Motorhome Chassis Review

Review and photos by Kobus Botha

The motorhome industry is going through another incredible growth phase and nowhere is this more evident than in the number of vehicles on offer to the lucky motorhome owner today.

The Fiat Ducato is specifically built to serve as a motorhome chassis, not to be used as a delivery vehicle, so it’s no surprise that it drives softer and is more comfortable inside than many other motorhome chassis. I love the fact that you experience hardly any road noise – it’s just like being in a new car. It runs on commercial tyres that are designed to carry loads of weight but, significantly, is also designed to create very little road noise. This makes it perfect for the motorhoming family.

The Ducato has eight computer settings and this helps in terms of safety as well as with the overall driving experience, while the extended side mirrors are designed to help you see clearly and comfortably what’s happening behind your heavier load and wider rear. The chassis cab is exactly the same vehicle as Fiat’s panel van, except that there’s a longer overhang behind the cab’s rear wheels.

The Ducato comes with built-in extras, so there’s no need for additional conversions in constructing the motorhome: all connections, cables, wires, and everything you need for a motorhome are in place, and connected. It also has very good overall fire protection, in addition to air bags for the driver and passenger.

There’s a three-year / 100 000 km warranty, as well as a maintenance plan with an optional extended warranty to 200 250 km; and service intervals have been pushed out to every 22 500 km / 12 months. Dawie du Toit of Fiat Imperial has been the driving force behind establishing the Fiat Ducato in the South African motorhome manufacturing industry, and he believes that the Ducato offers the greatest space on the market thanks to its rear axle (it’s 800 mm wider), a longer chassis, and the Front-Wheel-Drive; the latter allows for significantly more packing space under the chassis as there aren’t any prop shafts running to the rear differential.

‘The Fiat is also lower to the ground, which means it has a major advantage in terms of body roll, as the centre of gravity is lower,’ Dawie told me. ‘You won’t find it to be top-heavy.’

In addition, it has a stabiliser arm connected to the chassis which helps in the event of body rolling, allowing you peace of mind on the corners. There’s an additional benefit when it comes to fuel consumption because, as it’s lower to the ground, there’s less wind-resistance.

John Lawrence, one of the owners of Vista Motorhomes, proudly states that the Fiat Ducato is their chassis of choice because, simply put, ‘It’s an amazing vehicle’.

‘Around 70 percent of motorhomes in Europe are built on the back of a Fiat, so it has to be the best car – they can’t be all wrong,’ added John. ‘It’s just an incredible vehicle to build a motorhome on. The harness wiring is standard with the Ducato, and this saves us a lot of time when it comes to manufacturing our motorhomes, as we don’t need to do any conversions. The passenger and driver seats swivel to face the back, and this saves space as one doesn’t need to add two extra seats inside. It also makes it just so much more convenient and practical. The seatbelts are also completely built into the seats, ensuring that you are able to swivel around with ease.’

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