Few aspects of vehicle ownership are as much fun as starting out on an RV trip with a nice
motorhome. The thrill of seeing what’s over the next hill, trundling through an interesting
small town or enjoying marshmallows by the fire is enhanced by the presence of your
comfortable mobile estate. When the coach is well built and well planned for flexible, fun
living on the road, the experience is even better.
Such is the case with the new Sea View 31-foot Class A from National RV Inc., a reliable company with a good reputation for building quality products. The Sea View is National’s basement-style Class A that’s aimed at the midrange gasoline-powered motorhome market and stands slightly taller than the manufacturer’s lower-profile Sea Breeze Class A line. Our test coach is the 31-foot model 8311, the smallest of three available lengths that include 33- and 34-foot versions.
It features a pair of slideout rooms, one forward that contains the dinette and kitchen and
the other aft, in the bedroom. There’s a lot of living space packed into this rig’s 31
feet, and the manufacturer makes good use of the extra space in the slideout rooms. It’s a
coach that’s an excellent size compromise, with the easy driving and maneuverability of a
smaller Class A and the interior floor space of a larger unit. Just as we’ve come to
expect, National acted responsibly when it came to chassis loading. The company builds the 31-footer on the larger Ford chassis with a 20,500-pound gross vehicle weight rating
(gvwr). The Sea View boasts a whopping 1,300 pounds of front-axle carrying capacity, which is more than many Class A motorhomes have in total, and 3,180 pounds of rear-axle capacity.
Those are more than sufficient capacities for a coach designed with scads of basement-style exterior and well-planned interior storage spaces. The coach is also sensibly priced. It’s not entry-level affordable, at $92,183 including a reasonable option list, so it’s in the
higher end of gas-powered motorhome models. That’s still quite affordable compared to many diesel-pusher models on the market today. There are some interesting new twists in
slideout-room floorplans today, and it’s the way manufacturers apply that extra space that
brings out a motorhome’s versatility and shows off the designer’s abilities. For example,
the U-shape kitchen is a smart space-saver. By wrapping the counter partly around the cook instead of running it lengthwise, some of the extra width added by the slideout is
effectively utilized. There’s still room to move around the kitchen counter when the room
is retracted for travel, which helps ease foot-traffic congestion. In the campsite, the
cook is nicely tucked away in the kitchen surround with all facilities except the
refrigerator, which is right across the aisle, within easy reach. National’s choice of
smoked-glass upper-cabinet doors makes it easy to get an idea of what’s inside the
cupboards without opening the doors. It’s a bit different to have the galley adjacent to
the dinette instead of across the aisle from it, but the plan works. The cook can pass
goodies directly across the counter and someone at the table can then distribute the grub
to the ravenous horde.
We found the dinette also kept us comfy when used as a work table or
an after-hours game or play space. Both the dinette and sofa make up into typical secondary beds, and the slideout provides enough room to walk between the two beds when both are fully deployed. That makes it easier to answer when nature calls in the middle of the night. Folded up in its sitting configuration, the sofa is a good place to relax and enjoy watching television or take part in other quiet-time activities. There’s plenty of
artificial lighting available that’s adjustable for individual needs, but the area is short
on places to stash drink containers, so there will be knee-balanced pop cans and the like
for those on the sofa. There’s plenty of floor space, should extra folding chairs be needed
for drop-in guests. While the bath is somewhat packed in between the bedroom and kitchen, it’s designed so that the space works well in a trim and efficient way. The shower stall, tucked into a streetside enclosure along with the toilet, seems a bit narrow, but a turn
sideways allows a fine fit for the broad-of-shoulder. There’s some space in front of the
toilet for standing and toweling, but it’s better to slide the forward pocket door shut to
isolate the bath from the galley and leave the aisle available for dressing. In a different
sort of arrangement, the queen-size bed slides 22 inches toward curbside and opens up a
delightful 18 inches of aisle space at the foot. This is typical for a slideout-bedroom
setup, but the main ward-robe is against the streetside wall instead of across the aft
wall. Again, this is a space-saving measure that uses the extra slideout-enabled width
while saving length.
Large mirrored sliding wardrobe doors, drawers and cabinets plus a TV pocket make for an effective overall storage-and-entertainment unit. After long days on the road, the bed felt darn good and gave us a great night’s sleep many times over. Although the driver has a good view of the road and the dash gauges, the seat feels generally low. It seems it could be several inches higher, relative to the dash, floor and window beltline, to avoid that “sitting-in-a-bucket” feeling, and the extra height would provide additional legroom. The presence of the slideout prevents the seat from moving back as far as it should.
Fortunately, there’s a large open space for stretching your left leg out under the dash. The corduroy-like seat fabric is a nice alternative to vinyl, and the seats are comfortable. Aft visibility is enhanced by a clever new feature that falls in the “why didn’t someone think of this sooner” category. Each exterior rearview mirror has an additional wide-angle mirror integrated into the top end of the mirror housing, which helps give the driver a great view of the roof edge and gutter. This is a welcome item when it
comes time to maneuver through tight places with overhanging tree limbs and the like. It
also helps you check to see if your awning has worked loose and is flapping in the wind
(ours was not). We always approach a higher-profile motorhome with caution because we never know when it may rock and roll like a ship riding out long ocean swells, but the Sea
View proved to be a delight to handle. The Ford chassis has leaf springs at all four corners and delivers a firm but well-controlled ride in a way that makes the body seem well matched to the chassis size. Steering and braking stability were just as we want: effective and dependable. Engine noise from the 6.8-liter V-10 is minimal, so the combined Ford and
National RV sound-deadening efforts worked well. We cruised to the top of a solid 6-percent freeway grade in a manner we’ve come to expect from Ford-powered coaches of this size. We maintained 45 mph at 4,250 rpm in second gear, and at one point slowed briefly to 39 mph at 3,900 rpm, also in second. A downhill segment using engine compression holdback found us running away at 70-plus mph in third (direct) gear, but a manual shift down to second (after first slowing with the brakes to avoid overrevving) netted 4,400 rpm and a 51-mph drive to the bottom. Acceleration and fuel-economy tests produced no surprises.
A 0- to 60-mph run took 22.7 seconds, and we averaged 7.3 mpg throughout the trip over a wide range of highway conditions. All-steel framing with polystyrene insulation throughout and fully laminated walls, floor and ceiling make up the basics of the Sea View’s construction. High-gloss gelcoat fiberglass exterior skin with a crowned fiberglass roof and molded end caps cover the exterior, while decorative lauan paneling and a soft-touch padded fabric ceiling anchor the interior decor scheme. The floor starts with carpet and vinyl on a 3/8-inch plywood deck over a steel frame. The chassis incorporates the company’s Duraframe steel subfloor assembly with raised truss-type bridging tied into the frame to help deter frame twist and provide mounting points for the AC generator and other accessories. The Duraframe also provides secure attachments for the one-piece polyethylene roto-cast compartments with Centrex high-impact doors that are used for the exterior basement-style storage areas. The Sea View 31-footer proved a troublefree and enjoyable vehicle to use for travel and adventure. Its medium-large size, relative to the really big motorhomes, made it easy to maneuver and park, yet there was plenty of elbowroom inside for a small crowd of occupants. Wise use of extra interior space makes for happy uncramped campers, and National’s fine attention to detail gives the Sea View a welcome air of quality.
The sum of the Sea View’s features creates a coach that’s highly satisfying to own and use. National RV Inc., 3411 N. Perris Boulevard, Perris, California 92571; (909) 943-6007