Malcolm Street — 9 December 2013

WINNEBAGO IS A manufacturer that has become well known for its wide range of A, B and C class motorhomes. In a new venture, the company has moved into the ‘smaller’ end of the market with a large van Fiat Ducato conversion, the aptly named Escape.
Winnebago has chosen to call its Escape a “campervan”. This might cause a little confusion, because other manufacturers choose to call their large van conversions “motorhomes”, and I wonder if using the word “campervan” creates the wrong impression.
On the other hand, given that the large van conversions are really a sector in themselves, I prefer the term “motorcamper”.
Confused? Read on...
For the new Escape, Winnebago has opted to use the Fiat Ducato Multijet 160 with the 3L 115.5kW turbodiesel engine. Not surprisingly, it’s been mated to the Fiat six-speed automated manual transmission (AMT). There’s no doubt that the 3L diesel delivers the goods and for an AMT the six-speed is a relatively smooth performer.
From the outside, the Escape looks like a standard large van conversion. It has all the normal features – Seitz hopper windows, Fiamma F65 awning, Thetford cassette door (offside), Truma water heater, roof-mounted Dometic air-conditioner and roof hatches. A feature that should be mentioned is the offside gas locker which contains two 4kg cylinders. Often in a motorcamper of this size only a single 9kg cylinder is supplied, and they are obviously much heavier to lift.
There are a few interior features that help to make the Escape a little different to most motorcamper designs. The first is the fact that the mid section, which contains the kitchen, bathroom and dining areas, has been slightly compressed This might look a bit odd at first glance, but it’s all to do with how the rear of the layout has been set up.
This is where Winnebago has incorporated some very versatile features. There are actually four berths: two singles, asymmetrically shaped, which also double as sideways-facing lounges; and a double bed that can be raised and lowered electrically. Bed sizes are 1.7x1.9m (5ft 7in x 6ft 3in) for the double and 1.72x0.74-0.66m (5ft 8in x 2ft 5in-2ft 2in) for the singles. A slight problem with the lighting arrangement (under the overhead lockers) is that unless the bed is fully lowered, there isn’t much lighting at all.
The other feature of interest, particularly to trades people or even those who wish to transport larger items, is that with the double bed raised right up, the single beds can also be folded up, leaving a very large cargo area. This extra space can be used as is, or you could have tool racks/component storage bins fitted. Handily, given possible work-related usage, there is also an external shower fitted inside the rear offside door.
This arrangement means, though, that the under-seat storage areas can’t be used when the lounge seats are lifted up. But the conventional overhead lockers should compensate.
The swivelling cab seats of the Ducato have been fully utilised in conjunction with the offside dinette seat and table. It’s a bit on the squeezy side, but if the rear is being used for carrying cargo, it’s certainly a functional arrangement.
A flatscreen TV is mounted on the cab bulkhead, so it can only be seen from the rear dinette seat. Because of the layout design, the position of the TV was always going to be an awkward fit, but in some ways it might have been better positioned above the rear seat so that it could be viewed from the swivelled cab seats.
The ceiling at the front of the van is quite a busy area. In addition to the small hatch, there are light fittings and a TV antenna handle, with the full electrical panel and rear bed control switch conveniently located above the doorway.
Given the standard size of the Ducato’s sliding door, it’s not a big drama that the compact kitchen bench has been partly fitted across the doorway. In fact, it’s quite a practical arrangement because the five drawers and cupboards open from both sides of the cabinet, so it can be accessed from inside or out. A hinged table is also fitted to the outside.
Built into the benchtop is a combo three-burner cooktop sans grill and stainless steel sink sans drainer. The microwave is optional. While not always popular, I reckon a hinged bench extension might be a useful with this setup.
Between the kitchen bench and the rear is a 104L three-way Dometic fridge with a small wardrobe above.
It may be a small point, but the inside of many a Winnebago wardrobe door is often where a list of motorhome specifications is located. This one is no exception and I reckon it’s a very handy idea.
Fitting a bathroom in any large van conversion is always going to be a design challenge.
The bathroom has been achieved in the Escape by having two vertical half-doors instead of just one. This makes access a bit easier and still allows for a Thetford cassette toilet and a fixed-height shower, which shares the faucet with a small corner washbasin. A fan hatch clears the air when necessary.
The Escape is certainly a different venture for Winnebago, and in the campervan/motorcamper world offers a different setup to what is mostly available. Clearly pitched at the ‘those with a job’, or even family, markets rather than retirees, the Escape offers a very versatile layout.

WORDS AND PICS Malcolm Street
Base vehicle: Fiat Ducato Multijet 160  
Engine: 3L
GearboxL: Six-speed AMT
Max power: 115.5kW@3500rpm
Max torque: 400Nm@1700rpm
Brakes: Ventilated disc
Tare: 3084kg
GVM: 4005kg
External length: 6.3m (20ft 8in)
External width: 2.05m (6ft 9in)
Internal height: 1.9m (6ft 3in)
Second stage compliance: Yes
Price as shown: $108,990 (on-road, NSW)
Sydney RV Centre, Narrabeen, NSW, (02) 9979 4449,
For more info, including your nearest dealer, visit
Source: Caravan World Nov 2010


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Malcolm Street

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