There are all sorts of approaches to offering choice. Sometimes choice can be overwhelming if you’re offered myriad options and configurations. Is simplicity a better option? Auto-Trail apparently seems to think so. The award-winning UK manufacturer offers choice with the models it offers and then limited options within those specific models. Then, by equipping the units with a complete package of what you need for travelling straight from the showroom, there are very few choices to make beyond how many beds you need, how many seatbelted positions and to pick your soft furnishings and colours. The exteriors are all blue and white.
The new Auto-Trail Imala range offers five layouts, three models – 615, 715 and 730 – and two body lengths. This model is the 730, a C Class, with Hi Line roof no-cost option, six-berth, and two passengers on a 7.26m platform.
If you wish to add to the passenger list then the dining room configuration must change to a half-dinette but here there is an unencumbered throughway to the main sleeping quarters and island bed at the rear.
But let’s start at the front. Although Auto-Trail employs its own grille badge the motive power and chassis is the Fiat Ducato, with a 180 Multijet turbodiesel and six-speed auto. The drivetrain is employed in many units and while the automated manual gearbox isn’t adored by some it does the job asked of it well. Fiat is favoured by motorhome manufacturers because the auto giant supplies its units in a ready state for motorhome conversion. When shown through the Imala at Sydney RV – that kindly lent me the Imala for the day – the dedicated fuse box in the floor behind the driver’s seat was pointed out. It’s a clear way of identifying any electrical issues between motorhome and vehicle systems with a marked fusing layout.
The Fiat dash is familiar and well laid out, in black with brushed alloy effect highlights, with tray and cubby storage and, what’s this? Two cup holders in a new unit in front of the centre console stack – so three in total. The driver and passenger pews each are very well and firmly sculpted, have twin armrests and swivel to join the seating provision for the dining area behind. The success of the decision to match them in the Ingham inspired fabric (as the brochure refers to it) of the lounge will be borne out over long-term use. It looks hard wearing but not easy to clean. In a nice touch the cabin has carpet mats, and the windows are screened with a Remis blind system.
Overhead in the cab is the TV/DVD player that has a fold-down screen. This arrangement, coupled with the AM/FM radio with Aux/USB/iPod connection and Bluetooth hands free system in the dash is part of the Lifestyle Pack – along with the 100W solar panel – and is one of the few cost options. This Pack includes the reversing camera, viewed through the substantial rear-view mirror as, of course, the Auto-Trail has no rear window. The over-length issue that saw early Auto-Trail models unable to carry the spare wheel in a dedicated holder on the rear wall has been resolved with spare-wheel placement underneath the vehicle. The rear wall now has a wide mouth to access the boot with the only other external hatch access limited to the toilet cassette and the locker for the twin gas bottles on the nearside.
Insulation plays an important part in motorhome construction. While Australia can endure alpine winter conditions in specific areas, Europe can be a continent under a white out. Conversely, here we can enjoy (or endure) epically heated environs country wide and for long periods. Auto-Trail vehicles meet European NCC EN1646-1 Grade 3 standards that top the charts for heating and insulation. This translates to an ability to maintain a comfy 20°C within extremes of -15 to 40°C provided by insulation that’s 40mm and 45mm in the walls and roof respectively.
To cover of a more obvious nature, the 3.5m wind-out awning is also part of the Lifestyle Pack on the Imala range. Oddly, the 240V outlet is reached via the boot as opposed to being on an external wall.
The entry door, served by a Thule electric fold-out step, is a substantial unit. It features a window with blind, an umbrella in a dedicated holder, and a bin. Not only that, the door is locked with the remote central locking and uses the same key as all other locks on the vehicle. The lack of a bin and separate keys for doors, hatches and lockers are issues that need to be addressed by manufacturers that persist in following these irritating practices.
While there is a flyscreen door that slides to fill the entry space, care needs to be taken when closing the main door – say, from outside – with the screen closed as the bow-shaped interior face of the door pushes the soft screen inwards.
Once inside you notice the most unusual feature in an Australian motorhome – carpet. While underneath is the expected timber laminate flooring, these carpets are press-studded into place so they can be removed, and they are sectional so you can decide where you want to keep it plush underfoot – such as the bedroom. While some owners will prefer the instant ability to sweep the floor at all times the warmth and comfort it adds should be experienced before being dismissed.
Immediately to your left is the sidefacing bench seat lounge. It’s a bright space with windows either side that’s boosted by the use of very light fabrics and timber panelling. This area converts to a generous single bed with tapered foot end, that’s set-up easily by simply drawing out slatted sections from under the seats and arranging the cushions. The bed size would become a double with the fitment of the half-dinette option mentioned earlier to accommodate two seat-belted positions here for travel.
The dining provision here is not immediately apparent. The dining table is a portable unit that’s stowed vertically in the nearside wardrobe in the bedroom. The stability of such an arrangement may refl ect on the comment made earlier about keeping the upholstery clean in the event of spills. An optional table and boom arm is available.
There are overhead lockers on either side of the lounge and the one on the driver’s side contains the nerve centre for the house electrics. A Sargent EC-155 is a dedicated motorhome power supply unit that provides a further easy to follow path to expedite a solution to electrical woes should they arise. LED displays for the water tanks and Truma hot water system are on the wall opposite, above the entry door.
Still above head level, the forward HiLine Luton peak contains a double bed, in the space lit by a skylight. Not only does this offer more direct light to the occupants, the fact the slatted bed base slides forwards to let more of that light reach the cabin below and the sliding action adds headroom beneath. As with all windows in the Imala, the skylight opens outwards, is double glazed, tinted and has a blind/flyscreen combo in place. The only slight point of difference is the bathroom window that’s opaque but still opens.
The bathroom contains separate shower and toilet space. The door is a domestic style with a traditional door handle. The pedestal toilet sits with a sink to its right, under the window. The area is carpeted and served by a vent for the heating system too, which should make it cosy in winter. It’s not cosy enough to feel cramped, though, and the shower cabinet is large enough to allow regulation activity but those over six feet may find it a tad awkward. The bathroom is also fitted with a mirror, overhead cupboard and a skylight vent.
Given the lack of a standard fixed table the kitchen needs to maximise preparation space and the worktop does this in a neat way. A rectangular sink is placed sideways at the left end of the bench and has a glass lid. Not only does this maximise the area between it and the cooker top the shape lends itself to easier washing up.
The Dometic three-way fridge sits beneath the sink and to its right are a two-door, four-shelf cupboard and two small pull-out drawers. Dedicated racks for crockery are housed in twin overheads above; sufficient, not cavernous storage. The cooking hardware takes the form in descending order of an 800W microwave, a three gas one electric cooktop, a grill and an oven. There is no rangehood fi tted but there is a strip of LED downlights above the kitchen area. Further illumination comes through the window on the kitchen wall.
The Imala features an island double bed in the main bedroom. With walk around facility the main benefit of such a bed this is aided by the fact that the mattress can be pulled up at the rear to sit against the bedhead. This wall itself is padded and covered with a floral pattern material so that you could recline here while parked and then easily drop the bed into its flat position come bedtime. Beneath the slatted base there’s access to the storage boot below. Either side of the bed are wardrobes and bedside lockers and shelves. The nearside wardrobe space, however, is slightly impinged upon by the storage of the dining room table and the pole for the extendable TV aerial that descends when retracted. Connections are also available for a TV to be mounted in the bedroom area. Twin overhead lockers sit between the wardrobes and there are six down and two reading lights, a skylight and a partition blind to section of the bedroom for privacy.
The Imala is certainly an attractive model. The European fl air is evident and nice design touches are used throughout. Given the six-berth capacity of this vehicle storage might be an issue for trips of any signifi cant duration; however, this model is not aimed at users with that occupancy rate as a full-time proposition. I’m not totally convinced by the Lifestyle Pack, but the little details like the table and TV aerial storage pail when taken alongside a comfy fl exible interior, a great bathroom, fl exible fl oor coverings and the catering equipment. It’s hard to go past everything else, and the kitchen sink.
Tags: Review Trail Auto-Trail Imala Sydney RV Motorhome
Written: Fri 01 Jul 2016
Printed: July, 2016
Model Imala 730
Base vehicle Fiat Ducato
Tare weight 3218kg
Engine 3.0-litre Multijet turbodiesel
Power 132kW at 3500rpm
Torque 400Nm at 1400rpm
Gearbox Six-speed auto
Brakes Discs front and rear, ABS, EBD, ESP
External length 7.26m (23ft, 10in)
External width 2.77m (9ft, 1in)
External height 3.10m (10ft, 2in)
Rear bed size Rear double 1.86 x 1.34 m (6ft 1in x 4ft 4in)
Front double: 2.17 x 1.22 m (7ft 1in x 4ft) Luton: 1.89 x 1.18 m (6ft 2in x 3ft 9in)
Cooktop Thetford gas three burner/ 1 electric hob, grill and oven
Fridge Dometic three-way 96L
Microwave oven Daewoo 800W
Lighting 12V LED
Batteries 1 x 75 AH deep cycle
Solar panels 1 x 100 watt (option)
Air-conditioner Truma Aventa
Toilet Thetford cassette
Shower Variable height, flexible hose
heater Truma Combo 10L
Water tank 135 litres
Grey tank 85 litres
Gas cylinders 1 x 9kg, 1 x 4.5kg
PRICE (on-road, NSW) $149,990