Downsizing Done Right: Born Free's 20-Foot Mini Motorhome

Lazelle Jones
Aug 21, 2009
Photo 2/8   |   born Free 20 Foot Mini Motorhome front View
For many, the idea that bigger is better is not a sound or prudent attitude. Not only that, it seems we all have less money to spend. That's a concern Born Free has addressed with its all-new motorhome. Introduced earlier this year at the Tampa RV Super Show, the all-new Born Free 20-foot Mini resonates with those who want to begin enjoying the RV lifestyle but are mindful of the aforementioned concerns.
However, the beauty of the new Born Free Mini 20 is really threefold. One, it yields huge amounts of utility and functionality. Two, the purchase price and operating costs represent a real step forward. Three, the 20-foot Mini embodies the luxury, comfort, aesthetics, and quality of motorhomes costing a good deal more and therefore yields all the joys associated with the luxury RV lifestyle.
Photo 3/8   |   born Free 20 Foot Mini Motorhome interior View
UTILITY AND FUNCTIONALITY
As its moniker implies, the overall length of the 20-foot Mini is a stingy 20 feet, 11 inches bumper to bumper. The exterior width measures 95.5 inches and, even when crowned with the optional roof air-conditioner, the exterior height can be considered low profile in today's world of motorhomes. Its dry weight is 9100 pounds and the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating is 11,500 pounds, meaning this motorhome is fully capable of accommodating another 2400 pounds of cargo. With a towing capability of 5000 pounds, based on standard chassis equipment that includes a stout Ford V-8 and an E-Series chassis (the coach comes standard with hitch and seven-pin electrical plug), this unit can trailer a boat, pull a utility trailer full of adult toys like ATVs or motorcycles, or anything else that falls within this tow rating.
Photo 4/8   |   born Free 20 Foot Mini Motorhome interior View
With its downsized length, the Mini 20 is as easy to navigate through an urban setting as any full-size large sedan. This full-service luxury motorhome is one you can easily park in any residential driveway and use to run about town and is immediately ready for enjoying a weekend or an extended vacation. Drivers who have virtually no experience driving a motorhome instantly feel comfortable because of the cab's totally familiar automotive dash and controls presentation. If you can drive a full-size pickup, you've already completed the learning curve associated with operating and driving the 20-foot Mini by Born Free.
Photo 5/8   |   born Free 20 Foot Mini Motorhome front View
ECONOMICAL
Fully appointed (only three options can be added to the standard equipped RV), the base MSRP is a hair under $65,000. The only options: a 13,500-BTU roof air-conditioner (with a heat strip that efficiently takes the edge off a cool morning), a 3.6-kilowatt auxiliary generator, and an LCD flatscreen television. All three together add less than $5000 to the base suggested retail price. Today, when buying luxury Class C motorhomes may require putting up the deed to the ranch, opting for the Mini is a reasonable choice for the average American family.
Photo 6/8   |   born Free 20 Foot Mini Motorhome rear View
That you can park it in the driveway (local codes permitting) is another cost-efficient element of this motorhome: You don't have to store it when you aren't using it. Storage away from home can easily cost $150-plus a month, depending upon where you live. Also, because this is a small, downsized vehicle, you can easily maneuver it through typical urban settings, so you aren't stuck buying a second vehicle just to use around town.
Designing this coach from a blank sheet of paper, Born Free was able to factor actual cost savings into the design equation. It's built using the Ford E-350 as its platform (a Chevrolet chassis also is available). Because the Mini is smaller, a larger typical Class C chassis is not required, nor is a larger V-8. Instead, it's powered by the Ford 5.4-liter V-8. With the smaller engine and lighter GVWR, Born Free has achieved 13 mpg under steady-state operating conditions during road tests. Keep in mind this calculation is based on using a new engine, which means that following the break-in period, the fuel economy on the Mini 20 should be even better. Many luxury full-service Class C home manufacturers would give their eyeteeth to be able to get such a number for themselves. The engine is married to a five-speed automatic transmission with tow mode.
Photo 7/8   |   born Free 20 Foot Mini Motorhome restroom View
LUXURY, APPOINTMENTS, AND LIVEABILITY
Born Free Motorcoach has been designing and building luxury recreational vehicles for over four decades. Its specialty is the Class C motorhome with great attention to detail, the fit and finish of each unit it builds, the materials, residential appointments, components, and equipment. Born Free offers eight models, including a new 32-foot rear bedroom slideout. The Mini is the newest creation.
With an interior height of 6 feet, 4 inches, the Mini 20 will accommodate the majority of individuals. From the main entrance at the rear of the unit all the way forward to the cab or cockpit, the residential appointments are impressive. Immediately inside the rear of the unit (curb side) is a storage complex that includes a three-quarter-size wardrobe above and a large rollout storage drawer below. Across the center aisle is the bathroom, which includes a marine-style toilet, lavvy/countertop, and a full-size standup shower.
Photo 8/8   |   born Free 20 Foot Mini Motorhome restroom View
The full-service galley is also a split configuration with the galley sink/counter on the street side and the cooktop, countertop, and a 3.6-cubic-foot refrigerator directly across the center aisle on the curb side. The coach features a two-burner cooktop with a microwave convection oven directly above and a cooktop hood with a light, power vent, and the house electrical and fluid systems monitoring panel. At the touch of a button, the monitoring panel provides level indication in the fresh-, gray-, and wastewater tanks. This is also where you'll find the switch that activates the water pump.
We appreciated the level of design and engineering put into the living area and the salon that occupies the coach from the galley forward to the cab. The company made sure to wring as much utility as possible out of every square inch of space. The buyer has several choices (standard) in configuring the interior to best fit any individual lifestyle. You can select a combination of sofabeds, electric incline beds, and a dinette that converts into a bed. All across the front of the living area (above the cab) large storage cabinets accommodate vast amounts of personal gear. The optional LCD flatscreen TV with DVD player can be mounted on the entertainment face. The cabinets throughout the 20-foot Mini are handcrafted oak. The countertop is a laminate with an integrated wood edge. The vinyl inlaid slate flooring is attractive and low maintenance.
Every Born Free motorhome features three steel tubular rollbars integrated into the house structure, aft of the cab. Standard Thermopane windows throughout the coach pay huge dividends in controlling the ambient temperatures and providing a comfort zone for occupants. A 16,000-BTU thermostatically controlled furnace provides warmth in cold climates.
The exterior is low-maintenance molded high-gloss fiberglass. Fiberglass runningboards aid the cab access via the front door and complement the exterior's appearance. The floor is constructed of fiberglass with a wooden core. With the optional auxiliary generator, the 20-foot Mini is a full-service, stand-alone motorhome that under even primitive camping conditions yields all the comforts of home. However, the smooth uncluttered exterior lines of the unit make this unit equally at home in any high-end luxury RV resort.

Born FREE 20-foot MINI
Base price $64,995
Price as tested $69,995
Layout Front engine, RWD RV
Engine 5.4L/255-hp/350-lb-ft SOHC 16-valve V-8
Transmission 4-speed automatic
Wheelbase 138.0 in
Length x width x height 251.0 x 95.5 x 113.5 in
GVWR 11,500 lb
Payload 2400 lb
Fresh water 26.5 gal
Gray water 18.5 gal
Black water 13.0 gal
Water heater 6.0 gal
LPG 19.5 gal
Shore power 30 amp
Roof air-conditioner 13,500 BTU
Forced air furnace 16,000 BTU
Sleeps 2

SOURCE
Born Free Motorcoach
800/247-1835
www.bornfreemotorcoach.com

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