Winnebago adds a new floor plan for 2014 that emphasizes sleeping, storage and an entry-level price
When a potential buyer of a Class A motorhome hears or reads about an entry-level product, the message conjures an image of a coach that’s going to be missing a number of creature comforts. Normally, manufacturers scale back on materials and features to keep the price low. Buyers understand the limitations and are appreciative that there are products on the market that allow those with budget constraints to be part of the RV lifestyle.
Winnebago positions its Vista line as entry level, but takes a different approach when outfitting some of the models. Take the 2014 Vista 31KE, for example. Here’s a coach that spans a few inches beyond 31 feet and sports a retail sticker of $97,504 with the optional loft bed in the cab ($735) and freight. The kicker: This coach is loaded with feature-rich amenities, can sleep a large family, and after working out a fair price with the dealer, can likely be purchased for an amount of money that’s comparable to the cost of a luxury car.
The coach is augmented by a single slide that moves a U-shaped dinette and adjacent sofa bed out enough to make the living room surprisingly roomy. Turn the two cockpit seats around, and the area works nicely for gathering that large family or for entertaining guests.
There’s a lot going on in the front section of this motorhome, where the bulk of the sleeping accommodations are located. Two people can sleep on the U-shaped dinette when converted into a bed, after dropping the table and piecing together the cushions into a 45-by-82-inch surface. A younger person can sleep on the jackknife sofa since dimensions are restricted to 40-by-60 inches. A third sleeping area is provided by the aforementioned loft bed that deploys by dropping the platform, which is stored flush against the ceiling above the driver and co-pilot seats. It comes down with little effort by opening the latch on either side and pulling down. The result is a 32-by-79-inch bed, which can comfortably sleep an adult or two small kids. In all, four people can comfortably sleep in the front of this coach, as long one or two are kids.
By day, the dinette can easily seat four or five, with plenty of room to spread out using the oversize table. The sofa is not the most comfortable place to sit, but it’s tolerable for short periods of time.
The galley, directly across from the dinette, serves multiple purposes. A large counter offers plenty of room for the cook to spread out. Appliances are basic, and include a three-burner stove with oven, microwave and two-door refrigerator. The double sink occupies the back portion of the counter, but the biggest uninterrupted section is devoted to food prep, etc. A 32-inch LCD TV is hung on the wall behind this part of the counter, putting it in perfect eyeshot of the dinette and couch. Users just have to be careful not to get too wild while preparing meals to protect the screen from flying debris.
Storage above and below the galley counter is plentiful, with large enough cabinets to handle bulky items. The wall next to the microwave is fitted with the controls for the slide, generator, water heater, water pump and systems monitor – in keeping with Winnebago’s OnePlace configuration that centralizes such panels.
A short hallway connects the living area and rear bedroom. Between the two is what seems like a small sliver of space allocated to the bathroom. While this area is definitely a minor part of the floorplan, in actuality, this center bath works exceptionally well. The door to the toilet/lavatory room can be opened fully to add privacy to the bath area, and if the folding door to the bedroom is not utilized, the entire bath/bedroom area can be isolated from the rest of the coach for a master suite effect. Larger people will have no problem showering, and plenty of room is provided around the toilet. There’s not a lot of counter space surrounding the sink, but the nearby cabinets can supplement.
Out back, the short queen bed (75 inches long) is not fitted with the best foam mattress we’ve ever slept on, but it was more comfortable than most in this category. There’s plenty of walk-around room to make the bed, and areas for stashing personal items are strategically located on each side of the mattress. Wardrobe space is fairly decent, considering the bedroom does not have the benefit of a slideout. Large windows allow good cross ventilation and ambient lighting. When night falls, incandescent fixtures, spread out and plentiful, produce good artificial lighting.
Overall aesthetics make it clear that this motorhome is not pretending to be something it’s not. DÃ©cor, although maybe a little understated, is pleasant and accented by a few niceties that would not normally show up in a motorhome in this price range. Features like MCD Innovations blackout roller shades, a glass shower door, rear view camera and automatic leveling jacks are items not normally seen as standard equipment in entry-level motor-homes.
The Vista shares construction techniques used by Winnebago throughout its lines. A stout aluminum structure is built on top of the Ford F53 chassis and the cab portion is strengthened by a steel cage. High-gloss fiberglass is used for the side walls and caps, and the roof is also topped with fiberglass. High-density block foam insulation in a vacuum bonded environment provides necessary insulation. Dual-pane windows are not offered in this model, but they are tinted.
Buyers have a choice of white or taupe-colored fiberglass, the latter of which is richer looking and visually can almost be confused with full-body paint. Graphics blend nicely with the taupe exterior and the overall look is neither splashy nor Spartan. The stainless steel wheel covers – which are typically used at this price point, rather than aluminum wheels – add some flair to the appearance.
What really stands out is the exterior storage. Side opening doors with slam-latch locks lead to cavernous compartments, which is totally unexpected for a 31-foot coach on a 16,000-pound-rated chassis. A large locker in the rear of the coach has three access doors – one on each side and one in the back wall. While that space alone can swallow up a lot of gear, the side compartments offer sanctuary for longer, flatter items that can be packed in the pass-through section – a feature less common in smaller motor-homes. One of the compartments is reserved for hookup utilities and it’s neat and well organized. The power cord must be connected to a junction box when using the 4,000-watt generator.
Owners will have to understand that there are loading limitations with the lighter Ford chassis and refrain from going hog-wild, even though the available space will be very tempting to fill.
The Vista line consists of six models ranging from just a tad shorter than 27 feet to 36 feet, 4 inches. As you go up in size, the features richen and so does the price. What doesn’t change are the genetics. The Vista 31KE is not just an inexpensive motorhome destined to disappoint. It’s pure Winnebago – and with that comes the comfort in knowing that the coach has the engineering and design prowess behind it to promote good longevity. The value is there and so is the livability for growing families on a budget, or even couples looking to spend time with children and grandchildren in a right-size motorhome that’s suitable for just about any destination.