The latest Class C from Leisure Travel Vans makes the journey as rewarding as the destination
Have you noticed? Small is a pretty big deal these days. From diminutive towable dwellings to shipping container cottages, the prevailing message seems clear: We can â€” and perhaps should â€” do more with less.
Thatâ€™s nothing new to motorhome owners, of course. Weâ€™ve gotten along so famously in compact quarters that many of us consider 400 square feet of living space excessive. Yet the tiny trend has affected the RV industry nonetheless â€” and where it once seemed like some manufacturers were unprepared for it, companies like Leisure Travel Vans (LTV) have embraced it.
A brand of long-standing Canadian manufacturer Triple E Recreational Vehicles, LTV specializes in small Class C motorhomes, offering five different models in the 24- to 25-foot range. The newest addition to the family is the 2017 Wonder, built on the Ford Transit diesel chassis and offered as a more affordable alternative to the company’s popular Unity motorhome, which is built on a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis. The Wonder gives up a streetside living area slideout (and consequently some elbow room) to the Unity, but little else â€” and the Transit chassis is so good, it may just sway silver-star intenders to the blue-oval camp.
We found this motorhome to be very enjoyable to drive, and the chassis has much to do with this. The rack-and-pinion steering is nicely weighted and has good on-center feel; the steering wheel even features welts at the 10 and 2 positions like a performance car. The brakes are predictable and have excellent feel, and the chassis tuning inspires confidence. The independent MacPherson strut front suspension with stabilizer bar results in exceptional handling, and though it does get pushed slightly when passed by 18-wheelers, the movement is predictable, easily corrected and not a bit scary.
The 3.2-liter Power Stroke five-cylinder common rail turbodiesel engine is based on Fordâ€™s proven global diesel engine architecture, and it shows. Thereâ€™s a little bit of pleasant diesel clatter at idle, but on the highway, the engine emits only enough sound to let you know itâ€™s there. Itâ€™s powerful, too â€” with 350 lb-ft of torque on tap, it had little trouble hustling the Wonder up a 6 percent grade at 63 mph and the six-speed automatic transmission with manual mode shifted smoothly and quickly. The Wonderâ€™s aerodynamic shape practically eliminated wind noise at highway speeds, and also contributed to impressive fuel economy. Though we got 15.9 mpg over a long combined drive cycle, we managed 17.1 mpg on level highway at 65-70 mph.
Heading to our destination in Californiaâ€™s Los Padres National Forest, we couldnâ€™t help but feel that the Transitâ€™s cockpit is better than the Sprinterâ€™s as well. Visibility, either through the windshield or side windows, is excellent. Everything is easily in reach, including the shifter, which is located just to the right of the steering wheel. The switch gear feels well-made, the analog tachometer/speedometer are easy to read, and a centralized multi-information display offers a variety of useful info, including distance to empty, average fuel economy, diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) level and much more. The touch-screen display atop the center stack incorporates controls for the Bluetooth phone system, navigation and radio, which includes SiriusXM but no CD player.
The Transit chassis also includes a backup camera display integrated into the rearview mirror. Itâ€™s small, but it works, and there is a switch on the dash to leave the camera on while traveling; the large sideview mirrors do their job 90 percent of the time, but you sometimes canâ€™t see when someone is right behind you, as is often the case on a windy road with impatient traffic on your tail.
The seats, though commercial in origin, feel comfortable and supportive, and are covered in a soft Ultraleather. There are cup holders atop the dash on either side, which is convenient, as well as a larger cup holder in the center console that can accommodate bigger beverages. The center console also includes a clearly marked 12-volt DC power outlet, a row of four aux switches, two USB outlets and red/white/yellow RCA receptacles. There are bins underneath each dash cup holder for small items, and above the windshield are shelves that would be perfect for stowing maps, travel guides and the like.
In fact, the only detail in the cockpit we would like to see is improved privacy/sun protection. There is no screen to go across the windshield due to a large plastic rearview mirror mounting box that prevents a screen from mounting flat against it. Instead, there is a curtain behind the seats that is only partially successful; the seats must be moved forward and the backrests raised before the curtain can be drawn across and fastened in the middle with a few strategically placed magnets. Most of the time itâ€™s fine, but in hot weather, the sun can still stream in through the large windshield, with only the cloth curtain and a lone air conditioner to keep the interior comfortable. If it were our motorhome, we would have a custom sunscreen made for the windshield and side windows, which would solve this minor problem.
Walking into the living area, the first thing that strikes you is how roomy it feels, especially considering the lack of any slideouts. This is due, in part, to the sleek, contemporary interior design, but mainly because of a feature that is largely absent in permanent residences today but is perfect in this application: a 60-by-80-inch queen Murphy bed that folds down from the driverâ€™s side wall. It was fun to watch the reaction of visitors when they walked inside â€” almost everyone said, â€œWow, itâ€™s a lot bigger inside than I thought,â€ but no one said, â€œWhereâ€™s the bed?â€ Thatâ€™s because LTV makes great use of space when the bed is stowed â€” so you donâ€™t really notice that itâ€™s gone. Most of the time, there are two comfy-looking white chairs facing the entry door with a table between them. But unlike the Unityâ€™s Murphy bed floorplan, which offers multiple seating arrangements, the Wonder really only offers two: facing forward, or facing the table. Thatâ€™s not a bad thing, though, because it makes deploying the bed fast and easy. Just toss the seat cushions aside, release the latches and pull it down. As you do so, the table and backrests fold with it â€” and a thoughtful detent supports the bed while you rotate a brace to its underside. The detent also works when folding the bed up.
Overall, the arrangement looks and works great, but there are a few problems. The two seats have no safety belts, so friends canâ€™t travel with you. And, since there is no slideout, the bed is situated lengthwise, which leaves very little room between the side of the bed and the opposing entertainment console. When you swing your legs over the side, the hard edge of the platform scrapes the back of your legs, and walking back to bed from the rear bath in the dark could definitely cause a memorable shin injury. Rounding some corners, maybe putting a foam-backed vinyl cover over the edge, would really help. Otherwise, the bed is comfortable, and the forward curtain combined with the window shades throughout means a nice, dark place to watch a movie or get some shut-eye. You canâ€™t really lie in bed while watching TV, as it is on the streetside in the console and youâ€™d have to turn your head to watch it. However, LTV places fixed pillows on the opposing wall, so it is quite comfortable to sit up on the bed and watch TV. Itâ€™s a compromise, but a very small one.
Unlike the Unity we tested, where the TV popped up out of the console with 007-style flair, the Wonderâ€™s entertainment center is simpler in its function. Just pull the countertop to its upright position, and the TV is right there, with a Samsung Blu-ray player next to it and a bungee net to secure the remotes, magazines, etc. We would like to comment on the sound/picture quality, but having dry camped we had no TV signal.
Storage space is excellent, if a bit perplexing at times. Everything is covered in white laminate panels for a clean, modern look with no exposed handles or knobs anywhere. But that means there are several possible ways to open each door/drawer. Depending on what you are attempting to access, you might pull from the top center, pull from the bottom center or push it to make it pop open. Itâ€™s just a matter of acclimation. In a design exercise to keep the cabinets looking uniform and clean, the refrigerator is concealed behind a lower door. Pushing this door releases the latch and allows the refrigerator door to open at the same time.
The galley is compact but makes good use of space. The two-burner Dometic stove has a glass cover, and with this down, there is adequate prep space if you have a small cutting board. The round stainless-steel sink is huge and has a residential-style high-rise faucet, as well as a matching cover for the black laminate counter. Beneath the cooktop are three large, deep drawers, and above the counter are two cabinets â€” a shallow one in the center and a deeper one in the corner. Underneath the sink is a door that opens to reveal a good-sized trash can with a lid, which we loved. There is also a mini pantry/spice cabinet to the right, a 120-volt AC outlet and a switch for undercabinet task lighting. On the left, or back wall of the galley, is a multifunction storage area that incorporates a paper towel holder, moveable hooks, and a handy dish-drying rack that can be stored in one of the drawers.
Lighting, both electrical and ambient, is excellent in the Wonder. LED fixtures throughout are thoughtfully placed and easy to use, with most switches located to the left of the entry door. Rotate one knob, and all the overheads come on; you can then adjust brightness to your liking. There is also under cabinet ambient or â€œmoodâ€ lighting that looks cool and would be perfect to leave on when you have planned to return to the motorhome at night. Even the interior grab handle can be illuminated. Within easy reach over the bed/seating area is a huge Euro-style skylight that literally is a breath of fresh air. It works beautifully and features integrated day-night screens, so you can leave it open on a warm night to let the cool breeze in. Combine this with the Hehr tilt-out windows atop the stowed bed and above the entertainment console, and the result is excellent ventilation â€” even with the entry door closed. There is also a powered Fan-Tastic Vent above the galley area that is likewise accessible by the vertically challenged.
Instead of jamming the bath area into one side as weâ€™ve seen in other small motorhomes, LTV capitalizes on the rear of the motorhome to great effect. The area is small, but not cramped, and features a dark wood vanity with a cute stainless-steel sink and residential-style faucet. A huge mirror makes the area feel larger than it is, and there is adequate storage space for essentials. The shower features chrome fixtures and has enough room for 6-footers, courtesy of an overhead skylight; there is also a waterproof LED light on the wall.
The Wonderâ€™s exterior looks thoroughly modern as well, with its clean lines and full-body paint, but like the interior, is thoroughly functional. A power awning features an LED light strip, and the lower compartments incorporate hydraulically dampened radius doors. There is only one lower compartment on the curbside (the others conceal the battery and generator compartments) but there is a large cabinet on the rear corner with bungee nets, adjustable shelving and a utility hook for a variety of storage options. On the streetside is a well-organized utility center and an access compartment for the LP-gas and sewer hose storage, plus a longer compartment aft of the driverâ€™s door that easily accommodated the 30-amp power cord, freshwater hose, a box of DEF and some other items.
The Wonder is an ideal choice for couples who want to tour the country in comfort. Indeed, sometimes good things do come in small packages.
Leisure Travel Vans, Triple E Recreational Vehicles | 877-992-9906 | www.leisurevans.com