Only the Italians could make a slide-on this sexy!
By Malcolm Street
Bonetti Campers is a relatively new name in the campervan and motorhome industry, but the man behind the company, Stefano Bonetti, is not. Between 2007 and 2012 Stefano was the Fleet Operations Manager for Kea Campers Australia. As you might imagine that gave him considerable experience in everything from two berth campers to a six berth motorhome. Since the demise of the original Kea Campers, Stefano has been busy on several projects, which includes offering an RV repair service – Stefano is a qualified mechanic – as well as having available a large stock of ex-Kea Campers spare parts.
However, the item that has drawn considerable attention is the interestingly named Musica slide-on camper. Fully made by an Italian company, Mondo Pick-Up, it sets a new standard in slide-ons and certainly plays an interesting tune.
It has to be said that many a slide-on has a distinctly boxy look about it, which is why the Musica tends to stand out in the crowd. By comparison it has a very curvy, streamlined appearance that extends to covering the ute tub walls. From a distance it looks almost like a cab chassis motorhome.
The appearance is mostly due to the fibreglass monocoque construction of the entire body. Not only does that give a stunning appearance, but very strong construction as well. Along with that are other advantages as well: good water resistance, minimal maintenance and excellent insulation characteristics. Additionally, a range of colours can be used, including matching that of the host vehicle.
The side windows are a Seitz hopper-style on the right and a sliding window on the left. In the rear wall, the entry door has a blind that is integrated into the double glazing of the top half window. Surprisingly, there are three external hatches: one on the offside for the gas cylinder and two on the nearside. Neither of those offers much general storage but do give access to important items like the water/space heater and Thetford toilet cassette.
Out of sight on the roof are the two very flat looking Solibian 130 W solar panels, along with a Dometic air conditioner.
Attaching the Musica to the host vehicle is simply done by an electro-mechanical locking system that utilises four conical pins bolted to the vehicle tray. For raising and lowering the Musica, four inbuilt aluminium legs can be operated by remote control and they can also be used for levelling up the camper.
The connecting pins aren't the only modifications that are done to the carrying vehicle, because the suspension comes in for some very special attention. It is produced by Oram, an Italian company that is a supplier to Rally Teams for events like the Dakar Rally.
This particular setup was engineered in collaboration with Mondo Pick-up, who have the sole trade rights on their camper suspension system. It is based on oversized shock absorbers with an external oil/nitrox reservoir and adjustable bases for the springs at the front and rear. Depending on the vehicle, the rear shock absorbers may have a coil spring fitted to carry some of the additional load of the slide-on camper, or have reinforced leaf springs. The shock absorbers front and rear, plus the adjustable spring base, allows the level of vehicle to be adjustable when laden. There is also a valve that can be adjusted to suit the load of the vehicle.
Our review vehicle, a Nissan Navarra, had all of the above, including coil springs over the rear shocks.
On the Road
I have to say performance on the road was of considerable interest to me. Not so much in terms of the performance of the Nissan – its 2.5-litre 126 kW turbo diesel certainly delivered the goods through a five speed auto well enough – but rather the vehicle's handling. Being somewhat top heavy, slide-on campers are often not great in the ride handling department, suffering both from side-to-side sway as well as fore and aft pitching.
Having found a few rough roads in a national park I gave the vehicle a bit of a bouncy road test. Undoubtedly the streamlined nature of the Musica helped, but there's absolutely no doubt that the vehicle suspension modifications helped no end. There was little evidence of the usual sideways sway, although to be honest it wasn't a particularly windy day and both a smoother ride and reduction in fore and aft pitching were readily noticeable.
Stefano also has an interesting video of the Musica being driven in Italian mountain snow conditions, which to someone who has spent time in mountain country looked quite impressive!
Given their nature, it's a fact that slide-on campers often appear cramped inside. Given the curved appearance of the Musica one might expect the same, but it's not. Sure, there isn't room for dancing a jig, but everything has been put together in very European style, that is in both the careful use of space and the general decor. In our review model the predominantly orange coloured upholstery and roof lining catch the eye and look pleasingly different. However, if that's not your thing then there are plenty of other colours available. In the looking good and practical department is the ceiling moulding that extends over the bed. It has LED strip lighting around the outside, inset speakers and LED lights and makes a nice surround for both the roof mounted air conditioner and the hatch above the bed.
In motorhome style, the bed is fitted into the Luton, leaving the middle area for the offside dinette and the nearside kitchen. Amazingly, that still leaves room for a small bathroom in the rear nearside corner and a cupboard opposite. Under that cupboard is not only the gas cylinder bin but also a very sophisticated set of electrical controls that includes the mains circuit breakers and the 12 V jack and locking pin controls
In a rig this size you'd not expect too much room to stretch out on the L-shaped lounge, but there's certainly room for two to sit and at least one person might put their feet up. Both seats have under-cushion storage compartments and the wall seat can be drawn out to form a second bed. A novel addition are the fold-down foot rests. For the table there's a single pole mount but it's not just a simple pole, instead the table mounting not only allows the table to be moved around but also to fold over sideways.
Tine to Eat
A compact kitchen anyone? There's certainly one here, complete with a sideways mounted two burner cooktop and a round stainless steel sink. Under both are three different sized drawers, one with a cut out to fit around the sink, whilst the cabinet alongside has benchtop space above with cutlery drawers and Waeco 12 V fridge below. An overhead locker fills the top corner area and offers a surprising amount of storage space. Like just about everything else in the Musica, the kitchen is a very workable proposition.
At first glance the front bed looks a bit small, but it folds out quite simply to form a north-south bed – something a little different to most motorhome Luton-style east-west beds. Even when folded out, it still does not take up too much room, just covering up a bit of seat and kitchen bench space. On both sides of the bed are narrow circular storage compartments with the novel idea of rotating doors that are quite good for stashing small items. Oh, I should mention that the bed can also be lifted up, giving access to both the under bed area and the three small storage compartments.
Like the bed, the bathroom on first glance looks on the small side. No worries, it comes with a slide-out! However, instead of the usual sort of slide-out, which slides out of a vehicle, this one slides in, into the entry door area. Perhaps it should be called a slide-in? Anyway, this part is mainly for using the shower. Both the Thetford cassette toilet and fold-down wash basin that can be used with the slide-in closed up. Slightly different from the moulded design usually seen, the wash basin hinges from the side, not the wall behind the toilet. This is quite a well appointed bathroom, with LED strip lighting, a mirror door overhead locker and wall mirror.
What We Think
Slide-on campers for utes and tray trucks have very definite advantages and disadvantages. Their principal advantage is that the carrying vehicle can still be used for other purposes and the principal disadvantage is that with the slide-on on board, as previously noted, vehicle handling isn't always great. However, with the Musica design and the vehicle suspension modifications, several of those problems seem to have been solved.
It's hard not to be impressed by the Musica. It is not only sophisticated in its engineering and build but it looks and feels sophisticated as well. Of course that comes at a price and it isn't cheap. However, for the traveller who effectively desires a small motorhome but wants to have the flexibility of a separate vehicle, the Musica is a winner. I reckon it plays a melodious tune that will be a hit on the charts!
- Streamlined design
- European style inside
- Good use of space
- LED lighting
- Slide-in/out shower cubicle
- Vehicle suspension modifications
- Excellent interior storage
- Pricey, but you gets what you pays for
- Sliding window rather than hopper on nearside
- Lack of storage for wet hoses.
Click HERE to visit the Mondo website.
Click below to download a PDF of the full test, including specifications, photos and contact details.