Potential Bongo newbie - best layout for 3 kids?

For bongoing parents to discuss issues re: travelling & camping with children.

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Potential Bongo newbie - best layout for 3 kids?

Post by Mummyof3 » Mon Jun 10, 2019 11:34 am

Hi All,

I'm new to the forum and new to Bongos, but have been browsing various sights for a little while.

We have 3 older kids (6, 9, 12), so only need a booster seats for the youngest two. We currently have a MK 6 Ford Transit Tourneo, which we have been intending to convert to a camper, but after 2 years the only work we have managed is to remove some seats for cheaper insurance! :oops: I've decided this is the year to finish the job and am at the point of planning/building a kitchen pod and bed. But...... the rust is also starting to rear it's ugly head - common for Transits.

So, before we start spending money on a lovely interior when there are potential hefty welding bills in the future, I'm wondering whether to look at an alternative base vehicle instead. And Bongos tick a lot of boxes - especially with a raising roof which is not possible on our van.

I've not seen a Bongo in the flesh yet, and the nearest for sale are a good couple of hours away, so I'm trying to do as much research as possible first.

My biggest concern is the passenger seating whilst driving. Our Tourneo has all three kids on the back bench seat, which is nearly 6 foot wide and 3 point belts all round, so lots of space. I would prefer the same layout in a Bongo, but the seats seem a bit smaller, and look like 2 x 3 point belts with a lap belt. Is that right? Are there any models with 3 x point belts? Is there even room for 3 older children/potential teenagers along the bench seat or is it too tight?

If not, what layouts do people use for 3 kids, using both rows of seats? I've seen the rear split/lift seats, which would leave space for a removable kitchen pod. But as these are on older models, what other layouts do people use?

We only have one vehicle, so passenger safety/belts trumps everything else, but I do want the option of a basic kitchen. We have a huge awning for camping, but would love a kitchen pod for long days at the beach etc.

I've been browsing the 'show us your interiors' thread, but any comments/opinions on passenger seats would be very welcome.

Thank you!

Oh, and if anyone knows of a Bongo dealer nearer to us - please do tell! We are slap bang in the middle of Wales, so seem to be looking at Swansea or Birmingham at the momen
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Re: Potential Bongo newbie - best layout for 3 kids?

Post by Bob » Mon Jun 10, 2019 12:49 pm

Very warm welcome to BF. 8)

You're right about the seat arrangement, and the Bongo is a lot smaller than the Transit.

They are also getting older with associated rust problems, although money can sort this.

The big Bongo Bash, Stourport, is coming up very soon so why not pop in for a few hours? Plenty of opportunity to look at Bongos and talk to owners, not salesmen. :wink:

Never want to put anyone off the Bongo, but I do think with a growing family size alone may be an issue, plus Bongos have the cooling system quirk whilst a Transit can be worked on anywhere. 8)
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Re: Potential Bongo newbie - best layout for 3 kids?

Post by Alkers » Mon Jun 10, 2019 1:17 pm

Also, you mention this is your only vehicle - what sort of milage do you do? You can expect 25mpg in a 2.5 diesel bongo, slighly better on extended runs at 50-60mph max.
We can fit three adults across either of the seats with no problems but there's no option for a third proper belt that I'm aware of - always a lap belt in the middle.
In terms of safety, the bongo's are old enough vehicles now so I'm not sure how'd they'd compare to a relatively modern transit.
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Re: Potential Bongo newbie - best layout for 3 kids?

Post by Mummyof3 » Thu Jun 13, 2019 7:57 pm

Thank you Bob and Alkers.

I didn't realise you had replied, so apologies for ignoring you!

I've just looked at Bongo Bash, and am really tempted as it's only a couple of hours away - thanks for the heads up!

Bob, can I ask what you mean by the cooling quirk? Do you mean a problem would require a specialised garage? Can I also ask about the dreaded rust? Transits are notorious for the bottom rusting out, and our sills are looking dodgy for the next MOT it could quickly turn into a money pit. Is this as much as a problem on Bongos, or are there just specific danger areas? I've read about wheel arches etc, but was under the impression they are not necessarily rust buckets.

Alkers, regarding fuel they do indeed seem thirsty (we currently have 1.9 TDI). We only have one vehicle as we both walk to work, so during the week the van is used for school runs (if we're running late!), and the odd run to after school clubs. These are all within our town, so each journey might only be a mile, if that. (I know, I know - but please don't judge. We walk when we can but logistics mean we often have to drop the kids to 2 different places at pretty much the same time!)

Weekends, we often travel an hour or two to get somewhere, and visit family 300 miles away a few times a year. I'm wondering which is better - diesel or petrol? Our Transit is diesel, but is not allowed anywhere near the UEZ when we visit family near the M25 (well, we can but refuse to pay £100 per day!!! :shock: ) Also, diesel is pointless for the amount of short hops we do.

We have thought of getting an extra runaround car for daily use, but really can't justify the extra costs to have a vehicle sitting idle. If we commuted it would be different, but we only work 5 mins away.

It's funny how you talk of our Transit being fairly modern - I suppose it is, but we generally had much older vehicles previously. Prior to that was a 1993 T4.

OK, it will really come down to the seats - 3 point belts all round are a must. We once had a lapbelt converted to a 3 point in a Ford Galaxy, with new anchor points put in on one of the pillars. This wasn't possible on the T4 - does anyone know if it would be possible on a Bongo?

If not, then we need to consider ease of getting to the rear row of seats. 2 kids in the middle, one in the back. Leading on to how much room is left for a kitchen pod and general luggage. Mmm....that's what I can't visualise. :?

Is it possible to put the split, fold up seats in a newer model? I'm assuming not, as I haven't seen it in any of the models I've looked at, but worth checking.

Anyway, enough of my rambling. Lots to think about, and I'm seriously thinking of heading to Bongo Bash! Thank you for your replies! :)
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Re: Potential Bongo newbie - best layout for 3 kids?

Post by Bob » Thu Jun 13, 2019 9:40 pm

Hi Mo3

Yes, you can retro fit the split seats in a newer Bongo, it's been done, Jillygumbo from memory.

If you Google 'Youtube Bongo bleed process' or similar some well known Club members have done 3 videos on bleeding the cooling system - this is vital on the diesel and V6 after any coolant loss.

Sadly far too many garages won't listen when you say this resulting in serious damage, and a good few owners have been aware of coolant loss but decided to 'Just limp the last 200 miles home' and done the head in. :(

So yes, for these engine I would find a Bongo Friendly garage.

However... The 2 ltr petrol is a much simpler engine and may well suit your needs best.

Some are very rusty, some in great shape, just something to be aware of, I'd recommend reading the 'Buying a Bongo' info, might be in the Member's area. :wink:
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Re: Potential Bongo newbie - best layout for 3 kids?

Post by kandabongogirl » Fri Jun 14, 2019 7:34 am

Hi Mo3,

Not sure where your Mid-Whales (see what I did there :wink: ) location is - you can PM me if interested in the following:

I am scheduled to be in deepest Snowdonia tomorrow (Saturday) then southern Snowdonia border (Dyfi estuary) on Sunday.
I have an old (95-99) diesel with a factory AFT and a factory rear kitchen - so a 6 seater with basic sink, single ring, coolbox fridge/freezer.
I tend to leave the 6th seat in and just raise it up or lower it down depending what I am doing.
So a good flexi option for weekending and beaching without the awning, or for more ram-packed trips with the awning.

Essentially if you are anywhere near Machynlleth there are options to view mine in the flesh when I pass through from time to time.
This weekend Snowdonia plan is dependent on being MOT'd at the end of today. Will go in work car if not.

ATB kbg.

PS. We have the Factory mid seat layout (lap-belt in middle) plus the extra 6th seat at the back. But we normally tour as a duo, trio, or quartet not as a quintet so dont usually use the 6th as a travel seat - more folded up travelling and down as a cooking seat at the beach / valley / mountain pass!
23 year old salt and pepper AFT who loves a twerk to a kandabongoman tune.
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Re: Potential Bongo newbie - best layout for 3 kids?

Post by Mummyof3 » Sat Jun 15, 2019 11:48 am

Thank you so much Kandabongogirl - that is a lovely offer, and so far the best layout for us. Unfortunately, we are a good 60 miles south of Mach, and being father's day I've already booked a restaurant for lunch, so I wouldn't be able to make it. Otherwise, we could have made a day of it.

We are definitely going to head over to Bongo Bash next weekend to have a good gander at various options. It will also be good to compare the size with ours side by side.

Thanks Bob, some great info there, and definitely a lot of research to do!