Horizon Melaleuca - Horizon Motorhomes

RV Review
Horizon Melaleuca
Words & pictures by
Malcolm Street N26735
I
n the world of motorhomes, one of the
game changers in Australia and New
Zealand was the arrival of vehicles like
the Mercedes Benz Sprinter and, slightly
later, the Fiat Ducato. Not only did they,
along with Volkswagen and Iveco, provide
a European sourced base vehicle, but
as far as this review is concerned, they
provided van conversion prospects that
were larger than the VW Kombi or Toyota
HiAce and could be transformed into
comfortable vehicles with a flat floor and a
fixed bed.
I was reminded of all this in a
conversation with Horizon Motorhomes’
Clayton Kearney. We were actually looking
over one of his latest conversions, a Fiat
Ducato based Melaleuca and discussing
base vehicles in general. Clayton made the
comment that the arrival of the European
vans more or less ended his conversion of
Toyota Coasters. One of the advantages
of the European vans was that they were
a flat floor design, which meant that
incorporating the driver’s cab into the
motorhome layout became practical and,
in many cases, quite easy. This was and is
particularly the case with the Fiat Ducato
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| The Wanderer November 2013
because the vehicle has a number of
motorhome friendly features. In the case
of the large vans, it’s mostly to do with
items like the swivelling cab seats. Just
a footnote to all this is that I understand
that the VW Crafter vans and cab chassis
are no longer available in Australia.
Apparently the agreement with Mercedes
Benz has come to an end and the Sprinter
lookalikes are no more.
RV Review
Base Vehicle – Conversion
As noted above, the Melaleuca is a
converted Fiat Ducato van. Horizon used
the 150 Multijet Ducato, which comes
with a 2.3 litre 109kW/350Nm. That is
smaller and less powerful than the 3.0 litre
130kW/400Nm, which most motorhome
manufacturers use, but Horizon’s Clayton
Kearney believes the 150 Multijet is ideal
for the vans.
There are a number of clues around
the Ducato, pointing to the fact that it
is now a motorhome. For a start there
are no standard Fiat windows, instead
Seitz hoppers have been used all round,
including the rear doors – I like that
particular feature. Fitted to the top of the
nearside is a Fiamma F65 awning. That’s
slightly different to the normal caravan/
motorhome style and has been designed
with the van roof profile very much
in mind.
There are several cut-outs in the
Ducato body as well, the mid nearside one
being the bin for two 4.0kg gas cylinders
and the larger offside one being for the
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| The Wanderer November 2013
Specifications
Dometic toilet cassette, which includes
the SOG vapour extraction feature. Two
fridge vents and the power inlet socket
complete the picture. Additional fittings
on the nearside include both 240V
and 12V sockets near the nearside tail
light and external LED lights both front
and rear.
Being a van there are, of course, the
driver’s cab doors but also the sliding
doors and the rear doors. A problem with
both of those is that when open, insect
entry is a problem. A good option offered
by Horizon are the zippered and press
stud fitted screens that fit over both doors
– excellent in warmer weather when good
air flow is desired.
On the Road
I always consider the Fiat Ducato vans to
be the sports car of the motorhome world,
especially with the 3.0 litre engine on
board, I was wondering how the smaller
2.3 litre power plant might perform with
the six speed AMT gearbox. The answer
is quite well. Sure it’s not going to be as
Manufacturer
Horizon Motorhomes
Model
Melaleuca
Base vehicle
Fiat Ducato 150 Multijet
Engine
2.3 litre turbo diesel
Power
109kW@3600rpm
Torque
350Nm@1500rpm
Gearbox
6 speed AMT
Brakes
ABS Disc
Tare weight
2,913kg
GVM
4,005kg
Towing capacity
3,500kg
External length
6m (19ft 8in)
External width
(incl awning)
2.05m (6ft 9in)
External height
(w’out AC)
2.62 (8ft 7in)
Internal height
1.92m (6ft 3in)
Interior height
(above bed)
1.8m (5ft 11in)
Bed size
1.88m x 1.85m
(6ft 2in x 6ft 1in)
CooktopDometic 3 burner with
s/s sink combo
FridgeWaeco 133 litre 12V
compressor
Microwave oven
Sharp Carousel
Lighting
12V LED
Batteries
1 x 200 amp hour
Air conditioner
Opt
ToiletDometic with SOG
vent
ShowerVariable height,
flexible hose
Hot water heaterTruma 14 litre gas/
elec
Water tank
150 litre
Grey tank
55 litre
Gas cylinders
2 x 4.0kg
Price (on road, NSW)$105,000
Good thinking
• External metallic colour
• Insect screens for side and rear doors
• Flexible rear lounge/bed layout
• General internal storage
• Central location for electrics
• Easy driving
Could have been
better
• Smallish kitchen but that’s the price of
compromise
RV Review
lively as the larger motor but if a bit of
economy is desired, both at purchase
time and when on the road, then the
109kW might well suit. Of course the
130kW diesel is certainly available as an
option and one I must confess that I still
prefer. Certainly the 6m/16ft 8in is an easy
handler for any driver, not only on the
open road but easy to park and manoeuvre
around town as well.
Department of the Interior
It’s surprising what can be fitted into a
Ducato van interior. A number of layouts
are possible but this one features a sort
of multi-use club style lounge in the rear,
a nearside kitchen bench and a small
bathroom behind the driver’s seat. The
all-round windows give a good level of
interior light and ventilation and the lightly
hued timber finish of the cabinetry work
keeps the space perceptions reasonable.
Air conditioners are certainly an option
but my review motorhome didn’t have
one, instead a large Sirroco fan has been
fitted in the rear area.
Sleeping Hours
It’s the rear lounge in the Melaleuca that
sets the tone of the layout. It’s designed
with sideways facing seats on either side
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| The Wanderer November 2013
and a third seat filling the rear door area.
It does block the rear door access, but
does allow a large bed to be made up,
using the seat backs as infills. The made
up bed measures 1.88m x 1.85m (6ft 2in x
6ft 1in) which does mean it can be used
either way. Alternatively of course, the
beds can be used as singles and be left
made up. All the windows in the rear
have the integrated blinds (also insect
screens), however, in the cab area, instead
of curtains there are pull out and pull
up blinds.
Sitting Back
Both the cab seats swivel around and
although the bathroom blocks their full
use as a dining/lounge area, the small
table that fits between the seats makes a
smallish but workable eating area, not to
mention a table for the wine and cheese.
In the rear, the sideways lounges also offer
good seating or even laying back position.
A slight disadvantage of a multiple use
lounge is that none of the cushions are
contoured, but that’s an acceptable
compromise. Fitting neatly in between the
seats is the swivelling table; mounted on
a Lagun leg with a swivelling arm, it can
be rotated around and locked in a variety
of positions.
November 2013 The Wanderer |
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RV Review
Occupying the air space above the
lounge are overhead lockers on three sides.
Additionally, the under seat area offers
plenty of storage space, with the rear area
being accessed when the back doors are
open. One additional little feature almost
gets missed though; the seat/bed floor is
raised slightly, so there’s a useful little floor
level drawer for smaller items. In a way it’s
good for small valuables because it’s not
particularly obvious.
Catering
A smallish motorhome like the Melaleuca
is going to have a kitchen to match – no
surprises there. Fitted into the kitchen
bench top is a Dometic three burner
cooktop with stainless steel sink combo.
Underneath the cooktop is that other
useful cooking device, a microwave oven,
whilst the rest of the area is filled with
variously sized drawers. In a rig like this,
drawer space is more space efficient than
cupboards.
Keeping Clean
Compact but usable might well be a good
way to describe the Melaleuca bathroom.
It comes with a Dometic cassette toilet,
variable height, flexible hose shower, and
a small corner wash basin. There is a full
size mirror on the outside of the bathroom
door and a small one inside the bathroom.
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| The Wanderer November 2013
Contact
Ballina Campervan and
Motorhome Centre
299 River Street
Ballina NSW 2478
Ph: 02 6681 1555
www.ballinacampers.com.au
Electrics
For the electrics there are, of course, both
a 240V and a 12V system, the latter being
supplied by a 200 Amp Hour deep cycle
battery. A three stage alternator supplied
charger keeps the battery up to speed
and solar panels are certainly an option.
Something to consider, if you are planning
to travel to remote locations, is to stay with
the 12V compressor fridge. Undoubtedly
one of the most useful features is that all
the 12V switches, battery voltmeter and
water tank gauges are centrally mounted
on the wall above the kitchen bench. Also
fitted there are both 240V and 12V outlets
and the swivel arm for a flat screen TV.
Such location is so that it can be seen
either from the rear seats or the swivelled
cab seats.
Options
The Melaleuca starts at a base drive away
price of $102,000 but my review vehicle
came with a number of options – metallic
paint and colour matched awning ($1,650),
flyscreens on both doors ($900) and the
12V Sirocco fan ($320) which together
with a stamp duty of $140 added about
$3,000.00 to the price tag.
Verdict
In many ways the Melaleuca is a good
example of a number of large van (not
necessarily Fiat Ducato based) layouts
that are available from Horizon. It’s well
put together and in my opinion shows the
experience that Horizon has with large
van conversions - mainly because that
is all the company does. Not to mention
the development and refinement that has
occurred over the years.
Horizon’s Melaleuca is also a good
example of a practical layout that can
be achieved with the Ducato van. It is
certainly well suited to a couple who
prefer a smaller motorhome or a single
person, especially a female who might well
like the security of a fully self-contained
motorhome, or for someone who still has
to earn a living, but desires a weekend
escape machine. It all stacks up quite
nicely, really.
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