Motorhome chassis - a comparison

Motorhome chassis - a comparison – main image

The Fiat Ducato has been the leader in the motorhome market for many years. Why is it like that? How does the competition look like against it? Today we will take a closer look at the vehicles on the market. We will also describe the most important differences between them.

Fiat Ducato - caravanning leader


It is hard to imagine that over a dozen or so years any vehicle undergoes only minor "lifting" changes. And yet the Fiat Ducato is a perfect example of this. The king of the motorhome market (as I think we can talk about it) has, on average, seized over 70% of this cake in recent years. However, apart from changing the shape of the headlamps and subtle modifications to the layout of the dashboard , engine replacement required by the EURO6d standard and a new gearbox, not much has happened here. The entire range of propulsion engines are units with a capacity of 2.3 liters, additionally subject to high excise duty.

Integrated motorhome - here, when buying, the price difference between the models based on the Ducato and the new Sprinter becomes small. Therefore, it is not surprising that you are reluctant to choose Ducato in premium motorhomes. Old structure and solutions are difficult to defend.

What competition does the veteran have to compete with at the moment and what can you expect from the new installment announced for 2021? The Fiat concern, for the time being, has been sharing information about its development work in a moderate way. The purpose of this article is rather to encourage discussion and analysis of what an ideal "dumper" should look like as an ideal base for a motorhome.

Fiat Ducato appearance and the competition


The last Ducato face lift from 2014 contributed to the refreshing of the body lines. Although it has already been applied, it remains acceptable to most customers. Of course, we are talking about amateurs of campervans and semi- integrated campers . In recent years, the lights have been supplemented with LED daytime running lights, which additionally refreshed the hood of the veteran (the low beam is unfortunately still outdated H7).

But what does the competition look like? The Ford Transit in the new version from 2018 received a larger grill and attractive lights, LED light frames plus bi-xenons definitely follow the current trends. Similarly, Mercedes Sprinter has a large grill and the latest generation of LED lighting. The changes to the Ford and Mercedes, however, are far from revolutionary, so in our opinion, in terms of exterior design, the Ducato does not stand out from the rest of the range. For many users, buying a motorhome is an investment for many years. For this reason, the question of corrosion protection and durability of the car body becomes important. Ducato is a proven partner here, which is confirmed by almost all users of even old copies. Zink in 2014 also appeared in Transit bodies. Mercedes ... well ... the model has become synonymous with corrosion in recent years. Since 2018, however, the chassis and side walls (finally) have been galvanized, which should definitely improve durability.

It is worth remembering that in the vast majority of integrated vehicles, the base is precisely the Fiat Ducato, enclosed in a body stylistically designed by the manufacturer. Why is it like that? The main argument is that the drive unit is extremely compact - as compact as possible. This allows many manufacturers to use the space efficiently, stay within the length limit, connect seamlessly to the AL-KO chassis, and it is also an economical solution. Despite strenuous attempts, no one from the competition managed to take this segment away from Fiat.

Engines and handling


Handling stability is a strong point of the Ducato front-wheel drive. Users and experts praise its failure-free operation and well-developed service network. The new engines with a capacity of 2.3 can have a power of up to 180 HP and meet the EURO6D standard , the manual gearbox works precisely, the new automatic gearbox is refined. In this respect, Fiat is moving with the times and even from its successor we cannot expect much more. Unfortunately, the capacity of more than 2 liters in Polish realities means high excise duty.

The situation is completely different in the case of Ford, which with its Bluetec 2.0 unit with a power of 105 to 185KM has become a very popular base unit for semi- integrated motorhomes of several popular production groups (such as Caravans International or Trigano). The much lower excise tax translates into the final price of the cars, and thus the attractiveness of Transit-based offers. Opinions on drive units are different - despite several years of presence on the market, customer reports have indicated problems with injections in almost new cars with varying frequency. The latest copies are to be free of this type of ailments (according to the manufacturer's declaration). It is worth noting that in addition to the front-wheel drive version, Transit is offered, for example, by Randger as a 4-wheel drive model. Ford's 10-speed automatic gearbox, available recently (mid-2020), promises to be interesting.

What does Mercedes have to offer? Before the appearance of the new star, the vehicle was mainly available as a rear-wheel drive car (and in traces of 4x4). A front-wheel drive variant is now also available. The most popular 2.2-liter engines generate 143-190 HP. In addition to the precision manual gearbox, a perfectly tuned G-TRONIC gearbox (7-9 gears) can be selected. On the other hand, 2l units under the Citroen brand are not very popular in motorhomes, which is largely a twin construction to the Ducato.

Interior and equipment


If this competition is compared to an unequal fight in a neighborhood yard, it can be safely said that Ducato and his twin constructions will "collect the spanking". Why? Quite simply… there have been no changes in ergonomics, driver assistance systems, multimedia and finish quality over the years.

The cockpit of the Ford Transit is much more attractive, many amenities such as active cruise control, blind spot tracking (BLIS) along with Cross Traffic Alert have been implemented here. The cup mounts, the USB socket located above the clocks in front of the driver, are neatly solved, which allows you to avoid tangled cables. Deep transverse compartments along the windshield are also useful. In terms of ergonomics, Ford can be liked.

The Mercedes inside is the newest design, which is noticeable from the very first moment. We have a lot of assistants here - from side wind support through adaptive cruise control to the advanced multimedia and communication system MBUX with voice control, USB sockets, the ability to communicate with the body builder's on-board systems (eg HYMER ). The materials are of very high quality and the ergonomics leave little to be desired.



There are many factors that influence the choice of a base vehicle. When the price is the criterion, we often choose Ford manufacturers - mainly due to the lower excise tax . Please note that the excise tax is calculated on the value of the entire motorhome . Therefore, vehicles based on cars above 2 liters of engine capacity are rarely ordered with additional factory equipment . The 18.6% excise surcharge for an awning, converter or solar panels is an obvious deterrent and accessories are instead to be installed in the dealer's showroom / workshop. Especially in the context of the price-quality ratio, or even in the price-sensitive segment, Ford is a sensible and most noteworthy choice.

Customers in the premium segment (especially integrated vehicles ) have a completely different dilemma - because often when making a choice in terms of specific models / interior layouts, they are left with the choice between Ducato and Sprinter. Since we are talking about the premium segment and cars, both of which are subject to high excise duty, for the target group the difference in the final offer of the dealer may be marginal. Then (unless the Ducato is equipped with an AL-KO chassis and a modified suspension), it is definitely worth choosing a motorhome from the star sign. However, Fiat does not lay down its arms - there are many manufacturers from every segment of the market who remain faithful to the Italian brand. Remember that from the construction point of view, it is a car designed to be a power unit for the construction of motorhomes. We can wait for the successor of the old "king of the market" and hope for a positive surprise. Let's hope that it will be a successful result of modern technologies, Italian design and durability to which the manufacturer has already got used to.

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Maciej Kinal
Maciej Kinal

I feel best in the form of trade fairs and meetings with enthusiasts. Technical freak. In my life I have dismantled many motorhomes for the first time. Fan of large vehicles, mountain biking and traveling without weight and financial restrictions. At CampRest, I am responsible for all publications on automotive topics.

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