One of the difficulties when touring with a motorhome is coming back to your suburban home. It’s all very well to have the biggest, roomiest motorhome on the market but what do you do with a large piece of real estate you called home away from home when you are facing a driveway too small to park it?
This is one of the advantages of a camper conversion like the Horizon Casuarina. Not only will it run down a driveway any average car can (except for its 2.6m height, of course) but it will cope much more easily with the run to the supermarket car park for supplies, too.
CAB AND CHASSIS
The Fiat Ducato is almost the default campervan base of choice these days. This particular Horizon conversion has been painted in a most resplendent shade of metallic orange – perhaps not to everyone’s tastes but certainly a pleasant break from the standard, default colour of white (which is still available if you want it). The Ducato’s standard features as specified for the Casuarina include air-conditioning, Blue&Me voice-activated Bluetooth, power windows, mirrors and door locks and 120-litre fuel capacity. Dual airbags, anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic traction control (ETC) and electronic stability program (ESP) are the standard safety features.
ON THE ROAD
The Ducato’s 3.0-litre turbo-diesel pulls the Casuarina along well, with ample torque and power. While low engine rpm is where there is often a torque black hole with turbo-diesels, the Fiat is not so afflicted – it seems to get up past the initial period where the turbo charger needs to spin up and right into the torque band. The engine is not the quietest or smoothest diesel at low speeds, but once touring it is not obtrusive at all.
The only source of frustration is the six-speed Comfort-Matic automated manual transmission. While in principle this is a good idea for improved fuel-efficiency over a traditional hydraulic auto-matic, in practice the shift response is often poor. If you leave it entirely to the computer to decide on gearshifts, then it will often upshift too early. Then just when you want an early gearshift, the gearbox hangs onto a lower gear. The best way to drive this is in the manual mode, which gives you control over the gearshifts.
The independent front/live rear axle suspension is clearly commercial in nature, with ride quality sharp over abrupt bumps. This improves with speed, and longer, undulating bumps are well-absorbed and suspension controlled.
The sliding nearside door is the key opening into the campervan, with an electric slide-out step (with its switch located on the cabinet wall just to the right of the entry) to make access easier.
Sorting out the camper for a stop-over or extended stay is quite simple, with no pop-top roof to lift or really anything else except turning the captain’s chairs around (and fitting the table), winding out the Fiamma awning and fitting the Velcro optional flyscreen for the sliding door entry.
The storage options are plentiful, following the familiar Horizon layout with large lockers above the kitchen area and beds/dinette at the rear. There is also a clever, spacious shoe storage cupboard, set in the floor in the bed area.
Lighting is by 12-volt LED downlights in the ceiling plus six 12-volt LED reading lights. Natural light is available through the five double-glazed hopper windows and two roof hatches in the main living area. The roof and walls are insulated, with the ceiling covered with embossed ply.
A 19-inch TV mounted on a swivel mount next to the kitchen receives signal from a roof-mounted Wineguard antenna.
The kitchen area, on the nearside of the van about mid-way down its length, has two generous storage hatches above at about eye level and six drawers underneath the bench. The bench space is mostly taken up with the single-tub stainless-steel sink and the three-ring gas burner. Fortunately, the gas cooker and sink have a hinged glass top and on the side of the bench towards the front is a fold-out bench section, all of which improves food preparation space markedly.
On the offside wall opposite the kitchen bench is the 12-volt microwave at about eye level and just below that the 136-litre Waeco 12-volt compressor fridge. Under the fridge and above the micro-wave are more storage cupboards, and to the left of the fridge are two vertical cupboards.
There are three different bed layout options; a two single-bed layout, a double-bed layout or a café dinette that converts to a double bed. There are five lockable, hinged hopper windows with integral mesh screens and blinds. At the bed area there are five large lockers, although this design prec-ludes opening the rear-wall locker and one of the adjacent lockers at the same time.
The rear barn doors can be opened and fly mesh wall fitted to give a relatively open, airy feel to the rear of the cabin.
The combined shower/toilet is on the offside of the motorhome opposite the sliding entry door. It is entered via mirror glass door to reveal an adjustable shower head up high to the left and a corner washbasin with a two-door storage cupboard beneath. To the right is a Dometic 19-litre cassette toilet plumbed to a SOG system, and in the ceiling is a pop-up hatch vent.
The electrical system is fed by a 200-amp deep-cycle AGM battery that is topped up by a 240-volt 40-amp battery charger. A battery monitor and all main power switches are housed above the kitchen bench. There is a reverse-flow Fiamma extractor/cooling fan in the ceiling, with air-conditioning an option
The boot is the key external storage area, with the only other external-access storage restricted to the gas bottle compartment on the offside rear.
Although it is quite a compact van, it provides a great deal of internal storage and a great sense of space and an airy feel with the sliding door and barn doors open. Added to this a great deal of amenity with its shower toilet combination, and you have a great short to medium term escape vehicle.
WORDS AND PHOTOS BY DES COOMBS
For further information, please visit www.rvpages.com.au/recreational-vehicles/conversions/motorhomes/ballina_campervan_motorhome_centre.html