THE motorhome industry is booming at the moment. More and more people are recognising the fact that a home on wheels is one of the best ways to get around a destination without leaving any of your creature comforts behind.
I've reviewed a few different types and styles of motorhome over the years, but one of my favourites was always the Wildax Solaris - a van-based luxury motorhome with four beds and four seatbelts.
The vehicle I tested a few years ago was the first on a small fleet run by vehicle hire company Rising Brook Car and Van Hire in Cannock. They were keen for me to try their new Solaris, but seemed even more keen for me to try out their latest investment - the new Autocruise Quartet.
The Solaris has served them well. The bosses spotted it at a trade show and were lulled by its compact dimensions and tardis-like interior. It's hard to find a motorhome with four beds and four travelling seats that's still the same size as a van. Usually, more spacious motorhomes come with large conversions on the back.
The Quartet, another lucky find at a recent trade show, is fundamentally similar to the Solaris in the sense that it has a couple of seats with belts at the front end of the living area and bunks at the rear. But if you dig a little deeper there are many differences.
Both vehicles are based on the PSA Group (Peugeot and Citroen to you and me) van chassis, and the cabin is well equipped on both vehicles with cruise control, air conditioning, electric windows, remote central locking and a high-tech entertainment system with bluetooth.
Both have wide side access with powered steps and an LED awning light - and they both have a similar double bed up-front, bunks at the rear layout.
The differences are, firstly, in the details. The new Quartet feels more expensive somehow. Its faux-leather seat squabs start off the quality look and the sturdy handles on the overhead storage lockers, along with the dark 'wood' trim dotted around the cabin and living area complement the bright and classy LED mood lighting that crops up in the nooks and crannies.
It also has a better fridge, which runs solely off the electric power supply, speakers in the rear of the cabin and it has proper blinds in the cockpit area - which are much better than the pop-on screens in the Solaris I tried.
The bed layout at the front is different in the Quartet. The jury's out for me whether it's different in a good way or not, but it's a complicated affair, because the layout has to accommodate the cabin's large kitchen worktop.
It all folds out, eventually, to a large and secure double bed which is comfortable enough and, despite the lengthy set-up procedure, it's not rocket science. One person will take a few minutes to construct it once experienced. It's even easier if two people are involved.
The extra work-top, which intrudes across the entrance some way, is very useful in the day and better than the fold-up add-on in the Solaris, but whether you opt for a quick and simple bed or a more roomy workspace (which is still devoid of a draining area, strangely) is the first choice you will make.
A clever trick possessed by the Solaris, which doesn't feature in the Quartet, is the folding top bunk. Families of four will find plenty of living space in either vehicle, but in the Solaris the top bunk folds away to the wall to turn the bottom bunk into an extra sofa. This doesn't happen in the Quartet, which has a fixed top bunk.
This will bother families of four more than it will a couple. For my wife and I the bunks in both vehicle were used for some very handy storage space so we didn't use the sofa. The front seating, boosted by the rotating driver and passenger seats, is more than enough anyway. Even for four.
On the road, there's little to choose between the two campers. They're both based around essentially the same van, so controls are light, there's plenty of power from the engine and the fuel economy is impressive.
One of the Quartet's biggest trump cards - and this may close the deal for most people - is that it has rear access. There's a false back wall in the rear-fitted bathroom and this can be slid back to give access to the rear double door.
In the Solaris, this is blanked off, but in the Quartet it's possible to walk right through the bathroom and into the world outside. As long as nobody's using the toilet, of course.
When I tested the Quartet, around the narrow moorland roads of the Yorkshire Dales, it was equipped with its standard rear parking sensors. These are a big help, but I gather there's plans to fit a reversing camera - which will be even better.
So there's benefits to both vehicles. I like the Quartet's quality feel and its rear access is a big bonus. The fridge is much easier to get along with too.
But I like the Solaris for its comfort and simplicity and that foldaway bunk will come in handy for entertaining friends.
If you hire a motorhome from Rising Brook, and I strongly recommend you do, you may be given the choice of both vehicles. It's like choosing which of your children to leave behind.
They're both great motorhomes and similar in many ways to one another and, whichever you pick, you're assured of a great experience.
After plenty of thought I've finally reached the conclusion that, if it was me, I'd take the Solaris. No, wait. Make that the Quartet. Definitely the Quartet.
Actually, on second thoughts...
A three-day weekend break in a Rising Brook motorhome starts from £345.
A seven day hire starts from £575.
To find out more call 01543 502120 or visit www.risingbrook-carandvanhire.co.uk/motorhome-rental
For more information on things to see and do in the Yorkshire Dales and surrounding areas log on to www.yorkshire.com