Sunliner Fusion

By: Bill Savidan, Photography by: Bill Savidan

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Using combined elements from two of its models, Sunliner has created a motorhome layout for two people who like to entertain

Sunliner Fusion
Sunliner Fusion

To go to the NZMCA rally 2008 I drove a Sunliner Viva, a compact 6.3m coachbuilt on a Fiat chassis, from Christchurch to Cromwell courtesy of Neil and Kate Whithear of Barrons South Island. At the end of the weekend show that was held in conjunction with the annual rally, over a debriefing ale Neil announced he had conceived the ideal layout for a mid-sized motorhome.

"I’ll see if I can get Sunliner to build it. If it marries the front lounge of the Viva to the rear bathroom and east/west bed layout of the (7.2m coachbuilt Sunliner) Esprit, I reckon we will have the ideal Kiwi motorhome layout for two people who travel about a lot and like to entertain their friends," he said enthusiastically.

The idea developed, but the front lounge of the Eclipse Extended model was used instead of the Viva lounge. This is how the 7.5m coachbuilt Sunliner Fusion was born.

In Christchurch for the October Motorhome and Caravan Expo, I took the opportunity to review the new Fusion. This one was built on a Fiat X250 chassis with the three-litre 157hp turbo diesel motor and the new Fiat MTA (which stands for manual transmission-automated) six-speed gearbox.

Like the gearbox in the Iveco range, this gearbox can be left in automatic or used manually. In manual, the driver selects the next gear required and the change occurs quite smoothly without the aid of a clutch. You have to change up or down to the next gear in sequence, ie. first, second, third, fourth, etc and fourth, third, second, first. You cannot move directly from first to third. You can switch from auto to manual and back at any time.

It worked well during the review and I liked it a lot. The Fusion has a GVW of 4000kg that requires a COF but does allow it to be driven on a car license.

The three-litre motor provides ample power for motorway cruising as well as hilly conditions, and the Fiat chassis with the wide rear wheelbase is very stable through the tightest of corners. It is very easy to forget you have a coachbuilt body behind you when driving the Fusion. You could be driving a family saloon.

The cab seats rotate to allow them to be used as lounge chairs. The first impression I had as I sat on one of them looking to the back, was how spacious the Fusion interior layout appeared. Because the bathroom is located across the rear of the RV instead of amidships opposite the kitchen, the Fusion appeared to be much wider than the average motorhome. The interior timber fit-out is light in colour, similar to Tawa, which emphasises the light and airy ambience. The lounge will seat six comfortably on the facing settees and cab seats and this area also serves as the dining area once the large table is positioned between the settees. The table is mounted on a single off-centre leg and I found it awkward to get into a useful position.

Sunliner fashions very comfortable settees. Instead of a regular backrest cushion it provides a large, soft tube-shaped cushion that moulds itself snugly around your body as you settle into it. The windowsills are low enough that you can see easily out of the windows while seated.

There is plenty of light for reading; a large central light, a powerful reading light each side as well as two hatches for light and ventilation. The storage area above has been partitioned into boxes instead of cupboards, which allows you to see where everything is at a glance.

The open plan layout of the Fusion has the kitchen bench opposite the access door, next to the settee on the driver’s side. Being on cooking duties doesn’t mean you are excluded from social conversation. The review vehicle, which had been specified by the owner, had a one-piece three-hob cook top combined with a sink unit, but neither grill nor oven. The hob with grill beneath is standard. In place of the oven were extra drawers, so there was more than enough kitchen storage.

There is a pop-out exterior step and a sturdy, conveniently-placed handle to help you enter the Fusion. Beside the entry is a bench with a 90-litre fridge below, (a 150-litre fridge/freezer will be standard from now on), a microwave on a shelf and cupboards above.

Between the bench and the bed is a full-length wardrobe unit. Tucked into the corner opposite the wardrobe is a bench-high unit that I thought would make an admirable wine cupboard. The 15-inch LCD TV mounted on the wall above this bench is on a swing-out bracket so it can be viewed from both the bed and the lounge. The owners had also mounted a mirror on the wall above the bench, which was well placed for light, and the bench was handily placed for madam’s bits and pieces.

The foot of the large double bed extends out beyond the wardrobe in a most inviting manner. It occurred to me that if the owners were in a festive mood and were entertaining more than six partygoers, the end of the bed would be quite a comfortable perch. The bed is a generous size; 1950mm x 1450mm, and it has a comfortable inner-sprung mattress.

While the windowsill behind is high enough to allow the occupants to sit up in bed, there was, unfortunately, no shelf for my cup of tea. The lighting is excellent, with two overhead lights and two reading lights. Good storage both under and above the bed.

The bathroom/toilet area, which stretches across the rear of the RV, is spacious enough for two, should the need arise. It has a large separate shower, 630mm x 730mm on one side, a hand basin in the centre, and a Thetford C200 pedestal toilet on the other side. A pull-out concertina door separates it from the bedroom. A large rear window with built-in screens and blinds for privacy, and a ceiling fan hatch provides light and ventilation. You would have to keep an eye on your water consumption, though. The convenience of the showering arrangements could make you linger longer than prudent!

In the past, Sunliner has used bold-coloured mouldings to embellish the bodywork of its motorhomes. This Fusion is more subdued. The bodywork is white and has grey rear wheel arch trim with a black rubbing strip at wheel arch height running the length of the body. There is a grey moulding across the top of the rear panel. Buyers can choose moulding colours from the range available when ordering.

The model reviewed had a wind-out awning, but the electric awning will be standard from now on. There is an awning light above the door, and an internally-lit exterior handle. This is a useful feature, as it casts sufficient light to allow you to find the keyhole at night. All windows are double-glazed acrylic with insect screens and blinds incorporated.

I was impressed by the interior space and the complementary relationship of the component parts inside the Fusion. It seemed more like a studio apartment than a motorhome. I found it to be a very practical layout, which, as Neil said when he conjured it up, is ideal for a social couple who like to entertain as they travel. Time will tell, but I believe the Fusion will be very popular with its target market.





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