Australian Motor Homes and Caravans, based in Newcastle, NSW, is continually updating its range of recreational vehicles and has recently taken on board a new manufacturer — Condor Caravans. There are quite a few models in the Condor range, both on-road and semi offroad, but the one I chose for a test run was one of the smallest — a single axle Blue Wave 5.6m (18ft 4in).
BIRD’S EYE VIEW
Despite the single axle, a fairly standard rear door layout has been used with a full-width rear bathroom, offside dinette, nearside kitchen bench and a front island bed. Most of the space saving to get this layout to fit in practically has been achieved by the somewhat short kitchen bench and an L-shaped dinette rather than the usual cafe-style.
In this particular van, the interior finish is an interesting mix of white (mostly), black and a glossy laminate faux timber for the cupboards and drawers. That might sound a bit odd but it's a nice contrast that isn’t too hard on the eye. Decent sized windows all round and two roof hatches provide a good level of natural light and ventilation.
When looking over any caravan or motorhome I always open all the cupboards and drawers, mostly to see how much space there is and whether it has been used effectively. Having a poke around in cupboards, especially with items such as struts and hinges, can often tell you something about how the van has been constructed. Plenty of storage area has been built into the Blue Wave but a few extra shelves in the overhead lockers might be useful.
Opposite the habitation door is where the Thetford 184L three-way fridge lives. It’s a conventional two-door fridge/freezer unit which comes with a microwave oven in its usual position above the fridge.
Built into the kitchen bench itself is a stainless steel sink/drainer alongside a four-burner (one electric, three gas) cooktop, grill and separate oven. Benchtop space is minimal, although there is a flush lid for the cooktop. Above the hob is a rangehood and the wall area behind the bench has a nice glossy laminate finish for easy cleaning.
Three overhead lockers, three drawers, two floor lockers and two cupboards form the bulk of the general storage. Although in the latter case, one of the cupboards at the end of the bench is more likely to be used for items regularly used outside the van.
Facing the kitchen the dinette will seat two people without too much trouble, although the table isn’t particularly large. Reading lights are fitted at either end of the seating and both a 240V powerpoint and 12V/5V USB outlet are fitted into the corner by the fridge.
Memo to all in the RV industry: is there a slightly more classy 12V/5V USB fitting available? This one looks a bit like an afterthought and when facing downwards is fiddly to use. An inwards-facing floor locker gives access to the under-seat area and there’s the usual overhead lockers, the end one having the welcome feature of an AM/FM radio and DVD player.
A PLACE TO NEST
Towards the pointy end, the island bed measures 1.85m x 1.53m (6ft 1in x 5ft) and has large windows on either side. Walk-by space on both sides scores quite well and there is the usual selection of overhead cupboards and side wardrobes for storage.
Bedside shelf space is quite minimal but that’s offset nicely by the lower level cubby holes adjacent to the pillows. Bolted to the end of the kitchen overhead lockers and a slight hazard when walking by is the flatscreen 24in TV. Easily seen from both the bed and the dinette seats when swivelled around.
Ensuite bathrooms seem to be built to a fairly standard design these days: good-sized shower cubicle to the right, Thetford cassette toilet to the left and a vanity cabinet complete with pedestal wash basin across the back. That comes complete with a powerpoint and generous wall mirror.
However, I think someone was a bit too sharp with their tape measure because there isn’t a great deal of elbow room on the forward side of the toilet. The bathroom ventilation is quite good with two fan hatches and a small window on the offside.
TOUGH AS TALONS
Under the van is an Austral box section galvanised chassis, with 150 x 50mm (6in x 2in) main rails and drawbar. A little surprising given this is just a single axle road tourer but it also accommodates anyone taking up the semi-offroad option. Leaf spring suspension, sans shock absorbers, is fitted to the 16in alloy wheels and water tanks are fitted forward of the axle.
Up front at the business end, a 50mm ball coupling, jockey wheel and handbrake are fitted to the drawbar, as are the two 9kg gas cylinders and mains pressure tap. At the rear, the 50mm x 50mm bumper bar sports the spare wheel.
General body construction is the somewhat familiar Meranti timber frame, full insulation and ribbed aluminium cladding. 12mm marine ply with a membrane coating is used for the floor. Giving the van a slightly offroad look is the lower waistline of black alloy checkerplate. External storage mostly consists of the spacious front tunnel boot.
In addition to the Aussie Traveller security door and Mobicool acrylic windows, there are all the expected external fittings including the Sunburst Eclipse awning, picnic table, external speakers and gas bayonet.
In the self-containment department, in addition to the two 95L water tanks, there’s a single 100Ah deep cycle battery and a 120W solar panel on the roof.
On the road, the single axle Blue Wave handles very easily indeed, having a Tare weight of just 2040kg. Certainly the LandCruiser I was using might be regarded as overkill but even with the 400kg payload, there are plenty of tow vehicle choices in the mid-size range.
A feature I did like was that the Blue Wave is fitted with a reversing camera — very handy for both towing and reversing. I know it’s stating the bleedin’ obvious but one of the benefits of a smaller van, despite a slightly more confined interior, is that it is much easier to manoeuvre in confined spaces.
THE BOTTOM LINE
There’s often a perception that the full front bedroom/rear bathroom layout can only work in a larger van than a single axle rig like the Blue Wave. Yet this layout proves that to be wrong. Sure, the kitchen and dining areas are a bit reduced in size but the van lacks for nothing and is ideal for two people.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Overall length 7.5m (24ft 7in)
External body length 5.6m (18ft 4in)
External body width (incl awning) 2.44m (8ft)
Travel height (incl AC) 2.9m (9ft 6in)
Internal height 2.01m (6ft 7in)
Ball weight 140kg
Frame Meranti timber
Chassis 6in Austral box section galvanised
Suspension Roller rocker leaf spring
Brakes 10in electric
Wheels 16in alloy
Water 2 x 95L
Battery 1 x 100Ah
Solar 1 x 120W
Air-conditioner Air Command Ibis 3
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control No
Kitchen external No
Cooking Swift 500 four-burner, grill and oven
Fridge Thetford N614E.3F 184L three-way
Bathroom Separate shower cubicle and Thetford cassette toilet
Hot water Swift 22L 240V/gas
No options fitted
PRICE ON ROAD, NSW
To enquire about this caravan, please phone (02) 4948 0433
Australian Motor Homes
31 Pacific Highway
Bennetts Green NSW 2290