Supper Size Me!
With its extra dinette seat you can invite another person for supper, breakfast or a ride…
by Malcolm Street
One of the advantages of a large van conversion is it offers the convenience of a motorhome in a vehicle still quite easy to manoeuvre around town. Horizon Motorhomes builds an interesting range of vehicles, all of which are large van conversions. Some are designed for just two, but others – like the Banksia Plus 2 – offers sleeping for two but seating and travel versatility for four.
Currently for its van conversions, Horizon use either the Fiat Ducato or Mercedes Benz Sprinter. In the case of the Banksia Plus 2 it's Ducato’s extra long wheelbase (ELWB) model, which at 6.36 m (20 ft 10 in) long is well suited to motorhome use. Clues around the van that this is a motorhome conversion include the roof mounted Fiamma awning, hot water heater flue, gas cylinder bin, cassette toilet door and, of course, the windows.
A feature of Horizon motorhomes is plenty of outward opening windows, including in the rear doors. But one window that has caused a bit of an issue is the one directly to the rear of the sliding door. Personally I like the window there, but it's always had potential for conflict with the sliding door if you’re not careful – just ask our illustrious Editor! Fortunately, Horizon has come up with a solution and persuaded Dometic to import a sliding window that matches the shape and style of the others. Nice! And proof you can sometimes have your cake and eat it. Another Horizon option that comes highly recommended is the set of insect screens for both side and rear doors. Easily rolled up when not needed, they’re fitted with zippers and work a treat.
Being a van conversion there aren't any external storage bins, but there is very nice storage area underneath the bed, easily accessed by opening the rear doors. There's also an internal door that provides access and it’s surpassingly handy. For wet items, like hoses, I'd certainly be recommending a plastic bin or two in the rear under-bed area.
On the Road
Much to my liking the Banksia is fitted with the most powerful Ducato engine, the 3.0-litre unit that produces 132 kW and 400 Nm. I'm not a lead foot – well not often – but that 132 KW engine, in tandem with Fiat's 6-speed AMT gearbox, means easy cruising and the capability of maintaining posted speed limits without drama. On that note, I understand an upgraded Fiat Ducato is on its way to Australia and one of the things Fiat has done is beef up the 2.3 litre engine to put out 130 kW and 400 Nm, similar to the current 3.0 litre unit. I wonder if this means the 3.0-litre unit’s days are numbered?
General road noise intrusion isn't bad and most squeaks and rattles are usually packing related and easily resolved with a towel or cushion in the right place. For driver/passenger comfort one of the options fitted to this Banksia Plus 2 were fabric inserts in the seats, matching the seat at the dinette. In the safety department a dash mounted reversing camera is standard. And unlike some full imports that use the Ducato as a base vehicle, local Ducatos like this come with a Tomtom SatNav as standard.
Given its size and relatively good visibility down both sides, the Banksia Plus 2 is a snack to reverse and manoeuvre around in caravan parks, car parks and the like. Although they really make a difference when in use at night, the blinds fitted to the cab side windows do tend to increase the impression of an already thick windscreen pillar.
Also worth a mention are the passenger/dinette seats. I've seen, or should I say felt, some square-backed seats that come under the category of emergency transport only, but these have definitely been fitted with passenger comfort in mind. Good to see!
Climbing into the Banksia Plus 2 is quite easy: Open the sliding door, press the electric step switch and you’re in. From the cab, of course, it's just a matter of swivelling the seats around.
Making full use of the swivelling cab seats, the overall layout consists of a front lounge/dining area, mid-nearside kitchen, mid-offside bathroom and an east west bed at the rear. Given its dimensional constraints the interior of the Banksia Plus 2 gives a surprisingly good feeling of spaciousness. I mention that because I recently looked over a van conversion of European origin and although it featured what the Europeans are very good at – use of space – it somehow missed the mark on any feeling of spaciousness.
General internal storage is very good, I have to say. Apart from the more obvious overhead lockers and kitchen facilities, there's some wardrobe space fitted in between the bed and bathroom.
As mentioned above the lounge/dinette seats are all fitted out for driving, but that doesn't mean they’re uncomfortable after hours. Quite the opposite. And the adjustable table fits in quite well. Wall mounted under the table are 240 and 12 volt outlets, along with two 5 volt USB charger outlets. A tad awkward to get at with the table in position, the good news is they’re not particularly vulnerable to being bumped by legs.
In the airspace above both the driver's seat and the table, an open shelf and lockers provide a generous amount of storage space. Down below, three drawers are fitted underneath the false floor and a floor locker door gives access to the underseat area – which is much better than fiddling with plywood hatches under seat cushions.
Time to eat
Given the size of everything else in this motorhome, the kitchen bench offers a surprising amount of, well, everything! A stainless steel combo unit provides three burner gas cooking and a washing-up bowl. Not having a drainer in the latter does allow decent bench space on both sides, plus there’s a hinged flap that swings into the doorway area for extra bench space if required. Taking up the underbench area are both a 110-litre Waeco fridge and a Panasonic microwave, but that still leaves room for an amazing six drawers of various sizes. Much easier to get at in a confined space than cupboards.
The limitation on an east-west bed in a van conversion is naturally the width of the van. Still, this one does measure in at a respectable 1.89 m x 1.34 m (6 ft 2 in x 4 ft 3 in), which isn't bad at all. Windows all round do much for light, fresh air and space perception, while to improve air flow an any-which-way adjustable Sirocco 12 V fan has been fitted. Although not cheap they certainly work well and include a number of timer settings. Twin reading lights are fitted on both sides and overhead lockers are fitted all round.
There aren't classifications for bathrooms but if there were, then this one would fit into the category of just-enough-room-to-fit-everything-in-without-swinging-a-cat. That is, enough room for a flexible hose shower, Dometic cassette toilet and a small wash basin – all of which can be used without too much difficultly.
What I think
Horizon is one of the few manufacturers in Australia that specialise in large van conversions – and it shows. They have a variety of layouts available on different base vehicles, which means there’s probably something for everyone. I reckon a manufacture doesn't have to show flash new models every year, but certainly has to continuously evolve and improve its designs.
That's exactly what the Banksia Plus 2 demonstrates. It offers a good use of space and a practical design that can comfortably sleep two, but equally comfortably transport two more with ease.
- Well proportioned design
- Light and bright interior
- Comfortable seats all round
- Screened doors
- Easy to grab cupboard handles
- Sliding window behind door
- Excellent load capacity
- Fiddly power socket location under table
- Handing the keys back!