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Ducato makes home any place at all

February 23, 2005
Ducato makes home any place at all

The Jayco Ducato is an indulgent, selfish way to travel.

There are two seats with seat-belts in a comfortable cabin, so don't argue this is about two for the road. The compact unit makes it easy to get up and go. We took an easy round trip tour of just over 300km from our Melbourne suburb of Ringwood East to Eildon to get to know the new entry to the motorised sector from Jayco.

The big campervan is a competent road runner and we motored in some style through Yea and Alexandra on route to the massive mountain-top reservoir. At stops in Yea, Alexandra and Eildon the good looking unit drew local attention and we found ourselves providing information and inspections.

Then, after a comfortable overnight at Eildon we wound in our awning and hit the road in minutes. That's the beauty of the Ducato and campervans and motorhomes like it. Your home comforts are on board. The toilet is always clean, meal time is when you are hungry, the drinks are cold, the food fresh and the view through the big windscreen shows the world as a moving picture.

It was Saturday morning when we left and as we were keen to get on the road we drove to the local supermarket, parked close, and loaded the fridge and food lockers straight from our shopping trolley. The Waeco MDC 90 litre 2-way fridge is well placed for stocking up. It is right beside the door and the electric fold-down step. The fridge has its own deep-cycle battery power feed under the dinette seat or it runs on main power when the Ducato is parked on site.

The campervan has a Setec 20amp, 240V to 12V converter so it has light up options regardless of where it stops. The converter also trickle charges the battery power which includes an auxiliary 'house' battery. This means the vehicles own system always has power to fire up the diesel.

Motorhome We choose the B option of three interior layouts available in the Ducato. The double bed is east-west across the back of the unit. It gives good support, but could test the friendship with tall people looking for extra leg room.
It also means disturbance if the partner nearest the Ducato rear gets up. We prefer north - south sleeping and this is available, without toilet and shower, in the C version of the Ducato with the stove and sinks behind the driver.

The A option has toilet, shower and cooking at the rear and divan/bed and table behind the rotating driver's seat. In the B option the toilet and shower are amidships. It is close work, but manageable. The Thetford toilet is particularly well designed. It swivels for maximum leg room for toilet or showering and the chemi cassette deserves an award for innovation.

It is easy to remove and clean to empty and refresh with an auto close and swivel pouring arm. The flexible shower slots at head height, or drops in beside the hand basin to play a clever double role and a big roof vent provides ventilation.

The Ducato's Truma B14 240V/Gas hot water service does the job and the 80 litre grey water tank under the Ducato should keep the environment right for days. How long actually depends on your water use habits.

The grey water dumps via a flexible hose clipped under the Ducato. The handle of the valve had broken off when we tried to open the flow. We solved the problem with a little patience, but we don't know what took the handle. It may have been road damage. Potable water comes from a 63 litre tank.

We quarreled with the toilet door. A plastic toggle locks it from the outside. It was loose and prone to drop and you guessed it - lady locked in. Funny now, but the arrangement needs work. The two burner gas stove, sink and microwave oven are just inside the big sliding door. A folding bench flap top adds a little more working surface.

Motorhome The table sits behind the comfortable driver's seat which rotates to face the table and the bench seat opposite at meal times. Not that we stayed indoors. The removable table clips to a slide on the wall in the Ducato and is easily detached. Outside the Ducato's sliding door has a similar permanent slide for table attachment.

We use the extension crank handle to slot into and wind the Fiama awning out of it roll-up storage on the side of the Ducato's roof, clipped on the table, adjusted its telescopic leg and kicked back in our camp chairs. The awning has potential. We would turn it into an annex with skirts to stop the breeze blowing in under the vehicle. Talking of wind we would also reinforce the awning with poles, guys and pegs.

The biggest storage area is under the mattress in the B option Ducato via a big hatch assisted by a lift arm. This area can also be accessed from outside the big campervan through a hatch by opening the rear doors. It works, but we needed it bigger as we had a 78cm satellite TV dish with us which is too big to fit through the hatch and into the partitioned storage space.

We found a place for it at the head of the bed, strapped upright. Its tripod, cables and associated bit and pieces went under the bed with Donnas and pillows on one side and travel essentials like tool kits, camp chairs, axe, broom and spade on the other. Our soft clothes bags went under the dinette seat.

There is a hanging locker above the fridge and draw and cupboards under the cooking area. There are also useful deep shelves above the driving and dinette area and above the bed. At night it is 'lights out' inside with a pull up blind shutting out the windscreen, curtains all around and concertina fold away blinds for the windows on the driver and passenger side.

With the Ducato closed insect-free ventilation is via a screened wind up roof hatch and through the fly-screened sliding side window. It was enough, but leaves some doubt about hot summer nights. There is external access on the driver's side to the locker which holds the twin 4.5 litre gas bottles. There is also a 240V external power point and lockable water filler. On the passenger side there is a handy annex light. Inside in the ceiling a Coaxial TV point is well placed with a screen arm and wind-up TV antenna.

Motorhome luxury The Ducato is a seriously good front wheel drive Fiat design. The 2.8 litre turbo diesel produces heaps of pulling power with excellent economy. We topped up the 80 litre tank with 54 litres and came home with half a tank unused after more than 300km. We saw an easy 9 litres a 100km from the Ducato and we made it work. That included two hours driving in peak hour traffic, climbs to the top of both popular lookouts in hilly Eildon, highway cruising at 95 to 110kmh and hours of looking at the country.

The climb to the beautiful views from Mt Pinninger lookout showed the balance of motor and gearing at its best. The Ducato does it easy and holding third on the way down adds engine braking to the stopping power.

But handbrake starts on steep slopes are not fun. The handbrake is mounted low to the driversright and it is a dive and weave process to get it off, steer and watch the road at the same time. It also has to be off if the driver's seat is rotated for table seating or the seat catches the handbrake handle.

Yes the Ducato has a commercial heritage but it is 'car-like' to drive despite being on eyeball terms with the smaller passing trucks. And from the comfortable driver's seat the commanding view is a secure, scenic improvement on the low level world of a car. The big driving mirrors give full information about what is coming up too.

The five speed manual gets around the gears well, aided by a light clutch and the stubby gear lever placed under the driver's left hand. Reverse is locked out until the release under the gear knob is pulled up.

MotorhomeThe smooth diesel does well with the revs up around 2000 rpm, but it is not fussy about just ambling along. It will pick up its skirts if the need arises and easily keeps pace with the traffic stream. In fact it needs watching as illegal speeds can come as a surprise as the quiet diesel gets into the 'grunt' range above 2000 rpm. Towing a boat, caravan or trailer would not be a problem. Jayco says the towing capacity with trailer brakes is 2000kg.
Fifth is definitely an overdrive. And as you would expect third and fourth gears accelerate better in city driving. First is for tearing trees up by the roots or maybe ploughing.

The Ducato's song brought working memories to my retired farmer father-in-law when we stopped in the street below his hillside bedroom. He could not see the Ducato because of trees and thehill slope, but when we walked in we were greeted with - 'good choice, it is a Fiat'.

We enjoyed relaxed 90 to 110km cruising in highway running and on good bitumen country roads. The Ducato is well mannered, but it shows its 'commercial' side through the steering if it's dropped onto a loose, or rough, road shoulder.
The Ducato parks in a standard street space and fitted in nicely when we called a halt for lunch in the main street of interesting Alexandra.
In fact that is exactly what the Ducato does best - fits in.

Fiat Ducato 2.8. JTD High Roof Van
Price as tested about $80,000 on the road. Improvements to the range has also brought a wider price range starting from about $69,000 (On road costs extra) at the Leisurefest at Melbourne's Sandown Racecourse from Friday, Sept. 30 to Sunday October 2.

Gross Vehicle Mass - 3510kg.
Length - 5599mm.
Width - 2500mm.
Height - 2470mm.
Engine -2.8 litre, 4-cylinders in-line SOHC 2 valves per cylinder, turbocharged diesel.
Max torque - 300Nm at 1800 rpm.
Max power - 94kW at 3600 rpm.
Front Wheel Drive.
Fuel capacity - 80 litres.
Transmission - 5-speed manual.
Four wheel disc brakes.
Steering - rack and pinion, power assisted.
Turning circle - 13.7m.
Recommended towing capacity - with trailer brakes 2000kg.
Recommended towing capacity - without trailerbrakes 750kg.
Warranty - 3yr/180,000 km* / * Roadside Assist.
Builder - Motorhomes by Jayco

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