Challenger 287GA/ Chausson 627GA Owner Review

Nov 19, 2019
769
2,478
Funster No
66,935
MH
Challenger 287GA
Exp
Since 2020
Inspired by Kannon Fodda 's recently resurfaced review of his van, I thought I would put fingers to keyboard to write my own on our recently collected van. We've just finished a 4 day trip away, covering just under 1700km with a mix of both wild and site nights, so have had time to form some good first impressions. The title has two names as the van is sold under two brand and model names. The van itself is identical in every respect bar badging and exterior decals. Our van is in the 'First Start' trim level (basic spec).

Base Vehicle / Driving Experience

The van is based on a Ford Transit base vehicle. Ours is fitted with a six speed manual gearbox mated to a 170Bhp 2.0 Euro 6 Diesel engine. This is slightly confusing as the manufacturer states that the base vehicle comes with 130Bhp. We do not have any documentation suggesting we paid for an upgrade and the price we paid does not reflect any either? The engine itself is simply fabulous. It has a good amount of torque and low down grunt when you are pulling away as well as a good surge of power when you put your foot down in any gear bar 6th which is basically an overdrive for motorway use. At highway speeds you'll be sitting at just over 1200rpm in 6th gear which keeps the cab relatively quiet. The clutch is very smooth and light in operation and 'bites' at around 2/3rd pedal travel which feels great in use. The only slight oddity is the brake pedal, which sits rather high and does take some getting used to. The brakes themselves are very good, with good initial bite and feel as well as good modulation throughout the pedal travel. Very impressed with these. Our van is also fitted with a stop-start system, this works very well but does cause some other issues - more on that later!

The view ahead is, again, excellent. You are seated fairly high in what is already a tall vehicle and so your view of the road is such that you look over most smaller cars. Drivers side visibility is good (we are in a LHD vehicle due to living in Poland) however I have found it a bit of a struggle making left turns, particularly on a slight bend, due to the hab bodywork starting and blocking the view. There is a window in the hab door that is a slight help, but I have found I tend to rely either on my passenger, or my son in the rear seat who can get an excellent view out of the kitchen window!

There is no rear window however a rear view mirror is still fitted. This does provide a good view of your rear seat passengers which I have found useful for keeping an eye on my son as we are travelling. The wing mirrors are HUGE and provide a fantastic view rearwards. These mirrors are also heated as standard. There is no appreciable vibration in the mirrors at any speed. The van is fitted with a rear-view camera as standard which displays on a large touch-screen interface mounted centrally in the dashboard in the standard stereo position. The camera is fairly clear but does not have distance markers on it. It is also angled fairly sharply downwards and so does not give a great view of your general surroundings. The touchscreen itself is pretty good. It has both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as DAB. For some reason Android Auto is not available in Poland, however there is a workaround App we can use which does a similar thing. Again, this does not appear to be a standard fit according to Challenger, but we certainly didn't pay any extra for it?!

The general 'feel' of the cab is very good and typical Ford quality. All control surfaces have a solid feel, the steering wheel is leather wrapped (which I must say I enjoyed more than I thought I would) and is also a pleasing thickness. There are a plethora of cupholders dotted around the cab, as well as two storage slots for large water bottles for both the passenger and driver. Climate control is not included on our spec, but aircon is. This was a Godsend on our maiden trip as temperatures were reaching the low 40's! The aircon kept the cab icy-cold and also managed to cool the rear passengers very well also.

Finally, the Ford-Pass app for both Apple and Android phones. This replaces the traditional 'owners manual' and provides a wealth of information about the state of the vehicle, its operation, records etc. Some will love this, some will hate it. We personally think its great. There is the ability to transfer ownership of this to a new owner if required when/if you sell the vehicle. The app also provides a basic tracker with location info shown on the home screen. You can also lock and unlock the vehicle from the app. There is also the option to start the vehicle from the app, however this is not available in Poland and I don't know whether it is in the UK either.

Van Layout

The van is a twin rear / drop down double layout. The twin rear beds are slightly different lengths to accommodate the bathroom. The shorter one is 190cm and the longer is 205cm. The supplied mattresses are on the firm side, but very comfortable. The rear twins can be converted into a huge double bed as well as a "half double". Basically, the gap in the middle uses two extra pads to fill rather than just one, leaving you the option of having two completely separate beds, twins with a joined top (to around upper-waist height for those late night cuddles!) or a completely joined double bed. The mechanism used to create the double is a bit of a PITA and isn't the easiest thing in the world to do, but is helped by both mattress bases being on gas struts.

As stated above, both rear beds can be lifted on gas struts (which DO support the weight of the mattress and bedding) to provide access to the quite simply insane levels of storage present underneath. Under the left bed (looking rearwards) there is a very large wardrobe with hanging rail. This can also be accessed through a large door in its front. There is also a storage tray approx 15cm deep which runs the width of the bed. Under the right side bed there is another, smaller wardrobe as well as two storage trays running parallel to each other. Above the beds are 3 storage cabinets at the rear over the beds and two additional lockers above the foot of each bed mounted to the outside wall. There is also a tv socket (12v and antenna) mounted for adding a tv to the bedroom area. The two steps to the beds also have storage underneath them. We found the shallower one great for storing shoes and sandals, and the smaller but deeper one great for dirty laundry.

Moving forwards, you will find a 134L Dometic fridge with its door opposite the bathroom tambour door. The fridge worked extremely well during our very hot trip away. In fact we had to turn it down on the second day as it had reached 3 degrees inside. This was on Gas as we did not use EHU while we were away at all. The fridge is of the automatic type, and this is where we have a bit of an issue. More of a foible actually. As stated above, the van has a stop-start function. However, whenever the van stops the engine to save fuel, the fridge then switches to gas operation. This is ok for us as we have the Truma monocontrol installed but is something to be aware of. You can easily disable the stop-start with a touch of a button so not too big a deal in my opinion.

The kitchen itself is...OK. We have a double burner hob and a small, but deep sink. UK spec vans are fitted with an oven but as ours is EU spec it is not. The large burner is very good and will boil a kettle reasonably quickly. The smaller one is less impressive but is more than useable for a pasta sauce or something similar. You can fit a large pasta pot and a smaller saucepan on the hob at once though, which is good. The hob has piezo ignition and although not from one of the big brands, is fine. Below the hob we have 2 drawers, one incredibly deep one (you lose this for the oven on UK vans) and then a shallower one beneath that. On the left there is a smaller cutlery drawer which has a good sized cupboard beneath it. There isn't much worktop space without having the hob cover down which is a bit of an issue. There is a small, flip-up side panel next to the sink but the Chasson forums are full of people complaining about how flimsy these are so we haven't really used it much. The Heki-style rooflight is well placed to allow steam and cooking smells to escape the van.

The bathroom manages to be both the highlight and the biggest bugbear of the van all at once. It is one of the "magic door" types where the sink/mirror pulls away to convert the toilet/sink into a shower. The shower is amazingly spacious. It's huge. I've been in smaller shower cubicles in people's houses before and I'm not even joking. The problem comes in toilet "mode" where it can be a bit cramped. The single towel hook is also stupidly placed to hang towels over your head as you sit on the throne! The bathroom does have both a side window as well as an opening roof light so you can really ventilate it well after a shower. There is also a flip-down hanging rail by the rooflight which we used extensively. The shower tray does have two drains, but they are both fitted to the right-hand side of the shower tray which seems to defeat the point, but there we go. The shower drains well (the sink does not) and the shower tambour door does an excellent job of stopping any water without needing a shower curtain.

The lounge is great. I'm 6'3" and can still stand up straight in the lounge, in shoes, under the drop down bed. There is ample seating for 6 people and the table moves every which way and fold in half if you don't need the whole thing open. The upholstery veers more to "hard wearing" than "plush and luxurious" but for us, who travel with kids and a dog, this is by no means a bad thing! There are two belted travel seats on the main forward facing sofa, with another travel seat facing rearwards on a jump seat. This is provided with a proper back rest for travel which slides into fitted rails. The downside is if you have any plans on using it you need to either have this fitted at all times (which looks ugly and doesn't match the other upholstery) or carry it in the garage. The lounge also continues the theme of "ample storage" by giving another 3 overhead lockers as well as underseat storage under both the side sofa and jump seat positions. The main water tank is under the large sofa and there is no storage available there. The locker above the jump seat is annoyingly placed as both my wife and I banged our heads into it when coming into the van several times, but I think this is something we will just learn to avoid.

The drop down bed is 140 at its widest and tapers down to 130cm at its narrowest point. This narrowing happens just below waist height. The mattress is the same type as in the rear, so is firm but comfortable. The mattress is one piece and rests on a double slatted base which is better from both a comfort and a ventilation point of view. The bed lowers electrically from a switch below the kitchen counter. This switch can be deactivated/child-proofed by a key which is located next to the front skylight.

Equipment

Even our entry-level spec van has a good amount of toys fitted to it. We have Truma 4D heating/hot water with the digital control panel. We did not use this due to the heat, but all reports suggest it is a capable setup. We have full LED lighting throughout the van, with some nice "ambient" lights fitted below the kitchen counter and on the side of the sofa. These do make the van quite snazzy when walking into it, especially in the evening in darker lighting! These ambient lights are also great as they shine directly into the kitchen drawers when they are open, giving a great view to what is stored in them.

The van comes fitted with a TV bracket located near the fridge. This is about halfway through the length of the van. The TV can be rotated to allow it to be viewed either in the lounge or in the rear beds. There is a TV power/antenna socket fitted close to this bracket in a nicely discreet position. Our tv has its mounting holes in a rather high location and this led to some problems being able to stow the tv properly. We have to slightly rotate the tv upwards to have enough clearance to slide the bracket back into its locked position. Once stowed, the TV is nicely out of the way and does not get in the way at all.

The van also comes pre-wired for solar, but not pre-fitted with any. This wiring comes into a little cupboard which, whilst fine for a teeny basic PWM controller, is nowhere near big enough for a decent power MPPT. It does have a 12v socket inside through so this has become our charging cupboard for phones, tablets, kindles etc. It's also a nice place to store any remotes you have whilst in travel.

Fresh and grey water are both 100 litres. The fresh water filling is through a gooseneck type filler, which makes filling a bit of a slow affair. I have bought a hozelock adaptor cap for the tank so I'll update the thread letting you know how well this works to solve this issue. The grey tank is underslung with a pull-to-open dump valve. The grey water comes through some plastic tubing to release just behind the passenger (or driver in RHD van) position. This pipework sits rather low and I am considering removing it altogether and having a central dump with no attached pipework to rip off! There is no heating or insulation on the grey tank as standard, however this is something we will be fitting before the winter months and again, I'll update this to let you know how well it works (or doesn't!)

Conclusion

In general we are both very pleased with our Challenger. The interior build quality is not as high as with the Dethleffs "Just 90" models that we viewed, but then again the interior layout and storage works so much better for us and the way we use our van. The storage, and the amount of handy "cubbyholes" have already proved to us that we made the right decision regarding this trade-off. The payload from factory was a hair over 600kg, which for us is ample. We have fitted 350w of solar with a Victron MPPT controller, as well as a 4m Thule awning. The van comes as standard with an 85 AH gel battery which won't really cut it for us, so we are looking into our options regarding a second battery or a switch to lithium. I'm sure other upgrades will come given time, but for now we are just happy to have such a great van and to be out exploring again!

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask and I'll do my best to answer.
 
OP
RubyOptics
Nov 19, 2019
769
2,478
Funster No
66,935
MH
Challenger 287GA
Exp
Since 2020
Nice review, don't worry about the fridge it won't light on gas until the engine has stopped for 15min.
That's what I thought too, but on our way back I went into the back of the van (whilst moving...shhhh...don't tell anyone!) and the fridge showed it was running on Gas. It was definitely put onto Auto? We're away this coming weekend again so I'll keep an eye on it and see what it's doing during the trip.

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Jun 28, 2020
850
994
Funster No
72,388
MH
Van conversion
Exp
Caravaning since 2010
Do you find the clutch to be heavily sprung? Mine felt like that when I first drove it don't notice it now.

Also the steering wheel is small for a van.

Finally I think your must be a 170 as my 125bhp is adequate for a PVC but on a coachbuilt I think it would be slow ....

Cheers James
 
Dec 28, 2016
148
166
North Wales
Funster No
46,626
MH
Chausson 627GA
Exp
Newbie
Good review, we too have a 2018 627GA on an auto 170hp engine.

Great euro layout & good payload (fully loaded for two in touring trim still under 3500T).

Agree about the plentiful storage.

Teething problems for us was the front panoramic window & two other windows that needed resealing - sorted under warranty.

Had ours in -30 skiing & had no issues.
 
OP
RubyOptics
Nov 19, 2019
769
2,478
Funster No
66,935
MH
Challenger 287GA
Exp
Since 2020
Good review, we too have a 2018 627GA on an auto 170hp engine.

Great euro layout & good payload (fully loaded for two in touring trim still under 3500T).

Agree about the plentiful storage.

Teething problems for us was the front panoramic window & two other windows that needed resealing - sorted under warranty.

Had ours in -30 skiing & had no issues.
Yes, the window problem does seem to be a bit too common from what I've read on various owner groups. We had some terrible storms with real driving rain and appear to be fully sealed, but we are certainly going to be keeping an eye on them all for a while.

Glad you are enjoying yours!!

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Jonno1103

LIFE MEMBER
Aug 27, 2017
763
778
Harrogate
Funster No
50,207
MH
F Line F70
Exp
Since 2012
Great review!

Our F70 (review pending) has a similar layout. We have the 130ps mated to the 6 speed auto which is very responsive and will sit at 110k/ph at around 2100 rpm.
 
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