If you’ve seen one of our latest videos, you know lately I’ve been really digging a type of motorhome we saw in Europe that we don’t have in North America at all. Just to give it a name, I’m calling it a “Compact C”. I tried calling it a “C-minus” initially, but all my RV company friends told me that would be a marketing nightmare. So “Compact C” it is. I suppose I could also go for “Ultra Compact” if you want to get rid of the Class C association.
Just so there’s no confusion, let me list exactly what I think are the critical characteristics of the Compact C:
- Built on a cab-chassis as a traditional Class C would be – and probably a cab chassis that is also available as a van. Building as a C has two key advantages over a Class B. First, it’s easier (meaning less expensive) to build. Second, the straight walls open up more room and floor plan options inside.
- No longer and no wider than the Class B van on which it’s based. This lets you retain all the maneuverability and drivability advantages of the Class B. Nobody should be afraid to drive one.
- It could be taller than the Class B van it started as, but not vastly taller. A few inches, OK. A few feet… no.
- It shouldn’t have any slides. Because it shouldn’t need them. Think of this as an alternative to a Class B van. Do NOT think of this as trying to cram everything you might find in a 30 foot class C into 22 feet of space. There are plenty of alternatives for someone who wants two recliners and a 64 inch flat screen TV in their rig. This is not one of them.
- It should have a garage.
And beyond that, I’m kinda open to suggestions. Sure, I’d like it to have lithium batteries, double pane acrylic windows, and a host of other features. But let’s start there.
I know that there’s nothing like this in North America. But since we were at the Hershey RV show, which they say is “America’s Largest RV Show”, I thought it might be fun to go out looking and see how close we could get to this concept. We found a few things that got close, but nothing that hits the mark exactly. Basically, I learned who’s partway there already.
The Typical “Small C”
If you go into an RV dealer in North America today and ask them to show you a small Class C, they’ll probably show you something that looks about like this.
This is a Renegade Villagio. But honestly, there are about 47 different makes and models that are all basically the same thing, so take your pick. (I don’t mean to pick on Renegade here – this is just the first one we saw. If we had walked another 25 feet before taking the picture, you might be looking at something else.)
This is built on a Mercedes Sprinter chassis, which is also the base van for a lot of Class B conversions, so it meets the first criteria. But this van is considerably wider than the Sprinter van it’s based on, and it has a slide.
It’s also a bit longer and a metric crapload taller.
Now, to be fair, all that extra width, depth, and height does translate to more interior room, and some of these can be quite nice inside, as the Renegade was.
This isn’t really what I’m after, but it’s what you’re likely to find. But if you look harder, you can get closer to the Compact C idea. Take, for example, this next one:
This one is also built on a Mercedes Sprinter, so it checks the first box. And Pleasure-Way makes sure that when they are done, the vehicle is EXACTLY as long as the extended Sprinter van, so thumbs up there. There are two floor plans of the Plateau XL, and neither of them has a slide (yay!), but they are wider than the Sprinter Van.
They’re also about a foot taller than a Sprinter based Class B. Or so it seems.
Pleasure-Way does a good job with that extra space though, and upon walking in, you’d almost swear you were in an RV with a slide-out.
But again, this isn’t about extra room, it’s about staying compact. So while the Pleasure-Way is closer than the typical small C, and Pleasure-Way clearly has the skills to build a Compact C… they’re not. (and I’m sure they have their reasons.)
We saw this one at the show and I found it pretty interesting for a couple of reasons. One of those reasons is the Coach House signature one-piece fiberglass construction, which you just have to like. The other reason is that it is built on an E450 chassis that gives it plenty of carrying capacity. I don’t think they’re making vans on the E450 anymore, but they did once, so it counts.
It’s not terribly long, at just over 23 feet. Since they don’t make the van anymore, I don’t know what to compare that to, but it’s on the shorter side (though it does have a bit of an overhang on the back). It is somewhat wider than the van would be though.
Though happily, it doesn’t seem to be all that much taller. The specs say 10’5”, so maybe it’s just that slick curved one-piece fiberglass shell fooling us.
There was a mid-split-bath floor plan at work in this one. Mid bath floor plans generally make compact coaches seem a bit more cramped. But this Platinum seemed to be larger inside than you might expect, and it does it all without slides, so nice job Coach House.
Again – close. Maybe even closer. But not exactly what I mean by the Compact C.
What made me seek this one out at the show is its height. It has a published height of just 9 feet 11 inches, including the AC. That means it will (just) fit into a ten foot opening. We hadn’t brought a tape measure, but Stef is about 5 foot 4 or so, and if you stack two of her up, I think the RV would be shorter.
This one is built on the Ford Transit chassis. The Transit is a bit wider than a Sprinter, and the Wonder is wider than that still.
The Wonder is also a bit longer than a Transit van, so again, still not a direct hit. But check out the interior! They’ve just released a second floor plan of the Wonder, and we’ll be doing an in-depth review of that new floor plan soon.
We went looking for a Trend at the Hershey show, and we came up empty. But then we noticed our friends at Truma had brought theirs to the show so we were able to get some pictures after all.
The Trend is built on the Ram ProMaster chassis, as is our current Class B van, Lance. We really like the way the ProMaster drives, so we hope that any future “Compact C” development moves forward on this chassis. (Plus, pretty much everything in Europe is built on its cousin, the Fiat Ducato, so there are plenty of designs to copy.)
The ProMaster is wider and lower to the ground than any of the other common cab-chassis. So this gives it a leg up in the Compact C game. Even with that advantage, the Trend is still a wider than a regular ProMaster van.
You also can’t help but notice that, at 24 feet 4 inches, the Trend is a good bit longer than the 20’11” ProMaster van.
The Trend is also taller than the ProMaster van. I just measured Lance, our Travato a few weeks ago, and he was just grazing 9 feet 2 inches. The Trend is a foot taller than that at 10 foot 2. Not huge, and it helps that it starts off closer to the ground. But still probably a bit taller than I would like.
Now, since the Truma guys were actually using the Trend, we won’t show you pictures of the inside. Hope that’s OK. You can find plenty of Trend pictures on the official Winnebago site.
And so, you can see that a number of manufacturers are able to check some of the boxes for the Compact C, but none of them currently hits them all. (At least not the ones we saw at the show.) But rather than be discouraged by this, I’m trying to be encouraged. This means that there are a number of makers out there that could easily make the Compact C if they chose to.
Now all I have to do is convince one of them to do it. If you want to help by bugging them or commenting here, that’s totally fine with us. 😉
That’s all from Hershey!