But three’s no crowd in this compact United campervan....
by Malcolm Street
On a recent-but-short trip to Auckland to visit the Covi RV Show, United Campervans was kind enough to lend me one of its vehicles: A 2 plus 1 Premier. United has a wide of campervans and motorhomes available for rent from both its Auckland and Christchurch depots. They also have two ranges of vehicle: Those that have been on the road for less than two years and the more economical Alpha range, which have been on the road for longer. One of the advantages of motorhome rental is that it makes a fly/drive trip whether for holiday or work very easy.
My 2 plus 1 Premier was built on a Mercedes Sprinter: a 6.94 m (22 ft 9 in) long CDI 311 van conversion to be precise, powered by an 80 kW 2.2-litre turbo-diesel motor that drives through a five speed auto gearbox.
One of the advantages of a van conversion is that there is no body to build, the motorhome manufacturer just cuts out for things like the cassette toilet, gas cylinder bin, water heater and windows, although in this case the flush-glazed Sprinter windows were retained. These windows have limited openings and this isn’t such a problem in the Kiwi climate, but it doesn’t work so well in Aussie. A slight oddity is the fresh water filler, which is fitted to the kitchen bench inside the sliding door: a system that works quite well but slightly confusing if you walk around the motorhome looking for it with the sliding door closed! Behind the driver’s door is the mains socket, with the power lead being conveniently stored under the driver’s seat. I did have a problem with the power lead one night – it wasn’t long enough and I had to turn the motorhome around.
Like most van conversions there isn’t any external storage, but opening the rear doors gave access to the rear, including a locker for the water and drainage hoses, both of which were supplied in a plastic bag. In case you were wondering, the 2 plus 1 refers to the sleeping accommodation. In effect there is room for two adults in a double or two single beds and one child, no taller than 1.75 m (5 ft 9in). Although it might sound odd in something this size, it sort of has two separate dining/sleeping areas, although most people won’t use both in the same role.
On the Road
Whilst the 2 plus 1 Premier Sprinter has one of the lowest powered engines in the Sprinter range, its relatively small size means it isn’t a slouch on the road and when pushed, moves through the gears fairly swiftly. Its size also means it can be handled easily by one person; meaning outside assistance really isn’t needed when parking or manoeuvring. For the inexperienced motorhome driver, particularly those from overseas, the width of the Sprinter – or lack thereof – is useful on some of the narrow New Zealand roads.
Being a van conversion, the 2 plus 1 Premier has quite a simple layout with two sideways facing lounges in the rear, a nearside kitchen, mid-offside bathroom and small dinette behind the driver’s seat. Both passenger seats swivel around, with the driver’s side being used in tandem with the table and seat behind. That seat comes with a seat belt but it can also be folded down to form up a single bed, best for a child or small adult. Because it’s single pole-mounted, the table doesn’t offer a lot of manoeuvring room, so to speak.
Above the rear seat, a flat screen TV is mounted outside the bathroom wall, such that it can be seen from both the swivelled front seats. A slight disadvantage of this location is that it’s quite easy to bump into the TV when passing by. In the rear, the two sideways-facing lounges are quite versatile in that they can be used as seats, single beds or made up into a very large double. Rear access is closed off by a seat cushion that can be removed if not wanted, but also acts as a convenient place to store travel bags.
Mounted on a simple swivel mount, the table can be rotated for various uses, including dining for three people. It can also be pushed out of the way to the offside when not being used. The table is at its most fiddly when being lifted out for making up the large bed. This is why, on my first night in the 2 plus 1 Premier and being on my own, I tried out using one single bed. It worked quite well, but the width of 600 mm (1 ft 11 in) does mean limited rolling around room. On my second night I made up the full bed, which did give much more room but meant a lot more fiddling around. Given the small dinette at the front, it’s possible at the loss of the lounge seats to leave the bed made up.
Running down both sides in the rear are a bank of overhead lockers. Like the ones above the kitchen bench and the table at the front, they are quite spacious and are curved-in at the base, making them not only look reasonably classy but also practical in being out of the way – where one’s head might be! Like a few other motorhomes I have seen, a slight problem is that is no lip on the lower shelf meaning that often when opening the door after travel, something falls out.
Under both seats are the usual storage areas, accessed by the lifting the ply hatch. In the case of the nearside seat, there is also a small security safe. In a motorhome this size wardrobe space is going to be limited, but effective use has been made of the otherwise unusable airspace at the end of the offside bench to offer a generous amount of hanging space.
Time to Eat
Like many a large van design, the 2 plus 1 kitchen extends into the sliding doorway. Not that is really a problem because there is still room for getting in and out of the motorhome and it does leave room for a relatively spacious kitchen. A moulded bench top, which includes the drainer for the square stainless steel sink, sits above a storage space that consists of two cupboards, three large drawers and a wire basket slide-out pantry. Like any good rental motorhome, all the cupboards and drawers were filled with all the necessary eating and cooking essentials ready for use.
Adjoining the kitchen bench area is a Smev four-burner cooktop/grill, with an 85-litre Waeco fridge underneath and a Sharp Carousel microwave oven in the overhead locker: All in all, a relatively compact kitchen but still very practical to use.
Fitted into the bathroom is a bench-style cassette toilet and a moulded in wash basin that is supplied by an extendable hose outlet, which can also be used for a shower. A frosted glass window supplies a generous amount of natural light, while ventilation is effected by a ceiling exhaust fan. Outside the bathroom a panel is the mounting point for hot water heater controls, 12 V switches, battery gauge and space heater switch: All very handily located for quick access.
What we Think
Although some think that large van conversions are really too small to be a motorhome, I don’t think so at all. Compared to a campervan they are a palace, but with all the driving and parking benefits of a relatively small vehicle. One of the benefits of the United 2 plus 1 Premier is that it offers a very flexible layout for both a single person and couple with/without a child. It also provides the added attraction of several dining and sleeping arrangements, depending on exactly how you like to travel. Although I really only had a short trip, the 2 plus 1 Premier could certainly be used for something much longer.
- Good size for one or two people
- Second dining table at the front
- Good internal storage space
- Rear lounge/bed set-up
- Good lighting
- Fixed front table
- Method of TV attachment
- Short power lead
Click HERE to visit the United website.
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