IN TWO MINDS
A few days getting to know Suncamper’s prototype twin-bed Sherwood...
By Richard Robertson
Hot on the heels of our day out in the Sherwood 4X4 reviewed elsewhere in this issue, Mrs iMotorhome and I had the opportunity to do some travelling in Suncamper’s brand new twin bed Sherwood.
The layout is a significant departure from the ‘traditional’ Sherwood and it’s a real swings-and-roundabouts design trade-off in many ways. Whether it will suit you is a matter of personal priorities; but as we found during our four-day sojourn, some things you just have to try to see how they work for you – and you’re allowed to change your mind.
Old and New
Suncamper is a small manufacturer and that sells factory direct. This means it takes trade-ins and for a while a 2007 Mitsubishi Triton 4WD ute with a very basic camper body was sitting out the back, looking for a new home. When the idea for the new Sherwood layout came about the decision was taken to use the Triton as a test bed, seeing as Suncamper already had compliance for the vehicle on its books.
Having driven a steady stream of Toyota HiLuxes in recent times it was interesting to slip behind the wheel of a six-year old Triton. With about 140,000 km on its turbo-diesel engine the combination of age and milage meant it was never going to feel factory fresh or as sprightly as a new vehicle, but for our travels it certainly held its own. In an interesting aside, it’s worth noting that if you have an older Triton (or HiLux for that matter) Suncamper can build a Sherwood on the back, saving you a considerable amount of money.
What’s the Plan?
The twin-bed Sherwood has lengthways single beds in the over-cab nose, a driver’s-side kitchen, kerb-side dinette and rear bathroom. Outside, there’s a decent side storage locker on the kerb side, just aft of the passenger’s cab door, which accesses space beneath the dinette. The entry door is just to the rear of the back axle, but not right in the corner. Between it and the back wall is a generous vertical locker ideal for chairs, etc, that can also take taller items like skis, because it has a false top inside that can be removed, which accesses space in an inside cupboard. Very clever! We actually used this locker to carry two pot plants home from the In-Law’s place before we went on our travels, which illustrates what a useful space it is. There is no additional external storage space, but owner’s of ‘conventional’ Sherwoods will be pig-sick at the amount this new layout provides!
Another departure for this Sherwood is Suncamper’s use of Chinese-made Maygood windows. These CLOSELY resemble the popular European style Seitz-brand windows used in many motorhomes, meaning they are double glazed acrylic hopper-style windows with inbuilt insect and privacy screens. Unlike Seitz windows, however, the Maygoods have a much more robust and user friendly internal screen system that Australian hands can easily use. If you’ve ever used the Seitz windows you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Being mounted on a 4X4, the test Sherwood had checker-plate lower body trim and like all Suncampers now, LED exterior lighting. The 4X4’s raised height also necessitated the fitting of two-step electric entry stairs.
Better by Design?
If you’re familiar with the traditional Sherwood layout then this twin bed model is a very different proposition. Mrs iMotorhome’s preference is for layouts that allow the cook free reign in the kitchen and place seated occupants in a separate lounge/dinette, well out of harm’s (her!) way. This has always been one of the Sherwood’s strength’s; along with its wrap-around rear windows that provide plenty of light as well as panoramic views from the dinette.
The twin bed Sherwood’s centre kitchen and inwards-facing dinette changes all this, placing the cook and bottle washer within conflict range and providing said bottle washer with views of the kitchen and cook first and the outside world second. By trading kitchen and dinette space, however, Suncamper has been able to provide a rear bathroom that includes a generous shower cubicle and separate loo. Is it worth it? Yes. And no. Read on...
Motorhomes are a compromise of space and features and you need to weigh up personal requirements with those provided by any vehicle you are considering. One manufacturer I know defends occasional comments about the relatively tight dimensions of its vehicle’s bathrooms by asking how much time you’ll spend in it compared to living in the rest of the vehicle. It’s a valid point, especially the smaller the vehicle, and one I totally agree with. However, at the end of a long/cold/dusty day it’s lovely to luxuriate in a generous shower, so this is really a horses-for-courses argument and there is no right or wrong answer.
A Living Thing
Living with the twin-bed Sherwood is easier than the above might suggest. Also, Suncamper’s use of high gloss cabinetry with self-locking latches and concealed LED ceiling lights lends a pleasing feeling of quality and as our short trip progressed we found ourselves quickly slipping into a system. Here are some thoughts and observations about the vehicle:
Lounging/Dining: The inwards facing dinette runs along the kerb-side wall and has a small L-shaped return at the front, where the body rises to form the over-cab bedroom. It’s generous for two and in normal use the most comfortable location is in the corner of the “L,” facing diagonally aft. The removable swivel table is a sort-of free form affair that could be a bit bigger at its bulbous end, making dining for the person in the corner a little easier. A more easily removable pole-mount table with Zwaardvis multi-directional top mount would be even better, allowing the whole area to be opened up when the table isn’t required (Its could be stored in the vertical corner cupboard by the entry door, I think). In the evenings I found myself sitting in the corner with my legs on the lounge while watching TV, while Mrs iM either sat on the step seat (more on that later) or watched from bed (or watched TV on her iPad).
Cooking: Running down the driver’s side between the beds and bathroom, the kitchen has a decent amount of bench space and is well equipped. At the bathroom (rear) end is a single-bowl sink with glass lid and fold-down flick-mixer tap, below which is a single cupboard and a stack of four drawers. The four-burner cooker, with grill, is concealed beneath a lift-up section of benchtop in the middle of the kitchen, which provides valuable extra working space when not cooking. To the left of the cooker is the remainder of the benchtop, beneath which is the fridge. There are a couple of cupboards below the cooker plus a run of overhead cupboards the length of the kitchen work area, which also incorporate a rangehood above the cooker and a microwave above the fridge. You can cook up quite a storm in this little Sherwood and those fond of doing so are unlikely to be disappointed.
Bathing and Things: The rear bathroom isn’t quite full width, due to the corner external locker/internal wardrobe thingy just inside the entry door. It has a sliding door that recesses nicely between the kitchen and shower cubicle, while the ceramic loo sits rather prominently in full view, beneath a small mirrored shaving cabinet. Suncamper was at pains to point out this was a prototype vehicle, with many detail design points still to be decided. So the absence of a bathroom hand basin, for example, wasn’t the issue it would be in a full production vehicle. The separate shower, with its opaque slide-across door, seemed particularly large and was a welcome and unexpected surprise the first time we used it. For those few lovely minutes each night the dinette/kitchen/bathroom design compromises seemed entirely worthwhile!
Snoozing: We were keen to try the single beds, as in some smaller vehicle the only bed is often a bit small for our liking. Running lengthwise along the vehicle, each bed has a small foot extension to bring it to full length (1.9 m), which comprises a small board that drops in and a small extra cushion to match. Because they’re right in front of you and at chest height, each only took about 30 seconds to make up. A clever feature is a swing-down step box which, during the day, folds up between the beds, providing much better through-cab access than a standard Sherwood. At night the step box hinges down over the cab opening and not only makes for easy bed access, it makes a great extra seat. Mrs iM used it for watching TV and while waiting for things to cook, and we’ve suggested Suncamper pads the base and back to make it a ‘proper‘ extra lounge seat. The beds themselves, at 1.9 m x 0.7 m where even big enough for me, and with big windows beside each, a reading light, above-window shelf and between bed storage box the twin bed layout worked particularly well.
Despite its compact dimensions and our initial concerns over practicality, our time in the prototype twin-bed Sherwood was enjoyable and over too soon. In fact we stayed away an extra night, about 90-minutes short of home, just because we could. What was most interesting was contrasting our preconceptions with our experiences and seeing how our priorities and perceptions changed as we travelled.
In the end we decided we could easily live with the kitchen/dinette compromise, given the advantages of the single beds (like not climbing over one another to get to the loo) and the luxury at the end of each day of a shower big enough to pick up the soap in – and dry off! We also liked its generous (in-class) external storage.
Suncamper is experimenting with other layout options, I believe, so take this review as a guide, not gospel. It will also only be available new on Toyota’s HiLux, hence the details in the Spec’s page. The bottom line is the Sherwood Twin is a versatile and fully featured little motorhome which, like it’s traditional sibling, is more than capable of taking one or two people on an extended tour in comfort and without breaking the bank. What more could you want?
- Compact and manoeuvrable
- Twin bed versatility
- Car licence only
- Quality fit and finish
- Good external storage
- Big shower
- Living space compromises
- Smallish water capacity
- Still limited cab access
Click HERE to visit the Suncamper website.
Click below to download a PDF of the full test, including specifications, photos and contact details.