Autosleeper Sigma EL

By: Lawrence Schäffler


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A classic example of a product that’s more than the sum of its parts, Autosleeper’s Sigma EL is a satisfying blend of British manufacturing and Continental styling – rolling smoothly on a comfortable, Peugeot chassis

Autosleeper Sigma EL
Autosleeper Sigma EL

With a history spanning some 50 years, Autosleeper is one of the UK’s most-respected motorhome manufacturers. Its vehicles are imported into New Zealand by Drury’s Auckland Motorhomes, and with great success. Perhaps a little too much success: the biggest problem about an Autosleeper is securing one. The local agent took three Sigma models to the Hamilton motorhome show earlier this year: he sold them all and collected orders for two more. Lead time is around four months…

The hot demand for the Sigma is easy to understand. It’s superbly presented, with a warm ambience, quality joinery and fittings, practical use of space and clever design features. And best of all, that Peugeot chassis (identical to the Ducato unit used by Fiat, just with a different badge) makes it a pleasure to drive.

Sigmas are available in two configurations – the EL (End Lounge) and the EK (End Kitchen). The former is a low profile, two-berth vehicle, while the EK is marketed as a four-berth configuration (it’s actually better suited to a two adult/two children family). The EL has its lounge (and fold-out double bed) at the rear of the vehicle, while the EK has the fold-out bed in the middle of the vehicle (kitchen at the rear), with a smaller twin bed over the cab.

We sampled the EL – designed as a comfortable, luxury tourer for a couple. Autosleeper has done a great job integrating the fibreglass body around the sexy, curved lines of the Peugeot cab. The soft angles are also aerodynamically effective, helping to reduce windage.

Buyers have a choice between three engines – 100, 130 and 160hp. The first two are based on a 2.2-litre, turbo-charged, inter-cooled, four-cylinder HDi diesel. The 160hp option is a four-cylinder, three-litre diesel engine. All are equipped with six-speed manual gearboxes – though Auckland Motorhomes director Des Wardell says an automatic option is soon to be available.

Ours was fitted with the 130hp engine, and it’s a happy compromise, offering a respectable cruise speed, plenty of hill-climbing grunt, yet good consumption. Cruising at 100kph (2200rpm) in sixth gear, consumption translates to around 9.8 litres/100km. It’s a particularly well-insulated cab, and the engine is barely audible.

In fact, I found it a little too quiet: because you can’t easily hear the engine note, and because the speedo’s calibrated in mph (with a smaller, inner kph scale), gear changing is initially a little confusing. Nice problem, I guess, and probably not an issue once you’re used to it. Still, that mph speedo also needs carefully watching: the Sigma handles easily with a car-like driving quality, but whistling along rural roads at 80mph is not a good look …

Efficient aerodynamics are complemented by a relatively low weight (3500kg), power assisted steering, ABS braking and traction control. It’s a spacious, comfortable cab with excellent visibility, large, rear view mirrors and plenty of adjustment in the driver’s seat and steering wheel position. So, it’s easy to mould things precisely to your frame. With your favourite Johnny Cash CD in the player and the sun peeking over the horizon – pure, driving bliss.

Interior

Warm tones, plush upholstery, quality carpeting, oodles of space. It’s an inviting interior, and when the blinds are drawn, lights dimmed and the bed folded down, it becomes a particularly cosy nest. Autosleeper standardises on the cherry timber joinery, but offers eight choices for the upholstery.

It’s a motorhome you’d be happy to take winter touring, and features a fully-insulated (3M Thinsulate™) structure, double-glazed windows and a Truma gas heater, with heating ducted throughout the vehicle. The insulation also helps to reduce road hum – and will limit the sounds from the squabbling couple in the adjacent camp site. And when things get too steamy (in your vehicle, not next door), a selection of opening windows and roof vents create good cross-ventilation.

Kitchen & Bathroom

Designed to awaken the gourmet in you, the Sigma EL’s kitchen is equipped with a three-burner gas hob (with a single, electric hotplate), grill and oven and an 86-litre, three-way fridge/freezer. It’s a compact but pragmatic layout. Both the hob and the large stainless steel sink are fitted with lift-up chinchilla glass covers, providing additional work surfaces. More work surfaces slide out/flip out from the kitchen cabinet.

The bathroom’s surprisingly large, and features a swing out shower, electric flush toilet, and a vanity cupboard with a contoured washbasin. Ducted heating keeps things toasty in the bathroom (it will double as a drying room), but the multi-positional roof ventilator is an essential piece of design. Thanks to an innovative swing-arm system, shower and toilet are kept apart, so there’s no need to drown the toilet paper.

The Sigma’s equipped with a 120-litre fresh water tank and a100-litre waste water tank, with gas and electric mains providing the water heating system.

Electrics

Designed to keep the techno-geeks amused. The 12v electrical control panel has an LCD display and offers programmable control over vehicle’s electrical services. It incorporates a water level indicator and a vehicle-levelling sensor aid.

There’s the standard 230v mains electric hook up cable (two power outlets in the motorhome) and the high-capacity mains charging system comes with a 12v split charge relay. That means it automatically distributes it charging cross the engine battery as the 110AH house battery – according to their respective needs.

All plumbing and wiring meets New Zealand standards.

Highs & Lows

Features I particularly liked about the Sigma EL include:

  • The swivel passenger seat. When facing backwards, it offers additional seating for guests. A swivelling driver’s seat is also an option, but is tucked too far around the bathroom bulkhead to be of much use.
  • Ceiling/locker-mounted flourescent lights. Mounted "half inside" the ceiling lockers, they’re really helpful for finding items in the lockers at night.
  • Floor-mounted courtesy light. Discreetly positioned just inside the door, it’s easy to switch on as you arrive home, so you can find the rest of the switches.
  • Recessed sink – prevents water collecting around the sink
  • Shower door. A brilliant piece of design. The moulded door folds out, forming a temporary bulkhead, so the next user of the toilet won’t have to dry it off.
  • The fold-out bed. Designed with a sliding mechanism, it deploys very quickly, using all the attached cushions. No need to find other cushions in lockers.
  • The integrated awning (built into the roof). It extends three metres, with two uprights.

Quibbles? Only the outside storage locker. It’s small, good for a few fold-up fishing rods, but not much else.

Autosleeper’s Sigma EL is an elegant, well-designed, two-berth motorhome, fully compliant with New Zealand standards. It will appeal to couples content with their own company, keen to underscore their touring with a little luxury.
If they can’t hear the engine… best to turn up the hearing aids. Or mount a really large rev-counter on the dash – and watch it like a hawk.


Autosleeper Sigma EL Specifications (Price - $140,000)

Engine 2.2-litre HDi, 130hp, turbo-charged, intercooled diesel (100hp and 160hp engines are options)
Overall length 6280mm
Overall width (mirrors extended) 2690mm
Overall width (mirrors folded) 2320mm
Overall height 2970mm
Bed size 2100 x 1480mm
Fresh water tank 120 litres
Waste water tank 100 litres

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