ROYAL ROAD TRIP
Spending time with Suncamper’s Sovereign Prestige....
by Richard Robertson
The trip came together quickly and quite out of the blue: Suncamper needed its Sovereign Prestige at the Bendigo Leisurefest and I had the time to oblige. Mrs iMotorhome was also available and the plan was a few days on the road to and from the show to really get to know Suncamper’s most luxurious motorhome.
In the end time constraints put paid to the leisurely ramble across the late spring countryside, replacing it with a mad dash in both directions that wasn’t ideal but still allowed time to get to know this capable and comfortable machine.
The Sovereign Prestige is a B-Class motorhome built for two, but can sleep four if required. Built on Ford’s ubiquitous Transit cab-chassis, it’s also available on the Fiat Ducato, Iveco Daily, VW Crafter or Mercedes Benz Sprinter, at a price premium.
In case you aren’t aware, all Suncamper model names start with the letter “S” and are named after Australian towns or cities. The Sovereign gets the Prestige moniker added because its Suncamper’s range-topping model, with an interior designed in consultation with an interior designer and incorporating the highest quality cabinetry, fabrics, fixtures and fittings.
Standard Prestige fittings include reverse cycle airconditioning, diesel-fired central heating, rich cherry timer finish, a reversing camera, slide-out barbecue, electric awning, outdoor shower, electric entry step and a flat screen HD TV with DVD/AM/FM/MP3 sound system with iPod connectivity.
All Suncampers are quite compact and the Sovereign Prestige is no exception, measuring just 6.89 m (22 ft 7 in) long. The body has two large electric roof hatches/skylight and a fan hatch over the bathroom, plus Dometic Seitz double-glazed single-hopper windows with in-built flyscreens and privacy blinds all ‘round.The entry door is a Herr unit with separate (non-security) flyscreen and there is an illuminating grab handle alongside, plus an awning light and a blue step light by the first step, inside. It’s a pity, however, that neither the awning or step light can be operated while standing outside: Their switches are with all the other light switches, in a black plastic panel (along with all the other electrical controls) above the door.
Outdoor storage is limited to a decent-sized rear boot only accessible through a large hatch on the kerb side, plus a small compartment above the slide-out gas barbecue and a small storage locker on the driver’s side, just behind the cab. A mixture of LED and traditional external and clearance lighting is used, but while the rear light clusters are housed in a nice looking moldings the lights themselves don’t quite live up to the Prestige title, with the interior wiring connectors easily visible. Surely the range-topping model deserves LEDs all-round?
Construction-wise, the Sovereign Prestige follows Suncamper’s proven construction method of a sturdy welded aluminium frame on a steel floor frame, with a single-piece roof that helps reduce the possibility of water leaks. Fully insulated, with smooth outer composite wall panels and interior plywood paneling, all fittings are screwed to the aluminium framework, while cabinetry is vinyl-faced ply of glued-and-screwed (not stapled) construction. It’s a system developed over more than 30 years and Suncampers are well known within the industry for their durability and longevity.
Ford’s Transit has been with us since Adam was a boy and he and Eve probably used one to help move out of The Garden when they unexpectedly had to leave. Driving through dual rear wheels, the current model is tough and durable, with parts and service easy to find across Australia. It’s also a pleasant drive and although nearing the end of its model life it can hold its own in most situations.
For 2012 the Transit received a motor transplant, replacing the long-serving 2.4-litre engine with a smaller-yet-more-powerful 2.2-litre ‘Duratorq’ common-rail turbo-diesel. Ford slid the change in at the beginning of the year with little fanfare, but the smaller engine picked up 11 kW and 10 Nm over the larger model. The ‘little’ engine now puts out 114 kW @ 3500 rpm and 385 Nm at 1600-2300 rpm: highly respectable figures for such a small displacement engine. Fuel consumption has also been improved and for the record, I recorded an average figure of 14.4 L/100 km while pushing the Sovereign Prestige along at whatever the posted maximum legal speed was.
The biggest thorn in the Transit’s side is the lack of an automatic transmission. The dash-mounted six-speed manual is light and easy to use, with a handy hill-holder for hill starts that keeps the brakes on for a few seconds when you take your foot off the brake pedal and move it to the accelerator. Word is an all-new Transit is due in 2014 and an auto shifter is high on the priority list, and for motorhome manufacturers it can’t arrive soon enough.
On the road the new engine is silky smooth with plenty of grunt, while the stubby dash-mounted gear lever shifts easily between ratios. The lack of steering wheel reach/rake adjustment is one concession to the Transit’s age and the side mirrors are starting to look a little small alongside the competition, but this is still a comfortable and enjoyable vehicle to drive in any situation. And even after two, ten-hour drives neither me nor my good wife had any vehicle-induced aches or pains – and you can’t ask for better than that. I also have to note the Transit has excellent headlights, with a strong low beam and a penetrating high-beam, aided by internal height adjustment.
Cab airconditioning and dual front airbags are included, as is a leather-wrapped steering wheel with cruise control, plus radio controls on a column-mounted stalk just below. For 2013, Transits will pick-up front fog lights and Bluetooth as standard, which are both welcome and worthwhile equipment additions.
Step inside and you’ll find the working heart of the kitchen to your left, with the dinette (which makes up into a double bed) opposite it, immediately behind the cab. To your right you’ll find a half-height wardrobe with extra bench space and a mirror on top, plus the main bed in the rear kerb-side corner. Directly opposite the entry door and aft of the dinette is the pantry, fridge/freezer and microwave, while in the driver’s-side rear corner is the bathroom, alongside the bed.
The interior looks and feels quite upmarket, with its high-gloss deep cherry cabinetry finish, dark marble-effect bench-tops, plush upholstery and wood-effect flooring. There is also a plethora of interior lighting, including concealed LED strips, LED saloon lights and touch-operated white/blue mood lighting. Turn them all on an the Sovereign Prestige lights up inside like a Christmas tree! Some dimmers would provide the finishing touch, I feel, to really help set the right mood every time.
Going against the current minimalist equipment trend, the Sovereign Prestige’s kitchen gets a full complement of appliances. Pride of place goes to a stainless steel Thetford Caprice Mk 111 cooktop with 3 gas burners and an electric hotplate on top, plus a gas grill and a full gas oven that would keep any road chef happy (including the good Mrs iMotorhome). Above it sits a stainless steel rangehood that’s externally vented, while a floor-mounted 2-door 184-litre Dometic AES 3-way fridge/freezer with mirror-finish doors sits across the aisle (between the dinette and bathroom), with an un-branded microwave above it.
The main kitchen bench unit sits between the entry door and the front cab. The cooker is next to the entry door, while the single-bowl sink is at the other end, by the cab. Both have glass lids that provide valuable extra bench space when not in use. The main kitchen drawers, a set of four, sits between the cooker and sink, while there is a small drawer beneath the cooker and a cupboard beneath the sink. Cleverly, the top kitchen drawer is quite deep and has a smaller, sliding cutlery drawer inside it.
There are four cupboards above the kitchen bench and extra space on either side in the cut-out area above the cab, plus cupboards above the dinette and beside and above the microwave. Between the fridge and dinette is a slim, slide-out pantry unit with four baskets, which is a welcome inclusion. All have Suncamper’s self-locking catch system that means as soon as they’re closed they’re locked, and while this is simple it’s very effective.
Natural light and ventilation are no problem, thanks to a window above the kitchen bench, an electric roof skylight and the entry door right beside the cooker. However, care must be exercised as you can’t have the entry door secured open if the kitchen window is open. A careless person could fling the door open and crack the window, while a strong gust of wind could wrench from your hand – with the same result.
Dining and Other Things
The cafe-style dinette is directly opposite the kitchen and comfortably seats four. It’s large window also adds to the abundance of natural light and fresh air, while beneath the seats is extra storage accessed though hinged seat bases.
Because of the Sovereign Prestige’s design, neither cab seat swivels, so the dinette is the only place to relax, apart from the bed. The cab roof has been cut out slightly to allow easy through-cab access and because there is no over-cab bed, the over-cab area has a series of wood paneled doors around its perimeter. The central two open to reveal the flat-screen TV, which is fixed against a backing wall but can be viewed from the dinette or bed and operated by remote control. Ditto the automotive-style DVD/audio player, which is mounted separately, above the forward dinette seat.
Nestled in the driver’s-side rear corner of the Sovereign Prestige is the bathroom, which features a separate vanity, loo and shower cubicle.
Entering the long-but-narrowish bathroom through the slightly angled door, to your left you’ll find a compact vanity with sink along the outside wall; a large window above it and a mirror at head-height above that. Turning to face the sink, which has a chrome flick-mixer tap, there is a generous medicine cabinet recessed into the wall between the door you just came through and the outside wall. Beneath the sink is a cupboard with two doors, the left-hand one of which opens to reveal a stylish chrome toilet roll holder attached to its inside. Very neat.
The toilet is a swivel-headed Thetford cassette unit that sits snugly between the vanity and shower cubicle.
The shower cubicle is quite generously proportioned and has an opaque door that rolls out like a horizontal roller blind, providing privacy and ensuring the remainder of the bathroom stays dry. It has a height-adjustable, chrome-finished shower unit that can also be used as a hand shower, a small flick-mixer tap and a moulded-in shelf, plus a fan-hatch for light and ventilation.
Beside the bathroom, in the kerb-side rear corner of the Sovereign Prestige, is the main bed. Measuring 1.88 m x 1.32 m (6 ft 2 in x 4 ft 4 in) and with a chamfered corner to provide extra floor space by the bathroom door, it’s longer than a double (on the outside wall side) but not quite as wide. And with walls on both sides there’s no room for bedside knickknacks.
On the plus side there are large windows above the bed head and on the outside wall, plus another large electrically operated skylight. A sexy blue LED strip light runs around the bed head for ‘mood’ effect, while a pair of reading lights are included for catching up on that good book.
Moving on, the dinette converts to a second double bed measuring 1.72 m x 1.25 m (5 ft 8 in x 4 ft 1 in), if required, by sliding out metal supports from the seat ends, dropping the table and installing bed boards stored beneath the seats.
There’s a lot to like about the Suncamper Sovereign Prestige. It looks good outside, in a conservative sort of way, while impressing inside with a high standard of finish and an equipment list to match.
A few refining touches, like dimmable interior lights, revised light switch positioning and external LEDs all ’round would make it even better, while the bed is a matter of personal preference.
Ford’s Transit does stirling service and is a comfortable and economical drive while Suncamper’s proven construction method and durability mean it should provide years of faithful service, with nothing more than routine servicing and maintenance.
If you’re in the market for a modern, compact motorhome for two with as much substance as style, be sure to check it out.
- Compact dimensions
- Upmarket interior
- High standard equipment list
- Sound construction
- Rear bed a bit narrow
- Some light switch positions need revising
- Door/kitchen window conflict
Click HERE to visit the Suncamper website.
Click below to download a PDF of the full test, including specifications, photos and contact details.
iMotorhome Roadtest - Suncamper Sovereign Prestige - 2012 (1924 KB)
Cross country in Suncamper's Sovereign Prestige