Compass 23TB

Photo Credit: Shawn Spence

Despite its small footprint, the Compass 23TB from Thor Motorcoach offers many features normally found on larger vehicles. Built on the Ford Transit diesel chassis, the Recreational Utility Vehicle is nimble and exhibits fine road manners.

By Holly and Norm Roy
April 27, 2017
Filed under Motorhome Reviews, Top Stories

 

Thor’s 2017 Class C RUV features many creature comforts in a compact, nimble package

Compasses were developed by the Chinese 200 years prior to the Common Era and have been used for eons to indicate the direction one should travel. Thor Motorcoach developed its Compass — a Class C diesel Recreational Utility Vehicle (RUV) — for touring said direction in style and comfort. The company’s new 23TB floorplan is both recreational and utilitarian, something of a multiuse tool among compact motorhomes; one that might easily meet the expectations of first-time RV adventurers, small families or veteran RVers considering a smaller unit.

The Compass lineup features three floorplans riding on the Ford Transit chassis (23TB, 23TR and 23TK) and one floorplan (24TX) on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis; all Compass motorhomes are less than 25 feet in length. The test motorhome — the 23TB — is powered by a 3.2-liter five-cylinder Power Stroke turbodiesel with 185 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque.

This is a 21st-century motorhome featuring amenities such as USB ports at charging stations fore and aft. A large skylight brings natural illumination to the interior — wonderful for reading or hobbies — and spectacular views of the stars and moon at night. The intensity of light can be adjusted with an electric shade controlled by a switch mounted within easy reach of the driver or navigator, or from the living space. The natural light, combined with light-colored flooring, cabinetry and upholstery, makes the interior seem larger than measurements may indicate.

A 32-inch LED TV is mounted above the entry door. Topped by LED strips, Euro-style cabinets span the kitchen counter, which includes a round sink and two-burner range.

A 32-inch LED TV is mounted above the entry door. Topped by LED strips, Euro-style cabinets span the kitchen counter, which includes a round sink and two-burner range.

Compass designers found ways to incorporate three televisions into this floorplan. Think about that: Three TVs in a 23-foot motorhome mean you’re never more than a few feet away from your own little flat-screen festival. TVs are mounted above the entry door, in the bedroom and in a weather-tight exterior compartment beneath the awning. The AM/FM radio and DVD player is just inside the door, mounted above a panel incorporating the slideout switch and indicators showing holding-tank levels and battery condition.

For safety and convenience, the entry steps are illuminated and a long, sturdy interior grab handle eases entry and exit. Switches at floor level control step lights, the patio light and a 14-foot Carefree lateral-arm awning. One touch of the awning-control switch extends the sheet, which appears to roll too far, then retracts and adjusts perfectly to display a strip of LEDs in the roller tube. Those lights cast a soft glow on the curbside of the motorhome.

Entering the interior, one steps onto light-colored residential vinyl flooring that extends from behind the cockpit through the bedroom and bathroom. The floor is easy to sweep clean with a hand brush and dustpan. Overhead is a hard vinyl ceiling that conceals ducts that distribute cooled and heated air from the rooftop air conditioner and heat pump.

The couch on the streetside wall sits beneath a large window. Covered with soft leatherette, the jackknife sofa easily converts to a bed. Seat belts at the couch will harness a pair of passengers but, as a bed, it will accommodate but one. While some couches can be uncomfortable without pillows to support one’s back, this one is a perfect size for shorter folks, and very comfortable to boot. Its neutral color would be easily accessorized with a few bright pillows, if desired.

Serving as a dining table or workstation, a pedestal table mounts in front of the couch and swivels to ease access. On the road, the tabletop and post stow beneath the couch. Adjacent to the couch, behind the driver’s seat, a charging station accommodates up to four devices corralled in a net sling. Two cup holders complete that panel; one residential AC electrical outlet is near the floor.

Above the couch, European-style cabinet doors pivot on soft-close hidden hinges and are accented with generous, easy-to-grasp handles. LED strips above the cabinet doors create indirect lighting at the ceiling. When more direct and more brilliant lighting are needed, flush-mounted ceiling and undercabinet fixtures are controlled by switches at the entry door, the bedroom and beneath cabinets.

A 32-inch LED television hangs opposite the couch, above the entry door. On that curbside wall, another large window spans the length of the kitchen counter.

RVers who do the cooking will be impressed with the deep, round, stainless-steel sink. The tall, single-handle faucet allows one to easily rinse fruits and vegetables and clean the sink. A sink cover fits perfectly to make a flat countertop. Even with the cover in place, the gooseneck faucet with extendable sprayer is sufficiently tall to allow filling of tumblers or pans. To the right of the sink is a European-style, two-burner LP-gas cooktop with glass cover.

A cabinet convection microwave oven and drawer are beneath the counter. Location of the microwave at knee level made reading its electronic touchpad a bit of a challenge. Drawers throughout the motorhome roll on full-extension, ball-bearing guides.

The step built into the bumper of the Ford Transit cab affords a good foothold for cleaning the windshield and easy access to check fluids in the engine compartment.

The step built into the bumper of the Ford Transit cab affords a good foothold for cleaning the windshield and easy access to check fluids in the engine compartment.

Above the sink and window, another two-door cabinet is convenient to stow dishes, glasses and coffee mugs. Each cabinet is divided with a recessed shelf that affords easy access to items of disparate height. An AC outlet is mounted in the underbelly of one cabinet, a safe and rather convenient spot. That said, one might have to boost the toaster or percolator to a height at which its AC cord will reach the outlet. The rack from the convection oven worked like a charm.

To the right of the cooktop, the two-door refrigerator easily handles perishables sufficient for about five days. Shelves in the door were the right size for our collection of condiments; small drawers held fresh produce. A bonus was the folding shelf to accommodate tall bottles, such as a two-liter bottle of soda. Freezer capacity was more than adequate for a like number of days. Two additional drawers are below the refrigerator.

Opposite the refrigerator is a pantry with adjustable shelves for dry goods. Two drawers below the pantry were perfect for flatware, cooking utensils and kitchen linens.

The bath is located at the curbside rear corner. The sink cabinet and medicine chest are nestled into the corner opposite the door and provide adequate storage for toiletries and first-aid supplies. The small, round stainless-steel sink is reminiscent of those found on planes and trains. Brushing one’s teeth takes some practice … and good aim. The vanity beneath the sink has additional storage.

The commode is plastic with two-position foot flush, allowing the addition of water for complete cleansing of the bowl. The shower stall is of more than adequate size, and the surround has corner shelves to hold tall containers of soap and shampoo. The skylight over the shower makes the bathroom bright. The floor of the shower was unnervingly flexible, a condition that might be resolved simply with additional support installed at the factory, as an owner would have a tough time accessing this area for a modification after the fact. A grab handle on the wall over the commode is convenient to assist getting into and out of the shower. While the bathroom is comparatively roomy, blow-drying one’s hair is best accomplished after opening the door.

The bedroom area is an adventure in itself. The queen-size folding mattress can be opened only when the slide is fully extended, a distance of about 3½ feet.

Extended, the bedroom is spacious and comfortable. Windows flank the headboard, and lighting has been well-positioned for reading. Nightstand counters at each side will hold books and reading glasses; another USB charging station is at the front corner of the bed frame and AC outlets are accessible at each side of the headboard. A 32-inch LED television is mounted at ceiling level on the wall at the foot of the bed.

Concerns regarding the level of comfort offered by a folding mattress were without foundation, so to speak. While shorter folks might need a running start to surmount the foot of the bed, once nestled in, campers will feel pleasantly at ease.

A closet beside the bed offers about 2 feet of hanging rod and has a deep drawer below. A curtain provides a modicum of privacy between the bedroom and living area; another privacy curtain mounts with hook-and-loop tabs up front, inside the windshield.

Retracting the bedroom slide involves folding the foot of the bed toward the ceiling, something akin to half a Murphy bed. Moving the slide out and leaving the bed folded uncovers a padded seating area with three drawers and another mounting point for the pedestal table. Moving the table from the forward position to the rear creates a workspace suitable for a laptop and printer. The space is well-illuminated by natural light from the large rear window.

Getting on the road allows this little motorhome to shine. On the highway, the Compass is nimble and exhibits fine road manners. The five-cylinder Power Stroke diesel is responsive, which renders the 23TB more than adequate for city or interstate conditions. Circumnavigating Tampa, Florida, was a breeze, as the Compass easily kept pace with the flow of traffic.

One of our few complaints with this test motorhome was the amount of wind noise from the house entry door. Our resident technician determined that the condition could be corrected with adjustments to the door frame.

Beneath the folded bed, left, is a cushioned seating area and mounting point for the table, creating a workspace illuminated by the large window at the rear of the coach.

Beneath the folded bed, left, is a cushioned seating area and mounting point for the table, creating a workspace illuminated by the large window at the rear of the coach.

Cockpit ergonomics are friendly, with creature comforts such as open compartments of various sizes to hold sunglasses, extra keys, parking passes or tissues. Two cup holders are convenient to each seating position. The display on the AM/FM/CD stereo can be difficult to see in bright sun. The backup camera image is displayed in the rearview mirror. A generous, U-shaped overhead tray is a good spot for holding the Good Sam RV Travel & Savings Guide, road atlas, jackets and other items. Movement between the cockpit and living quarters is convenient since there is no center console. The navigator seat swivels to add a seating position for socializing.

While compact, the bathroom, left, is ample and the shower stall sufficient for a good rinse.   The skylight over the shower helps make the bathroom bright.

While compact, the bathroom, left, is ample and the shower stall sufficient for a good rinse. The skylight over the shower helps make the bathroom bright.

Design of the Transit van makes it easy for those inclined to service their own vehicle; dipsticks and fluid-reservoir caps are clearly marked and easily accessible. A sturdy step built into the front bumper puts even shorter folks at a height to reach into the engine compartment or clean the windshield. The fuel fill and reservoir for diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) are protected from tampering simply by closing the driver’s door.

Baggage doors are well-gasketed to keep moisture and road dust out of compartments. The storage bays are wide and will easily accommodate folding chairs, patio carpet or small grills, but compartments are not particularly deep or high. Interiors are black, which can make it difficult to see what one is doing when connecting the sewer hose, for instance.

A large compartment beneath the kitchen window reveals the third — and optional — 32-inch LED television, which is mounted on a bracket that allows viewing from almost any angle.

Thor’s Compass 23TB is a motorhome that will allow its owners to easily transit congested freeways, navigate city streets and breeze along country roads. Once positioned at an RV park, campground or other scenic spot, the Class C RUV offers creature comforts galore.


 

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