In recent times, a small number of motorhome importers (mostly British or European) have gained themselves something of a niche in the Australian market. There’s no doubt that some of the British and European designs are appealing, especially as they’re based on familiar looking cab chassis. All this has some of the local manufacturers looking sideways, and one or two of them have decided on an interesting, proactive approach, instead of just hiding behind the compliance barrier.
A’van is a good example – last year it surprised everyone by announcing a manufacturing agreement with German manufacturer Knaus. Although I’m told the long-term intention is to build the Knaus motorhomes in Australia, those currently available for the Australian market are built in Germany on Australian specced Fiat Ducato cab chassis.
This means buyers wanting a European motorhome get the best of both worlds – a European motorhome backed by an Australian manufacturer. And that brings me to the subject of this review, a Knaus-built Sun Ti 700 LEG, which is based on a Fiat Ducato Multijet 180 and has an external length of 7.5m (24ft 7in).
LAYOUT & DESIGN
Inside the Sun Ti, the Knaus designers have delivered a practical and user-friendly layout. Up front, forward of the entry door, is the lounge area while the kitchen fills the mid-station area behind the entry door. That leaves the rear area for a split bathroom just in front of the island bed in the rear.
It has to be said that German-designed cabinetry and general decor has a very schmick and sophisticated (if you can use those two words together) feel about it. That’s aided, even in daylight, by the discrete but effective lighting. A slight oddity in the lighting department is the halogen reading lights for the bed, everything else is LED! But that’s not to say there isn’t enough natural light because there is, helped considerably by the large Skyview hatch above the driver’s cab.
For the lounge and dining area, the motorhome-friendly Ducato cab chassis is used to full effect. Both cab seats swivel around and directly behind those are an L-shaped lounge on the offside and a single sideways facing lounge on the nearside. With a little bit of bump and tickle, five people could probably sit around the oval-shaped table without too much of a problem. One of the good features about the table, apart from the reasonable size, is the mounting pole. It’s not only a sturdy size, but is spring loaded to easily adjust the height and so that it can be pushed down to form the front bed area. Above all the front seating and around the cab area is a variety of overhead lockers, open compartments and shelf space – not a millimetre of air space is wasted.
BEDROOM & STORAGE
Looking at it from the front, the bed does have a slightly odd shape. One of my colleagues described it as being a bit like a tongue, with its severely chamfered corners. There’s a good reason for the bed being that shape as it has to fit with the bathroom cubicles. To accommodate the garage area underneath, the bed is set fairly high off the floor with steps either side for easy access.
Measuring 1.93m (6ft 4in) in length and 1.4m (4ft 7in) at its widest point, the bed is designed for both night and day time use. During the day, the mattress can be pushed back and a very effective back support is formed for comfortable lounging. At night, it’s laid flat and reverts to a conventional bed.
This also reveals one of the few weaknesses in this motorhome’s design. When the bed is extended, the nearside corner butts up against the bathroom wall leaving no walking room and the only way out for the nearside occupant is over the end of the bed. Given the shape, height and lightweight frame of the bed, this is not particularly easy and is one of the reasons why, with this particular overall layout, I think two single beds might be more user-friendly.
One quirk in the bedroom was the window location on either side – they are quite small and set quite low. Several times I went to open the window blind but then realised it was the white wall I was looking at.
There isn’t much storage under the offside seats, mostly because that’s where the Combi water and space heater is located and also the mains power circuit breakers and the 12V (labelled) fuses. The rest of the space is taken by the utilities bin underneath.
On the nearside, the single seat between the entry door and the cab passenger seat isn’t just a seat either. It has storage space underneath, which is extremely useful as a shoe locker since it can be reached when standing outside. The space behind the seat back appears empty but actually houses a flatscreen TV which can be lifted up so as to be seen from the seats opposite, including the swivelled driver’s seat.
In keeping with the shape of the lounge, the kitchen bench is also L-shaped and has a distinctly Euro look about it. Fitted into the benchtop is a two-burner cooktop and a small round washing up sink but no drainer.
Underneath the benchtop there are three good-sized drawers and slide-out wire baskets in the cupboard area. Overhead lockers are fitted into the air space above. Facing the kitchen bench on the other side is a 190L fridge with a microwave above. Because the fridge is set above a floor level cupboard, the microwave is definitely on the high side.
The bathroom is a split arrangement with the shower cubicle on the offside and the toilet cubicle opposite. The moulded shower cubicle is semi-rounded and has two half-doors for access and a slightly recessed moulding for the variable height shower, taps and shampoo/soap containers. The floor does have the wheel arch protrusion, which reduces standing room somewhat and may be a slight issue for those with big feet.
Across the way, the toilet cubicle comes with the necessary cassette toilet, as well as a wash basin, vanity cabinet and mirrors on the wall. It also comes with two other features – a door that can also close off the bedroom/bathroom area from the rest of the motorhome and an extendable wall that can be used to increase the internal space of the bathroom.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Knaus Sun Ti is a very classy looking motorhome both inside and out and has an impressive storage capacity.
Apart from the issue of the walking space around the bed, it has a very user-friendly layout and is one that a couple could travel in quite comfortably and, without too much trouble, fit in a couple of guests as well. It’s pretty hard not to be impressed by this Knaus design, given all the features that it has.
- Garage storage area
- Utilities/service bin
- Smart look of motorhome in general
- Good-sized fridge
- Front lounge/dining setup
I would have liked...
- Better island bed arrangement
- Lower microwave
- LED reading lights
- The keys handed over permanently!
The full test appears in Caravan World Australian Motorhome 2015.