Caravan World’s Motorhome Guide – Frontline Hiace Pioneer Article

Frontline’s conversion of the revamped HiAce is an attractive, entry-level motorhome.

FAIR AND SQUARE

Pioneer_fullview Frontline Camper Conversions is a Sydney-based company that has been in the van conversion business for quite a number of years. Using all makes of conversion vehicles – Sprinters, Ductaos, VWs and Toyotas – Frontline has quite a repertoire of conversion designs in its stable.

One of the more popular light commercial vans for the campervan conversions is the Toyota HiAce. Leading up to the advent of a new model, the older HiAce van became scarce, but with the appearance of the new Toyota van, HiAce conversions are back of the recreational vehicle scene again.

The new HiAce looks a little different: the front is rounded but the rear is more square, which makes things easier for campervan converters.

On the mechanical front, the HiAce has a new 2.7 litre petrol motor which delivers 26 percent more power that the old model. A 2.5 litre turbodiesel motor is also available, which delivers more power that the previous three-litre motor.

Our review model came with the petrol motor and even though very new, tandem with a five-speed gearbox, it gave a smooth performance.

In some ways the HiAce is not as sophisticated as some of its European contemporaries and it lacks a walk-through because of the position of the motor but it does come with Toyota’s legendary reliability and cheaper spare parts.

Items such as dual airbags and power mirrors and windows are a standard features. About the only item I found a bit retro was the under-dash handbrake – haven’t seen one of those for quite a while.

Frontline’s HiAce conversion comes in three different layouts: the Pioneer, the Freedom and the Adventurer. The Freedom has two single lounges in the rear that can be converted into a double bed, the Adventurer has a rear seat that converts into a double bed and our review model, the Pioneer, comes with a rear-facing lounge and two forward-facing seats.

 

PIONEERING SPIRIT

pioneer_internal1From the outside world the Pioneer looks relatively standard. The pop-up top roof has been designed to look like an integrated part of the roof line and apart from the Fiamma awning, the only other real change frontline has made is to remove the standard Toyota windows and add new tinted flush glazed glass. That enhances the appearance of the HiAce a great deal.

Both the sliding door window and the corresponding window on the other side can be opened.

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Setting up the Pioneer takes very little time. Undoing a strap in each corner releases the pop-top; it elevates into a position very easily.

There’s a screened window in both the side walls and the front wall of the canvas gusset. Someone must have measured the Fiamma awning mounting points very carefully because the passenger door just clears the awnings arms.

The internal layout of the Pioneer can be divided into two halves: the front half is the dinning/bed area and the rear half hosts the kitchen and general storage. The kitchen area is a little cramped but that’s the nature of this layout design.

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Along the offside, the kitchen bench has an Origo 3000 methylated spirits two-burner cooktop alongside a square stainless steel sink. Water supply is 12V pumped and gets to the sink via a flexible hose shower faucet; the shower head can be lifted out of the sink as used an external shower at the rear of the campervan. Although our review camper did not have a hot water heater, one is available as an option (a heat exchanger unit).

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Under the kitchen bench are two sliding door cupboards has shelves. At the door end of the kitchen bench are three narrow, lipped shelves.

On the opposite side of the Pioneer is the rest of the kitchen – an Engel 85 litre fridge and an 800W Sharp microwave. The latter sits atop a small wardrobe and a shelved cupboard. At the rear of this cabinet is a small-hinged table with a lipped shelf underneath. If you happen to be a TV watcher, then the only place for it is above the fridge, where there is a flat storage area – it can only be used with the pop-top raised up.

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The Pioneer can carry four people – two the driver’s cab and the other two in the forward facing seats in the rear room. Both have lap/sash seatbelts. The rear- facing lounge can be used for just that – lounging around – but it can also be used for to make up the bed by sliding the seat, which has two legs, towards the rear and filling the gag between the front rear seats.

The remaining space, i.e., between the two rear seats, is filled by detaching the rear offside seat back and sliding it in to position. This arrangement means you can stumble out of bed in the morning to make a cuppa without too much trouble.

When used for dinning, the table is mounted on a single pole such that it can be used between the seats in the back. It is strapped to the side of the van for storage. Under all the seats are the usual storage area: part of the lounge are is taken by the house battery.

Electrics are both 240V for the general powerpoints and 12V for the lighting. The 240V circuit breaker was tad awkward to get at – right at the back of the offside cupboard almost of energy-efficient fluorescents with two halogen reading lights behind the rear facing lounge.

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

It’s so nice to see HiAce conversions back on the road again as they are solid and reliable.
Their only real limitation is the lack of a walk-through and thus an inability to make use of front seats as part of conversions.

The kitchen has all of the basics required for cooking and clearing up after a meal and the bed really doesn’t take up any time to set up. Using a methylated spirits cooktop and 12V fridge is a plus in a campervan of this size. While metho does not quite have the calorific value LPG, it does save the space of a gas compartment.

One of the benefits of this layout is that of passengers in the rear are forward-facing and have full seatbelts. Frontline has done a nice job with this conversion and the price makes it an attractive proposition for anyone wanting to get into the campervan lifestyle for the first time.

 

Frontline HiAce PIONEER

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BASE VEHICLE: Toyota HiAce
ENGINE: 2.7 litre
GEARBOX: five-speed gearbox
MAX TORQUE: 241Nm@ 3800rpm
GVM: 2800kg
EXTERNAL WIDTH: 1.695m
INTERNAL HEIGHT: 1.91m
FRIDGE: Engel ST990E 85 litre
GAS:N/A
LIGHTING: 12V
HOT WATER: Optional
SECOND STAGE COMPLIANCE: In process
PRICE AS REVEIWED: $54,069

Caravan & Motorhome – Awards Finalist T5 Article

“There’s no doubt Frontine’s T5 Volkswagen conversion is well worth considering if you’re in the market for a new campervan” RR C&M 79

ORIGINALLY VIEWED BY RICHARD ROBERTSON C&M 79

 

T5_adventurerThe new Volkswagon T5 Adventurer, with 4Motion all-wheel drive, is the latest in Frontline’s stable of campervans. The “soft road” capabilities of the VW adds the extra dirt-road dimension to touring in what is a very comfortable camper.
With space at a premium, Frontline’s conversion has resulted a practical and user-friendly conversion. The bed converts from the rear seat to provide comfy sleeping accommodation, with the bonus of plenty of storage beneath. Kitchen and dinette are cosy but very functional.
The T5’s pop-top provides all the headroom you need inside, while a sick Fiamma awning on the side allows a spacious undercover outside living area to be utilised.

The Frontline T5 is a snack to drive, with plenty of power available from the 2.51l turbo-diesel. The Adventurer is poetry in 4Motion.

Campervan & Motorhome – Hiace Article

If it’s affordability you’re after, Frontline Camper Conversions offer a campervan that’s based on Toyotas new long-wheelbase Hiace van. We took a delux Pioneer model away and the only problem we had was having to turn around and come back.

STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN MAYNARD

01 Frontline Camper conversions, based in concord NSW, sees itself targeting probably the largest volume market in campervan stakes- the weekenders/tourers looking for a campervan with all the goodies but at an affordable price.

Whether it’s a question of your funds not stretching far enough to buy a larger motor home, or that you’d prefer a similarly equipped vehicle on a smaller scale, Frontline campervans can cater for you

There are many benefits to opting for the long-wheelbase Hiace Campervan over it’s larger motorhome counterpart. It’s lower and lighter than a motorhome counterpart. It’s lower and lighter than a motorhome, and, thanks to responsive engine, it’s able to send a swift touring pace.

If there is a drawback it’s that it offes less space than its larger brother. But then it all depends on what you intend doing with your RV.

 

Hiace upgrade

I remember that last time Toyota invited me to witness the latest innovations with the hiace van range. It was nearly eight years ago, and apart from a couple of cosmetic differences, it was virtually the same as it had been for some time.

02Back then, our assigned ‘new and improved’ hiaces were put through a grueling two hour test circuit amount the outskirts of Wollongong. Once that was completed it was down to the serious stuff – an enormous seafood banquet followed by a wonderful dessert. All in all it was a lot of fun and I was happy to be apart of it.

Sadly, I wasn’t invited to the hiace launch this time around- perhaps I ate too much at the last release. Damn shame! I could have found plenty to write about. It wouldn’t be just about the food either, as, thanks to Toyota’s latest refinements and gutsy 2.4-litre EFI petrol powerplant, the new model is a beauty and offers plenty to get excited about.

The responsive engine holds consistent power throughout the rev range. The Frontline conversion we tested sported an automatic transmission. It tackled hills comfortably, and it should be stressed here that we’re referring to a fully equipped campervan. But then again, the Hiace has always been designed to carry a fairly hefty load.

The new electronic fuel-injected, 2.4 litre engine has more get up and go than its predecessor and this hiace is a definite stayer. Last year marked it’s 30th anniversary, and with the beefier powerplant offering more grunt and better fuel efficiency that the somewhat thirstier carburetor engine it replaces, it makes the ideal choice in the less-expensive campervan market.

Home comforts

Among other features, the unit we trialed was equipped with gas stove, fridge/freezer and microwave oven. All were neatly integrated into it’s design without hindering access or usability.

An auxiliary battery system powers the fridge/freezer, ancillary lighting and water pump.

Easy Access

The interior provides ample headroom when the roof is raised meaning even tall people can comfortable walk through the van. A large sliding door at the side and a lift-up door at the rear provide easy access to the living quarters. Once in, it doesn’t mater if you’re cooking or simply relaxing in the back – there’s plenty of room to move around.

Frontlines pop-up roof system elevates fairly secure roof tags when the roof is lowered and kick the canvas out of the way to prevent damage. Frontline explored many alternatives until this excellent system was discovered.

Storage and sleeping

Frontline has excelled in its clever foresight, integrating abundant storage space yet stil maintaining a host of features with easy access. The result is an uncluttered unit that’s all the more livable.

Cupboards offer hanging space for clothing while shelves provide storage for other items. Underneath each seat is an extra storage compartment to keep everything out of the way until required.

 

Extras Extras

There’s a swag of options you can order from frontline. They include a front crash bar and a rear crash/tow bar equipped with a site. It’s even possible to take creature comforts one old and/or hot shower.

Frontline also offers its services to convert range from $9,000 upwards.

From our point of view, we’re certainly looking forward to the next road test, only this time we’ll have to make sure it’s for more than a few days.

Campervan & Motorhome – Mercedes Benz Sprinter Conversion

This Mercedes Benz Sprinter Conversion from frontline is just a little bit different to the rest. Frontlines latest campervan makes a change from the usual Toyota Hiace by converting the front-bonnet Toyota SBV van.

STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY MALCOM STREET

 

01  There are several things we like about the Mercedes-Sprinter: it’s easy to drive and maneuver; it’s large enough to be comfortable; and it’s small enough to get around easily. So it’s not surprising the frontline team have added a Sprinter to their motorhome and campervan range.

Most of the sprinters we’ve driven have been packing the Mercedes Sprintshift gearbox. It’s a cluchless gearbox that can be driven either as a full automatic or by manually changing gears.

However, frontlines jobbie had a five-speed manual gearbox. Forget about long-levered, truck-like gear changes – the gear-change lever is a short stubby item on the dashboard and the clutch is feather light.

 

02The seating position in the sprinter is far superior to other vans, allowing you to sit above the rest of the traffic. All the relevant gauges and instruments are in front of the driver, but being of European extraction, the sprinter’s indicator wand is on the left and the wiper controls are on the right.

For engine capacity (2.15 litre), the turbo-diesel is good little performer. Another feature of the Sprinter design (of special interest to motorhomes) is the ease with which one can climb from the front rare of the van.

Speaking of the rear. Frontline have opted for a dinette/bed across the rear of the van with a kitchen bench along the nearside. Behind the driver’s seat is a shower/toilet cubicle; between that and the rear bed is a second dinette.

 

03The inclusion of the second dinette means that the rear bed can be left made up all the time. Another feature, something not seen on other campervans, is a sliding door that only opens half way. This means the kitchen bench can be made longer, which is never a bad thing.

There’s plenty of window space, and with shower/toilet cubicle at the front of the van, the layout has a spacious feel. All the opening windows have flyscreens, and all windows are tinted.

General cupboards and an locker space is good except for kitchen, which only has two cupboards and overhead locker.

Starting from the front, the bench is angled back to allow easy access. It has a two-burner stove, a microwave and three drawers underneath the bench. No grill though.

The three-way fridge sits between the stove and stainless-steel sink. Given the amount of bench space, the drainage area of sink is rather small. Under the sink is a single cutlery drawer and two-shelf cupboard.

Like some larger motorhomes, there is a choice of two places to dine, depending, of course, on weather you choose to make up the bed each night.

 

04The rear dinette can be swiveled around but can only be used with the long side across the van, otherwise it’s very difficult to get in and out. Together with a piece of ply hidden under the seat, the table is used to form part of the bed. The table for smaller dinette simply lifts out and slides out of the way when not required. All the seat cushions are flat, high density foam.

Under all seat areas are the usual storage compartments. However, part of that is taken up by the gas hot-water heater (nearside the seat), battery and battery charger (offside rear seat) and two 4kg gas cylinders (rear seat of small dinette). The rear-seat storage areas have lockers, accessible only when the rear doors are open.

Like other manufacturers, Frontline has used one-piece fiberglass unit for the shower with a frosted glass door. Inside is the usual flexible hand-held jobbie and Thetford cassette toilet.

On the road, the shower hose banged about behind my head, which I found annoying; however, wrapping it around the hose fitting a couple of times solved the problem.

In the cabinet beside the sliding door is a small electrical control panel that contains fuses for lights, water pump and general 12V electrics. There’s also a gauge for checking battery charge. At the opposite end of kitchen bench is a water-level indicator.

Lighting is all 12V, with twin mini-florescent above the dinette; it also has recessed halogens above the dinette, sink and stove and a halogen reading light above the rear seat.

Power points are located in a locker above the offside dinette and at the rear end of the kitchen bench. Given the length of the kitchen bench, a power point above the window might have been more appropriate, otherwise electrical cords will be trailing behind the kitchen sink.

 

Worth buying?

There are quite a few Sprinter conversions getting around and frontline have opted to be slightly different by including a second dinette. It’s a great idea and means you don’t have to make the bed every night. The Eclipse adds to the selection of small motorhomes or larger campervans (depending on your point of view) that are appearing in the marketplace at the present time and goes one better.

Campervan & Motorhome – Frontline Sprinter Article

Frontlines latest campervan makes a change from the usual Toyota Hiace by converting the front-bonnet Toyota SBV van.

STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY MALCOM STREET

01If there is one thing in the campervan market that separates Japanese van-based vehicles from their European counterparts, it’s the ability to walk through from the back to the front. This has been a problem for those who were quite happy with a Toyota/Nissan/Mazda van, but really wanted a walk-through. : Well, the Toyota Hiace SBV with its front-bonnet 2.4-litre motor has solved that particular problem. Frontline have now capitalised on that in the design of one of their latest campervans. Our review vehicle was a sleek silvery-grey colour, which made a pleasant change from the ubiquitous white of so many vchicles. It has the usual driver and passenger doors, sliding door on the side and two `barn doors’ at the rear rather than a single lift-up door. Perhaps the only disadvantage of this arrangement (from a campervan point of view) is that a single lift-up door provides some shelter in the wet.

02 Climbing into the driver’s seat revealed controls and instrumentation in all the usual places. Both seats had armrests and front storage compartments, including a large centre bin underneath the radio. I thought perhaps the gear stick, in a reasonable location for the driver, might get in the way when getting into the back, but I did not ever trip over it. Behind the driver’s seat, there is a small storage bin that is good for storing maps, books and magazines. Although I did not travel a great distance in the Hiace, it was a reasonably easy and comfortable vehicle to drive. The external mirrors gave good rear vision and I had no problem manoeuvring in car parks. Both rear doors have individual wipers, ensuring good vision in the wet.

03 Giving a streamlined appearance, the pop-top fits neatly behind the front fairing. Raising the roof, so to speak, was merely a matter of undoing the four straps and pushing gently upwards. The canvas gusset has flyscreened windows on the front and both sides. It is a conventional campervan, with a kitchen at the front and a dinette/double bed at the rear. Immediately behind the passenger seat – and blocking the doorway somewhat – is a cabinet containing stainless steel sink, microwave oven and a cupboard. The sink is supplied by 12V pumped hot and cold water and the tap is fitted to an extension hose for use outside as a shower. The hot water is heated by a heat exchanger located under the rear offside bed. The cupboard under the sink, and the locker door for the under-bed storage area, is easily reached when standing outside the campervan door. However a shelf in the under-sink cupboard would not go astray. Quite conveniently on the doorway side, a hinged flap lowers to form an outside table. Perhaps a little high for a normal table, but useful for the wine, cheese and bickies or if you are just stopping for a cuppa somewhere. The kitchen arrangement is very simple – a twoburner Smev stove with Engel 240/12V fridge underneath. Naturally, there is very little bench space, so the smoked-glass stove cover is a welcome addition. On the right-hand side of the stove, there’s a double power point and a tea towel rail. Apart from the under-sink cupboard, there are two half height cupboards between the stove and the driver’s seat. A neat touch is the mirror on the inside of the top door In the rear the dinette table seats four people without too rnuch trouble. When folded down, it forms quite a wide bed at 5ft 3in ( 1600mm), with a usually standard length of 6ft 3in (1905mm).

04 Frontline have designed the seating in a `U’ shape, which results in a storage area across the van in the rear as well as the usual storage area under the bench seats. The offside area is occupied by the second battery and the water heater: The advantage of the rear seat area is that it can be accessed from inside the van via the usual storage lid, or from the rear by a hinged flap. There are definite advantages and disadvantages to this arrangement. If you are someone who likes to get in from the rear door then it may not suit. However for those who are happy to use the side door then it gives extra storage space, especially for items like deck chairs and an outside table. Perhaps it’sjust that C & M reviewers tend to climb in an out a lot. Although, I wondered if the rear flap might be too tempting to occasionally use as a rear step, and not be up to its unintended task? Internal lighting consists of two overhead I2V fluorescents and a halogen light above the kitchen sink. A couple of halogen reading lights above the dinette would not go astray though. As well as the double power point beside the stove, there’s another behind the passenger seat for the microwave. Although, I would imagine that this could be used for any appliances outside the vehicle.

05 Frontline’s use of the SBV van shows some potential for several design layouts. It will be very interesting to see how much interest it creates in the marketplace, especially with those who might otherwise favour the European-based campervans.