A motorhome for half a million - an investment in quality or an excess of form over content? Carthago C-Line test
Marketing at the highest level - this is how you can briefly define the envelope built for years by Carthago, a manufacturer that puts its products in competition with representatives of premium brands (or at least the upper middle class). Sizable stands at major fairs, first places in the polls for the best camping vehicles of the most widely read German magazines - all of this is to make the user's heart beat faster at the sight of a cream colossus with a red stamp. Are the advantages widely advertised by the brand, such as high level of workmanship and attention to detail, really confirmed? We invite you to the report, or rather the conclusions of the six-month test, mainly in autumn, winter and early spring conditions, which the Carthago CHIC C-LINE generation II was subjected to, namely version 4.8 from 2016. The test covered a dozen or so trips, including a long foreign route, which allowed to reach a total distance of 4,500 km.
The second generation of this integrated Carthago model has been a sensation for several years on the demanding German market in the category of integrated camping vehicles in the price class above 90,000 EURO. The C-LINE model as the "heavier" brother of the TOURER model is available in 8 interior layouts, from the "compact" 4.2 (685 cm) to the C-LINE 5.0S model measuring 760 cm in length. Version 4.8 is a practical family model offering a comfortable fold-down bed at the front and two separate beds at the rear of the vehicle, which can be easily combined into one large bed. The equipment includes a kitchen with drawers, lots of wardrobes and cabinets and an integrated bathroom with a separate shower cubicle.
Design and exterior
Tastes are not discussed. Therefore, when assessing the front of the vehicle, one can meet euphoric opinions ranging from "beautiful and dignified" to "deformed harm" . However, the Carthago integrated circuit has been kept unchanged for 10 years. Considering that 1000 C-LINE models come off the line in Slovenian Ondraci annually , the design seems to be able to captivate many potential customers, which are most often chosen by German retirees due to their design (brutal truth). The grill, chrome elements around the halogens and LED daytime running lights (standard equipment) certainly add to the predator. The body is basically led from the front to the rear of the vehicle without any faults or breaks, and the rear itself is straight cut and somehow dignifiedly elegant. Large rear lamps add a bit of an aggressive character. On both sides there are numerous flaps (huge ones from the rear garage and smaller ones giving access to the cylinder compartment, batteries and a double floor, but more on that later). The entrance door for passengers is wide and provides convenient access to the interior of the vehicle.
The C-LINE is a sizeable vehicle, but therefore also spacious and comfortable
Base vehicle and driving experience
The Integra Carthago is a large vehicle - there is no doubt about that. The width is 227 cm and the height is 280 cm. The range of engines ranges from the 2.3L MultiJet with 130 HP (basic unit), through the more powerful 150 HP unit, to the 180 HP and 400 NM torque model (with the same displacement). Versions with manual or automatic gearbox are available. Our 150 HP engine was still from the EURO5 generation , but it handles quite a lot of weight quite efficiently and with ease. Combined fuel consumption was equal to 12 l / 100 km (with constant, economical driving in the range of 2000 revolutions in 6th gear, it should be possible to achieve the result on the route at the level of 10-11 l / 100 km). The comfortable "cruising" speed is in the range of 90-120 km / h, but even on the highway, the vehicle copes very well with overtaking and unexpected maneuvers forcing speed changes. The brake system, despite the weight, also does not cause problems and is doing decently. Regardless of the version, the user has to face absolutely hopeless access to the engine compartment. The only "convenience" seems to be the windshield washer fluid inlet.
It's time for impressions from the inside ...
The front of the cockpit has been finished with a soft material, inside there are plenty of storage compartments and space for drinks on both the driver's and passenger's side. The latter, as befits a real integra, has at its disposal a huge compartment instead of a door. The rectangular driver's side door, on the other hand, allows easy entry / exit and is closed with a double-locking central locking. The overall impression is spoiled by the lack of leather around the steering wheel (only the most powerful engine version has it as standard) - our copy at no extra charge was equipped with this convenience by a Polish dealer, for whom, unlike the manufacturer, this element in this segment should be obvious (e.g. Knaus uses this solution even in the price "average").
Swivel Aguti seats provide decent comfort and adjustment options, and folding armrests in both seats. It is a pity, however, that in a vehicle that implicitly travels long distances, no adjustment was made to the adjustment of the seats in the lumbar region. The forward visibility is impressive - the huge windshield gives the impression that we are sitting behind the wheel of a bus. The large side mirrors also provide excellent orientation, but when maneuvering in the rear, the rear view camera becomes indispensable. In my opinion, in superlatives the concept of "best view" described by Carthago (optimal visibility) is disturbed by the slightly wide front pillars (they also have integrated roller blind cassettes), which slightly limit the field of view when maneuvering.
The driver's workplace is comfortable and ergonomic, everything is at hand
While the front of the vehicle and the suspension are standard Ducato, at the rear we deal with the AL.-KO suspension dedicated to this type of vehicle. It is comfortable and perfectly dampens vibrations and stabilizes the rear while driving. An additional advantage of using the AL-KO frame is the lack of steps and differences in floor levels inside. Driving comfort was spoiled by leaks in Dometic roof windows, which caused unbearable noise at speeds above 70 km / h. Unfortunately, neither the dealer, nor Carthago, nor Dometic could solve the problem. The use of an additional 3-7 mm gasket from a DIY store helped. In this class of vehicle, such mishaps and the need to solve the problem by the user, however, should not take place.
Super multimedia package
The interior is cozy and comfortable, the fabrics have an anti-stain coating
The comfort of traveling is supposed to be made even more pleasant by the multimedia system, available as part of the almost obligatory "Super Package" package offered at a price list for EUR 4,200. The composition of the package will be discussed in the chapter on equipment, but the media station, which is the cheapest, low-budget Pioneer model without any expansion options, does not include navigation, phone operation via Bluetooth, DAB radio or zone control. It turned out to be a 2DIN-sized "clog" and, like the poor-quality speakers, it flew out a week after the vehicle was picked up. My observations are also confirmed by numerous opinions of Internet users - users expressed in German forums associating Carthago users. I must emphasize at this point that I am not an audiophile myself, and I have never seen the need to modify factory installations in passenger cars.
To sum up: in general, the vehicle provides a decent travel comfort, but many details spoil the overall picture and do not fit into the premium class.
- + good forward visibility except for the side pillars
- + comfortable, swivel armchairs
- + lots of compartments and space for drinks
- + driving comfort thanks to the rigid structure and rear axle suspension
- + convenient transition from the "cab" to the rear of the vehicle
- - poor quality plastic elements decorating the dashboard (gray plastics on the ventilation grilles and wood-like inserts surrounding the cockpit)
- - no leather steering wheel cover as standard
- - poor access to the engine
- - the scandalously low quality of multimedia equipment, which is part of an almost obligatory package
- - interior noise through poorly sealed roof windows
Wall construction and development
The technology of joining the wall panels with the roof developed by Carthago and the use of thick insulation and aluminum from the outside and inside translate, according to the manufacturer, into unmatched rigidity and strength of the structure. The driving experience really proves this. For the user, the most important thing is the lack of wood in the construction elements , even the floor is made of fiberglass on both sides and has a core of RTM foam. The double floor to which we have access as storages is covered with a checker plate and / or laminate, all connections are perfectly sealed, which can be seen with the naked eye. Here Carthago can usurp its position as a leader in the industry . The high-quality SEITZ side windows complete the outside impression. The garage has an additional lowered and reinforced floor , and its nominal load capacity is as much as 450 kg (GVW a bit later ...).
Conveniently accessible from 2 sides, a huge garage yells at us, “Don't hesitate! Pack it up! " If it wasn't for DMC ...
The solidity of the construction and the materials used inside is another advantage. Almost all elements fit correctly and the bodywork does not make any noise while driving. The impression was spoiled by one notoriously falling out drawer in the kitchen, which as it turned out was badly assembled at the factory. The slow-closing mechanisms in the kitchen work fine, except for the large vertical cargo drawer, which requires a lot of force to open and close.
Kitchen and bathroom in Carthago
The working surface in the kitchen is not impressive, but Carthago offers many interesting amenities - the sink cover can be easily transformed into an additional shelf, the sink spout has a removable, telescopic end, above the sink there is a shelf that can be pulled out from above for a coffee machine or kettle. A large 160l fridge with freezer compartment has plenty of room for supplies . If we find the space for supplies in the kitchen space insufficient, we can use one of the several spacious compartments in the floor.
Two large storage compartments in the floor and stowage compartments accessible from the outside offer a lot of possibilities
The bathroom is comfortably equipped and has a well-thought-out layout . Sink, high-quality spouts, lots of shelves, cupboards, large mirror, rotating toilet, spacious shower. Contrary to appearances, compared to models with separate showers moved to the sleeping area, there is more space in the cabin here and it is more comfortable because we are not bothered by the protruding bay window. The cabin can be tightly closed, but before that, remember to remove a fairly large round pad made of exotic wood from the inside. This is impractical as it is difficult to find a reasonable place for this item once removed. Here, Carthago should rather use a different drainage solution. The toilet is equipped with a maintenance-free SOG system with a gas outlet in the roof (also part of an additional package).
The bathroom is an ergonomic and thoughtful room
The arrangement of the seats in the "saloon" is presented comfortably. After inverting the driver and passenger seats, a cozy corner is created, consisting of an L-shaped couch, a sliding table and a comfortable side seat, behind which there is a telescopic boom with a TV set. The upholstery materials used are pleasant to the touch and have a stain-resistant and easy-to-clean coating , which actually works.
- + high quality and rigidity of the structure
- + high-quality furniture and fittings
- + good quality LED lighting in the living area and above the entrance
- + comfortable and practical seats
- + comfortable and ergonomic bathroom
- + a large number of spacious compartments
- - lighting dimmer only in one zone at the entrance
- - no lighting in wardrobes
- - troublesome drip pad in the shower cabin
- - a bit "conservative", sometimes too dark colors
Day / night arrangement
The vehicle offers sleeping places for 4 adults, an integrated bathroom and many wardrobes and storage spaces
One of the main reasons for choosing this particular model was the night functionality. Due to the comfortable, separate beds, which, however, can be easily connected, the back turned out to be perfect for our kids. The beds are 200 cm and 190 cm by 82 cm, respectively, the bed is enlarged with an additional pillow. From a special recess there is a board that supplements the bed surface with an integrated, lowered ladder (from the year 2017, the entire step is extended). The height of the sleeping area is large enough for you to sit down comfortably. The beds are equipped with high-quality mattresses ensuring a really comfortable sleep. Above them there are numerous cabinets and shelves, and in terms of lighting, we have LED spots and LED strip lighting on the back at head height OR spots on the booms (reading lamps). We will not create the mood for romantic moments for two or watching TV (there is also no dimmer here). Part of the mattress of the left bed is separated from the rest to allow access to the wardrobe under the bed. Slot diffusers powered by the Truma Combi 6 furnace ensure thermal comfort.
The beds in the back can be combined into one large bed, on the left and right we have large wardrobes (model 2017 in the photo)
At the front, however, there is a huge bed (160x195 cm) lowered above the cab, which, unlike many models on the market, does not require climbing a ladder. Access to them is via the side seat, the height is sufficient to sit comfortably. A high-quality mattress ensures a very comfortable sleep. Above the heads of the sleepers, there is a spacious shelf with light points (LED spots). There is no possibility to direct the light beam or adjust the intensity (no dimmer). It is not, to put it mildly, the optimal solution. Folding and unfolding the bed often requires the involvement of two people - the tabs on the sides each time, regardless of their efforts, even without bedding, they do not want to block the tabs on both sides at the same time. You should pay special attention to this so as not to experience a surprise while driving. Unfolding is child's play (just use the knob / handle and the bed falls down by itself). Lifting is already a real challenge, which should not be the case in a car of this class. It is nice that even after the bed is lowered, we still have a large part of the sofa and a side seat at our disposal.
The front drop-down bed is large and comfortable and allows other users to sit at the table when lowered
Both above the bed at the front and at the back, we have small roof windows, additionally equipped with a well-known combination of blinds and mosquito nets (the rear mini heki window was whistling while driving, Carthago did not consider it a factory defect, the solution is a seal offered by the manufacturer for PLN 24 - this is how the premium brand values the driving comfort in the car at half a million zlotys).
- + very comfortable mattresses
- + easy access to the bed from the front without the use of a ladder
- + large beds
- + possibility of using a large part of the sofa after lowering the bed at the front
- + many possibilities to put away small items around and above the beds
- - absurdly difficult folding of the front folding bed, requiring strength and handling of 2 people
- - the pillow enlarging the bed at the back notoriously "runs away"
- - no dimmers in sleeping areas, no spots to read above the fold-down bed in the front
Installations and operation
The vehicle is equipped with an electrical system and two batteries, 80 Ah each. The use of additional solar basically makes us independent from an external power source, of course, unless we use stationary air conditioning and high-power devices such as ovens or kettles / heaters. The electrical switchboard is located in the garage behind an easily removable grille, it is perfectly "folded" and equipped with many really interesting solutions - for example, the place of a blown fuse is indicated by an LED diode, which makes it easier to find the cause of a possible failure.
The electrical switchboard is exemplary - everything is at your fingertips
The placement of electrical sockets - as in any motorhome - is not perfectly thought out. In the back, you can comfortably use the electrical sockets only with the arrangement of separate beds, without connecting them (the socket is placed between the beds). In front there is one slot behind the driver. On the left side of the driver, a 12 / 24V socket known from trucks was installed in the test vehicle - basically useless (in the 2017 version it was already replaced with a USB socket). There are no USB sockets in the rest of the vehicle ...
The controller indicating the battery charge level, the level of clean and gray water is located above the entrance and is quite intuitive to use, although conceptually outdated (many brands of the lower segments already offer touch panels and bus systems for expansion and remote control).
The gas installation has connections for 2 standard cylinders with a manifold allowing for their simultaneous connection. We can safely use gas-powered devices while driving , as the gas connector is equipped with the Crash Sensor required by law (part of the additional package), which cuts off the gas supply in the event of a collision. The Truma 6 CP Plus control unit located above the entrance is the command center and allows you to select settings for hot water and heating (or air conditioning) in a very transparent (basically exemplary) manner. It is ready for connection to the innovative iNet system (remote control of the unit and Truma devices).
Numerous air vents in the vehicle, including compartments, cause that the floor heats up after several dozen minutes from setting a comfortable temperature, which is a great convenience on cold days. On the other hand, the vehicle's cab is poorly insulated. When stationary and with the heating on, you can feel clear gusts of cold from the space in front of the vehicle in front of the seats, despite the use of several heat vents also from the front (e.g. in the built-in side storage compartment on the passenger's side). Of course, in winter conditions, ALDE heating, which is available at an additional cost, would be a better solution, as well as additionally thermally insulated side windows.
The control center is located above the door, everything is legible and organized
The water installation consists of 2 tanks for a total of 170 liters of clean water and a system based on a pressure pump. This provides a sensational pressure and work culture at each point of use . The gray water tank is over 100l, which allows you to be independent for up to several days (depending, of course, on your needs ...). The discharge of clean and gray water is determined by valves located in the floor compartment near the rear bed at the entrance to the bathroom. The tanks are of course insulated and fully adapted to the use of the installation in winter.
Access to tanks and valves is obtained through the service hatch behind the bathroom. One of the water tanks is located higher, in the wardrobe
The faeces container, which is part of the Thetford toilet, is also relatively large. Comfortable handle and wheels in the tank allow you to easily reach even more distant places of "discharge". The SOG de-aeration system installed here in the roof version is maintenance-free and does not require filter replacement (unlike the wall version). The car is equipped with a DVBT antenna, which for no apparent reason refused to obey 2 days after receiving the vehicle. The source of the fault could not be found and it was necessary to use another, additional antenna.
- + large tanks, capacious batteries
- + easy and intuitive operation of the controllers
- + carefully made electrical installation
- + high-quality sockets and connectors
- + pressurized water installation
- + efficient gas installation that can be used while driving
- + fan-heated floor, heated storage compartments and tanks
- - the location of the clean and gray water drain valves is not very practical
- - ill-considered location of electrical sockets
- - no USB sockets in the living area of the vehicle
- - poor insulation of the driver / passenger compartment and noticeable coolness as standard
- - lack of even seeds to control vehicle functions (apart from Truma devices) from mobile devices, which is becoming a standard among competitors
Summary of the Carthago Chic C-Line motorhome test
Carthago is an extremely conservative brand that does not care about emphasizing any aspects of novelty / innovation or fresh design - this clearly defines the target group of the product, which (I repeat, I know) are our wealthy western neighbors, as well as Scandinavians in their prime and with a large budget. There is no top-notch technology, not even USB ports, let alone an integrated on-board remote control system. It is worth noting that the price advertised by Carthago “from…. EUR ”is, as in many cases in the industry, an empty slogan.
As a good day, the manufacturer sends a clear signal that without the surcharge for a more powerful engine version (as much as EUR 1.780 for an additional 20 KM and slightly more torque) and at least one "special" package, in principle, he will not sell the vehicle to us. And so to the account, as if from the machine, a Super Package is added for the amount of 4,290, - EUR (the price list says that we are saving up to 3,300, - EUR in relation to unit prices - no comment).
But what do we get in return? It consists of:
- - automatic air conditioning in the cab
- - central locking of the cab and main doors with a remote control, with the Coming Home function
- - "bus" mirrors and illumination of the entrance area
- - adjustable seats at the front
- - exclusive (!) finish of the dashboard with an application imitating wood and gray
- - plastics around the air outlets
- - stabilizing supports lowered by a crank at the rear of the vehicle
- - glass bar with glasses and glasses
- - Fabric-lined garage with mesh pockets in the passenger side door
- - Truma CS valve securing the gas installation
- - SOG toilet venting in the version with a roof chimney
- - solar cabling, SAT installation,
- - media station with radio and DVD with a touch panel and 4 speakers, rear view camera
- - along with a dedicated separate monitor
The package weight is an additional 100 kg
The list of packages and options is long, from stylistic packages, through televisions and multimedia, to the aforementioned ALDE heating and "polar" packages. In addition, of course, we would like to see the vehicle with stationary air conditioning for comfort on hot days at the campsite, the aforementioned solar, awning (at least 4.5 m in such a vehicle) or a SAT installation.
To the price in EURO, we need to add the VAT difference (Polish is 23%, German 19%), excise duty in the amount of 18.6%, which means an absurd level of half a million zlotys for many. Is it worth it? Anyone who plans such an expense at all must answer this question for himself. For the user, for example, service support and complaint handling are of utmost importance. In practice, the test vehicle revealed a dozen or so defects that were difficult to accept and clearly constituted factory warranty defects. Despite the warranty, we decided to repair the vast majority of them on our own and at our own expense. Why? The dealer's office and service center is 350 km away from our place of residence (without highways). At the moment, two companies deal with the distribution and servicing of Carthago, both are located in the south of Poland. A review of German online forums and opinions about Carthago's warranty service allows us to conclude that the main task of the majority of the staff is to create the marketing envelope mentioned at the beginning, service of customer needs after the purchase is a matter of secondary, if not tertiary, importance.
Several direct attempts to contact the Carthago factory service went unanswered until we expressed our dissatisfaction and reached the right people in the marketing department ... Currently, more complaints are pending, and weeks are flying (chrome flaking and blue raid on ALL decorative elements in the front - grill, headlamp and halogen covers) ... I realize that each motorhome (even the class usurping belonging to the premium category) is a complex set of elements from many manufacturers and faults can happen, but at the price level of a tourist car that makes many a dizzy the head of the client should be able to feel safe.
And one more thing about DMC ...
The "dry" weight of the vehicle is theoretically 3200 kg, with basic additional equipment and a driver, 3500 kg without fuel. The GVM of the vehicle on the Polish market is 3500 kg. In the same configuration and on the same chassis, in Germany, the vehicle is registered with a GVM of 3850 kg, and in the version with the AL-KO HEAVY frame, even 4500 kg. Practice, however, shows a totally unlawful approach of the manufacturer to unlawful provisions. The topic is known and often discussed, so I only indicate that there is an "ambush" here.
In practice, Carthago can compete in the category of integrated cars in the category of cars up to 3.5 tons only with the C-tourer light model, which, however, is less impressive / slimmer in many respects, and also 10 cm narrower.
Modifications that were made on their own due to the lack of technical capabilities on the part of the dealer: simultaneous operation of 2 TV sets in the scope of DVBT and TV-SAT. Connection with a dedicated TRUMA stationary air conditioning cable with the Truma CP PLUS panel (it enables programming of the air conditioning, apart from the remote control, also from the panel and remote control of the air conditioning via iNet).
Despite a few clear disadvantages, we fell in love with our new vehicle. The joy of driving and the quality of the bodywork are for us the arguments that outweigh the “plus” scales. The total score is 4/5.
As I mentioned, I leave the assessment of the price-quality adequacy to each individual, it is a topic for longer discussion and a sober assessment of competitors - real competitors in this class of vehicles are major brands such as HYMER, Niesmann + Bischoff (although no one here soaps their eyes with a mass of 3 , 5 tons), Le Voyageur or Pilote , to name a few.
For over a dozen years he has been an enthusiast of caravanning, after caravans it was the turn of campers in 2014. I follow the caravanning market in Europe, with particular emphasis on Poland, hoping that both the popularity of this form of recreation and the quality of the equipment will soon catch up with Western Europe ...