With the American compact van market fast going the way of the dinosaur and dodo (maybe not the dodo), small, affordable pop-up camper vans like the Free Bird and Cascade Camper are soon to be no more, if not already gone, writes C.C. Weiss at NewAtlas.com.
Las Vegas-area conversion shop Caleche Customs is helping fill the void by bringing over the Korean-designed Unicamp Univan RT CL, a Kia Carnival minivan-camper pop-top kit. The company is now offering hardware to create Carnival light sleeper vans and more complete campers.
Caleche previously focused its conversion efforts solely on Mercedes-Benz vehicles, offering both Sprinter and Metris camper van offerings. But then, Mercedes joined the wave of auto manufacturers discontinuing their smallest van products with its plan to pull the midsize Metris off the North American market in 2023. Nissan kicked the trend off when it canceled the small NV200 (and full-size NV3500) following the 2021 model year, and Ford and Ram have followed suit, announcing plans to wind their respective small vans down this year.
Like that, the American small van market has disappeared.
If there is to be a small, affordable camper van market in the North American market near-term, then, it falls on the minivan segment and conversions like the Oasis Sienna. Caleche Customs has turned to a different minivan model for its new small camper van offering, but instead of fabricating its own floor plan, it has sought out tried-and-true products from other global markets, starting with Kia’s home base of South Korea.
Unicamp was founded in 2011 and offers several Korean-market camper vans based on domestic models from Hyundai and Kia. The company introduced its latest Univan RT CL following the fourth-generation Kia Carnival’s Korean launch in 2020.
The Carnival came to the US as a 2022 model, replacing the Sedona. The American-market Carnival offers seven- and eight-seat configurations, providing plenty of space for the entire family. In fact, while it technically qualifies as a minivan, the 203-in (516-cm) Carnival measures longer than any of the aforementioned discontinued compact or midsize vans, providing ample space for in-vehicle camping. All that’s needed is a higher roof.
Caleche brings that high roof option over the Pacific with the formation of its Unicamp USA subsidiary. The Univan RT CL pop-up roof expands the Carnival’s interior space upward, adding “light camper” to the versatile minivan’s hat collection. Made with a durable, weather-ready thermoset plastic shell, the roof sits a little higher and more conspicuous when closed than some pop-up roof designs, but it ultimately just reminds us of an MPV carrying a roof box.
Click here to check out the compete article at NewAtlas.com.