With the US compact van market quickly going the way of the dinosaur and the dodo (maybe not the dodo), small, affordable pop-up campers like the Free Bird and Cascade Camper will soon be gone, if not gone. Las Vegas-area tuning shop Caleche Customs has helped fill that void with the Korean-designed Unicamp Univan RT CL, a Kia Fiesta minivan camper pop-up kit. The company now supplies the hardware to build the Fiesta light sleeper van and a more complete camper.
Caleche has previously focused its conversion efforts solely on Mercedes-Benz vehicles, while also offering Sprinter and Metris camper vans. But then Mercedes joined a wave of automakers stopping production of their smallest wagon offerings, planning to pull the midsize Metris from North America in 2023.Nissan canceled the small NV200 (and the full-size NV3500), followed by the trend for the 2021 model year, along with Ford and Ram has followed suitannounced plans to shut down their respective minivans this year.
Just like that, the American minivan market disappeared.
If there’s going to be a small, affordable camper segment in North America anytime soon, it’s in the minivan segment and converted vehicles like the Oasis Sienna. Caleche Customs has turned to different minivan models for its new small camper product, but instead of developing its own floor plan, it’s starting at Kia’s South Korean headquarters to source tried-and-true products from other global markets.
Founded in 2011, Unicamp offers a variety of campervans for the Korean market based on domestic models from Hyundai and Kia. Following the launch of the fourth-generation Kia Carnival in South Korea in 2020, the company has unveiled its latest Univan RT CL.
The Fiesta comes to the U.S. as a 2022 model, replacing the Sedona. The U.S.-market Fiesta is available in seven- and eight-seat configurations, offering plenty of room for the entire family. In fact, while it technically qualifies as a minivan, the 203-inch (516-cm) Fiesta is longer than any of the aforementioned discontinued compact or midsize vans, providing plenty of room for camping inside. All that’s needed is a taller roof.
Caleche brings this high roof option to the Pacific through the formation of its Unicamp USA subsidiary. The Univan RT CL pop-roof extends the Carnival’s interior upwards, adding a “light camper” element to the versatile minivan’s cap range. Constructed from a durable, weather-resistant thermoset shell, the roof is taller and more prominent when closed than some pop-roof designs, but it ultimately just reminds us of an MPV with a roof box.
The Univan RT CL’s electric lift operation is ideal for base vehicles that offer hands-free and single-button sliding door and tailgate operation. In fact, Unicamp says it can even be opened and closed using the Kia Smart Key, which also opens the doors and tailgate. The roof opens and closes in just five seconds and is self-locking for easy click-and-go. A manual backup system ensures that if the motor fails it can still be turned on and off.
The tent-like open roof area includes a 40 x 85 inch (102 x 216 cm) mattress for two. The mattress can also be raised to make room for the floor of the van below.
Unicamp USA, which recently installed its first Carnival pop-top, is now offering the sleeper roof at an entry price of $16,000, a discount of $2,000 from its planned retail price of $18,000. The Carnival itself starts between $33,100 and $46,200, depending on trim, excluding the $1,365 destination charge, so buyers can walk away with a brand new sleeper MPV that starts at just over $50,000. The pop-up roof keeps the Carnival versatile for daily driving and family hauling, while always having double-sleeper capability for impromptu overnighters. Available seating options such as a removable sliding second row and a floor-height-folding third row add to the overall versatility of the sleeper MPV.
Unicamp has also added a more complete four-berth camper package with an outdoor tailgate kitchen and a second bed. This $4,000 add-on hails from Germany with the Ququq box camper we’ve become very familiar with over the years. 110 lb (50 kg) tailgate installation kit includes a case with three compartments, a rollaway bed with a three-piece 43 x 77 in (110 x 195 cm) mattress, and kitchen Facilities – burner gas stove and two 10 liter water tanks. The folded back panel doubles as a kitchen counter and table.
Sadly for those who prefer the all-weather and all-terrain capabilities of a camper van, Kia didn’t add an all-wheel-drive option, although it took care to give the Fiesta its powerful SUV-inspired proportions. Thus, the MPV’s 3.5-liter V6 sends all of its available 290 horsepower to the front wheels alone. No other small or midsize van in the U.S. market offers AWD or 4WD options, but the Toyota Sienna and Chrysler Pacifica minivans do.
source: american joint camp