Small 'pop-top' camper is back, this time from Mercedes-Benz

Motorhomes, or RVs, have always been popular around Southern California, maybe even more so now, as people find alternate ways to go on vacation. But they tend to be big, fuel thirsty and rather expensive.

If you don't feel that getting away from it all should mean seemingly taking "it all" with you, how about an RV with a more minimalist approach? New from Mercedes-Benz: the Metris Getaway. Its key feature? The roof pops up to create more living and sleeping space.

If it sounds like a familiar idea, that's because for literally decades, Volkswagen offered their iconic pop-top camping vans. They've become collectors items, and VW doesn't actually have a van to sell at the present time. So, Mercedes saw an opportunity. The basic Metris passenger van becomes the Getaway with the pop top, the deletion of a row of seats, front seats that swivel toward the rear, and a table that creates a dining area. Out back, there's ample storage, and an optional mini-kitchen.



When it's time for shuteye, the rear seat converts into a relatively comfortable bed, surrounded by privacy curtains, and there's a roomy upper bed within the pop-up tent, complete with screened zip-open windows, and even USB ports.

As for "facilities," there are none. When nature calls, you'll be getting back to nature, or finding a campground with restrooms.

All this for less than a big RV, but still not cheap. The conversion plus the price of the Metris passenger van will set you back north of $60,000. Add in all the available options, like the kitchen, solar panels, roof racks, and so on, and it can become a $90,000 camper.

For minimalist vehicle camping on smaller budgets, check out a line of add-on roof tents called Roofnest, like the Falcon XL model starting at $3695. Roofnest let me try the unit on top of a Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid. You can sleep off the ground, away from critters and such, and have a nice view in the morning out the zip-open windows. The Outlander PHEV can go about 24 miles on battery power alone, so you can tread lightly on the way to the camp site.

The Metris Getaway isn't exactly a fuel guzzler, however. The basic van is rated at 19 mpg combined, though the turbo four cylinder engine does require premium unleaded. Still, much less in fuel costs than one of those big boys, though with much less living space too.

Another big advantage over a big RV, when the camping is done this converts back into a pretty nice minivan for your everyday driving needs.

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