Europe has a much greater appreciation of what makes a good commercial vehicle great thanks to the nature of Europe’s transportation requirements. As consumers, we tend to follow European trends, particularly when it comes to anything automotive.
The Fiat Ducato makes up about 83 per cent of motorhome base sales in Europe. So the abundance of Fiat Ducatos as motorhome bases in New Zealand should come as no surprise. It also explains why Caravans International (coincidentally, an Italian company) uses the Fiat Ducato as its vehicle of choice.
And why the only official CI distributor in New Zealand, Shane Smale of Walkabout Motorhome Sales and Rentals, has a wide selection of Fiat Ducato-based motorhomes, including the hero CI Riviera 82XT.
This handsome motorhome is trimmed out with a gold cab (Shane’s personal preference and a point of distinction for a Walkabout vehicle) and a crisp, two-tone body. It also has an adventure-inspiring “swoop” decal that encapsulates the body and overhanging roofline for a cohesive look.
Shane has been in the motorhome business for two decades and has worked with many companies supplying vehicles to the industry. None of them, he reckons are as good as the Italians. “CI Motorhomes is an Italian coachbuilder that has been in the game longer than I have,” he says. “They build about 6500 motorhomes a year, so they know more than a bit about what they’re doing.
I think what sets them apart from others is the respect they have for their distributors.” That would be people like Shane, except he is the only authorised CI distributor in New Zealand. That said, the Italian company still values what he does.
In CI’s eyes, Shane’s turnaround is significant and steady. He travels to Italy once a year to specify motorhomes to the levels of sophistication Kiwi buyers will enthusiastically accept. Those vehicles are then built to Shane’s recommendations. They come into the country, are duly sold, and the cycle starts all over again.
The Riviera has an exceptionally cleverly designed interior. It is a true 5-berth with seatbelts for all occupants. Such a passenger complement might suggest the interior should feel a tad cramped, but this is not the case.
Once inside, you feel you are in a much larger motorhome, a feeling amplified by many windows and a generous skylight that floods the space with natural light. At night, the lights of the Riviera (doesn’t that sound poetic?) create a warm and welcoming ambience to put the ‘home’ in motorhome. Modern LED lighting has transformed the motorhome industry, says Shane, and especially in the CI Riviera vans.
The Riviera 82XT cabin is what you would expect of a Fiat Ducato. Its features include egonomically positioned controls, including cruise control and Bluetooth switchgear for the top-end factory-fitted audio system, a central command touchscreen, reversing camera and Fiat’s patented, robotised Comfort-Matic 6-speed transmission, allowing for automated or fully manual gear shifting.
You also have the advantages of traction control, electronic stability control, hill holder, ABS brakes and dual front airbags. All CI motorhomes include the upgraded rain-sensor wipers, automatic headlights and top-of-the-range Fiat stereo, which would typically be optional, but CI includes as standard.
The driver and passenger seats are fully adjustable and swivelling units which, when not being used while driving, integrates the cockpit with the living spaces, as does the overhead skylight.
Aft the cockpit is the dining/lounge area, which is immediately obvious, given the compact dining table with booth-style seating for two in line with the swivelled passenger seat. However, the table extends to the right, where another two booth-style seats make up the complete complement of social seating. If anyone’s counting, that’s seating for seven – plus the driver. And before we take a look at the kitchen – a showpiece in itself – there is the “and” I mentioned earlier.
This is a drop-down bed which, when deployed, provides a sleeping arrangement for two, with the twin booth seats doing double-duty as a single sleeper. When the sun goes down, and the moon is high – as seen through the skylight if nothing else – the lounge dining room, becomes an elaborate but very comfortable sleeping area.
I was impressed with the Riviera’s kitchen. It demonstrates Italian finesse in its execution, presenting all a kitchen needs with panache and style. A low splashback protects the eco-leather upholstery of the booth seating in front of the kitchen and also serves as a natural demarcation between dining and preparation areas.
With its L-shaped Fenix stone countertop, the compact kitchen would not look out of place in a full-sized apartment. Between the three-burner gas cooker and generous sink is a wealth of bench-space with a particularly ingenious hidden storage area for various kitchen essentials.
The kitchen is also home to clever and aesthetic shelf and spice rack storage. This doesn’t only keep everything tidy, but also adds to the impression that this is a space where chefs create rather than merely cook. Naturally, there is a rangehood, an oven and grill and a 140L, 3-way fridge freezer combination. It is a Masterchef kitchen worthy of the description.
While the drop-down double and dual-duty sofa beds are impressive, the main bedroom with its two north/south twin beds is probably the one to fight for. Closed off from the rest of the motorhome by dual sliding doors, access to the bedroom is considerably wider and therefore easier than one might have expected.
Overhead storage is both generous and elegant. However, the under-bed storage takes ‘generous’ to a whole new level. For although the north/south bed configuration could be considered luxuriously decadent, it provides storage space for not just Africa, but most of Europe as well.
And while twin singles may not be everyone’s cup of tea, those beds are exquisitely comfortable and well-appointed. Again, for a low-line motorhome, the distinction of space in the Riviera is second to none. Every room is an entity, and yet there is a cohesiveness of quality that runs throughout.
Closed off from the bedroom (and indeed the rest of the motorhome), the bathroom is perhaps not the room of choice upon which to dwell. But it is our last stop, and this is the way the Riviera is laid out. The aft bathroom is an east/west design, with the toilet on the right, vanity in the middle and a step-up shower on the left. Despite being slightly higher than the floor, the shower cubicle is very generous, especially in height.
An adjustable shower head – judiciously positioned at its extreme height – emphasises the loftiness of the shower, with its ceiling-mounted towel rail providing more bathroom space overall. Also impressive was the amount of storage in the bathroom.
The elegant overhead lockers have transitioned even through to here, but that’s not the best bit. There is also a massive storage cupboard beside the toilet with enough space for towels, sheets, duvets, pillowcases and anything else that is better stored away.
Walkabout Motorhome Sales and Rentals may not have road frontage, but the product is clearly first rate. And it’s worth going off the beaten track to find out more. The quality of build is excellent, the ingeniousness of design and utilisation of space superb.
The Riviera 82XT is sure to impress those new to motorhoming and delight those looking to upgrade. For those who might still be sitting on the fence – hop off it, and buy (it’s painful on that post after all). I suspect, however, when you compare apples with apples, the price, quality and specification of the Riviera 82XT are going to bring you back to Shane with your chequebook out.
Specifications for Itlalian Rivera 82XT
|Engine||Fiat 2.3 130hp|
|Gearbox||6-speed robotised AMT|
|Fresh water||1 x 100L|
|Grey water||1 x 115L|
|Power||100amp battery +120kW solar|
|Heating||6kW Truma water and heating|
For more information, visit cimotorhomes.co.nz