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 48 | 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 50 | 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 52 | 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 | 53 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. 54 | 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.