UNDER THE SOUTHERN CROSS
Suncamper’s star performer...
by Malcolm Street
Sydney-based Suncamper is a typical example of an Australian motorhome manufacturer: Been around for years, experienced in its products, large enough to build a good motorhome, but small enough to offer personal service.
Under the direction of Keith Harrison, Suncamper produces a variety of models from a two-berth campervan to its flagship Sydney model. Many readers will have met Mike Rowe, the Company’s affable salesman who often seems more intent on a chat than a sale, but often ends up selling a motorhome anyway!
Mid-range in the Suncamper line-up is the aptly named Southern Cross: A comfortable and capable 6.27 m (20 ft 7 in) two-berth motorhome that offers a relatively spacious interior.
Sitting beneath the Southern Cross is the venerable Ford Transit cab-chassis. In some ways the Transit is seen as the poor cousin amongst the European light-commercial manufacturers, but it does offer some budget advantages in the purchasing and servicing areas and there are plenty of Ford dealers around the country, too. Like all its Euro counterparts, the Transit is a flat -floor design, which making it very easy for converters.
To the Transit’s chassis, Suncamper mounts a steel floor frame and a welded aluminium body frame. The frame is filled with insulation and then covered with ply sheeting on the inside and fibreglass composite on the outside. Seitz hopper windows are used all round and the front-mounted door is a Hehr-style non-security fitting. There is just one external storage bin; under the bed at the offside rear corner. Two other bins at the rear are for gas cylinders and the Thetford toilet cassette. Both the entry-step and the Carefree awning are electrically operated.
On the Road
Powered by a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel that delivers a healthy 114 kW of power and 385 Nm of torque, the Transit isn’t a bad performer. About the only disadvantage is its six-speed manual gearbox. This is fine for many drivers, but for some reason Ford has never developed an automatic gearbox, not even an automated manual (AMT) version. Being a mid-length motorhome with a very short overhang, the Southern Cross isn’t particularly hard to manoeuvre or park and offers the usual good all-round view from the cab. The cab comes with all the useful features found in a light commercial cab these days: like power steering, power windows, power mirrors, and comes with all the usual essentials found in a car, including remote central locking and safety features like air bags for both driver and passenger. Cruise control is an option that was fitted to the test vehicle and its steering-wheel mounted controls made it very easy to operate. It also works well with the Transit’s torquey motor. It’s part of an optional Professional Pack from Ford that includes the passenger airbag, electronic stability control, traction control and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Front side airbags are also optionally available.
For some years Suncamper motorhomes have had a relatively plain looking interior. It’s surprising, then, just what a difference items like a gloss finish to the cabinetry work, curved overhead-locker doors and leather upholstery can make an interior’s look and feel: quite pleasing to the eye, one has to say.
Although the mid-offside cupboard protrudes somewhat, the large window area and two large roof hatches compensate and gives the interior a nice open look. For night time use, LED technology has been used to good effect with both the overhead lights having multiple illumination settings and the ceiling panel above having concealed LED strip lighting. It’s fun figuring out how to change the overhead LED settings: touch operated, they change when you take your hand off, not when you first touch them.
Mains-power points (240 V) are fitted to the rear-end of the kitchen bench and above the offside wardrobe, thus being able to be used when sitting at the dinette. In addition to the latter, there are also the necessary 12-volt switches, hot water switch and water tank gauges. 12-volt sockets aren’t fitted anywhere and there’s no house radio/CD player as a standard item – something I always think convenient to have.
Up front, both cab seats swivel, with the driver’s seat turning to face the dinette seat and fold-out table. This does give two people a seat each without both being squeezed into the forward facing seat but the protruding cab side does make it slightly awkward sitting in the driver’s seat. Perhaps a slightly longer table might be good? The passenger seat is great for simply resting and stretching your legs out. It, along with the driver’s seat, have to be used if watching the centrally offside-mounted TV, otherwise both watchers need to be lying on the bed at the rear.
General storage in this area is quite good, with the under-seat area partly taken by the house battery, plus overhead lockers above the table and around the driver’s cab area. The latter are quite good for stashing small but oft-needed items.
Time to Eat
The chefs in the place, the kitchen bench comes with a three-burner cooktop, alongside a stainless steel sink without a fixed drainer (but with a detachable plastic one), and a stainless steel cutlery rack that fits to the smoked-glass lid. Given that the 90-litre three-way fridge fits under the cooktop, there isn’t room for a grill, but a microwave is fitted into the rear of the overhead locker space. This locker space nicely complements the four drawers and single cupboard beneath the bench top.
With a motorhome this length an island bed really isn’t going to happen, so a 1.98 m x 1.22 m (6 ft 6 in x 4 ft 8 in) bed is fitted into the rear offside corner. Unfortunately, the bed has a chamfered corner to allow easier bathroom access, but this means only a shorter person can sleep on the near side. While there isn’t room for bedside shelving, there are two contemporary-looking LED reading lights, plus overhead lockers all-round.
Fitted into the nearside corner is the bathroom cubicle, complete with bench-style cassette toilet and a fixed-height flexible-hose shower. What it doesn’t have is a hand basin/vanity unit, because that is located outside the cubicle, between it and the kitchen bench. In many ways this is a good idea because it allows more than one person to use the facilities simultaneously. It also means the vanity unit doesn’t have to be squashed into the bathroom, and features like the wall mirror can be used without stepping into the cubicle.
What we Think
Having looked at several Suncamper motorhomes in the past, this Southern Cross shows a number of worthwhile improvements in general décor and fit-out. The base price starts at $120,000, but our test model had several extras fitted, like air conditioning, an electric awning, television and chrome hubcaps.
The overall length of 6.27 m (20 ft 7 in) is in that happy compromise zone that means it’s not an overly large motorhome, yet it’s comfortable enough to live in without being squashy. Not surprisingly, there are a few items that have been squeezed a bit to fit in, but overall the Suncamper Southern Cross is a very liveable motorhome for two people and well worth investigating.
- Kitchen bench area
- Bed length
- Internal storage
- LED lighting
- Bright and breezy interior
- No radio/CD player in the rear
- Driver’s seat side of the table a bit awkward
- No griller
- Non-security entry door
Click HERE to visit the Suncamper website.
Click below to download a PDF of the full test, including specifications, photos and contact details.