UCC’s Pearson Lowline is a versatile Kiwi design with plenty to offer…
by Malcolm Street
Based in Christchurch, UCC isn’t the largest motorhome manufacturer in New Zealand, but it does offer an interesting variety of layouts. Built on either European or Japanese cab-chassis, like Mercedes Benz and Mitsubishi Fuso, the difference for the most part is that the former come with a walk-through cab and the latter don’t. The subject of this review is UCC’s Pearson Lowline – a Benz-based motorhome with a walk-through cab and more than a touch of style.
Based on a Mercedes Benz Sprinter 516 CDI cab-chassis, the Pearson is available in two models: the B-class Lowline and C-class Highline; the latter with an over-cab bed. As you might expect the Lowline is quite a streamlined looking motorhome, at least from the front. Like many of its contemporaries from other manufacturers, it still looks a bit boxy from the rear.
As is usual the Sprinter cab-chassis is delivered from the factory without a roof or rear wall, to provide walk-through cab access. It’s a special motorhome-specific model that even includes a bleed off the main diesel tank for the motorhome’s diesel-fired heater. About the only modification UCC does is an extension to the chassis at the rear.
Construction wise the motorhome walls have a fibreglass exterior, aluminium framing (with insulation) and a plywood interior, all of which are vacuum bonded together. On top the roof is a full composite structure. Motorhome entry is via a Dometic hour glass-style security screen door, while unlike many a manufacturer, tinted sliding glass windows are used all round.
Like some other UCC designs there are plenty of external storage bins: Two along the kerb side, one at the rear and three along the drivers side. Most are available for full use, with only one used for the gas cylinder, while another is partly taken-up by a Truma water heater and water pump. This, though, an excellent place to store the power lead. Both 95 AH house batteries are mounted on a slide-out tray beside the entry door.
On The Road
Although 2.2 litres might sound small, the common rail 120 kW/360 Nm turbo-diesel delivers a 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 work could opt for the 3.0 L V6 turbo-diesel, which delivers 140 kW and 440 Nm. With the smaller engine the Sprinter comes with a fully automatic six-speed gearbox, but if you move up to the V6 you get an extra gear as well, called the 7GTRONIC in Mercedes speak.
For the most part other brand’s gearbox are Automated Manual Transmissions (AMTs), except the Transit which only has a manual shift). These AMTs work fine as an automatic gear changing system, but can be found wanting by drivers who desire snappy shifts every time. However, in recent times Iveco has moved to a full auto gearbox and I'm thinking it won't be long before its Italian stablemate, Fiat, moves that way too.
On the road in the Pearson there were a few squeaks and rattles, but these come with any motorhome. They weren’t excessive and my driving pleasure wasn't ruined by any surprises. Very handy was the rear view camera screen fitted to the right hand side of the dashboard.
The Gross Laden Weight (GLW) of the Pearson is 4490 kg, making it legal to be driven on a standard New Zealand car driver’s licence. With the tare weight coming in at 3600 kg it gives a very good load capacity of nearly 900 kg, depending on accessories fitted.
In some ways the Pearson’s layout is more orientated to a rental motorhome than a private owner. It's been designed to have two living areas; one behind the cab that features two inwards-facing lounges, and one at the rear with a club style lounge. In between them is the kitchen along the driver’s-side wall and the bathroom between the kerb-side rear lounge and the entry door.
The internal decor definitely has an emphasis on light and airy, with (in this case at least) a general white/beige colour scheme being offset nicely by bright blue inserts in the upholstery. Adding another nice touch are the Roman blinds fitted to all windows except the kitchen, which has a slimline venetian fitted.
Of the two living areas I have to say the rear one wins the prize for best view, with its U-shaped lounge and full surround windows. It comes with a two-pole mounted table if needed, as well as drawers under the seats and overhead lockers all ‘round. What you also get there are small upper and lower cabinets that are butted up against the bathroom wall, along with a flat screen TV mounted on the upper cabinet.
Up front the cab seats swivel around, thus creating a complete second lounge area. A Lagun swivel-arm mounted table can be used easily from either the cab seats or sideways lounges. Under the kerb-side seat is a small safe, along with some storage space. On the opposite side the lower under-seat area is occupied by the Eberspacher diesel heater and assorted electrics, but a shelf fitted neatly above makes good use of the limited space available. Although having two separate lounge/dining areas might seem a bit generous, it does offer considerable flexibility in the layout, which I’ll get to in a moment.
Time To Eat
Compared to the rest of the motorhome the kitchen bench layout does look on the small side. However, it does have all the essentials: a three burner cooktop and grill, stainless steel sink with smoked glass lid and at the forward end, a Dometic 190 L fridge with microwave oven above. Bench working space isn't exactly prolific, but the multiple and variously sized drawer storage space certainly is. Overhead lockers fill the space above the kitchen bench, whilst above the microwave oven, the cabinet there has been utilised for wine bottle storage (I’ll drink to that - Ed)
Here is where the layout versatility comes in. Both the front and rear lounges can be made-up into beds, with the rear bed measuring 2.1 m x 1.83 m (6 ft 10 in x 6 ft) and the front measuring 2.1 m x 1.0 m (6 ft 10 in x 3 ft 3 in). For two people prepared to sacrifice the rear view the rear bed could be left made up during the day, although that seems rather a waste. For four people, like two adults and two children, both beds will have to be made up each evening. That is unless the C-class version of the Pearson is opted for, which provides and extra fixed bed above the cab. Your choice!
I'm not a fan of oversize bathrooms in any RV but I do like room to swing around without bumping elbows. So the Pearson's bathroom, with its Dometic cassette toilet, variable height, flexible hose shower and smallish corner wash basin does suit rather well. It also comes with a wall mirror, opening and frosted window and a towel rail.
What I Think
I noted earlier that the Pearson has something of a rental motorhome layout. That does not, I should point out, make it undesirable, impractical or user-unfriendly. In fact just the opposite, because it offers a wide variety of living and sleeping options, especially if the over-cab bed is opted for. Also, it can be used by more than two people, although I suspect having six on board might be a little crowded! In short, it's a very versatile layout with plenty to offer. And that’s the lowdown!
- Generous external storage
- Very flexible internal layout
- Two living areas with tables at either end
- Club lounge set up in rear with scenic windows
- Well set-up electrics
- Smallish kitchen
- Beds have to be made up every night