I recently volunteered to become a bus driver with my local community transport organisation, mostly because I have a truck licence and I figured the community transport people might be interested. As they were, with questions like “When can you start?”.
As part of getting accredited, I had to undertake a driving assessment in a Toyota Coaster. About halfway through the test drive, I figured I’d passed because the assessor started talking about what I did for an occupation rather than entirely watching what I was doing. The conversion turned to whether single or tandem axles were better for caravan towing because the day before, I had taken out a Condor Bluewave 18’4 van with a single axle for a review.
My assessor thought tandem axle caravans generally had a lighter towball weight. Although that seems reasonable, it’s not something that rates in the pros and cons listing for single or tandem axles.
One that does factor in is overall weight. Although a tandem axle caravan can carry more weight, the weight of extra suspension components, wheels and tyres can add several hundred kilograms to the weight of the van. This is something to be considered when selecting a tow vehicle.
Regarding weights, the Bluewave 18’4 has an ATM of 2640kg and a tare mass of 2080kg, resulting in a generous payload of 560kg. As a towing prospect, it’s good for a wide range of tow vehicles, particularly for the multiple ute manufacturers who claim the smoke and mirrors 3500kg tow rating; this van is well within limits.
When travelling along, the Bluewave tracked along very nicely behind my Toyota LandCruiser without any problems and manoeuvred around easily when reversing. Single axle vans can be twitchier than tandems but that wasn’t the case here.
An oddity of the Australian caravan industry is that a stated length caravan, say 18ft, is frequently not 18ft (5.5m) but usually something longer. However, the Bluewave 18’4 does indeed have an external length of 18ft 4in (5.6m) as the name claims. Which, for someone who prefers a shorter towing combination, is a good length without too many compromises.
Giving strength to the Bluewave is a galvanised box section chassis with 150mm (6in) rails and drawbar plus an optional 50mm (2in) raiser. Since it’s an AL-KO built chassis, then it’s not surprising that AL-KO also makes the eye-to-eye leaf spring suspension and the corner stabilisers. The sub-chassis area looks a bit messy, but everything is strapped up and of harm’s way. Both the galvanised sheet-protected 95L freshwater tanks are fitted forward of the beam axle but there’s no grey water tank, just drainpipes towards the rear. An Anderson plug and two battery boxes are fitted to the forward offside chassis rail but there’s only one battery. Having the second box isn’t a silly idea and makes it easier for owners to have another battery installed, if needed.
On the drawbar, it’s very much business as usual, with a ball coupling, hand brake and centre-mounted jockey wheel. In addition to the two 9kg gas cylinders, there’s a mesh rack between the rails. At the van’s rear, there’s just a bumper bar with a single spare wheel that’s bracket mounted.
Mounted on the chassis, the bodywork follows traditional lines with a meranti timber frame, full insulation and aluminium cladding. Although not classed as an offroad van, there’s still a waistline of black alloy checkerplate. Mostly out of sight is the 12mm marine ply floor. The sole source of external storage is the usual tunnel boot, but it’s large enough for all the camping essentials and will easily fit a couple of plastic boxes for wet items like hoses.
The body fit-out includes Mobicool double-glazed acrylic windows, a Camec security door, a picnic table and a Sunburst Eclipse awning. The entry door is hinged to the front, so there’s a conflict with having the adjacent window open.
There are two LED strip lights under the awning and a door grab handle with a light for the evening. Entertainment features include external power, TV connections and external speakers.
Vans this length sometimes have a mid-door entry for space reasons, but the Bluewave follows more traditional lines and has a rear door. The layout has a familiar look, with a front island bed, full-width rear bathroom and the dinette and kitchen in between. There’s mostly a black-and-white theme to the interior colours, although a few shades of grey are thrown in. I like the mottled look of the bench and tabletops. All the cabinetry is CNC machine cut and fits together well.
Up front, the bed measures 1.83m x 1.53m (6ft x 5ft) and the base can be lifted to get to the storage area underneath. Instead of a simple open space, the underbed storage is compartmented meaning there’s the benefit of loose gear being contained.
Large windows on either side of the bed and a mid-sized hatch above give assurances of good ventilation. There’s the usual array of overhead and bedside cabinetry, including the pillow cubby, which is becoming more common in designs. However, this one is a little different because it’s not only accessible from the pillow side but also through the wardrobe by the simple expedient of opening the door! A nice, practical idea.
Room for two
The bed walk-around area isn’t too bad, made more practical by having the L-shaped lounge facing towards the front. Just swivel the table if things get a bit tight. In a van this size, the dinette is about as big as it can be, suitable for two people. There are reading lights at each end of the lounge and overhead lockers above and under seat storage — accessed via a floor locker.
Facing the dinette, the kitchen bench is very much the compact model. There’s just enough benchtop area for a four-burner hob, grill and oven and a stainless-steel sink and drainer. The cooktop does have a flush top. Otherwise, benchtop vegetable cutting space is minimal. It’s to be expected in a van this size. That said, the general storage space is pretty decent with three overhead lockers, three drawers, a cupboard and a couple of floor lockers. There’s an extra cupboard built into the end of the bench near the entry. It has shallow shelves, but these are handy for storing smaller items like torches, keys and water bottles. Power points are fitted to the wall at each end of the kitchen bench.
Bathrooms in a 18ft 4in (5.6m) caravan will be relatively small but there’s enough room to turn around. It’s a fairly standard setup with a nearside shower cubicle, offside toilet and a vanity cabinet in the remaining space. It offers a generous range of overhead lockers, cupboards and drawers with plenty of wall area left over for a mirror — two fan hatches in the roof and a small window supply a decent amount of ventilation. The only issue is the limited space around the loo and the elbow-scraping location of the toilet roll holder. Alternatives are limited.
Even though the 12V power system has just one 100Ah AGM battery and one 150W solar panel, the battery management system (BMS) has the capacity to expand. It’s a BMPRO BatteryPlus35-II-SI unit with a 20A multistage charger, 20A PWM solar panel regulator and a total current output of 35A. It’s not compatible with lithium LiFePO4 batteries, though. The BMS is located in the overhead locker above the dinette and is readily accessible. A little less so is the RVView2 battery monitor fitted at the end of the overhead lockers, rather than on a front panel.
Condor Caravans offers a 12-month factory warranty on all its vans, which is a bit light on these days but in addition to that, Australian Motor Homes and Caravans offers an additional three-year warranty through the Australian Warranty Network Pty Ltd (AWN), giving a total of four years.
The bottom line
What I liked about the Bluewave 18’4 van is that it’s not overly large yet still has a comfortable two-person living space. Sure, there are features like a smaller bathroom area and a moderately sized kitchen but there’s no need for a larger tow vehicle, and that’s a happy compromise!
HITS AND MISSES
- Excellent towing length
- Relatively spacious interior
- A different take on pillow cubbies
- Bed walk-around space
- Second battery box
- Limited kitchen benchtop space
- Confined space around the toilet
- Door/window conflict
CONDOR BLUEWAVE 18'4 RATINGS
VALUE FOR MONEY
Prices have definitely skyrocketed in recent times and that’s reflected here
Although using a petrol-powered older LandCruiser, the van behaved very well
SUITABILITY FOR INTENDED TOURING
For couples who desire a moderately sized road-going van, it’s well-appointed
Condor’s construction technique appears to be quite good. There were a few blemishes but otherwise generally good
Even though a smaller van, there’s still room to move inside
No grey water tank but the battery and solar panel capacity is good enough for limited overnight off-grid stops
Condor offers a 12-month warranty and AMH tops that up with an extra three years
It’s a van mostly built along traditional lines but little things like the pillow cubbies and cupboard by the door make a difference
A single-axle caravan that’s highly manoeuvrable
CONDOR BLUEWAVE 18'4 SPECS
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
|5.6m (18ft 4in)
|7.58m (24ft 10in)
|Width (inc. awn)
|2.46m (8ft 1in)
|Height (inc. AC)
|3.03m (9ft 10in)
|Ball weight at tare
|Galvanised box section, 150mm (6in) rails and drawbar, 50mm (2in raiser)
|AL-KO eye-to-eye leaf spring
|2 x 95L freshwater
|1 x 100Ah AGM
|1 x 150W
|Dometic Ibis 4
|2 x 9kg
|Swift 500 four-burner, grill and oven
|Thetford N4208A 19L three-way
|Thetford cassette toilet, separate shower cubicle
|Swift 28L, gas/electric
Condor Bluewave 18'4 price from $79,990
- 50mm (2in) chassis raiser
- Ranger pull-out step with LED foot light
Condor Bluewave 18'4 price as shown $81,250
Australia Motor Homes and Caravans
31 Pacific Highway
Bennetts Green NSW 2290
P: 02 4948 0433
THE NEXT STEP
The sellers will be happy to help and answer any inquiries you may have about the products advertised for sale.