Wikipedia
The Piaggio Porter Campervan
The Piaggio Porter Van is more compact, practical and manoeuvrable than any other van in this class.
It is described as being perfect for use in congested cities and around narrow streets, it has an impressive load capacity, sliding doors on both sides and the option of side windows.
Its roomy cargo area gives it tremendous flexibility, and the space can easily be fitted-out to suit your needs.
The Citroen Berlingo Campervan
The Citroen Berlingo is a basic vehicle but very flexible in that it can be used as a fairly comfortable car or a quite spacious van.
Some versions have has some basic computerisation but the controls are mechanical. It is inexpensive to run, and they are known to be extremely reliable.
Peugeot Partner Campervan
The Peugeot Partner is a superb family car for holidays and trips away. It has bags of space for both people and their baggage. It’s design incorporates lots of useful cubby holes and well allocated storage spaces.
The seating and boot space has been described as big enough to hold a concert in on one review that I read, which makes it ideal for a Mini Campervan project.
On the road it has more nimble handling than you would first expect for a tall boxy vehicle, and it is very comfortable to drive in once you have got used to the rather complicated seat adjustment.
The fuel economy is pretty good in comparison with it’s peer group, coming in at 50-55 mpg for daily commutes.
The VW Caddy Campervan
The VW Caddy MPV drives a bit like a van, but for practicality it can’t be beaten. A people carrier that fits in a normal parking space and has a boot big enough to hold 7 people’s worth of luggage.
We definitely feel like this car is not known about enough, especially for larger families or those wishing to convert it into a Micro Campervan.
The VW Caddy is comfortable, it has a good quality build standard, it is nice to drive, it is reliable and it has good performance both in acceleration and braking.
The Vauxhall Combo Campervan
The Vauxhall Combo has been described as a nice simple practical van. It is very economical, averaging 55mpg.
It comes with a semi-auto gearbox (known as Easitronic). The Gearbox is perhaps not as smooth as a conventional automatic gearbox when it is in Auto Mode. The gearbox changes can be a bit jerky between 1st and 2nd.
It has a good load area that is suitable for conversion to a Micro Campervan and it has reasonable space and storage in the cab.
The Renault Kangoo Campervan
The Renault Kangoo is renowned for it’s versatility and low fuel consumption, it averages 55+ mpg.
Design wise the driving position offer’s a wide field of view, it has good quality air conditioning, strong road traction, loads of storage space in the back with the advantage of two side doors.
A large following of satisfied owners claim to love the practical versatility of the Renault Kangoo.
The Renault Kangoo has been described as a luxury van that doesn’t look like one but has the versatility to be used like one.
The Mercedes Citan Campervan
Mercedes are renowned for their build quality and reliability. The Mercedes Citan is no different.
Any Mercedes Citan driver will tell you that this spacious little people carrier is an amazing find. Second hand Mercedes Citans are priced in such a way that realistically you wouldn’t really need to barter because they all seem like they are great value for money. The Citan has a very smooth suspension and a comfortable driving position.
One Mercedes Citan review that I read said: “The driving experience is one of the best I’ve experienced with more than enough power and an economy that is the best I’ve known in any other car I’ve owned”.
The Fiat Qubo Campervan
I have to admit that I don’t know much about the Fiat Qubo, and what I found online didn’t endear it to me to be honest.
I could only find a few reviews on it and every compliment was mixed with a negative. It has been described as: Cheap and cheerful but versatile. Apparently the petrol version is underpowered, the diesels are supposed to be better but a lot noisier.
It reportedly gives a surprisingly good ride and handling, the interior is described as hard wearing and seems well made.
A review I found on the AA Website describes the Fiat Qubo as: A very practical small hatchback with a large load area for a competitive price.
It seems to be well made, the interior trim is basic but durable, it rides well for such a short vehicle and the steering is quite sharp.
The most disappointing aspect is the engine (petrol). Although it is relatively quiet, it is characterless. Not much torque or performance and isn’t as economical as expected. The diesel option is meant to be much better, although noisier and more expensive.
I don’t think I’ll be rushing out to buy a Fiat Qubo after reading the reviews!
What Is The Smallest Campervan? – Summary
In our quest to find the smallest Campervan we have uncovered far more Micro Campervans than I ever knew existed.
I’ve managed to find a bit of information and a few reviews on most of them, both positive and negative. I hope I haven’t been too unfair on any of them, but I think we have a hands down winner in the search for the smallest Campervan, the Piaggio Ape.
The Piaggio Ape is absolutely tiny, but it still manages to cram in enough to make it a practical, useable economical Campervan.
So, for the moment at least, the Piaggio Ape is the smallest Campervan, unless of course you know different…