Family caravans come in all shapes and sizes, particularly the offroad variety. Often to accommodate families with bunk beds, the caravans are quite long and heavy, which in some ways reduces the offroad ability or else requires a substantial tow vehicle.
At Sunseeker Caravans, Manager John Cullen and his team have come up with a very interesting solution to this particular conundrum in the form of their Marvel Golden Child, an interesting name if ever I heard one.
For a start, the Golden Child is just 5.5m (18ft) long and weighs in with a Tare mass of 2215kg which might have you wondering how that is achieved in a family layout. There is a bit of compromise involved, of course, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
The Golden Child is built very much in the standard style. It has a box section DuraGal chassis with 100mm x 50mm (4in x 2in) rails and 150mm x 50mm (6in x 2in) drawbar. The latter item runs back to the suspension mounts and second 100mm x 50mm (4in x 2in) rail is laminated to the rear chassis rail. Standard 50mm x 50mm (2in x 2in) cross members fill the middle area.
I mention all that because the sub chassis area is quite busy with the two 95L water tanks fitted in front of the wheels and the battery boxes mounted on the offside chassis rail. For the serious offroad stuff, AL-KO Enduro Outback independent suspension with coil springs and twin shock absorbers is fitted to the single axle wheels. Unlike many an offroad caravan, the Golden Child has a remarkably clean looking drawbar area with just two 9kg gas cylinders and other usual items such as centre-mounted jockey wheel, hand brake and Cruisemaster DO35 coupling.
There’s nothing unusual about the van’s body structure. It has a Meranti timber frame with aluminium composite walls and a one-piece fibreglass roof to minimise water ingress. Being an offroad van, it naturally has the obligatory lower waist area of black checkerplate. For a small van, there is a surprising amount of external bin storage. In addition to the front tunnel storage, there’s another offside bin behind the tunnel storage and a third at the rear nearside. A little unusually it is designed for a Daewoo Mini washing machine. Not a totally silly location — it saves traipsing through the van with wet washing.
PLUG AND PLAY
Electrics in an offroad caravan are expected to have the twin roles of self-sufficiency and reliability. Two 100Ah deep cycle batteries supply the 12V load and the two 150W solar panels on the van roof keep things charged up. Battery management systems are almost de rigueur these days and this one is a Projecta PM200 intelli.
The LED control panel is located right by the door entry, always a good location. Inside the adjacent locker is where the 12V fuse panel and the Fusion radio are located. With this layout, a forward entry door really is the only method of achieving a workable layout. It consists of a front transverse bed, offside dinette, mid area kitchen, a split bathroom and two bunks across the rear wall. As can be seen, it’s different to the usual van layout and one that, although with a few compromises, shows a bit of imagination!
No island bed here — the caravan queen bed with innerspring mattress has large windows on all three sides. The bedhead end sits under the offside window leaving space in the front nearside corner for a conventional bedside wardrobe with cabinet below. That also allows for space at the bed base for the inner occupant to get in and out without too much trouble. Overhead lockers run around the two sides above the bed and there are two drawers underneath. Probably the item that looks mostly compressed in this four-berth van is the sideways-facing dinette. The seat will accommodate a couple of adults and, maybe with a junior member sitting on the bed, only one extra seat might be required. The table is on the narrow side and looks like it could use a hinged flip-over extension.
KIDS IN THE KITCHEN
In the limited space between the habitation door and the shower cubicle is the kitchen bench. It’s a fairly Euro-style kitchen that is both compact in style and comes with a stainless steel sink and a four-burner cooker, grill and oven.
Fitted into the overhead locker area is the microwave oven, leaving the rest of the space for two overhead lockers above and four drawers, cupboards and wire basket pantry below. On the opposite side of the walkway is a very generous 224L three-way fridge is located. The fridge size is of note because often in smaller vans, a downsized fridge saves a bit of space.
In a van this size, a combo bathroom is definitely a designer’s friend — but less so the users! Hence the split bathroom. On the offside, the toilet cubicle has a bench-style cassette toilet and a full-sized vanity cabinet with wash basin, wall mirror and a selection of drawers and cupboards. It’s vented by both a fan hatch exhaust and a small wall window. Facing the toilet cubicle, the shower is a standard item with a variable height flexible hose outlet and essential fan hatch exhaust.
I haven’t been in many submarines but the rear bunk area reminded me a bit of the last one I looked through. Both the bunks are enclosed by the split bathroom which gives a somewhat narrow feel. That’s the adult view. Kids might regard the beds as more cubbylike especially as they come complete with reading lights, device charger outlets and mains powerpoints. In addition, each bed has a decent sized window, and a cupboard at the base of the beds.
CHOOSE YOUR ADVENTURE
Towing the Golden Child is a breeze. Its relatively short length makes it highly manoeuvrable both when negotiating bush tracks and when reversing around. Being a van with a Tare mass just over 2200kg also means a relatively light load for something such as a Toyota LandCruiser or something very manageable for the Mitsubishi Triton that I was using.
THE BOTTOM LINE
I must admit the Golden Child layout was a surprise to me but it’s one that’s different to the usual family arrangement. There are a few compromises in terms of layout but that is to be expected in a downsized van. That said, for the family that desires an offroad van yet does not want an oversized towing combination, this Marvel van has much to offer.