Compact Comfort

Compact ComfortMany a driver already owns a great tow vehicle without realizing it. It may not be a full-size pickup or SUV, but that downsized SUV or minivan may do a fine job with some of the smaller trailers on the market. For example, the Kia Sedona minivan we exercised for this project made a perfect match for the classy little [email protected] trailer.

It may not seem that the Sedona’s 3,500-pound tow rating amounts to much in ability to tow an RV, but the variety of smaller trailers available today is pretty incredible. With a bit of an attitude adjustment for personal square-footage requirements, even a small rig like the 18-foot [email protected], the larger brother to the highly successful [email protected], can offer a lot of fun and comfort for RV adventures.

The [email protected] looks like no other trailer on the road, except for perhaps its [email protected] kindred. Its drastically rounded body with brilliant blood-red exterior of alu-fiber skin — a fiberglass and aluminum composite — and contrasting extra-large white edge and door trim are visually arresting. It made a great match for the red Sedona van, and the lashup turned a lot of heads wherever we went. The [email protected] is available in a range of other body and trim colors so buyers can make an impression in a variety of color schemes.

The round-top door with its porthole window and the European-style Poly Plastic duo-pane windows further enhance the trailer’s “not the usual thing” appearance.

Given its $24,080 msrp as tested, it’s a costly little critter; so the [email protected] is probably not what you’d look at if you’re on a strict budget.

At 2,500 pounds (wet weight), the [email protected] was well matched to the Sedona’s towing ability. It’s always necessary to consider the weight of the passengers in the tow rig when making towing and payload calculations, but if you plan to bring along a crowd of passengers, it’s especially important to deduct the weight from the van’s payload capacity and tow rating. Keep an eye on the numbers, and this setup should work fine.

Compact Comfort
People Hauling
The Kia Sedona is a traditional minivan with seating for seven with second-row captain’s chairs and a third-row bench seat that folds down for more cargo capacity. Power sliding side doors and the power liftgate are part of the Power Package ($1,000).

Cosmetically, our EX trim level van looked sharp. Uncluttered lines and clean details outside match the well-done interior trim and appointments. Multi-hued interior shades of gray blended with polished-steel-looking accents may be a bit bland for some, but we liked the low-key décor that’s suitable for a practical family hauler. Likewise, the dash arrangement and vehicle controls are easy to understand. They are unpretentious and do their jobs without complicating matters.

Occupants are protected by the usual array of front airbags, full-length side-curtain airbags and front-seat side airbags. Combined with some common electronic driving aids, including Electronic Stability Control (ESC), a Traction-Control System (TCS), a brake-assist system, four-wheel ABS and a standard Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), drivers can be assured the van will try to counteract or correct for a range of operator errors.

Ample cup holders, door pockets, bins and cubbyholes ensure users have plenty of places to stash their stuff. The optional back-seat DVD player with 8-inch flip-down monitor is part of the Premium Entertainment Package ($1,700) and helps keep the back-seaters occupied.

We ended up using the spacious storage area in the rear of the van for the firewood, tools, leveling blocks and a few other necessities that we couldn’t reasonably pack in the trailer due to its limited storage spaces.

On the Road
For the most part, our drive time with the Sedona was pleasant and accommodating, with one significant exception:The Sedona has some of the worst driver-side legroom I’ve seen in a modern vehicle in many years. Even with the seat moved all the way back, I was still cramped up to the dash and wheel. Yes, at 6 feet 6 inches, I’m not a standard-size person, but I haven’t been that uncomfortable in a modern vehicle — domestic or imported — in a long time. Also, my 5-foot 9-inch wife likewise felt it was not a driver’s position she’d want to experience for many hours.

The V-6 moves the van in sprightly fashion and rack-and-pinion steering helps the driver maintain control of the power. McPherson strut front suspension and coil-spring multi-link rear suspension keep the ride as smooth as can be expected, but road-noise isolation could be better. Engine noise is nicely muffled from interior intrusion such that we were able to fully enjoy the stereo.

We averaged 19.3 mpg overall running solo — a number that could improve with more attention to economy driving.

Tow Time
While the Sedona included an optional Class-IV receiver and four-circuit flat-type trailer plug ($375), we needed a seven-prong Bargman-style plug with brake wire circuit to make the trailer functional. The staff at Hitch Pro & Tow in Eugene, Oregon, handled the installation for us, including the aftermarket brake controller. The company took a bit more time tracing circuits and doing the install because Kia doesn’t include a convenient brake-control-wiring-harness connection spot under the dash or a pigtail with a plug as is included with many other tow-ready rigs.

The Sedona handled the [email protected] with effortless ease. We enjoyed total straight-line stability, even with crosswinds, and we maintained 60 mph up a 5-percent grade in third gear cranking an easy 3,500 rpm.

Cornering and braking felt equally stable and secure. We knew the trailer was back there, but it never pushed us around. That’s how we like our towing time.

According to our records, we averaged 12.5 mpg while towing, and that’s not bad when compared to the economy typical for a big V-8-powered rig and much larger trailer.

Our first destination was Umpqua Lighthouse State Park, near Winchester Bay, Oregon. It’s a typical older modest-size park with some trim-sized spots. The Sedona maneuvered the access road just fine, and backing the [email protected] into place was easy with two-way-radio assistance. Close-by neighbors and shrubbery meant if we had slideouts we could have been in a pickle, but the [email protected] fit the site like a glove.

Our second location was a little north of Coos Bay, Oregon, at the brand-new Riley Ranch County Park (541-396-3121, www.co.coos.or.us/ccpark), where we experienced a personal camping milestone: We were the first campers to spend the night at this campground. This place shows it was designed by someone who knows what RVers need. The 135-acre facility was still under construction during our visit, but when finished, it will include 92 RV sites with water and electric and about 50 non-hookup sites for tenting or dry camping. Its wide-open spots with natural shrubbery and groundcover, as well as its well-planned access roads, made the overnighting easy and rather enjoyable.

Livability
We cranked down the corner stabilizing jacks, plugged in to shorepower and were ready to camp in no time.

Inside the trailer it’s a snug fit with the big U-shape dinette up front, curbside galley, streetside storage unit and rear-corner wet bath. We found enough places to store our necessities and kept some in plastic storage boxes for easy deployment in camp.

Our trailer was prepped and supplied by George M. Sutton RV in Eugene, Oregon (541-342-2993), and we really appreciated the salesman walk-around because there are a couple of details that are different than those of the usual RV trailer. For example, the toilet is a Thetford cassette model that’s a bit of a hybrid between a Porta-Potti and a freshwater flush model. It has a 5-gallon slide-out cassette holding tank, accessed from outside the rig, that’s emptied much like a Porta-Potti tank, but the toilet fixture is permanently part of the wet bath.

The Norcold compressor-type refrigerator is another different feature. It runs on electricity only and uses a compressor cooling system like the one in a residential refrigerator. A three-way fridge is optionally available.

There’s no gray-water tank in this trailer. It has a fitting to connect a traditional garden hose and direct the gray water into a sewer receptacle, or a portable gray tank can be used and emptied at the campground dump station. We were happy that was pointed out to us before we started any major washing projects.

The interior is well assembled with good-quality materials. The floor feels solid, cabinet doors and drawers move well and movable furniture such as the dinette that converts to the bed worked quite well.

Over in the kitchen are an interesting pair of stainless-steel sink and stove units from Smev, a European supplier. Such components — along with the windows — help account for the trailer’s relatively high cost. Both appliances worked great for our casual indoor meal prep.

When the plastic windows are unlatched and open for fresh air, a screen rolls down from above and latches securely in place. Likewise there’s an optional side-rolling screen door ($263) to cover the entry-door opening if desired.

Tall users — unless extremely limber — may find the bathroom and its 5-foot 9-inch ceiling combined with the rearward slope challenging for standup functions. The room works as advertised for light-duty camping-style wet bath showers and other uses.

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The dinette’s wall-to-wall backrest has a latching hinge mechanism that allows it to fold flat when making up the 71 ¥ 72-inch bed. We were amazed at how comfortable a bed made from pieced-together dinette cushions can be. We slept well. Folded up as a dinette, it made a good spot for one person’s crossword project and another’s general sprawling with a book and a glass of microbrew. In that mode, the space ahead of the seat back also serves well to store duffel bags and the like.

A swivel mount for the optional 15-inch LCD TV/DVD player makes it easy to adjust for maximum viewing ease for the dinette occupants.

There’s no overhead air conditioner. The [email protected] uses an optional Cool Cat air conditioner with heat pump($1,043) that’s built into the streetside interior cabinet.

Sure, the [email protected] is small. That’s what makes it so easily towable and reduces its wind drag. We typically are busy doing other things while camped and only head into the rig when the weather is terrible or it’s time to sleep, and in that scenario, the [email protected] does a great job and is just as big as it needs to be.

The more we use small combinations like the Sedona and [email protected], the more we like them. For our uses, downsized RVs work very well, and are easier on our fuel budget. While the [email protected] represents the more costly end of the small-trailer spectrum, it’s also a rig that definitely isn’t just like the one your father used to tow. And that’s a good thing.

Kia, (800) 333-4542, www.kia.com.

[email protected], (574) 534-1224, www.tada-rv.com.

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