Given that it's a niche import, I am surprised that the Fantasy range of caravans is one of the most regularly searched brands on our website. Until recently, they had escaped my attention, but it seems the company has been doing a good job getting the name out and has amassed a decent following of happy customers.
Fantasy is an Australian company headed up by William He with a manufacturing base in China. William isn’t new to manufacturing and importing because he has been successful in bringing trailers and caravan parts to his Victorian operation for more than twelve years. Two years ago he started looking to expand his product range and engaged a partner to build vans in China under the Fantasy name.
The Fantasy approach to caravan building at first seems unusual against the traditional approach seen locally. Just like on Australian built vans that have many common accessories and fittings, a number of components used across the Fantasy interior are standard across a range of imported vans. These include the electrical control panel, fans, light fittings and furniture design. But items like windows, doors and appliances are the same as seen on most Australian built vans.
The Fantasy also steps away from local practice with the frame construction. Whereas many local builders model their technique on a lightweight timber or alloy frame, Fantasy builds 90 per cent of its models, including the F5S-D, from steel, to maximise strength and durability.
While the body and furnishings are built overseas, the electrical and gas installation and certification are done locally once the vans are delivered to the Moorabbin factory in Melbourne’s south. The range currently includes more than 15 models across a spectrum that runs from 11 feet to a 19-foot dual axle version.
Underpinned with a hot-dipped galvanised A-frame and chassis, the body is formed from composite panels of insulating foam inside aluminium sheets that are fixed to the welded and galvanised frame. Both roof and front section are solid fibreglass, while the rear section is a steel-covered opening for the fold-out bed.
A 3000kg independent trailing arm suspension with twin shock absorbers each side should keep everything travelling smoothly, and 12in drum brakes will help bring the show to a stop. There’s no question the suspension arms look strong and robust with thick metal sections finished in firey red. William tells me the systems have been rigorously tested to carry over five times the rated capacity and that the parallel bearings are top quality. But suspension geometry is a skilled art and only time will tell. Feedback online has been positive, with many owners tackling outback travel with no problems.
The 150 x 50mm A-frame and chassis are made from 4mm steel, which is both heavy-duty and heavy, reflecting Fantasy’s commitment to a lasting build. Elsewhere under the van things are neat, and all hoses and wiring are well protected. I liked the way the electrical leads for the brakes run in metal tunnels rather than being left to find their own way home and risk damage from flying stones and sticks.
Two 100L stainless steel water tanks are fitted either side of the suspension and an 80L grey tank is a standard feature. Water tanks are shielded in close-fitting checkerplate and hoses are fitted to Australian Watermark standard and use John Guest twist and lock fittings.
The F5S-D falls into the hybrid class of RV, walking the line between camper and pop-top caravan. At 2.2m wide it is narrower than most vans by at least 200mm, so what it gains in manoeuvrability down a winding bush track it loses in roominess inside.
With a body length of 4.5m and a travel height at 2.35m, it has a boxy appearance, emphasised by a square rear end and minimal concession to aerodynamics upfront. The combination of high-riding offroad suspension combined with two big spares at the back and deep runs of checkerplate along the sides lends the Fantasy a rugged appearance. On the face of it, the van outgunned the racing red Trailblazer's offroad credentials by a considerable margin. We needed a closer look to see if the tough first impression was all Fantasy.
We started ticking positive scores at the drawbar with one of our favourite hitches, the DO35. Add in a heavy-duty Ark XO750 jockey wheel with two oversize tyres and a sizeable checkerplate storage box and the list of positives grows. The central storage box houses the annexe walls and leaves space for extra gear, while alongside are hutches that protect 9kg gas bottles on each side. The passenger side has the gas regulator, so you swap over the bottle on the driver’s side when it’s needed.
Like many hybrids, the cooking is done outside, and the workspace should work well for most owners. An electric awning has a 4.5m x 2.5m coverage over the outdoor space and should be large enough for weather protection, with walls as a backup if conditions turn nasty.
A full-width tunnel boot towards the front has a slide-out fridge/freezer, which on the review van held 80L but will be upgraded to 100L on later models.
Aft of the entry is a drop-down picnic table, a handy pantry and the outdoor kitchen, which slides out and is supported on sturdy legs. Built from stainless steel and oriented so the cook is undercover, the kitchen is practical and well-equipped. Features extend to a sink, four gas burners, a wind deflector and a cutlery drawer. An overhead LED light right at the kitchen allows for late suppers while a higher central light and a set of outside speakers will be good for relaxing outside.
While we are on the outside, we may as well talk about the bed console down the back. In its closed position the rear of the van has a heavy-duty rack for two spares which needs to be folded down to open the bed enclosure. Despite looking quite heavy, the rack drops easily on gas struts, and once it’s out of the way the whole rear panel is raised to form a roof, then two other panels swing out on hinges to make the sides. After lowering the final metal board, and you have a metal enclosure that clips together for a more secure sleeping arrangement than we see on many canvas tents on locally built expander-style vans and campers.
An electric step snaps down for easy entry and once inside it doesn’t take long to lift the roof on the arms at each end to give a decent height inside of 2m. Windows have the usual block-outs and flyscreens, and along with zippered openings in the pop-top skirt, there's a good flow of air and light. Windows and the door on the review van are Aussie Traveller brand, which has been a mainstay of local vans for many years.
Once the roof is up, there's a good feeling of space considering we are talking about a 15ft van with sleeping for a couple and two extras. Upfront is a set of east-west bunk beds with large storage drawers underneath. The drawers extend about 200mm out from the bed and make extra seating inside for the kids or guests.
Set into the driver’s side is a compact combination shower and toilet, and while it's rather small, it's a workable solution for times when it's needed.
Storage in a compact van can be an issue, but the designers at Fantasy have made the most of the space they have. Behind the ensuite are a large wardrobe and a lower cupboard with a 22in television above.
A dinette just rear of the door included a folding table in the review van, but later models will have a larger fixed table. L-shaped seating is clad in dark vinyl with a diamond pattern stitching, and while the bases are rather narrow, there's room for three around the table. A roof-mounted Dometic air conditioner will be useful when connected to 240V, and a set of 12V fans around the cabin were both quiet and efficient on a warm day by the beach at Sandringham.
The double bed at the back is in two sections and folds over into the space made from outside. The folding bed is one of those comprises needed in a compact van, but a fitted sheet and a doona will make bed-making less of a hassle.
Three 100W solar panels and a total of 300Ah in battery capacity give an impressive amount of power. A 2000W inverter will run many appliances, and there are charging points for phones in convenient places. A panel at the entry has a battery monitor and fuses, and it was good to see all relevant circuits are clearly marked. Many Aussie builder could take note.
Our time with the Fantasy was limited to city driving and some short dirt travel to the photo locations, so we didn't get to thoroughly test the offroad capability. The FSD-5 has a very respectable 850kg payload, which should be enough for most travellers to load up plenty of supplies for off-grid camping. Fully loaded, it hit the scales at 3000kg, which is in the realm of many mid-size tow vehicles and was no problem for the Holden Trailblazer tow vehicle during our review.
With a price of $49,990 for the van with an optional Fantastic package, I can see why customers are attracted to the Fantasy brand. This specced-up version has a $5000 premium over the standard version but has extras like the DO35, upgraded Dometic air con, bigger fridge, rear camera, better mattress and an electric step.
Base price is $44,990, and that includes that impressive solar and battery array for getting off the grid for extended times. Full offroad warranty is five years on the structural components, two years manufacturing and one year on appliances, which sounds pretty good.
Fantasy Caravan F5S-D
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Overall length 6.5m (21ft 3in)
External body length 4.5m (15ft)
External body width 2.22m (7ft 2in)
Travel height 2.42m (8ft)
Internal height 2m (6ft 5in)
Nameplate Tare 2350kg
Nameplate ATM 3000kg
Ball weight 150kg
Payload 850kg (estimated)
Cladding Composite aluminium and 40mm foam
Chassis 150 x 50 x 4mm hot-dipped galvanised
Suspension 3T independent trailing arm
Brakes 12in drum
Wheels 16in alloy 265/75 M/T tyres
Water 2 x 100L stainless steel tanks, 1 x 80L grey
Battery 2 x 150Ah
Solar 3 x 100W
Air conditioner Dometic
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control No
Cooking External four-burner cooktop
Fridge 100L chest fridge freezer
Shower Internal and external
Hot water Truma Ultrarapid
PRICE FROM $44,990
Fantastic package: Dometic Air conditioner, 100L dual-zone fridge freezer, Cruisemaster DO35, SMEV three-burner stove, Australian-made pocket spring mattress, reverse camera, electric step, alloy wheels
PRICE AS SHOWN $49,990
Phone 1300 096 615
Address 222-226 Chesterville Rd, Moorabbin VIC 3189