ONE OF THE MORE noticeable growth areas in the campervan and motorhome world over the last few years could be called the large van conversion sector. What I call "motorcampers" - in order to distinguish them from campervans and coach-built B and C-class motorhomes - have grown not only because large commercial vans have become more available, but because the actual size of the vehicle is convenient for many people.
Up to 7m (23ft) of van gives travellers a reasonably comfortable living area, as well as a vehicle that is easy to drive and manoeuvre in tight spaces, which also makes them very popular with single travellers. And an added attraction (for some) has been the replacement of the side sliding door ("whirr clunker") with a hinged motorhome door.
Clayton Kearney and his team at Horizon Motorhomes in Ballina, NSW, have capitalised on this market growth. Horizon has established itself in the large van conversion market, with a range of vehicles based on Fiat Ducatos, VW Crafters and, in the case of our Horizon Grevillea review motorcamper, the venerable Mercedes Benz Sprinter - the extra-long-wheelbase version.
EASY ON THE EYE
One of the first things about this particular Grevillea that catches the eye is its rather striking rich blue exterior. In a world where most motorhomes (and caravans) are some shade of white, the blue is a real stand out.
The second immediately obvious feature is the aforementioned optional door. Fitted just behind the passenger door in a custom-made moulding, it looks to be a very neat job. It also solves two of the perennial problems of whirr clunkers: the noise of opening the slider late at night, and the potential impact damage to an opened window behind the door.
However, I should point out that fixed doors are not for everyone. Van interiors are naturally confined spaces and some travellers like the large opening that is offered by a sliding door. One of the assets of purpose-built awnings like the Fiamma F65 is that when partly wound out, they keep both sun and rain from the open sliding door.
Further external clues that the Grevillea is not a normal van include Seitz hopper windows on both sides (not the rear doors), fridge vents, hot water heater vent, shower, gas cylinder bin and toilet cassette door. Like most van conversions, the Grevillea does not have an external storage bin.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED
On the inside, this Horizon's layout features a double bed in the rear offside corner, mid-offside bathroom cubicle and a kitchen bench along the nearside. The front dining space uses swivelled cab seats and a table behind the driver's seat, plus a third seat on the other side of the table.
While the Seitz windows have integrated screens and blinds, the front and rear windows come with curtains, which I find easier to use than rubber suction screens. Optional insect screens are available for the rear doors and sliding door (if kept). All the cabinetry, made from high pressure laminated plywood in order to keep the weight down, is stained in a light hue and offset by grey doors and drawers.
The Grevillea comes with two options for the bedroom: the 1.93x1.4m (6ft 4in x 4ft 7in) innerspring mattress fitted to our review motorcamper, or two 1.93x0.65m (6ft 4in x 2ft 2in) single beds. Many couples prefer the larger bed, but the singles can sometimes be more practical.
Lifting the double bed - hinged along the offside - gives internal access to the large storage space. This space is broken into compartments, but the dividers can be removed easily enough if you want to put something larger in there. This storage space can also be accessed from the outside by opening the rear doors. There are overhead lockers along the offside and a bedside cabinet with three drawers in the nearside corner.
ROOM TO DINE
The nearside kitchen bench includes a three-burner Dometic cooktop (no grill), stainless steel sink, Waeco 110L fridge and under-bench Sharp Carousel microwave. Storage consists entirely of drawers: three of a conventional size, two for pots and pans, and a cutlery drawer. Benchtop space isn't bad for a rig this size, although there is no drainer for the sink.
The wall space above the kitchen window is occupied by the electrical controls, as well as the mounting point for a flatscreen TV which can be seen from the bed and the front seats.
Making full use of the swivelling cab seats in this motorcamper is a smart move - it means just about every valuable inch of space is used. Having the table and seating behind the driver's seat creates a neat little dining room. LED reading lights sit above both cab seats, along with a strip LED fitting above the table.
All of the essentials are fitted into the bathroom, including a Dometic cassette toilet, small corner wash basin with separate hot/cold water tap and a flexible hose shower. A small wall mirror is fitted above the wash basin. Alongside the bathroom is a full height cupboard that is split in two with hanging space in the top half. A few shelves in the bottom half would be useful.
Driving the Benz-powered Grevillea is a breeze. Although the 2.2L engine doesn't quite have the grunt of the more powerful 140kW six-cylinder V6, it still delivers power smoothly through the five-speed auto gearbox, with no problems along the highway and around town. Air bag suspension fitted to the rear wheels proves to be a big help to the ride quality.
With a width of slightly less than 2m (6ft 6in), parking in most places isn't too much of a problem. The optional reversing camera will be a welcome addition for those who choose it.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Horizon makes a number of different layout and length conversions, so there is something for everyone. That said, it's not hard to understand why a motorcamper like the Grevillea is a popular choice.
Relatively speaking, there is plenty of interior living space, yet it will remain an easy driving machine for most people, including long-term travellers and those looking for more of a weekend escape machine that is still practical to use around town.
Source: Caravan World Sep 2011.