UCC Motorhomes test

By: Steve Vermeulen, Photography by: Steve Vermeulen


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UCC Motorhomes has developed two new models and some exciting new interiors, despite the turmoil caused by the February earthquake

UCC Motorhomes test
UCC Motorhomes test
  • Dependable UCC build quality
  • Dual living areas
  • New Fuso base is the cleanest light truck on sale
  • Contemporary styling
  • Precise and communicative handling

The newest additions to UCC’s family of motorhomes are an all-new low line model and the tried-and-true Benmore model, now assembled atop the latest Fuso Canter chassis. Both models represented significant investments financially and in terms of manpower. Pleasingly, those features we enjoyed about past UCCs – namely solid construction and practicality – remain consistent in the latest additions.

The Benmore

The larger Benmore is a familiar nameplate and a model in various forms that has graced these pages several times in the past. But for me the new Fuso platform exhibits the single most important change over the years. Now with a cutting-edge chassis and powertrain underpinning it the truck presents a radically different drive experience, one that will be particularly appreciated by motorhomers.

"With the exception of the larger, class two luxury homes, we appreciate truck-based motorhomes aren't the lion's share anymore, which is obviously where our new low line fits in," says UCC owner Rob Floris. "But there is still a definite demand for powerhouses like the Fuso; they're still handy for more generously-proportioned applications and remain by far and away the best bet for towing horse floats or race cars."

Underpinnings the changes is a new independent front suspension, much like you'll find in a van-based home; gone is the agricultural beam-type front end, which, by comparison, rode like granite. Bumps are now absorbed beautifully and the reduced unsprung mass in each corner makes the handling much more precise and communicative.

You’re still aware of the extra size, but it really isn’t far off the drive experience of a van-based motorhome. Combine this with cosy seat suspension for the driver and it's like steering a cloud.

Ironically, the Japan earthquake delayed delivery of New Zealand’s allocation of Fuso. But our patience has been rewarded with a smaller capacity, more efficient turbo diesel engine that offers no compromise in performance. Now displacing just three litres, the power unit develops 110kW of power and 370Nm of torque but uses 25 per cent less fuel. It’s now compliant with the stringent Euro5 emissions legislation, making it the cleanest light truck on sale.

It’s mated to a six-speed dual clutch transmission that offers a much faster and smoother shift than the more common single clutch semi-automatic transmissions you’ll see in Ducatos and Volkswagen crafters. Fuso has also extended the vehicle’s service intervals so the operating costs have come down over its predecessor.

New low line models

The new Mercedes Sprinter-based low line delivers modern European styling and convenience.

It bears contemporary new body sides and over cab panelling – all specifically designed and moulded for UCC by its local Christchurch fibreglass supplier, Reflex. It makes it easier to use square exterior lockers rather than the longer "T-Key" locker doors on UCC’s heavier duty product. The snub rear overhang gives the vehicle improved clearance over undulating ground. UCC has also retained a dual rear wheel option for improved GVM so you can safely load it up to the gunnels.

That modern design is mirrored with UCC’s new interior décor (available across all models). "We’re modernising everything we do," says Rob. "We’re moving away from the traditional wood grains and can offer interior panelling in any colour a customer wishes."

Of course, UCC can still cater for those who like the wood grain and can tailor the design to suit, but clearly it has looked at current trends and is keen not to be left behind. The range of new fabrics is also right up to date, with patterns giving way to tasteful, dignified stripes and colours.

The low line is available with four base layouts. The "Ohau" version I sampled is ideally pitched at couples, with a lot of the features from the four-berth Benmore carried through, most obviously the large rear windows and living area – the "Vista Dome" Rob calls it. A permanent rear bed option is also available and UCC is developing a Luton option for an overhead sleeper to attract family-focused purchasers.

In this floor plan the shower and toilet cubicle is curved to optimise space, which helps open up the front living area. There’s a handy combination of attractive, curved overhead cupboards and deep shelves for bedding, etc.

In the kitchen cooks have good bench space with two flip-out extensions if needed; pantry space is restricted to a three-shelve pull-out, which is about standard in most low lines. A full oven is an easy upgrade.

Underpinning the low line is Mercedes’ Sprinter chassis and powerful 2.2 V6 diesel engine with up to 135kW available (depending on engine option). In terms of outright power and drivability it remains my favourite of the popular low line chassis and doesn’t disappoint in this instance. The dual rear wheels improve traction and you’re never wanting for power. You’ve also got a clear view out that huge rear window, which I found made reversing hassle-free.

With all the space on offer here the price jump from premium van segment is far from prohibitive (the Ohau starts at $159,995). The tried-and-true Benmore also remains a bullet-proof build that now offers drivability like never before at $154,995.

Specifications

UCC Ohau low line Tare 3670kg GVM 4490kg Engine and transmission 3.0-litre V6 turbo, five-speed automatic Bed Rear king-size bed 2.20m x 1.68m Heating 2.2kW diesel heater Cooker Four-burner/grill Fresh water tank 120 litres Grey water tank 120 litres

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