Review: Dethleffs Alpa I 7820-2

By: Malcolm Street, Photography by: Malcolm Street


A German motorhome that harks back to early Kiwi models? That’s not the only – good – surprise in store for Malcolm Street aboard this A-class beauty

Pokeno-based Zion Motorhomes is slowly but steadily increasing its range of German-built Dethleffs vehicles available in New Zealand. Some are B and C-class (semi-integrated, in Dethleffs speak) but there is also quite a selection of A-class (integrated) units.

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The Alpa’s sleek lines are appealing

One of the latest is an Alpa I 7820-2 model. From the outside, they’re quite distinctive because of the tandem axles at the rear. The interior, too, is interesting as the layout is reminiscent of earlier Kiwi-built motorhomes, with a club lounge in the rear that is surrounded by windows. But is there a fixed bed? I’ll get to that in a moment.

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The club lounge has plenty of seating; note the rear-facing passenger seats

As always with many an A-class motorhome, it’s not always easy to distinguish the power plant, but in this case it’s a Fiat Ducato Multijet cab (well a cut-down one) bolted to an AL-KO chassis.

The tandem axles give the clue to that, as does the 5400kg GVM rating. Being a somewhat heavy motorhome and with a near $250K price tag, it’s good the Alpa gets the most powerful of the Fiat 2.3-litre engines, the 130kW/400Nm turbo diesel. No choice on the gearbox, at least for now; it’s the standard Fiat six-speed automated manual.

Exterior

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The midway door is a little different, as are the AL-KO tandem axles

From most angles, the aluminium composite wall/fibreglass (GRP) body structure looks quite streamlined. That includes the Omnistor awning that fits into the roofline rather than protruding from the side.

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The awning fits neatly into the roofline

Because of the AL-KO chassis, the motorhome sits quite low to the ground and departure angles would be a consideration when negotiating heavily undulated gutters and driveways.

Getting a motorhome this long level when parked up might be a bit of a trick, but the fitting of four hydraulic jacks by Zion solves that particular problem. A little surprise is there aren’t too many external bins, but there’s good-sized garage storage across the rear, which has bin doors on both sides and the rear wall as well – accessible from all sides.

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The passenger door gives easy kerbside access

A nice touch is that both the offside habitation door and the passenger cab door have electric steps. The passenger door is also big enough for you to get in and out easily. 

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Rear storage is accessed from both sides

It’s not easily seen but the I 7820-2 has a double floor that’s designed in part for winter climates – the floor area is heated, and that’s where the water tanks are located. Inside the motorhome, simple floor hatches give access to the top of the water tanks.

Interior

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The extra cupboard space and glass rack is a little different and very classy!

This Alpa layout is different to most that come out of Germany, at least those we see in New Zealand. In many ways, it’s different to anything locally produced too. The habitation door is mid-motorhome, for example, just forward of the rear axle. Looking towards the rear reveals a very large lounge area, almost an inverted G rather than the more traditional U shape.

That’s mostly because there is a rear-facing lounge with seat belts for two. The rest of the lounge is just plain seating and six people could sit around the table without too much trouble. There is a step up to this area, given the storage space underneath.

All-round windows give a great view of the outside world. When not being used as a lounge, the seating can also be folded down into a second 2100mm x 1500mm bed.
There’s no shortage of overhead lockers.

Along the offside wall between the habitation door and the lounge area is extensive cabinetry that includes upper and lower cupboards, decent shelving and an amazingly large glassware cabinet complete with glass holders.

Kitchen

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The curved kitchen bench combines style and practicality

Facing all that cabinetry on the opposite side is a stylishly curved kitchen bench complete with a round stainless-steel sink and a three-burner hob. There are five good-sized ‘drawers’; however, I use that word loosely because one is more like a slide-out pantry or pots n’ pans holder and another comes with two built-in garbage bins – so
much better than a plastic bag on a door handle!

Between the rear lounge and kitchen bench is a storage box complete with hinged lid that could either be used for larger cooking items such as a kettle and frying pan or else a nice little hidey hole for electrical items like your laptop or iPad; there’s even a power point
for charging.

Further forward and adjacent to the kitchen bench are the 190-litre three-way fridge and Dometic grill/oven. The latter matches the curve and glossy finish of the fridge below.

Bathroom

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The toilet cubicle has it all, including a wall heater

Given the I 7820-2 is a relatively large motorhome, it’s no surprise the split bathroom, between the kitchen and front bedroom/driver’s cab, is well sized. On the offside, the toilet cubicle is fitted with a Thetford cassette toilet, vanity washbasin and lower and upper cupboards.

The upper cupboards have mirrored doors, and with the large wall mirror and full-length mirror on the door, there are multiple ways to admire yourself! The door will swing fully open to close off the bathroom from the rear of the motorhome.

Instead of the usual single air heater outlet, there’s a far more sophisticated radiator type arrangement which should keep things toasty. In warmer weather (and when necessary) there’s a good-sized window and roof hatch for ventilation. Like the toilet cubicle, there’s plenty of space to turn around in the shower cubicle. It has all the necessary facilities and it too comes with a heater outlet.

Sleeping

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Behind the driver’s seat is a half height wardrobe

Further forward from the bathroom is the driver’s cab. Because of the cabinetry on either side, including a multi-shelf cupboard and a half-height wardrobe, it feels a tad more enclosed than usual in an A-class motorhome but it still has that panorama feel about it when on the road.

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The front drop-down bed is unusual, one bed base but two single beds!

The other item that closes in the driver’s cab a bit is the drop-down bed. It is electrically operated, once the clips are released, and is north-south rather than the usual across-the-cab. It’s set up as two single beds with a shorter mattress piece in between.

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The north-south drop-down means cab access is a bit restricted

The beds are well sized at 2100mm x 750mm. Totally enclosed from the front by the curtain that drops down with the bed, which comes with its own shelf reading lights and power points.

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Windows on either side of the bed make ventilation a breeze 

Ventilation and natural light are supplied by a big roof hatch and windows on either side at the foot of the bed. When the drop-down is in position, the reason for the half-height cabinets on either side becomes obvious; they’re what the bed drops down on to.

In case you are wondering about clambering in and out of bed, the left-hand cupboard door has a fold-down ladder fitted to the inside, so when the door is open it not only prevents anyone peeking in but gives easy access to the bed. A flat-screen TV is fitted to the offside cupboard for night-time viewing.

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The rear-view camera

12-volt electrics are supplied by two 95AH deep cycle batteries and there’s 420 watts of solar panel capacity on the roof. Handily located above the habitation doorway is the usual Dethleffs control panel with the analogue looking digital dials.

There are a few extras too, like the Alde water/space heater touch panel, drop-down bed control and the hydraulic controls. Freedom camping time is assured with the 166-litre fresh water tanks and 156-litre grey tank.

Verdict

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It’s hard not to be impressed by this motorhome – as you should when you don’t get much change from $250K. The layout has a very different look, and unless you want a floor-based fixed bed, it is a practical arrangement. It’s not hard to imagine cruising the highway and byways of New Zealand in style and comfort.

Dethleffs Alpa I 7820-2 specifications

Vehicle make/model 

Dethleffs Alpa I 7820-2

Engine 2.3-L turbo diesel 130kW/ 400Nm
Transmission 6-speed AMT 
Berths  4
Approx overall length 8540mm
Approx overall width 2330mm
Fresh/grey water tank 166/156L 
Gas 2 x 9kg 
GVM 5400kg
Tare weight 4432kg

Price: $249,000

Pros

  • Different layout to the usual
  • Internal storage space
  • North-south bed up front
  • Rear club lounge
  • Curved kitchen design

Cons

  • Ground clearance on undulating road conditions
  • Passenger seats in the rear a fair way back and face backwards

For more information see zionmotorhomes.co.nz.

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