Class C Motorhome Reviews, A Replacement for the Winnebago Rialta?
We are the owners of a classic motorhome admired and desired by many prospective motorhome buyers: the Winnebago Rialta (shown at the top of the page). In production from 1995 to 2005 the Rialta ceased being manufactured by Winnebago because the VW Eurovan chassis upon which it was built was no longer being made for the American market.
We love the low profile, aerodynamic and attractive body style and we get stopped often by people admiring it as what they have been looking for. Besides looks there are other features we like about the Rialta.
- Short length (21 feet) enables parking in a conventional automobile parking space
- Driving and maneuvering it is as easy as a pickup truck
- Doubles as a deluxe passenger van with seating for 4 adults and up to 3 kids
- Large coach windows, with natural light lending an open feeling to the interior
- Large rear-facing picture window with view from the driver’s seat
- Good gas mileage: 17 – 19 highway
- Has the same coach accessories/conveniences of much bigger units.
If we ever replaced the Rialta, one feature my wife would like to change is the daily hassle of having to convert the dinette into a bed rather than having a full time bed setup, like you do at home. Another feature we’d both appreciate is better access to competent mechanical service. The Rialta was built on the VW Eurovan Chassis. Since it is no longer being exported to the US and even during its day wasn’t as popular as Detroit and Japanese vans, it is much more difficult finding competent mechanical repair and service.
Do mostly to these two downside features in owning a Rialta, every year when the new models come out, our heads are turned to see “what’s new” and what might be a viable replacement if and when we decide to sell our Rialta. Here’s our review of leading candidates.
Compact Class C Motorhomes – Europe Sets the Standard
In our attendance at RV Shows and searching online we’ve yet to come upon any units (made in USA or Canada) that provide a nicer bed setup and better mechanical service options without compromising many of the features of the Rialta we love.
It seems the kind of motor home that would be a good alternative to the Rialta is only built in Europe. They seem more dedicated than US manufacturers in providing the most in space and convenience in the smallest possible footprint.
European Style Motorhomes
Typical of the kind of compact motor home you find in Europe are the models made by German Manufacturer Hymer. Their motorhomes manage to pack in a huge amount of internal and external storage in a small footprint. Their build is quality throughout with ingenious engineering touches.
The smallest of their units is the Hymer Van
At 19.65 feet long, the Hymer Van is even shorter than the Rialta. And at 9 feet tall it is only a little taller. It is an amazing little unit with a permanent bed system – either double or twin, a dinette area for 3, van seating for 4, large exterior storage, and ingenious storage drawers and units throughout the interior. Quality design and materials throughout. It is built on a fuel efficient Fiat Ducato Chassis. The only downside to the Van model is apparently coach Air Conditioning isn’t an option. The price is approximately $63,000 in US dollars. Here’s a video profile of the Hymer Van.
The twin-bed bedroom model T-Class CL 574 is 22.3 feet long; the queen bed model T-Class CL 698 is 24.1 feet long. Both these models are on the Fiat Ducato chassis with an option to upgrade the hp from 130 hp to 180 hp. The ML-T models are built on a Mercedes Sprinter chassis. The ML-T 560 offers a double-bed setup for the permanent bedroom. The 560 measures 22.9 feet long and 9.5 feet high overall. Quite compact compared to Sprinter builds we find in the US. It seems US motorhome builders can’t build on a Sprinter Chassis any less than 24.5 feet. Europeans must have access to a slightly smaller Mercedes Van Chassis or it is just that European idea of not making something any bigger than it needs to be for the features you want?
Both the ML-T and Class CL have dining for 4 persons and dry baths wit a separate shower unit. Like their smaller 314 Van little brother, ingenious storage drawers and cubby spaces all over the place providing lots of storage – no wasted space. The outside external storage (called the garage) offers a massive amount of storage space.
Hobby Optima Motorhome
Just to show you that Hymer isn’t alone in offering spacious, quality-built, compact motorhomes, lets take a look at another German motorhome manufacturer: Hobby. They offer similar quality and options to Hymer but give the buyer a few different options or layout configurations not offered by Hymer. I like their Optima model 65 GQ. While spacious in the interior it runs only 22.9 feet in length. The dinette can can handle up to 5 people and their are seat belts for 4 passengers. This model comes with a queen size bed. With an average set of options, the Optima prices out around $75,000 US dollars. Take a look at the Hobby Optima Video here:
In researching on the Internet I discovered another possible reason for the space and size efficiency of European motor homes. Apparently in Europe on a regular automobile license you can only drive a vehicle weighing up to 3500 kg. Anything over that and you need a special license. So there is a consumer incentive to offer full-featured motorhomes under that weight. Unfortunately in the US there isn’t that incentive.
Here’s a few more examples of the kinds of compact, yet full-featured motorhomes offered in Europe sent to me by reader Mathias of Austria.
LaStrada Nova EB
The Nova EB is a class B sized motorhome 22.9 feet long built on a Mercedes sprinter chassis with very clean lines. But it is a Class C because coach section is manufactured by LaStrada. It is under 10 feet in height and about 7 feet in width. It has a dedicated front lounge with seating for 4 at the dinette table and a dedicated sleeping area in the rear which can be two twins or one large double bed. Generous garage style exterior storage. A very attractive unit that would sell well in the US.
The Pulse is a low profile Class C from Dethleff’s that is 22.9 feet long, less than 10 feet high and 7.5 feet wide. It has ample garage style exterior storage, a dedicated front lounge/dinette area and a dedicated bedroom in the rear with either twin beds or one double bed. It is built on a Fiat chassis which is similar to the Dodge Ram. That extra interior space from a custom cab unit makes it so much more livable. It should be built here but US manufacturers are tied into essentially doing Conversion Vans on the narrower profile.
Wingamm City Suite
The City Suite is built on a Fiat Ducato chassis that is 22.9 feet long. However it’s width is the same as the Fiat Ducato van but it isn’t a class B due to the fact that Wingamm builds the entire coach section – “The bodywork is not the sheet metal of the van, but a fiberglass monocoque with all the thermal and acoustic comfort guaranteed by Wingamm standards. The entrance door is not the huge sliding door of the van, but a solid hinged door made of insulated double-shell fiberglass.” While the same width as its Van counterpart, the custom built coach allows a bit more interior room and layout options than you get with Van conversion style Class Bs. Also unlike Class B motorhomes the City Suite has garage style generous exterior storage. Like other Euro Compact Class Cs, it has a dedicated front lounge for 4 and a rear double bed.
Unfortunately European standards haven’t been copied here. There is no viable alternative to the Winnebago Rialta made in the US or Canada. If you believe there is let me know in the comments so I can find out more about it!
Next Post: Coming Close – but not close enough Best compact US/Canadian-made Class C MotorHomes – see article.
Best Class B Motorhomes – these come close to providing Rialta conveniences on a small footprint, but is it enough space for living comfort?
2021 Update: US Manufacturers are getting closer to adopting European standards. See the Coachman Cross Trek in our 2020 Review of Best Compact Class C Motorhomes