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Winnebago Vista 26HE Reviewed

Originally Published in MotorHome Magazine

Just when it seemed that pricing of new Class A gas motorhomes had reached epic heights, Winnebago Industries of Forest City, Iowa, has rolled out the Vista 26HE – an economical, no-frills floorplan that can fit into just about anyone’s budget. The company believes including necessary features, comfort and quality into the new coach at an affordable price ultimately translates into optimum value to its owners.

Winnebago Vista 26HE bedroom

The queen bed is flanked by wardrobe closets and an overhead cabinet.

Even though the 26HE, at 26 feet, 11 inches in length, is relatively short for a Class A, it still boasts a layout with a forward lounge area with streetside slideout, a mid-coach curbside galley, a split, walk-through bathroom, and rear bedroom with a 60-by-75—inch queen bed.

Winnebago’s Vista 26HE comes as a complete package, with all necessary essentials thrown in as standard equipment such as 14,800-Btu roof air, 4.0 kW gas generator and a 32-inch LCD TV. Other high-end appointments include Ultraleather captains seats in the cockpit and even a handy powered patio awning. All told, the coach’s layout contains just about every fixture and appliance necessary for comfortable, full-featured RVing for couples as well as smaller families.

The Vista line has been around for several years, and still offers four other economical floorplans up to 35 feet in length. These models, unlike the 26HE, can be accessorized with everything from full-body paint to four-door refrigerators, and multi-featured A/V centers to bunk beds. 

As tested, the Vista 26HE is initially being offered at a special promotional rate of $69,999. By the time this story runs, however, the asking price may have risen to the unit’s original suggested retail of $87,217, plus delivery and handling.

Winnebago Vista 26HE Coach and Chassis

Our test coach was built on Ford’s latest F53 Super Duty motorhome chassis, and weighed in at a svelte 13,780 pounds. Equipped with a three-valve-per-cylinder, Triton V-10 gas engine that pumps out a maximum of 362 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque, this compact coach leaps into action the moment one steps on the accelerator. 

The F53’s chassis and suspension were given an update in 2011. Of note are an 80-gallon fuel tank, high capacity 175-amp alternator, integrated front and rear suspension system with tapered leaf springs and Bilstein shocks, and a 50-degree wheel cut that enhances this platform’s maneuverability and parking capabilities.

Winnebago Vista 26HE cab layout

Ultraleather captain’s seats add comfort to the cab layout, which also includes the basics for comfortable operation.

Up front, the coach has a nicely configured interior cab layout accentuated by the Ultraleather captain’s seats. These comparatively upscale features were a surprise inclusion, considering the unit’s bargain basement price point. 

Though there is no flashiness to speak of in the cockpit, it still has all the basics for effective, comfortable operation. Dash surfaces are molded vinyl and include a well-appointed primary instrument cluster, a rearview monitor screen, and smallish radio head located in the center that we found difficult to operate when the coach was in motion. The driver’s instrument cluster had easily discernible gauges, and made the task of monitoring highway speeds and engine systems quite easy.

The manually adjustable front seats tended to hold us comfortably and were also capable of being swiveled rearward to become part of the lounge area when the coach was parked. The cab also had a generous, one-piece windshield that provided panoramic views of the highway and surrounding countryside throughout the trip. 

Winnebago Vista 26HE Construction

Components used in putting together the Vista’s coachwork reflect Winnebago’s legendary build quality, and include a welded steel and aluminum superstructure with specially engineered, interlocking joints that connect the floor, side walls and roof. The coach sports a crowned, one-piece fiberglass roof and durable Thermo-Panel side walls consisting of exterior fiberglass, aluminum support members and high-density block foam insulation.

Though the 26HE’s exterior is relatively plain in white gelcoat fiberglass including its roof, it is still highlighted tastefully with a few charcoal and gray accent graphics that give it a sporty, contemporary appearance.

Winnebago Vista 26HE On the Road

This has got be one of the scrappier, and more adept, Class A performers we’ve had out recently. Right from the start, while threading our way through a congested shopping center prior to beginning our trip, we came to value the unit’s shorter length, positive steering attributes and its exceptional wheel cut with a 30.4-foot turning radius.

Winnebago Vista 26HE

Winnebago Vista 26HE

This tight turning ability would also come into play later in the test, when we unintentionally dead-ended into a construction zone on a lonely country lane in the middle of nowhere. With no wide spots in sight, we had to make several turnabouts within the narrow parameters of the roadway to extricate ourselves from this tricky situation. Had we not been able to make this necessary maneuver, we might still be backing up.

Beginning our trip, and while accelerating into traffic on a busy freeway, the feedback we received from the powertrain inspired confidence in its performance abilities. Increasing speed, passing slower traffic and squeezing back into a limited space between other vehicles was easily done, in a stable manner, and with plenty of power to spare.

We put the unit through several timed speed tests to measure its performance off the line and its mid-range acceleration potential. The peppy coach did well, averaging 0—60 mph passes in 19.2 seconds, with 40—60 mph intervals of 10.3 seconds.

The coach’s suspension, however, did not take well to the uneven highway surfaces. This phenomenon could possibly have been attributable to the chassis’ shorter, 158-inch wheelbase and/or the smaller 19.5-inch wheels. Whatever the reason, when surfaces became rougher, the suspension telegraphed its displeasure to the driver by way of unpleasant vibrations and increased highway noise. When road surfaces were even and compliant, we sailed along smoothly and quietly with no disagreeable suspension feedback. 

Encountering a long, meandering grade north of Santa Barbara, we easily forged our way up the 6 percent slope at 58 mph in third gear at 4,000 rpm. Later in the trip, we tackled a much steeper stretch in the 7 percent range. Though the short but formidable segment slowed us down a bit more, we still managed 55 mph in third gear at 3,200 rpm.

Downhill performance was likewise impressive. The entire process was enhanced by Ford’s Tow/Haul feature, which allows drivers to downshift its TorqShift five-speed automatic transmission by merely tapping the brake pedal. With the coach fully loaded, our descent on several grades in the 7 percent category was slowed effectively by engine compression to a maximum of 58 mph in second gear at 3,800 rpm.

During several days exploring the Santa Inez Valley area, we had occasion to experience many rural highways and quite a bit of small town traffic. Despite all this that one might ordinarily expect in a tourist destination, the coach’s handling and performance was reasonably user friendly considering its size and weight. 

The test area was a mixed bag of freeways with occasional steep grades, winding county roads through rolling hills and suburban stop-and-go. Though the coach’s performance and handling were excellent for the most part, we were unable to squeeze much more out of it than an average 7.5 mpg.

Winnebago Vista 26HE Comforts

The 26HE’s floorplan offers a forward, streetside slideout that expands to maximize comfort and livability in the front lounge and galley areas. The slide itself houses a 38-by-73-inch dinette that can convert to an alternate sleeping platform. 

Vista 26HE dinette

The Vista 26HE’s streetside slideout houses the dinette and expands living space.

A curbside lounge chair affords additional seating in the living area, along with the front captain’s chairs that can be swiveled rearward. A split bathroom is located mid-coach, followed by a rear bedroom with queen bed.

Three décor packages are offered on this model, and ours came with the Grayson collection in subtle shades of gray and cream. Two wood species are also available for cabinetry, with the test unit featuring Forest Cherry.

Counter material used in the galley and bathroom consists of dark-hued, Formica-type composites. Floors in the cockpit and bits of the bedroom are graced with beige colored, medium-length shag carpet. The rest of the bedroom – and all of the galley, lounge and bath areas – have received easily cleanable, charcoal-colored vinyl tile.

Winnebago Vista 26HE galley

A three-burner stove, conventional gas oven and 6.3-cubic-foot refrigerator complete the galley.

Since this unit is entry level, it didn’t have much in the way of audiovisual equipment aboard except a 32-inch Vizio LCD above the cockpit. What was sort of a bummer though is the package did not at least include a rudimentary DVD player to go with the flat screen. 

When dry camping or staying at a park with no cable, the lack of a DVD player makes TV watching pretty bleak if you are not near an over-the-air signal the roof antenna can pick up. There was nothing of the sort at a county campground we visited near Point Conception. Be that as it may, we did catch up on a bit of reading while we relaxed at the dinette and on the comfy
captain’s seats.

The galley has all the elements and appliances necessary for multifaceted cooking and food service, including a three-burner stove, conventional gas oven and 6.3-cubic-foot refrigerator. There’s also adequate cupboard and cabinet space available above and below the countertop to store a reasonable amount of groceries and utensils. A handy streetside slideout pantry is between the refrigerator and dinette.

Winnebago Vista 26HE Bathroom

With the Vista’s split, walk-through bathroom area, the toilet and vanity are located curbside.

We made good use of the galley’s microwave oven during our trip, and meals were taken comfortably at the dinette. The galley doesn’t provide much counter space for food prep, but that has to be expected in a coach of this length. What the stovetop or sink couldn’t provide in the way of working areas we made up for by using the dinette’s handy table surface within easy reach.

Bathroom and bedroom facilities worked out well for the most part, but it was apparent where compromises in space allotments were made in these zones. Taking a shower was one example. With the stall being 29 inches wide and 23 inches deep, bathing for taller, longer-limbed people such as us proved a little cramped. Although there isn’t much in the way of room to spread out, there is still plenty of head space.

We spent several comfortable nights on the unit’s fairly firm queen bed, which is flanked by two wardrobe closets and a roomy overhead cabinet. The bed afforded the average amount of surface area for a platform of this type, and there was enough aisle space at the foot and either side for easy makeups. The bedroom would definitely benefit from a slideout to add more space, but this would also boost cost, which Winnebago aims to minimize in this model. 

Ample storage alternatives have been seen to in all areas of the coach. Besides providing adequate space inside in the form of overhead cabinets fore and aft, and other areas mentioned previously, this floorplan also has remarkable exterior cargo holding possibilities.

Several of these bays are evident on both sides of the coach and grant a combined storage capacity of 42 cubic feet. It is also outfitted with a cavernous rear pass-through compartment accessed easily through either a back or curbside door. This space can house any number of bulky items in its 72.4 cubic feet.

Winnebago Vista 26HE Exterior storage

Exterior storage bays are located on both sides of the coach. There is also a rear pass-through compartment.

By and large, the Vista is endowed with approximately 115 cubic feet of exterior storage area, and an overall realistic cargo carrying capacity of 2,220 pounds. All factors being considered, these figures promise plenty of hauling potential for those who like to take lots of gear when they travel.

At nearly 27 feet in length, the Vista 26HE has sufficient residential space and amenities, plus generous storage capacity, to routinely support everything from short weekend hops to extended getaways. With excellent fit and finish, strong performance, first-rate maneuverability and a comparatively small footprint, this motorhome warrants serious attention from those looking to break into the Class A market at a realistically affordable price point.

Winnebago Vista 26HE Floorplan

Winnebago Vista 26HE Floorplan


Winnebago Vista 26HE Specifications

0-60 mph: 19.2 sec
40-60 mph: 10.3 sec 

Model: Ford F53
Engine: Triton 6.8-L V-10 
SAE HP: 362 hp @ 4,750 rpm 
Torque: 457 lb-ft @ 3,250 rpm
Transmission: 5-Speed Torqshift with Tow-Haul
Axle ratio: 4.88:1
Tires: 245/70R19.5
Wheelbase: 158″
Brakes, F/R: disc/disc with ABS 
Suspension, F/R: tapered multi-leaf
Fuel cap: 80 gal
Warranty: 12 month/15,000 miles

Ext length: 26′ 11″
Ext width: 8′ 5″
Ext height: 12′ 1″
Int width: 8′ 0″
Int height: 6′ 8″
Construction: steel/aluminum framing, gelcoat fiberglass skin and roof, polystyrene block foam insulation
Freshwater cap: 60 gal
Black-water cap: 43 gal
Gray-water cap: 38 gal
Water-heater cap: 6 gal
LP-gas cap: 18 gal
Air conditioner: 14,800 Btu
Furnace: 30,000 Btu
Refrigerator: 6.3 cu ft
Converter: 45 amp
Battery: (1) 12-volt chassis, (2) 12-volt coach
AC Generator: 4.0 kW   
Base MSRP: $87,217
MSRP as tested: $88,320
Warranty: Basic 3 yrs/36,000 miles; powertrain 5 yrs/60,000 miles

Wet Weight (water and heater, fuel, LP-gas tanks full; no supplies or passengers)
Front axle: 5,080 lbs
Rear axle: 8,700 lbs
Total: 13,780 lbs 

gawr, f/r: 6,500/11,000 lbs
gvwr/gcwr: 16,000/23,000 lbs
Roccc: 2,220 lbs (deduct weight of passengers for net cargo capacity)
gawr: gross axle weight rating
gvwr: gross vehicle weight rating
gcwr: gross combination weight rating
roccc: realistic occupant & cargo carrying capacity (full water, no passengers)

Winnebago Industries
641-585-3535, www.winnebagoind.com



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