By Tony Barthel
Yesterday we traveled to the past to relive the idea of camping in a German-sourced pop-top camper in the form of the Mercedes-Benz Metris converted by Peace Vans. Today I want to look at another pop-top camper idea that’s about $20,000 less and might be a better camper. Might.
While Thor makes a number of Class B motorhomes on the Ram Promaster chassis, this is the first one on a platform this diminutive and really offers something for someone who might use the van more as a van most of the time and a camper some of the time. I think this was part of the whole idea of the old VW Westfalia campers, and the idea still holds water today.
So with the new Thor Rize™ series there are two floor plan offerings within the range. Know, too, that the Thor Scope is essentially the same vehicle.
How much RV do you want?
The Rize comes in either a vehicle that’s more skewed toward being a van than a motorhome or one that makes no bones about the fact that it’s a tiny motorhome. The latter is the Rize 18M, which has everything a big motorhome has except put into a smaller package.
The Rize 18T is different in that it offers a lower profile van with an available pop top. This might be preferable to some folks who don’t want a bathroom but do want a van that doesn’t look as much like a camper since it doesn’t have the taller roof and the roof-mounted air conditioner.
Thor Rize 18T
Since I looked at that Metris Getaway Van yesterday, I thought I’d focus on the less-capable Thor Rize 18T. I only say less capable because this unit doesn’t feature a bathroom or shower. But that’s a plus to some folks, not meant as a pejorative at all.
The Thor Rize 18T really is almost 2/3 van, 1/3 RV if you look at it that way. Based on the Ram Promaster chassis, which is a front-wheel-drive van platform, Thor chose the smallest size for this platform in their 1500 series. That means it’ll fit into a normal parking space just fine.
We already know that there’s not a bathroom in here but there is almost everything else you could want in a motorhome.
For example, on the road side is the galley with a two-burner propane cooktop and a galley sink. Above the cooktop is a small microwave and below the cooktop is a 12-volt DC refrigerator that Thor happily states has enough room for ice cream in the freezer. In fact, that was one of the things Thor’s research told them customers prioritized.
There’s an interesting mount on the wall to the left of the sink that you might assume is for a TV. It could be, but the research indicated that a lot of people would rather hang an iPad there and check out social media or cooking videos or that sort of thing. So it can serve that function or hold a smaller TV.
Further back on the road side of the Thor Rize there is a set of cabinets along the back wall that includes drawers and hanging cabinets.
On the camp side is, essentially, just a couch during the day that features two seat belts so that this can serve passenger duty.
One thing to be cognizant of, some states limit the age of people riding sideways in a vehicle or the type of seats that can be used for this purpose. So if you plan on using this in regular passenger duty, you might look at those regulations first.
Thor goofed on the table in the Thor Rize
The couch has a table on a leg in front of it for day use – but seeing someone sit there, it’s really poorly designed. Unless you’re super skinny, you’re not getting your leg under that table. A Lagun table would be vastly superior, frankly. To me this was a huge goof on Thor’s part with this short table leg.
While we’re sitting here complaining, we might as well include the folding bed cushions. These are a series of smaller and larger and odd-shaped cushions such that folding them into a bed is going to take some practice and knowledge. And patience.
The bed essentially is a platform with slightly curved slats that looks like it came out of an IKEA showroom. The cushions rest on top of this and it would seem like a decent enough solution, but for the cushion factor. Honestly I can see cushions sewn together serving this purpose much more effectively.
Interesting air conditioner in the Thor Rize
One of the more interesting adaptations on the Thor Rize is the air conditioner. This is a portable room air conditioner that Thor has placed in a cabinet under the sink. Since this van is designed to be as much van as camper, they didn’t want to place a roof-top AC unit on the 18T (there is one on the 18M) – so they chose this route instead.
Powering that AC and the microwave is an Onan 2800 generator. With this being a front-wheel-drive van, there is a lot of space under the floor board for stuff since the driveline doesn’t take up that room. So Thor hung this generator essentially behind the rear axle. Supposedly this generator has been approved by the National Park Service because it’s relatively quiet, though a bank of lithium batteries and a few solar panels are quieter and require less maintenance.
Also, the way it’s hung behind the rear axle makes me wonder if it might be a target for impact if you’re on secondary roads. Since I’ve only seen photos of this, I’m just guessing at this. I’m sure the Thor folks are smart enough to have thought of this. But I would look at the placement as part of the shopping process if you’re thinking of one of these.
Let’s talk poop
Since the Thor Rize doesn’t have a toilet, there are a number of options if, in fact, you want a potty. You could simply buy a portable loo and even one of those little tents and the problem would be solved. Or, you could camp where there are bathhouses with toilets.
On the plus side of not having a toilet is the fact that there’s no black tank either. Everything’s a trade-off.
If you do go with the pop top, that’ll add $10,619 to the MSRP of the Thor Rize. You’ll still be at a comparable price to yesterday’s Metris offering. But you’ll have a better bed, a stove, a refrigerator, closet space and a better van, in my opinion.
The other thing is that with the bed along the camp side and the closets and kitchen along the road side, there’s a big, long hallway down the middle that might just be the perfect place for kayaks or bicycles or other adventure gear.
One thing I really didn’t like was the BMPRO system control. This Android-based system is slow to boot up and, darnit, I just wanna turn on a stinking light. Yeah, yeah, there are a few buttons – but why complicate things? Just give me switches and then let me use a smartphone if I want to.
And I think Thor Rize could make a lot of sense for folks who want a smaller van that can also serve as a getaway vehicle on weekends. The other advantage is that you can go to a Thor dealer and buy one of these and not have to worry about financing the vehicle while then figuring out how to pay for the camper conversion.
So I think Thor has a winner here that will make some occasional campers pretty happy.
These RV reviews are written based on information provided by the manufacturers along with our writer’s own research. We receive no money or other financial benefits from these reviews. They are intended only as a brief overview of the vehicle, not a comprehensive critique, which would require a thorough inspection and/or test drive.
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