Past Compact Motorhome Reviews
When I did my first review of best compact motorhomes, I found the best examples in Europe where RV enthusiasts have a huge selection of full featured motorhomes under 23 feet in length. (See our article here).
In my follow-up review focusing on what is offered by the US motorhome industry, I found and profiled a few minimally acceptable compact Class C’s (see our 2018 review here)
Since then I’ve done more annual reviews. In reviewing the Compact Motorhomes for 2020, we liked the Winnebago Fuse, which we profiled last year and the Thor Compass, which we liked in our 2018 compact motorhome review. There was one new entry in this category deserved mention – the Coachman Cross Trek 20XG.
For 2021 the trend among US RV manufacturing is moving away from the compact Van-based Class C motorhomes, instead replacing this segment with Class B Camper Vans that are compact and easy to drive but because they are Class B they are have less interior width than the coach-style Class C motorhome. I think that loss of about a foot of interior space makes an important difference in the roominess of a compact living space. An unfortunate trend, in my opinion.
Earlier Favorites have ceased production.
The Winnebago Fuse (see our review) is no longer produced and the Pleasure Way Plateau XLTS (see our review) which we also liked in our earlier reviews has also disappeared. Pleasure Way has dropped all their Class C vehicles, going 100% into Class B camper vans or touring vans. Note: The Fuse and the XLTS models would be good choices for those shopping the used or pre-owned market for a compact Class C.
Compact Class C Reviews for 2021
But all is not lost for those shopping for a new model. The Thor Compass and Coachman CrossTrek remain available for 2021 and 22. In dropping the Fuse, Winnebago has added the Ekko, which qualifies for our criteria of being compact (no more than 24′ long) and offers a dedicated and separate dining/lounge area.
Thor Compass RUV
I liked the Thor Compass back in 2018 and it remains a top choice in 2021. The changes in the Thor Compass for 2021 are primarily new features offered by the Ford Transit chassis. So it now comes in All-Wheel Drive and a roll stability control system. They are advertising the unit as an RUV (Recreational Utility Vehicle). It’s length is 23’6″ and height is 10’11”. The amount of exterior storage is in the TE model is 24 cu. ft. and in the TW model it is 16.2 cu. ft. I like the 23TW Floor Plan best. It has a queen-size bed in a slide out and a larger dinette unit. But the down side of the TW model is losing 8 cu. ft of external storage. The TE model offers a Murphy Bed and more external storage. But the trade-off is losing the dinette unit which I like. Both models feature a ceiling skylight which I like. In addition to All-Wheel drive the Ford Transit chassis is powered by a gas 3.5 liter turbo powered V6. It has a 5000 lb towing capacity and 25 gallon fuel tank.
BTW Essentially the same vehicle is available under the Gemini RUV name. As far as I can figure out the only difference is exterior graphics and some different interior fabrics or color schemes.
Coachman Cross Trek 20XG
A new entry in the more compact Class C RVs, is the Coachman Cross Trek 20XG. It is 24′ long and 10’6″ high. Like the Winnebago Ekko and the Thor Compass it also uses the increasingly popular Ford Transit Chassis. Like the Thor Compass it is powered by the turbo powered V6 gas engine and comes standard with All Wheel Drive.
The Coachman Cross Trek has several attractive features. It features a huge 130 cu ft European garage-style exterior storage area. It will handle at least two golf bags as well as other bulkier items like lawn chairs or bikes. No American or Canadian Class C comes close to offering this amount of exterior storage. Inside it features a full double bed and a separate two person dinette/sofa unit. So no need to fold up the bed for daytime use. Other strong features are a more spacious shower unit separate from the lavatory and toilet room, generous amounts of interior storage including a hanging closet compartment and a pantry. The unit also has more horizontal counter space in the kitchen area than usually found in a unit of this size. Overall we are impressed with the interior layout.
Despite our enthusiasm for the layout, we have a few concerns about the 20XG.
- While packing a lot of interior features in a small space, the amount of glass window area may be compromised. I didn’t see a skylight in the unit. So I fear a claustrophobic feel to the interior with the lack of sufficient natural light.
- Another possible negative is the height from the floor of the rear full size bed. A small ladder is needed to climb into the bed which some might find a hassle. And also some may find it has insufficient head room. They could have made the huge exterior garage unit a wee bit smaller to make it easier to hop into the bed and provide a bit more head room.
- Coachman has elected to omit a generator unit, going instead with a high 330 amp hour AGM battery and a 3000 Watt Xantrex inverter which allows you to run all appliances, including the AC unit. My guess is that may get you boondocking one day and night, but not much more. But due to the spacious garage style storage unit it would be easier to carry a portable generator if camping in the “boondocks” for several days is your wish.
By omitting the gen set they should have made the optional 380 watt solar panels standard equipment. Most RV motorhomes that leave off the gen set have replaced it with standard solar units and lithium batteries plus the large wattage inverter. The advantage of the lithium batteries over AGM (and lead acid) is they can be almost fully discharged without damage whereas AGM and Lead-Acid shouldn’t be discharged more than 50%.
Coachman’s website is a bit short on specifications and as a new model there’s not a history on build quality or experiences from other users. I do like the concept and look forward to seeing one in person. Stef and James at FitRV.com did quite an extensive video review of the Cross Trek.
Pictured at the top of the page, the Ekko fits (but in one respect doesn’t fit) in this shrinking category of Compact Class C’s. Its list price, starts at: $163,662 msrp (ouch)! When we first started reviewing this category back in 2018, one of our criteria was being able to find a full-featured compact motorhome at a dealer for under $100,000. Add $10,000 to that number for inflation, it still puts the Ekko out of reach of that criteria. However for the person who wants a compact, yet spacious RV with all the other requirements we specified (see our original article here) AND the price tag doesn’t give you cardiac arrest, the Ekko has a lot of strong features.
Like the Thor and Coachman, the Ekko uses the Ford Transit Chassis with AWD, the 3.5L EcoBoost® V6 gas engine, and a 5,000-lb. towing capacity. It is 23’2″ in length and 10’6″ in height. It carries a 31 gallon fuel tank, a bit larger than the Coachman or Thor models using the same basic chassis. I don’t find it attractive style-wise; a big box on wheels. But that big box does give you gobs of external storage (55 cu. ft.) and lots useful interior space so there is a consolation for its ugliness! See the picture below. If you don’t want the slide out external kitchen option that external storage space becomes even larger (another 10 cu. ft.).
Inside the Ekko comes with a dedicated bed in the back and front lounge/dinette area. There is a nice size window in the kitchen galley as well as by the dinette. Two large windows set high on the sides provide decent illumination for the bedroom area. The galley features a laminate countertops, a microwave oven w/touch control, a pantry, a 2-burner LP range cooktop w/cover, a 5.3 cu. ft. single door 12V refrigerator/freezer and a workspace extension to give more countertop room. There is wardrobe/drawer storage below the bed(s) which can be set up as either two twins or one large beds.
Standard deluxe features that neither Thor nor the Coachman offer are a 320-amp-hour lithium ion battery w/Bluetooth control package and battery pack heating system, (2) 170-watt and (1) 115-watt solar panels and solar rated battery charger, and a 2,000-watt pure sine wave inverter/80-amp charger which allows you to run 110 volt appliances without being hooked up. Standard also is a Cummins Onan® QG 2800i gas generator. The unit offers 50 gallons of fresh water storage and a 51 gallon grey water storage tank. These features plus the All-Wheel-Drive it is well setup to offer several days of boondocking in the back country.
Overall a very comfortable, loaded with features, yet compact, RV for traveling and camping for two people. The AWD and 5000 lb towing capacity allows for towing a boat, canoe/kayak hauler or even a smaller camping trailer. And for the family with a couple of kids an available option is a pop-top upper loft similar to what you find in the Winnebago Solis.
All these features, and more, were enough for Stef and James to ignore the ugliness of the box and make the Ekko their new RV of choice. You can see their video and read their article here.
Compact Class C RVs still a rare bird
So other than these three, no North American RV manufacturer is offering a full-featured RV in a chassis less than 24 feet. It seems that mainly the US and Canadian Van-based Class C Motorhomes are getting bigger and more tricked out with luxury items to justify a higher price tag. Basically if you are in the US or Canada and want a compact and fuel efficient motorhome without having to make up and unfold a bed every day, your choices are limited to Class B motorhomes (see our Best Class B RV 2021 review).
But among the Class B units there is a new wrinkle that offer more living space in a small footprint by the use of a pop-top expansion, reminiscent of the classic Westy VW Camper Bus. Look at our reviews of the Best Camper Vans for 2021.
Special Mention – A unit that almost made our list of Best Compact Motorhomes for 2021
Phoenix TRX Motorhome
Phoenix RV USA has produced a really slick entry for 2021 on the Ford Transit Chassis. Very attractive aerodynamic profile, running 22’10” in length and only 9’6″ high including the AC unit. The low profile is an advantage on the highway, protection against being blown off the road when a semi passes you!
The Phoenix RV website is a little light on specifications. For instance I can’t determine if the chassis is the All Wheel Drive version or 2 wheel drive. It does run the same 3.5L EcoBoost engine as the top-rated Compact Class Cs and its fuel capacities, fresh water, grey water, and waste water capacities are generous and similar to the Compass and CrossTrek. It comes with an Onan 2800 watt gen set and a 2000 watt inverter. Phoenix doesn’t maintain a large inventory of finished units. They have a small network of factory outlets that carry finished units; but many people have ordered their units from the factory in Indiana and had them built to their desired specifications. So if something in the standard unit isn’t to your liking you can likely have them add it in the build.
The floorplan we most like offers a dinette with lots of room for two (and four in a squeeze). Across from the dinette is a sofa that converts into a double bed. So you are stuck with daily chore of breaking down and making up the bed. That is the major reason we couldn’t include the Phoenix in our top-rated compact class c motorhomes. However, one advantage of the sofa-bed conversion feature is it leaves more space for other amenities. For example its bath has a vanity & an overhead cabinet with a mirror, plus it is a dry bath with a separate shower unit. The kitchen area is spacious with a large countertop and generous storage space. Another feature we like is the generous wardrobe closet for hanging clothes.
MotorHome Manufacturer Links:
Links to more Motorhome Reviews:
- Best Compact Class Motorhomes (international)
- Best USA-Canadian Class C Motorhomes
- Best Class B Motorhomes
- Best Pop-Top Camper Vans
- Winnebago Travato – 2021 Review
RV Traveling & Camping
Cedar Key a hidden gem of the Gulf Coast. See our article on camping, hiking, and interesting things to see and do in and around this unique Florida Gulf Coast community.
Our favorite Florida Campgrounds & RV Parks near Chiefland and Cedar Keys
More RVing Resources
What are your favorite compact Class C motorhomes? Let me know in the comments below.
Your Travel Guide: Ross Reinhold