Tim van Duyl - Caravan World Creative Director
The team at Highline Caravans entered not one but two vans into this year's Caravan of the Year, with the Wombat partnered by the family-focussed Kinsman. Like the Wombat, the Kinsman employs a new-to-Highline notched-ply build methodology and is also full offroad with an Intelligent Engineering chassis and classy suspension.
The Kinsman is a standout caravan for its looks and as we found out, it has a lot to offer a family looking for a tough tourer with a number of extras to keep everyone happy.
In terms of self-sufficiency, the Kinsman does okay, considering its overall size and busy roof. Its solar and water capacities are not bad, but a family of four will likely need to refill the water tanks and be careful with the power system to stay away for a week.
The 630W of solar onboard could produce, at peak, around 52A. Expect two-thirds of that (35A), which over a day with a moving sun will probably net 175A total. That’s great, equalling almost a full charge of the 220A battery and allowing for continued use of the powerful 3000W inverter.
In terms of water, it is a similar story. With 190L of fresh, a family could get through it in three to four days. Be careful or limit the kids' use a bit and you could eke out a week. There are provisions for jerry cans, which will add a day or two, but the Kinsman feels more like a three-day off-grid proposition than a week away.
I like the move to a notched-ply wall system. It will allow for some needed flexibility in rough conditions while also adding another layer of sound and heat insulation. It is an incredibly tough method of building vans and though it comes with a weight penalty over traditional meranti frames, this van makes up for it with a fantastic chassis and suspension.
The TuffRide independent trailing arm suspension under the Intelligent Engineering chassis is fast becoming popular thanks to its high ratings (up to 4400kg for twin axle with 12in brakes) and solid warranty. The suspension itself carries a five-year warranty and the bushes are covered for life. Couple that with the use of EFS shock absorbers and I can see why so many vans are coming out with it.
The inside of the van is well put together with quality appliances and a massive 274L Thetford fridge. The cupboards use good latches and hinges, and we heard that the cabinetry is interlocking where possible, to add rigidity and strength. The fit and finish of the Kinsman showed a step up from previous Highline testing – that is not to say they were poor but to emphasise that the team is moving forward with better vans every time I see one.
Highline Caravans has been around long enough to see them regularly on the road even towards the centre of the country. Part of this is down to the dealer network which is growing. These dealers are also your primary go-to should you need help on the road, but there is also an on-call warranty officer in the Melbourne office for any questions.
The three-year warranty on the body of the vans feels short for its build methodology. I feel it could be five years with the way it is built and the quality chassis and suspension it rides on.
John Ford - Caravan World Editor-At-Large
With a 2840kg tare weight, the Kinsman is a relatively hefty 19ft 6in family van. It rides high on a tandem independent suspension rated to 4500kg for those customers who want to upgrade the ATM. With this heavy-duty system and exaggerated stance, I imagined the van would feel rough when unloaded, but it behaved faultlessly over our towing track. Because the review van was rated to 3500kg and was empty, weighing around 2850kg, the 2L Ranger was a decent match even up the steep inclines of Mt Donna Buang. Braking from the 12in drum brakes was safe, and the REDARC proportional braking was smooth and without any lockup. AL-KO stability control is standard, but it wasn't needed during our drive, so while I didn't feel it come into play, it's a valuable safety device if you do get into trouble.
My preference for a van of this size would be a bigger tow vehicle, and indeed, if you choose a higher ATM, you will need a GTM upgraded Cruiser or Patrol. The natural choice would be an American ute in the 1500 or 2500 range.
Inclusions like the standard dust reduction system help keep things nice and clean inside. If memories of my teenage children are accurate, the NCE air purifier is a thoughtful addition to an offroad family van. I like how the designers have managed a layout with bunks, a prominent couple's bed and an ensuite into a sensible size 19ft 6in van.
The colour choice of white laminates and sink lends a point of difference to current dark themes in vans and adds to the bright and airy impression.
I like the doors that separate the bunks, ensuite and the shower from the main living pace. The ensuite also impresses with room to move and good ventilation.
When plated to a 3500kg ATM, the Kinsman has 190L of freshwater, so take care with long showers or camp near a swimming spot. Upgraded to 4500kg ATM, you can add extra water storage, of course.
A 274L compressor fridge stores enough cold supplies, and there are options for cooking outside, while the full oven on board is a bonus for making family meals on the road. It probably applies to most family vans, but space around the dinette is limited. So, if the children are older, an extra stool might be the go in order to keep everyone together. Not everyone likes an east-west couples’ bed even though it allows a longer dinette. However, if the children are younger you could opt for an east-west bed layout and a smaller L-shaped lounge.
Allison Watt - Caravan World Deputy Editor
This is an off-grid family van and at 19ft 6in it came in as one of the shorter family vans we reviewed this year, so while there’s enough beds for the parents and three kids and perhaps just enough indoor dining space, there’s not much real estate left over, so you would expect that you would spend most of the time outdoors.
The Kinsman boasts a quality build, terrific off-grid capability and a very tasteful interior with quality appliances and some small but thoughtful innovations to make life on the road that little bit easier. And its size means you won’t need a monster truck to tow it. The Kinsman certainly holds its own against some of its bigger, tougher looking competitors.
The Highline Kinsman has some very nice finishes and a few little extra innovations we’d not seen in other vans including the external NCE Can Italian cooker which comes with a set of legs so you can remove it from the van, attach the legs and set it up to cook at any location you choose.
A grab handle provides extra security at the main entry door and there are two smaller windows, instead of one larger one, either side of the queen size bed which also provides added security if you prefer to sleep with the windows open – keep the bottom window locked, and the higher one which is out of reach from the outside open. Outside the van there is a built-in air compressor and separate diesel heater, while inside there is an air purifier and ioniser and built-in phone/device chargers in the bedside tables either side of the main bed.
Malcolm Street - Caravan World Field Editor
Highline Caravans is a niche manufacturer specialising in semi-offroad and offroad caravans. Having met up with the owner and general manager of Highline, Vlad Vitanov, there’s no doubt about his enthusiasm and passion for building caravans. It shows in many ways in the build of the 19ft 6in Kinsman. With the reviewed van priced at $130,000, you’d expect the van to be very well-equipped, and it is. With a set of triple bunks and an island bed, the Kinsman is designed for a family that wants to explore the country and all its back blocks in style. The fit and finish of all the cabinetry and seating draw attention inside the van. Clearly, it’s something the factory spends time on getting right.
In addition, there’s a great deal of awareness to detail. Just to give several examples: in the kitchen bench there are drawers within drawers; under the bunk beds, there are floor-level compartments for storing shoes; and outside the van the slide-out kitchen is detachable, something a little different to other vans we’ve seen. Travel costs are a consideration, the tare mass (2840kg) and ATM (3500kg) being borderline dual cab ute towing. With a full payload, a LandCruiser or Jeep Grand Cherokee will give a more relaxing drive.
Given all the inclusions and the way the van is built, for a family looking for a van that’s a cut above, then Highline’s Kinsman is a good contender.
Undoubtedly what draws attention to the Kinsman is the grey and yellow body with decals reminiscent of a brightly coloured army camouflage. Likewise, the fluorescent yellow in the stripes and wheels. The general effect is impressive and a stand-out in the crowd. A factor to consider in today’s caravan market. The flush windows add to the overall look, and the Dometic security door is the finishing touch. Inside the van is a very stylish and practical interior. Occasionally those words don’t go together, but they do here. However, the dinette is on the small side for a family of five.
Naturally, the Kinsman is fully equipped for travelling in the bush. The TuffRide independent suspension carries the van with aplomb and there’s good ground clearance underneath. The power system isn’t over the top but the 220Ah lithium battery and 630W solar capacity will deliver power aplenty. Time to hitch up I’d reckon!
Highline Kinsman 3B Deluxe Edition Specs
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
|Overall length||8.1m (26ft 5in)|
|External body length||5.96m (19ft 6in)|
|External body width||2.31m (7ft 5in)|
|Travel height||3.2m (10ft 5in)|
|Internal height||2.04m (6ft 7in)|
|Structure||CNC lightweight timber walls|
|Cladding||PROBOND composite panels|
|Suspension||3.5T TuffRide independent trailing arm suspension|
|Water||2 x 95L freshwater, 1 x 110L grey water|
|Battery||2 x 110A lithium|
|Solar||3 x 210W solar|
|Air-conditioner||Gree air conditioner|
|Gas||2 x 9kg|
|Sway control||Tuson sway control|
|Cooking||Three gas/one electric, full oven and grill cooktop|
|Fridge||Thetford compressor 274L|
|Microwave||NCE 23L flatbed|
|Washing machine||Standard front loader washing machine|
|Hot water||Fogatti hot water|
Highline Kinsman 3B Deluxe Edition price from $125,000
- Toolbox with generator slide
- 274L compressor cridge
- 3 x jerry cans
- PM400 Battery Management System
- Tuson sway control
- Diesel heater with two outlets
- RV wi-fi
- 3000W inverter
- Air purifier
- Gusto blower
- Gas detector
- Carad door
- Fiamma entry lock handle
- double front glazed windows
- Full wrap
- One piece sandwich fibreglass roof
- Raptor Coat Chassis
Highline Kinsman 3B Deluxe Edition price as shown $130,000
P: (03) 9357 9092
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