Is this Australia’s best-value camper?
Tested: Horizon Melaleuca
Review by Paddy McCann
The Horizon Melaleuca is the company’s biggest seller in its class and it’s easy to see why.
It bridges motorhome class boundaries, sitting somewhere between a large camper van and a small B class motorhome. Technically, it’s a B class yet Horizon have managed to capture the cheeky go anywhere attitude of the camper van so well either description could fit. Of course camper vans don’t typically have an internal shower and toilet and the Melaleuca has both. While I love the compact nature of a camper van, the Melaleuca offers the extra space needed for more comfortable touring for longer periods. Either way you look at it, the Horizon Melaleuca is a tantalising proposition for anyone who wants a full-featured motorhome with a tiny sub 6m footprint.
It’s a campervan, but not as we know it
When I bought my first camper van back in the late 90’s, there was nothing on the market like the Melaleuca. Camper vans were in abundant supply but if you wanted anything bigger in Australia (without going to a C class design that is), you would have to fit-out something like a Toyota Coaster bus.
Since the early 2000s however, large, economical vans have been released in Australia by Iveco, Fiat, Mercedes and Ford but none have been as successful in the RV space as the new generation Fiat Ducato. Launched in 2006, the Ducato is the darling of the RV industry. It offers both a special RV friendly cab chassis version as well as several van variants including the incredibly economical 2.3 litre version which underpins the Horizon Melaleuca.
Sleeping space fit for a king
The Melaleuca might be compact but the sleeping area is spacious and highly practical. For the solo adventurer, the sleeping area at rear can be configured as a 50/50 setup which offers half the space as seating and half the space as a permanent single bed setup facing east west across the van.
For taller people or twin share, you can have two 1870mm long single beds facing north south or drop the table down between the two, slide the cushion across and you get a vast king-sized bed. Now that’s versatile!
Space for essentials
Some people like to take everything with them when they hit the road and there are some pretty impressive larger motorhomes to accommodate this approach. The Melaleuca however is designed for simplified travel. Cupboard storage is perfect for food stocks for one or two people along with clothing, books and personal technology. The cabinetry construction material is an impressive pressure laminated ply which uses balsa wood for extra lightness and is so hardy it should still look good in 20 years. Horizon also uses self-locking Italian sourced cupboard handles that are both stylish and practical. They make a nice upgrade from the industry standard push button catches. Unlike the button design, these handles are self locking when you release them so you won’t have any drawers or cupboards flying open as you drive off.
One of the great benefits of traveling in a motorhome over hotel/motel style travel is the ability to buy fresh local produce as you pass through different regions and then prepare your gourmet feast in your own little kitchen. Bench space is naturally compressed due to the minimised length of the Melaleuca, but the dining table provides ample additional preparation space for what is likely to be a simple meal for one or two people as opposed to a banquet for half a dozen guests.
The three burner gas hob is also consistent with those in much larger motorhomes and two 4.5kg gas bottles gives you sufficient fuel for around 30 days supply of cooking and hot water via a Truma gas boiler with 12volt ignition. Hot water can be activated with the flick of a switch and the Truma boiler is small enough to allow it to regenerate quickly so everyone gets a hot shower.
Behind the scenes in the Melaleuca, there is technology such as the passive climate control measures that you probably won’t notice in the showroom or really get to appreciate until you actually use the van. Those who want to freedom camp and avoid the 240volt umbilical cord will love the extensive insulation in the walls, ceilings and floor. A large roof-mounted thermostat- controlled fan that can be set to automatically bring air into the motorhome or exhaust air out based on the ambient temperature. Even the windows are insulated with special boxed blind housings finished with easy to clean wrapped vinyl.
Although all Horizon motorhomes are pre-wired for air-conditioning, the 12volt climate management system is so effective, less that half of buyers choose to have the 240volt AC option fitted. The smart and efficient Sirocco cabin fans even have sleep timers which is pretty clever!
There is a feeling of quality about the build of the Melaleuca that extends to the custom-moulded shower and toilet cubical just behind the drivers seat. The bathroom feels solid and is produced in-house by Horizon’s design team. It’s also reasonably spacious and there’s 150 litres of fresh water which should last a couple of people 4-5 days with frugal use. To achieve this large capacity, Horizon has wisely reduced the grey water tank to 55 litres which is still plenty of capacity to allow a couple of days of ‘leave no trace’ camping when the need arises.
Horizon founder and managing director Clayton Kearney and his team set out to produce a sub six metre motorhome which is fully featured, ultra easy to drive and can legally park in pretty much any car space you can find.
I think they have created something even more. The true beauty of the Melaleuca is the great urge it gives you to want to slide into the driver seat and see where the road leads.
PRICED FROM $104,000 – PRICE AS REVIEWED $108,000 Drive Away
See the full review in our June/July 2014 issue
Find out more at horizonmotorhomes.com.au