JAC Trucks HFC1048K Motorhome

By: Craig Silby, Photography by: Craig Silby

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Deals on Wheels went to Christchurch to road test a JAC light truck from UCC Motorhomes.

What do you do when your base vehicle purchase price increases by over 50%, in just 4 years? Rob Floris - Managing Director of UCC Motorhomes in Christchurch thinks he may have just found the answer.

Since 2008, Floris and his team have found the Mitsubishi Fuso Canter to be an excellent basis for their Benmore and Coleridge designs and continue today to be a very popular choice. However, in his quest to produce a motorhome at a more competitive price-point for the both the rental market and private users, Floris discovered JAC trucks. It soon became apparent that the JAC HFC1048K 4500kg to 5999kg GVM range easily fit the bill. The cab has very similar dimensions to the Canter, the chassis and wheelbase all measure up to within millimetres, and the UCC body moulds all fit with little or no modification required.

Floris says, "We can now offer a brand-new, simple and easy to operate, top-quality motorhome for around the same price as we could four years ago, which should definitely help the rental companies be more competitive".

The UCC Benmore JAC base price is $139,995 which is significantly less expensive than even some five or six-year-old used motorhomes.

As mentioned previously in tests of the JAC HFC1061K 7999kg GVM truck, the cab exterior is reminiscent of the late 90s to mid-2000s Isuzu. Inside, the layout is very similar to the larger capacity truck, except the layout in the dash is slightly different due to not needing the air pressure gauges. The JAC-HFC1048K has hydraulic brakes as opposed to the JAC-HFC1061K, which has full-air-brakes. Inside the cab, apart from the fact UCC has removed the rear wall allowing free access to the motorhome interior, everything looks clean, simple, and easy to use. The plastics, fit and finish are not up with the latest from some other manufacturers, but they look good enough and should last if looked after well.

The JAC uses a 2.8-litre Cummins engine that produces peak power of 110kW and peak torque of 360Nm - very similar ratings to the previous generation Canter. To meet current emissions compliance the JAC uses an SCR system and only requires periodic top-ups with AdBlue additive.

Floris says, "We did about 3000-odd km on the maiden trip and we had to refill the AdBlue tank [18 litres] after about 2400km".

To drive, the JAC feels like it has just the right amount of power; it never labours and travels up and down hilly terrain with ease. The exhaust brake proves effective, easily helping to hold the truck at a reasonable speed down the hills. Similar to late 90s generation light trucks, the fan noise is loud at higher engine speeds, although, you could still hold a comfortable conversation across the cab. The latest Japanese light trucks are much quieter in that regard.

The thinly padded seats are deceiving. We travelled around 400km, driving for two to three hours each day over four days and not once did any of us feel uncomfortable, even in the very basic half-sized middle seat. The ride is very comfortable, with only a slight pitching fore and aft, which is no doubt due to the long rear overhang, typical of most motorhomes.

Travelling northwest, we followed the Waiau River up to Hanmer Springs. The scenery is stunning, with mountains and valleys all around, making for inspiring viewing as you travel. The northwest winds experienced en route to Hanmer had us concentrating a fair bit but this is typical of all motorhomes, given they have fairly large solid-sided bodies yet are reasonably light overall. We didn't have any issues with manoeuvrability, even though some of the campgrounds are tight to get around. It didn't feel big to drive and most car licenced drivers should quickly become comfortable behind the wheel.

We arrived at Hanmer Springs and checked in to a campground, the rear-view camera included within the sat-nav system proving really useful when parking at our site. The U-shaped rear lounge easily converted to a super-king size bed, which my wife and I found to be really comfy, and there is a queen size bed above the cab in the Luton. The smaller lounge at the front also converts to a double size bed, so it could easily sleep six adults. However, we kept this set up as our lounge/dining area. Between the two lounges opposite the side entrance was the bathroom, we didn't try the shower as we had full sized ones available at each campground. The toilet was very handy, though, particularly in the middle of the night, or first thing in the morning, when it was too cold (or we were too lazy) to go outside and use the campground facilities. With all the mod-cons of home, including satellite TV, full kitchen, etc we were very comfy in our home on wheels.

We've never stayed in a motorhome before and were amazed and impressed by the cleverly-designed layout and the build quality UCC Motorhomes achieve. It seems everyone wants to check out each other's motorhome when parked at the campgrounds and ours seemed to become quite the envy of some others along the journey.

We can really see where Floris is coming from when he suggests the motorhome is the new holiday home for young families, they are just so much more affordable than your typical beachside holiday home, and you can spend the night wherever you choose. We were fully self-contained and certified to camp wherever we were allowed to park. That definitely has appeal.

Next morning, we headed for Kaikoura taking the inland road via Waiau, travelling through more stunning scenery along fantastic driving roads. For some reason on this leg of the trip, the gearshift of the five-speed ZF Ecolite 5S400 transmission became very tight and difficult to use. However, strangely, the shifting was back to normal the next day and caused no further issues. In the main, the shifter was generally pretty stiff and notchy, but easy enough to use, much like the bigger JAC recently tested. You could put this down to the truck being brand-new and yet to have any new-truck-issues sorted at the first service.

Whale Watch Kaikoura provided a magical experience, where we saw seals relaxing, dolphins playing and diving and twice a mighty Sperm whale gracefully dive back under the sea. Heading south along the Kaikoura coast, we saw more seals lying around on the rocks, right beside the highway. Returning the motorhome just in time to get to the airport, we all agreed that it was an experience we shall repeat, it's definitely a great way to travel.

For those familiar with late 90s Japanese light trucks who are wary of the latest electronic new-fangled technologies, you will find JAC trucks simple and familiar, yet they still meet all the latest requirements. JAC trucks are beginning to find their place in the market and are proving to be exceptionally well priced. Thanks to the forward thinking of people like Rob Floris, not only light trucks but also motorhomes with JAC on the front will no doubt become an increasingly familiar sight all over the country.

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