Updated: Aug 5, 2020
Leisure Travel Van’s AWD Little Wonder is a small motorhome big on innovation…
This review is from the June 2020 issue of iMotorhome Magazine
It's interesting scouring the world to see how RV designers innovate. While there is an old adage about there being only so many ways you can arrange things inside a box, I'm regularly surprised and occasionally delighted by how innovative some designs are.
Canadian manufacturer Leisure Travel Vans is a well-known and highly respected quality operation that specialises in compact motorhomes. Specifically, the company builds smaller, upmarket C-class motorhomes primarily on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter cab-chassis. However, it’s entry-level range – the Wonder – is Ford Transit-based and now available with an all-wheel-drive (AWD) option.
The 2020 Ford Transit brings a range of new features, with top billing undoubtedly going to a new 10 speed automatic transmission. Power comes from a 3.5-litre twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 petrol engine that produces 228 kW (310 hp) and 540 Nm (400 ft-lb). Unfortunately, Ford appears to have dropped the diesel option from the U.S. Transit range, but the ‘gas’ engine should have more than enough grunt, even if it’s a little thirsty.
The AWD system operates on-demand, balancing torque between the front and rear axles. It makes a lot of sense in a vehicle destined to operate in a land regularly covered by snow and ice and would come in extra handy in mud and when exploring dirt and gravel roads. Interestingly, Ford Australia – which does offer diesel powered Transits – says it has no interest in offering the AWD option. Go figure…
North American motorhome designers of van-conversion and smaller Euro-based motorhomes seem obsessed with including sofa beds rather than permanent beds. This is probably an effort to maximise daytime floorspace in an effort to lure traditionally space-hungry customers out of their huge RVs. Whatever the reason, having to make-up a bed every night is really a pain in the you-know-where, hence the popularity Down Under of retractable roof beds that can be left made-up when stowed away.
Another solution, however, is the famous Murphy Bed, which simply folds down out of a wall. In the 2021 version of the Wonder Rear Lounge model, Leisure Travel Vans have incorporated one into the back wall of the rear lounge area, thus providing two practical living areas in the vehicle and an acceptable bedtime solution. Called a Flex Bedroom, during the day it features a three-seat sofa across the back wall with an L-shaped return on the driver’s side. Cleverly, the middle and passenger-side lounge seats have extendable footrests and reclining backs, making them a side-by-side pair of comfy recliners that disappear under the bed when it folds out of the back wall. Neat!
Wonder in Unity
Last year, Leisure Travel Vans launched a Sprinter-based version of its popular Unity model featuring a rear lounge with Murphy Bed. This appears to have been incorporated, with some changes, into the Wonder, but being Transit-based the price has dropped by some US$13,000. Still, this is far from a bargain basement motorhome: Priced from US$130,000, Ford’s ‘Intelligent All-Wheel Drive’ option adds US$6500 and if you tick all the option boxes – generator, 400-watts of solar and so on – you can ‘drive’ the price north of US$150,000. Ouch!
Back to the rear lounge; an interesting design point is a near floor-to-ceiling double window arrangement on the passenger side. They’re next to the pair of ‘recliner’ lounge seats, which just happened to be the ideal place to watch TV from. Come evening, the Murphy Bed folds out of the back wall to provide a 1.88 cm x 1.47 cm ( 4’9" x 6’2”) north-south sleeping space. The beauty of the Murphy Bed is it provides full headroom and overhead cupboard space in the rear lounge area during the day.
Having this separate living area is a great feature in a relatively small vehicle and is a concept we've first seen coming out of Europe. Not only does it provide a high degree of privacy, it's also hugely practical when entertaining or even when trying to operate a mobile office.
The rear lounge/bedroom is separated from the front lounge/dinette/kitchen by a split bathroom, with the toilet cubicle on the driver’s side and the shower across the aisle. There is also a hanging wardrobe and stack of shelves in a cabinet between the rear lounge and toilet cubicle, while the shower adjoins the rear of the cabinet housing the fridge and microwave.
Moving forward, the living/dinette/kitchen area would feel totally familiar to anyone who's stepped inside a European motorhome. It features swivelling cab seats and a pair of inwards facing seats, a removable pole-mounted table and a compact, L-shaped kitchen. The entry door is opposite the kitchen, leaving the bathroom and rear lounge totally private.
Electrically, the Wonder is well set up, with a pair of AGM house batteries and 2000 Watt pure sine wave inverter, although solar is optional (hey, it’s Canada!). There's also a 7 inch touchscreen for monitoring and controlling the vehicle’s House systems, including lighting, water pump, heating, etc, with readouts available via an app for the technically enthralled. Construction wise, the Wonder, like all Leisure Travel Vans, feature aluminium-framed vacuum-bonded walls with an outer layer of gel coated fibreglass and a similar construction method for the roof and floor. Naturally, there's plenty of insulation.
What makes the 7.54 m Wonder Rear Lounge particularly interesting is its heavy European design influence in a North American manufactured – and targeted – motorhome. Not totally European but far from typically American, it’s a thoughtfully designed and seemingly well built motorhome that’s a sure sign change is in the air in the continent of the brave and the home of the free. Little Wonder then it’s so appealing…