They do things a little differently on NZ’s South Island…
Review and images by Malcolm Street
UCC Motorhomes is a little unusual in being located on New Zealand’s South Island, rather than with most of the NZ industry on the North Island. That, however, hasn’t stopped Rob Floris and his team producing a small but varied range of well made motorhomes with a good choice of layouts.
UCC also features a good range of base vehicles and in this short test I’m looking at the Tekapo model on Ford’s popular Transit. The existing Transit, in case you aren’t aware, is just about to be superseded with an all-new model – something iMotorhome is certainly looking forward to.
The UCC Tekapo is available either on Ford’s Transit or Mercedes’ Sprinter cab-chassis. There are several factors that might help your decision about motive power, but two of them are quite simple. First up, the Transit based motorhome is about $20,000 cheaper than the Benz and the second is that the Transit is only available with a manual gearbox, whereas the Benz is auto.
Our review motorhome came on a Transit cab-chassis and in some ways although the Ford is regarded as the poor relation in the Euro cab-chassis family it’s really not a bad motor at all and there are plenty of Ford dealers around, too!
Undoubtedly the most striking feature of our review Tekapo, were the striking graphics along the side. For those not familiar with the south island of New Zealand, it’s a stunning image of Lake Tekapo, with the famed Church of the Good Shepherd right in the middle.
Moving away from the art department to the construction department, the exterior of the motorhome body is fibreglass. The walls have a fibreglass exterior, aluminium framing with insulation inserted and plywood for the interior; all of which are vacuum bonded together. Above, the roof is a full composite structure. Entry is via a Camec triple-lock security screen door, while tinted sliding glass windows are used all round – even those behind the Tekapo graphic.
There are three external bins and the two at the rear on both sides are mostly available, except for the gas cylinder in the nearside bin. A second gas cylinder is available as an option and it depends a bit on how you travel, but I think I’d prefer two smaller cylinders than just one large nine kilo item. Mid offside is where the house battery bin is located, with both batteries on a slide-out tray for easy access.
On The Road
I quite like driving a manual gearbox so the Transit wasn’t exactly a hardship and the turbo-diesel engine performed willingly enough. Generally speaking the motorhome tracked along very nicely, with only a nominal amount of rock and roll. Like all motorhomes there were a few movement noises coming from the rear, but they were not annoying and didn’t disrupt cab conversation. Persons of a taller height might need to check out the proximity of the cab roofline. Like its contemporaries the Transit is really a commercial vehicle, but has just about all the necessary safety and convenience items, like driver and passenger air bags and handy drink bottle holders. Although the radio/CD player is the standard item, hiding in the glove box is a handy 3.5 mm socket connection you can plug your iPod/mp3 player/whatever into the sound system without difficulty.
Above, the over-cab bed-base can be pushed back if not needed, giving more head room and easier cab access, but can also be slid back into position if the 2.1 m x 1.5 m (6 ft 11 in x 4 ft 11 in) Luton bed is required.
To me one of the characteristics of the UCC range is that the interiors generally have a lightly hued colour scheme and the Tekapo is no exception, having cabinetry work and wall colourings that assist greatly with space perceptions.
I found the layout not so much interesting, but a little surprising in some ways. Moving through the entry door reveals a lounge/dining area to the left, a kitchen area on the opposite wall, the bathroom to the right and a double bed across the rear. Given many people seem to desire an island bed these days, I was a little surprised by this but UCC’s Rob Floris told me that is what a number of his customers had asked for within the given 7.4 m of the motorhome’s length, so who was he to disagree? A fair and reasonable point I thought.
One of the assets of the front lounge area with its swivelled cab seats and sideways facing lounges is that they create a reasonable area to sit around in. The cab seats aren't quite at the same level as the lounge seats but it's all quite workable. For dining and anything else that needs a table a Lagun swivel mounted item is provided. The Lagun mount has an advantage and a disadvantage: it can be moved around quite easily but tends to be a bit wobbly at the far end, if using something like a lap top computer. I reckon a free standing table might be a useful investment for those who might need a firm worktop. On that subject there's a bit of a lack of power points – either 12 or 240 V – in this area.
TV viewing is quite easy in the lounge. With the flat screen TV mounted on the bathroom cabinet, by the entry door, it can be seen with relative comfort from most seats. Something that is a little different in this motorhome are the curved shelves that sit above the lounges, instead of the more usual overhead lockers. It does cut down on internal storage a bit but at the same time offers a usable alternative.
Time to Eat
In some ways the kitchen bench is a bit European in size. Most of the bench area is taken up by the four -burner cooktop and stainless steel sink, sans drainer. Like any good design the under-bench area not taken by the grill/oven has a good set of drawers as well as a wire basket slide-out. Above the bench two lockers fill the space, but I did ponder about extra shelving – although the angle of the roof line would make that a bit awkward.
Part of one locker is taken by the 12 V switch/battery voltmeter/water tank gauge/radio & CD player panel – hidden but easily accessible. On the subject of electrics, there are power points on both sides of the kitchen bench.
Filling the space between the lounge seat and kitchen bench is a 190 litre two-door three-way fridge, with microwave above. The latter is set back a bit, along with an open compartment above.
Filling the entire rear of the Tekapo is the 2.1 m x 1.4 m (6 ft 11 in x 4 ft 7 in) bed. Given surrounding walls and cabinetry it might feel a bit closed in, but the surrounding windows help offset that very nicely. Overhead lockers are fitted all round and there are under-locker lights at both ends. The sleeper at the rear doesn't get anything but the inboard person does score a bedside cabinet with two drawers, power point and wardrobe hanging space above. Under the timber slatted bed base, there's a handy drawer and the bed base can be lifted to stash larger items.
One of the key features of the Tekapo is a fairy spacious bathroom; large enough to have a separate shower cubicle, Dometic cassette toilet and small vanity cabinet. Other useful items include a towel rail and wall mirror. Ventilation is courtesy of an extraction fan-fitted light in the shower, as well as a large sliding window.
What I think
I did wonder about the rear east-west bed layout of the Tekapo, given buyers these days seem to prefer an island bed. But as stated earlier this is in response to buyer requests, so who am I to argue?
Generally speaking the Tekapo’s layout works well, in particular the front area with its swivelled seats and sideways lounges – especially if there is just a couple travelling. I suspect that what also makes this model attractive is the availability of either the Ford or Mercedes chassis.
- Lake Tekapo graphic (looks classy)
- Front lounge/dining area
- Reasonable internal storage
- Generous water capacities
- Relatively large bathroom
- Fit and finish
- Sliding windows can’t be left open in rain
- Smallish kitchen
- Single gas cylinder
Click HERE to visit UCC's website.
Click below to download a PDF of the full test, including specifications, photos and contact details.
UCC Tekapo (1722 KB)
UCC Tekapo (1722 KB)