I always enjoy calling on Shane Smale at Walkabout Sales in Wiri. A feet-on-the ground fellow with a good sense of humour, he has been in the industry forever. He keeps up to date with the industry ‘goings on’ and most other ‘goings on’ in the world as well. Thinking outside the square as he does, he provides interesting points of view about most of them. There is always plenty of banter as he draws me out on this topic and that. It keeps me on my toes, but it is good fun.
Shane takes the same approach as the sole New Zealand agent for Italian-designed and built Ci Motorhomes. Drawing on his considerable knowledge of the motorhome industry and feedback from both sales clients and Walkabout Rental clients, he has compiled a unique baseline specification for the Ci motorhomes he imports. His catchphrase banner—‘Things everybody wants’—identifies the features Shane includes in all Ci motorhomes built to his New Zealand basic specification.
You have probably noticed motorhome bodies, particularly those from Europe, have developed to the point they all look much the same. The obvious distinguishing feature is the colour scheme. Otherwise, it is the finer details that differentiate one from the other.
The Ci Sinfonia 65 XT scores well on both counts. The gold, silver, and black decals on both sides do a great job deceiving the eye into seeing more voluptuous curves than there really are. From the front, they absorb the panoramic hatch, blending the overhanging bodywork into the cab.It is a clever piece of work.
Details such as the roof rail that hint at something happening above, the Fiamma awning that means there is a bit happening on the side, and the enormous garage doors that indicate room aplenty inside for your holiday equipment, are details that help separate the Sinfonia 65 XT from the rest of the pack.
The layout in the Ci Sinfonia 65 XT is one of the most popular—island bed in the rear with a split bathroom leading through to the kitchen opposite the entry door and the lounge dinette at the front.
While the interior colours and textures are restfully subdued with tones of ivory and chocolate, two roof hatches and large windows make the lounge beautifully lit and airy.
The cab seats, upholstered in Eco leather to match the lounge seats, are firm yet comfortable. With the cab seats rotated, the dinette seats five comfortably, which is fortunate, as there are five belted seats and five sleeping berths, so all diners get a seat at the table.
LED lights use so little power that manufacturers install more of them than before, and they are used creatively for dramatic effect as well as general lighting.
In the Sinfonia, LED strip highlights add a romantic sparkle to the bedroom and detail to the edge of the dining table. There are a host of miniature spotlights scattered about and adjustable reading lights everywhere they are needed, resulting in visually attractive and practical lighting throughout the motorhome.
Compact as it is, the Sinfonia kitchen is still equipped with the necessary appliances and has well-planned storage spaces. Below the sink are two pantry-style sliding shelves and a cutlery tray. Below the three-burner LPG hob is a Thetford Duplex oven with a drawer underneath. An extractor fan mounted beneath the locker above the bench whips steam and odours away. Opposite is a 175-litre Thetford fridge/freezer. The space above, where the TV was housed before Shane relocated it, offers more storage or a home for a microwave oven.
The kitchen is well-ventilated, as it is located opposite the door with an opening window alongside and a ceiling hatch above. In fact, there is good ventilation throughout the motorhome with a panorama hatch over the cab and ceiling hatches in the bedroom, toilet, and shower and opening windows both sides of the bedroom. All have built-in insect screens and blinds.
The feature that sold the Sinfonia to me was, as said in the Sinfonia brochure, “a delightful corner cafe”—a Lavazza coffee capsule machine mounted below the bench in the kitchen corner. Remove the hatch, release the latch, and it rises to bench height ready for action. And the part most appreciated by coffee lovers such as me is that it operates ‘off-grid’ courtesy of a 1500watt inverter. So even in the most out-of-the-way-spot, you can still have your morning shot of coffee.
On the right, as you step through to the bedroom, is the shower stall. To the left, behind a silver sliding door is an elegant glass handbasin. Mounted on a tall, slim vanity unit with ivory lacquered sides and a chocolate door, it is quite striking. Standing aloof to the side is the Thetford toilet. A mirror is mounted above the vanity with two lockers above on the sidewall. A simple and attractive space, it is a well-designed facility.
So is the shower stall. It has a distinctive dark brown duckboard in the shower tray that matches the cover on the shower’s full-width seat. There is a wall mirror in the shower, too, although it might get too steamed up to be useful. But there is no doubt about the usefulness of the hanging rail around the ceiling hatch or the outlet venting warm air from the central heating into the shower stall. It is useful for drying damp clothes on cool, humid days.
There are five places to sleep in the Sinfonia on three beds. Two are in the lounge—the dinette conversion and the dropdown double bed. The latter is a double and is the more comfortable of the two. Its elevating mechanism is electric. Lifting off a couple of cushions allows it to lower to the height of the kitchen bench partition, around 1300mm off the floor. If the dinette conversion is occupied, you may choose not to lower it that far. Either way, you need a ladder (supplied) to get in and out of bed. Converting the dinette to a sleeping berth is like doing a jigsaw puzzle, but help is at hand via the maker’s handbook. Good luck.
The main bed in the bedroom is at the back. A foam mattress over sprung wooden slats makes for a good night’s sleep. However, this bed has a couple more tricks up its sleeve. An electrical mechanism raises the bed to increase the headroom in the garage. Just push a button on the garage wall and like magic, your bicycle now fits into the garage. Also, if you push the foot of the base towards the bedhead, the base and mattress fold upwards providing back support for occupants sitting up in bed. It also provides more room to walk past the foot of the bed. Either side of the bed are ‘his and hers’ hanging lockers plus two overhead lockers for folding clothes. There are more cubbyholes under the steps and floor for personal items. It is a comfortable bedroom with space to move around, and when the door to the kitchen is shut, the bathroom becomes a personal ensuite for the bedroom occupants.
With its 2.3 turbodiesel motor, the Sinfonia is nimble to drive in city traffic and cruises easily at motorway speed, in this case, 100km/hr. Once you tune into the auto gearbox routine, it is simple to use. The Sinfonia can be driven on a Class 1 (car) licence and requires an annual WOF after the new vehicle three-year WOF rather than the more costly COF at six monthly intervals.
The standard offering
All Walkabout Ci motorhomes come equipped with a Sky-capable LED TV with a built-in DVD player, an Alden fully automatic satellite dish, a Fiat factory fitted stereo radio, LED daytime running lights, remote central locking including the habitation door, Eco Leather upholstery, a full set of locally supplied all-purpose loose carpets, 6kw Truma hot water and central heating, and a Fiamma awning. Specific models may be fitted with additional enhancements.
Freedom campers, rejoice. Standard kit includes a 120-watt solar panel, an external shower, a 1500-watt pure sine wave inverter, 100-amp/hour AGM house battery and fresh (100 litre) and grey (120 litre) water tanks.
All are built on Fiat Ducatos, and include auto transmission, traction control, hill hold, windscreen rain sensors, cab aircon, cruise control, reversing camera plus six sensors, Remi cab blinds, dual airbags, and 16-inch alloy wheels. All have a GVW of 3500kg or less, thus qualifying for the more affordable warrant of fitness. All can be driven by Class 1 (car) licence holders, and unlike Europe, where motorhomes often come with just a punctured tyre resuscitation kit, all Ci motorhomes here have a proper spare wheel.
Shane’s imports are certified self-contained (CCS), have gas compliance, and certification, NZ electrical compliance and WOF, and are protected with a two-year Fiat warranty and a five-year Water Ingress Body Warranty from Ci. And to set you off on the right note he includes 12 months registration and 2000km or road user charges.
The Sinfonia XT65 exceeded my expectations. It is packed with features. Some help make driving safer, some enable greater use of the motorhome, and others make life on the road just much more enjoyable. And that is what it is all about.