Trail-lite Fiat Ducato

By: David Linklater, Photography by: David Linklater

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Trail-lite has enhanced its Basecamp range with a Fiat Ducato-based version it calls a “lowline”

Trail-lite Fiat Ducato
Trail-lite Fiat Ducato
  • Entry-level model with competitive pricing
  • Reduced weight for improved driving dynamics
  • Spacious interior layout for a vehicle this compact
  • Modern fitout
  • Impressive performance from 2.3L turbo diesel

The new Ducato "lowline" offers a significantly lower floor for easier living and a lower centre of gravity/reduced weight for improved driving dynamics.

Height of convenience

While the Ducato is not a popular choice among New Zealand motorhome makers, it underpins the vast majority of compact motorhomes in Europe and with good reason. It's front-drive, so with no powertrain hardware being channeled to the rear, the living area can be made lower and lighter.

"This is where a lot of buyers are at the moment," says Trail-lite boss Shaun Newman. "Most of our vehicles used to be large homes, built on Isuzus or similar. But in the past couple of years there has been a real trend towards these smaller vehicles. It's mostly driven by older buyers who want something that easy to drive and easy to store at home.

"Also, I think that we've had a lot of imported product in New Zealand in this style and because of that, the perception of motorhomes has been changing. A lot of first-time motorhome buyers have only ever seen this type of vehicle and so that's what they want. This is their idea of a motorhome should be."

Interior upgrades

And what idea is that? Essentially as small and light as possible, without comprising the feel of a true "motor-apartment," as Trail-lite likes to call its latest product.

"We have made a conscious decision to do something in a New Zealand style," says Newman. "Rather than looking to other motorhomes for inspiration, we look to modern kitchens, luxury hotels and those kinds of environments. You don't see wood grains and gold knobs there – you see clean, crisp style. That's what we've decided to emulate."

Basecamp models don't get the upmarket detail touches of the flagship Landmark series, and buyers only get a choice of three décor packages. But the Basecamp has still benefited from a range-wide interior redesign by Trail-lite's own interior designer, Victoria Scott. And with features like Sony sound system, manual satellite dish and 19-inch widescreen television you're hardly slumming it.

The Ducato-based lowline is a slighty cheaper offering than Trail-lite's other Basecamp models, although that's more to do with the price of the cab-chassis base than any cabin-specification difference.

"The main reason we can offer [Basecamp] at such a good price is that it's more of a production-line model: what you see is what you get, although we do offer a few options and décor choices. We've taken some frills out but it's still got all of the important stuff."

Newman points to freedom camping features such as 200/165 litres of fresh/grey water, an 85w solar panel, and 260 amp-hour batteries.

The Basecamp lowline cabin also benefits from advances in construction technology. The floor, walls and roof are made from foam sandwich panels for improved insulation, and new lightweight aluminium extrusion is employed for the furniture.

On the road

No argument that the Fiat Ducato is one of the least intimidating commercial-vehicle bases to drive. It is remarkably car-like in terms of cabin architecture.

With a very capable 2.3-litre turbo diesel engine, six-speed manual transmission and a weight saving of at least 200kg compared with the higher-riding Basecamp models, piloting the lowline Ducato is pretty much a hassle-free experience.

Performance is impressive, although buyers who can't resist the extra grunt – or don't want to bother with a third pedal – can option for the 3.0-litre automatic-transmission version.

What's not to like? Only the drawbacks of any front-drive motorhome, which many Kiwi buyers are still keenly aware of, acknowledges Newman.

"A lot of our more traditional customers still prefer rear-drive, especially with a dual-wheel configuration for those times when you find yourself on soft ground. But for others, the height and weight advantage of the lowline makes up for it." 

Trail-lite Basecamp lowline Akaroa 650
Engine 2.3L turbo diesel
Transmission Six-speed manual
Power 95kW at 3500rpm
Torque 330Nm at 2000rpm
Wheelbase 4300mm
Brakes Four wheel discs, ABS
GVM 4250kg

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