On The Right Track!
Horizon’s Waratah is a great compact motorhome no matter where you’re headed…
by Malcolm Street
Here's a bit of trivia for you rail buffs. Did you know there was once a branch rail line from Booyong (between Lismore and Byron Bay on the old North Coast rail line) to Ballina? I didn't either, but when I was cruising around the back streets of Ballina in a very new Horizon Waratah motorhome I discovered some old concrete piers across the North Creek canal. They are about the only remains of the line which opened in 1930, took 5 years to build and closed just 29 short years later.
That might sound a slightly odd way to open a motorhome review, but it's an example of the multitude of interesting discoveries to be found by simply cruising around in a motorhome – even if you are familiar with a particular area. I was actually there to pick up the aforementioned Waratah motorhome from Horizon Motor Homes and take it for a spin.
The Waratah is built on the familiar Mercedes Benz Sprinter; it being the new 416 CDI model. There are a couple of items of note about the 416CDI, the first being that it has a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of 4490 kg, which given the tare weight of 3250 kg gives it an amazing load capacity. The second is the excellent seven speed fully automatic 7G-TRONIC gearbox.
Like just about all the Horizon van conversions, this one comes with all the expected external features: Seitz wind-out windows, Fiamma F65 awning and an external shower and gas cylinder bin. The one exception to the wind-out windows is the one behind the van sliding door. It too is a slider, thus removing the possibility of a broken wind-out window caused by a hastily opened side door. A recommended option is the zippered insect screens that are fitted to both the side and rear doors: an excellent idea for warmer climates.
Like many a van conversion, the Waratah has no external bin storage apart from that for the gas cylinders. What it does have, though, is a reasonable amount of internal storage space under the bed area in the rear that’s easily accessible by opening the back doors.
On the Road
Unlike the steam trains that ran along the aforementioned railway line, the Sprinter-powered Waratah is a much smoother – and faster – runner! Certainly the 120 kW turbo-diesel and 7-speed gearbox are very smooth performers, while the motorhome itself is very easy to manoeuvre. Like most van conversions the all round vision is quite good, although a rear-view camera wouldn't go astray when backing up. All the driver’s controls and instrumentation seem to be where they should be, including a number of button functions on the steering wheel. The standard radio is quite good, with bluetooth, USB, Aux-input and iPod interface, and it can be expanded to include both a Sat Nav system and the wished-for reversing camera.
Featured in the Waratah is a layout with single beds in the rear, although it's not a walk-through set up. All of the kerb-side wall is taken up by the kitchen bench, leaving space on the opposite side for bathroom and storage compartments. Up front the cab seats swivel around and there’s a forward-facing passenger seat for two on the driver’s side, with a removable dining table between them and the driver’s seat. Note: there are several floor plans available for the Waratah, including single-dining/extra passenger seat and double bed models.
Although a van interior is more confined than a coach-built motorhome, the general layout of the Waratah, combined with a light decor and windows all round, still gives a spacious feel. Lighting is 12 V LED all round, including for the bed and dinette reading lights, so after hours illumination is good, too.
One of the great features about the front dining/lounge arrangement is that it's quick to set up: just swivel the front seats and extend the table if needed – an extension piece swivels out from under the main table – so there's room for four, at a pinch. Two options were fitted in this area: matching cloth inserts for all the seats and the two forward-facing passenger seats, complete with seat belts. Underneath the seats the area there is efficiently used by having small drawers fitted. Although the front area isn't exactly set up for lounging around, the single beds in the rear can certainly be used for that purpose.
Time to Eat
A characteristic of many van conversion kitchens is that they are surprisingly large when compared to much longer motorhomes. This Horizon one is no exception and is well kitted out with a combo three-burner cooktop and sink, Waeco 110 L fridge and a Panasonic under-bench microwave oven. There isn't a grill, and if one is desired it won't be able to be fitted under the cooktop given that's where the fridge is. In that case some of the generous drawer and cupboard space might have to be sacrificed. Given that the kerb-side bed butts-up almost against the cooktop, then some form of splash/fat protection for the bed wouldn't go astray.
Above the window behind the kitchen bench, the wall area comes fitted with all the 12 V switches, Truma hot water switch, voltmeter and water tank gauge. Also supplied is a 12 V outlet although there isn't a handy shelf nearby for parking devices being charged. This area is the entertainment centre with both a Fusion radio (optional) and a flat screen TV that when swivelled can be seen from either end of the vehicle. A 5 V USB outlet is hidden in one of the rear overhead lockers, although access might be an issue if the locker is full.
Between the single beds, the floor has been raised slightly. That reduces the ceiling height to 1.74 m (5 ft 9 in) but not only allows an under-floor drawer, it also improves the under-bed storage space. Both single beds measure 1.93 m x 0.66 m (6 ft 4 in x 2 ft 2 in), have overhead lockers and a cabinet in between. With opening windows on either side of the van and a roof hatch, there's plenty of cross-flow ventilation. Plus, the rear doors can be opened if desired.
Although a relatively small bathroom is fitted it's one of the biggest in its class and offers all the desired features: cassette toilet, flexible hose shower and a small corner wash basin. The bathroom cubicle is of course fan vented and the toilet has an SOG vent system installed.
What I Think
It seems to me that although something the size of this Waratah might seem a bit small in some eyes, it's a motorhome that offers plenty of versatility with potential to suit a variety of travelling styles. Although it only sleeps two it will seat four legally and can easily be used as around-town transport. It won't fit in multi-storey car park, but will manage larger car parking spaces. As well as that, the Waratah will certainly cope very well with wide open spaces and long distance travel. Coupled with Horizon’s great design and build quality it certainly has much to offer.
- Single bed layout quite practical
- Given size of van, good internal storage
- Optional Insect screens on external doors
- Extra passenger seats
- Plenty of kitchen drawers
- Charger sockets awkward locations
Click HERE to visit the Horizon Motorhomes' website.
Click below to download a PDF of the full test, including specifications, photos and contact details.
Horizon Motor Homes Waratah 2015 (1962 KB)