Hasta la Vista Baby
When it comes to full-blown adventure touring, nothing beats a camper trailer as a suitable remote option. A camper has it all over a van or poptop in maneuverability and weight yet a thoughtfully designed model can include all the comforts and support we need. Since their introduction twelve years ago, Vista RV has proven to be one of the best. The original prototype is still in use at the Bayswater factory and has been around Australia four times. Owner Louie Cretella even puts it to the ultimate test by letting his twenty-something children loose with it for their holidays.
The original model was so successful and well designed that, with a few tweaks along the way, its production run has lasted for years, and it was only recently that the design team came up with an even better version, which we have had the privilege of being the first to review. The new XLE and XLI models retain the basic footprint of the larger XL model but have improved storage and cooking arrangements. The XLE refers to a new outside fridge, and the XLI has the fridge inside a reworked kitchenette. In this issue we look at the XLI and we will summarise the XLE and the build process next time. Both models benefit from a revised layout that moves the electrical components and controls forward of the entry door for more space in the rear kitchenette.
The Vista’s unique intergalactic capsule design remains contemporary and is easily recognised on the track. But the staggering visual image isn’t the only thing that’s a real standout because the suspension is also a market leader with exceptional wheel travel and fantastic articulation.
From the outside, the Vista is a mix of rugged appeal and elegant styling for an impact that lets you know it’s a serious offroader without pretentions. It doesn’t need twin spare wheels, acres of checkerplate or a pig shooter’s gun rack to look tough, but it is unmistakably adventure bound. The elegant flowing roofline and the subtle logos keep things peaceful, but the big wheels and tyres are a hint that we are on the road to anywhere we like. Look closer and you notice the jerry cans secreted along the sides and the big step up to the door for plenty of clearance over rough terrain. Reinforcing the camper’s off-road credentials is a fully articulated Cruisemaster DO35 off-road hitch rated at 3.5 tonnes. There is also an Anderson plug to charge the battery on the move.
The camper’s smooth lines are accentuated by hiding most of the accessories behind various covers. This is most evident at the front where black vinyl protects a two-level, metal toolbox that slides forward after undoing a couple of bolts for access to the spare wheel. Protecting the body of the camper on both sides of the storage box are innovative doors that act as stone guards but also have inbuilt holders for jerry cans. These doors open on sturdy hinges for access to a duo of 4.5kg gas bottles.
High over the front section are two hatches for a flow of air and light to the interior but apart from that, the roof is a smooth arch that presents an efficient aerodynamic shape to the wind.
Moving back along the passenger side, we find a slide-out kitchen with two storage bins, a cutlery drawer, preparation space, sink with water tap and a gas cooktop with integrated wind deflector. Further back again the entry door is held open by a simple rubber cord. I like the way the door has some small shelves to store some of those often-used items like a torch, pocketknife or the cooking condiments for the outback chef preparing culinary delights.
The rear of the Vista is cut away so that the tail section is nearly a metre above the ground to allow the camper to access steep creek crossings and the like. This whole rear panel has a 160w solar panel fixed to it and hinges up on struts to make a roof for an external en-suite cubicle. When travelling, the polyester walls of the en-suite are held in place by three bungee cords, and it takes only a minute or so to drop them down and set up with a couple of tent pegs to keep it in place.
The driver’s side has another locker for two jerry cans tucked in behind the wheel arch and three more handy storage hatches.
Two 87L water tanks underneath sit front and rear of the suspension and have metal guards to prevent damage from flying rocks.
But it’s the asymmetrical independent coil spring suspension that dominates the undercarriage. The system is fixed to a chassis comprising two main box sections and four tubular cross members that have been hot-dip galvanised. Two unequal length longitudinal control arms keep each wheel hub in vertical alignment and work with the almost full-width lateral links and a set of Koni shock absorbers to deliver a smooth ride with 330mm of travel. This translates to less shock to the camper over rough roads and easy transition over extreme off-road conditions.
The new model has the same footprint as the Crossover XL which it replaces and retains the same roof to give standing room at the back of the camper. Setting up is as quick as releasing a couple of locks and lifting the roof on its gas struts. Stabiliser feet are stored in a driver side locker if you are staying longer than one night, but I found the rig was very stable without them.
The new layout at the back sees a 110L fridge tucked under the rear bench in the space that the electrics used to occupy. These have been moved to a control panel forward of the entry door and tell you all the information about charging, battery condition, lighting control, water levels with a big bonus, it’s Bluetooth controlled from your phone.
Because most of the cooking will be done outside, the internal kitchenette is a basic setup for a morning cuppa or a quick snack up on the run. This leaves cooking smells outside but gives access to the fridge from the entry door without needing to go inside.
The forward section of the camper comprises a convertible dinette or bedroom. For sleeping, the dinette table folds down and the two-section mattress folds out to make a queen-size bed. But, given you will be outside most of the time for cooking and eating, you would probably leave the bed made up most of the time.
Big windows and the roof hatches give a good flow of air and light, and there is ample storage in the various cupboards and under the bed.
We didn’t go silly dragging the display model through wild country to see if we could break it, but on tests with the previous models, I am convinced they are rugged and reliable as well as being easily capable of crossing any ground the tow vehicle can conquer. To show how robust they are, on one occasion we bogged a Nissan Patrol, and the camper knee deep in mud and Louie dragged both out with a tractor connected to the recovery points of the camper.
On the road, there was hardly a sensation that there was anything behind the company’s Colorado as there was no lurching, banging or sway transmitted through the drawbar.
The Vista RV Crossover camper trailer is a fantastic off-road companion. It’s great for those who need a touch of luxury with their camping. It’s light and manageable enough to get into distant and gnarly destinations, and it has the creature comforts to make the experience enjoyable. If you are over tenting or swagging and want something reliable and robust, then the Crossover range might be your answer. The new XLI is a significant improvement in the use of space, and at $74,600 for the base model it might not be the cheapest camper out there, but it’s certainly amongst the best.
- Top class engineering
- Ease of setup
- Ideal size and weight for off-road travel
- Enduring looks
- No toilet (byo porta potty)
Find Out More
Manufacturer: Vista RV Crossover Pty Ltd
Model: Crossover XLI
Overall length: 5.2m
Internal body length: 3.59m
Travel height: 2.15m
Internal height: 2.1m (roof up)
Tare weight: 1300kg
Ball weight: 135kg
Water tanks: 87L x 2
Gas: 4.5kg x2
Payload remaining with full fluids (inc jerry cans): 361kg
Price from: $74,600
Options: flyscreen, door pantry, side storage pockets, draft skirt, X2 125A lithium battery with inbuilt Bluetooth
Price as reviewed: $78,217
Contact: Vista RV Crossover Pty Ltd
4/23 Jersey Rd Bayswater Vic 3153
Ph: 03 9729 1234