The UCC Brunner gets our tick of approval
by Malcolm Street
UCC Motorhomes is based in Christchurch, NZ. Previously known as Universal Caravan and Coachbuilder (in case you were wondering), the company – under the direction of Rob Floris – makes a range of motorhomes named after New Zealand lakes that are based on either Mercedes Benz Sprinter or Mitsubishi Fuso cab-chassis. Whilst both are not difficult to drive, the former is more car like and the latter more truck like. For those new to motorhoming, UCC offers a try-before-you-buy arrangement – and there’s nothing like a few days across Arthurs Pass or in the southern lakes area to get to know a prospective new vehicle.
Under the UCC Brunner is a Mercedes Benz Sprinter 516CDI cab chassis. Translated that means a 2.2-litre, 120 kW, 360 Nm turbo-diesel motor with a five-speed automatic gearbox and stopping power provided by ABS disc brakes and the Benz Electronic Stability Program (ESP), which this writer can testify works very well, having driven Sprinters on a closed test circuit. Additionally, from a safety point of view, the Benz does come with all the safety features that are expected in a normal passenger car, including air bags as standard for both passenger and driver.
The Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) – maximum legal loaded weight – is 4490 kg, making it legal to be driven on a New Zealand drivers’ licence and the tare weight comes in at 3600 kg, giving it a load capacity of nearly 900 kg depending on the accessories fitted. Something to be kept in mind is that the water tank has a capacity of 150-litres (which equals 150 kg) kg and the grey tank, 200-litres.
Like many a motorhome construction process, the Benz has its roof and rear cut-out to accommodate internal cab access. That’s actually how the Sprinter leaves the Mercedes factory, as a motorhome spec’d model. That even includes a bleed off the main diesel tank for the motorhome diesel-fired heater. About the only modification that UCC does is an extension to the chassis at the rear.
Construction wise, the exterior of the motorhome body is fibreglass. The wall sheeting sheet sits over aluminium framing (with insulation inserted) and a plywood interior lining, all of which is then vacuum bonded together. On top, the roof is a full composite structure. Entry is via a Camec security screen triple-lock door, while tinted sliding glass windows are used all round. An asset of glass windows is that they don’t scratch easily but they are not usually available these days in the hopper-style, which can be left open in the rain. There are three external storage bins: one at the offside rear and two on the opposite side. One 9-kg gas cylinder sits in the gas locker and it depends how much gas is used, but there’s an argument for using two smaller cylinders (i.e. always having a spare) rather than a single that can run out.
On the Road
The Mercedes Benz Sprinter is the most expensive of its contemporaries but it does come with a couple of things that the others do not. One is the Mercedes Benz cachet – you can put what value you like on that – but the other is that it comes with a full automatic gearbox. Everyone else’s self-shifting gearboxes are the Automated Manual Transmissions (AMTs), which work fine, mostly, but are wanting for some drivers who desire smooth, snappy shifts every time. Personally, I’m happier with a manual shift.
Although 2.2-litres might sound small to many ears, the common-rail turbo-diesel motor delivers surprising (and relatively economical) punch. It performs as well as or better than its contemporaries, but anyone desiring a bit more grunt for mountain country should opt for the 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel
All that said, the Sprinter is a fine driving machine that handles as well as any light commercial vehicle with a big white box on the back. For the novice that is not meant to be a scary comment – driving most modern motorhomes is just like driving a car in many respects – they are just a little larger. Inside, whilst there were a few squeaks and rattles that come with any motorhome, they weren’t excessive. An asset of motorhome driving is that the driver and passenger sit above most cars and can see the road ahead quite clearly.
One thing about a 7.4-metre motorhome is that it provides plenty of interior space. I make that point because often in shorter motorhomes, it’s difficult to get in an island bed without cramping everything else. In this layout, the island bed has been fitted into the rear bedroom area, but that still leaves space for an offside kitchen, nearside combined bathroom and a front lounge area.
The general décor is quite simple and whilst the timber look is prevalent, it doesn’t dominate and there are some tasteful touches like the curved locker doors and the timber partitions at either end of the kitchen bench. Roman blinds are fitted to all the windows. LED light appliances are fitted in all the relevant places and the 240V power points are mostly well distributed as well. Out-of-sight but definitely an asset is the diesel-fired Eberspacher space heater: experience has shown these work very well indeed!
Up front, quite a comfortable area has been achieved, with both driver and passenger seats swivelling around (an option) and working in well with the sideways-facing lounges on both sides. Because there is no roof in the Sprinter cab, getting to-and-from the cab seats is quite easy. A Lagun swivel-mounted table is fitted to the front of the offside lounge seat and can therefore be utilised in several different ways or simply kept out of the way altogether. Naturally, there are storage areas under the seats. The flat screen TV, which is mounted on the front wall of the bathroom, can be seen quite easily from the front seats and in our review motorhome, the TV came connected to the optional roof-mounted satellite receiver.
Time to Eat
Getting together a decent sort of meal in the Brunner kitchen shouldn’t be too difficult. Along the benchtops sits a stainless steel sink (sans drainer) and a four-burner Smev cooktop with grill and oven underneath. Having the latter two does mean that even without mains power for the microwave, a good variety of cooking can be achieved. On that very subject – the microwave oven –it is located in the in the overhead locker area but set lower, so that it is at a more user-friendly height. Above the microwave is a small compartment whilst alongside are two wine bottle holders. In the adjoining locker is the usual storage space plus the electrical panel with 12V switches, water-tank gauges and battery monitor. Also handy, but out of sight, is the radio/CD player.
Under the bench a Dometic 117-litre three-way fridge takes up most of the space, but alongside it are four drawers of different sizes. The bench-top area can be enlarged, too, courtesy of a slide-out shelf that sits above the fridge.
In the rear, the island bed measures 1.8 m x 1.35 m which is long enough for a most people but anyone taller than average might need to request a longer bed length. Overhead lockers run along both walls and across the back wall. They are supplemented by two side wardrobes and bedside cabinets, with a gap in between for shelf space, plus an under-bed drawer.
Unless a large bathroom area is desired then this one certainly is of adequate size – room to move without taking up excessive space. Fitted in is a variable-height flexible hose shower, Dometic cassette toilet and a corner wash basin with cupboard underneath. A frosted window supplies both natural light and ventilation. A towel rail and internal wall-mirror complete the bathroom fittings, but handily, there is also a mirror on the outside wall of the bathroom.
What we Think
The Brunner is certainly a well appointed motorhome but I should point out that this particular vehicle was fitted with quite few options like the awning, swivel seats, solar panels, satellite TV and oven. Indeed, I consider one or two of these items should be “non-option” options. With this design, UCC has achieved what many desire in a motorhome layout: an island bed. It, along with a good sized front lounge area that incorporates the cab seats does mean a slightly squeezed bathroom and kitchen, but that’s a compromise to be expected in 7.4-metre motorhome. It’s not a bad compromise I should point out, just what the user has to be happy to living with.
- Island bed layout that isn’t squashy
- Flexible front lounge area, especially with optional front swivel-seats
- Curtains that go right around the front cab area
- Bright and breezy interior aided by two large roof hatches
- Good sized bathroom (unless a separate toilet is really a must)
- Generally good storage inside and out
- A few too many options, especially with essentials like swivel seats and the awning
- No power point handy to the front lounge area
- Storage compartment above the microwave oven a bit hard to reach for shorter people
Click HERE to visit the UCC website.
Click below to download a PDF of the full test, including specifications, photos and contact details.
iMotorhome Roadtest - UCC Brunner - 2012 (1277 KB)