I nnovation is a key criteria when Caravan World reviewers rate vans at the end of the test, and also features strongly in the Best Aussie Vans event every year. We consider it because it's an important element for prospective buyers looking at a van. After all, we all like fresh ideas and better ways of doing things if they make sense and make our lives more enjoyable.
Because things are so competitive locally, the Australian caravan industry strives for new ideas on a daily basis. But in reality, change is limited by size and layouts in a moving structure somewhere around six metres long.
The latest design from Coronet RV delivers an aerodynamic bullnose shape at the front, which adds extra internal space. The van on review is the first model in the new CL-series and is soon to hit the show circuit following a run into the wine country north of Melbourne.
Coronet is one of our longest-running caravan builders, and the new shape of the CL-series isn't the only innovative aspect of the build. When things started back in the late 50s under the original owner, production was the standard timber frame and aluminium sheet style familiar to many builders even today.
These days, Coronet vans have more robust engineering with Worthington Industry composite side and rear walls bolted to a ladder-structure timber roof with an aluminium cover. The floor is also a Worthington one-piece composite that is extremely strong and weather resistant. Side walls are clad with raised aluminium panels fixed to timber supports incorporated into the wall.
Under the body is a 100 x 50mm G&S SuperGal chassis with a similar size A-frame supported by neat looking braces each side. SuperGal, rather than a hot-dipped galvanised metal, keeps weight down but is strong enough for the mainly smooth road travel for which the van is designed. AL-KO Electronic Stability Control is a standard safety feature, the coupling is a 3500kg ball fitting, and two 4.5kg gas bottles rest on the A-frame to take care of cooking, hot water and the fridge when free camping.
Suspension is another aspect where Coronet steps outside the mainstream. Their AL-KO rubber suspension may be unusual, but it has proven to be a reliable and efficient for many years on vans like the American Airstream.
The system uses rubber blocks twisting inside metal tubes to allow independent travel to each wheel for a stable and well-mannered ride. Also under the van, I noticed neat plumbing and electrics, and 10" drums on all 15" sporty looking black alloy wheels.
The composite front wall features black and blue highlights and a protective glossy black aluminium panel down low. Rather than a front boot, which may be prone to water leakage, a full tunnel version will take care of a good lot of camping essentials. The tunnel boot looked neat and well-finished but I would have liked to see lights at each end to help find things at night.
The black and blue colour scheme extends along the white side walls, and while I understand the intention to keep weight down with the lightweight raised aluminium profile covering, it gives an old-fashioned impression that not everyone will love. At the lower edge of the van, a composite panel mitigates stone damage and ties the look together nicely.
A Carefree awning covers most of the exterior, and there are power points for TV and 12V for outside entertainment.
Down at the rear end, the van has a square profile and a minimalist low bumper bar with a single spare wheel, set at a sensible height for easy access. Meanwhile, cool-looking, clear LED corner lights add to the modern theme.
Keen observers may note in our photos the unusual vent at the passenger side rear corner. It’s for a Camec instantaneous gas hot water system for plenty of long showers — keep in mind there's only 95L of freshwater. A second tank and a greywater version are options.
The entry is towards the rear with a fold-down step and one of the new, robust Hume Industry security doors. Once inside, the van has a roomy feeling courtesy of smart thinking and a sensible layout. The rounded front end gives a concave shape inside, adding interior volume, but the compact ensuite in the driver side rear corner also helps. Instead of the bathroom taking all the rear, the corner unit leaves a space to the right of the entry that can be set up as an office or storage area.
Big picture windows around the van support the open feeling, and if you can take in the view when lounging inside it always adds to the enjoyment of camping. Layout places the bedroom at the front, the dinette at the central passenger side with the kitchen opposite.
The shower and toilet design bucks the prevailing trend for big ensuites but makes sense to those like me who think the less time in the ensuite the better. A big bathroom detracts from the liveability of the rest of the van where you spend 99 per cent of your time.
A corner shower has a large clear door and a triangular shape that makes it feel larger. There’s a small vanity with mirror and a corner cassette toilet, so overall you miss nothing and gain more living space.
Fitout is well finished with precise angles and corners, enhanced by edges meeting without the small plastic moulding seen in many vans. Coronet RV uses a pocket hole jig and secret screws to achieve fine tolerances at their cabinetry joins, and the outcome is beautifully finished.
The kitchen runs in one line to include a 141L Thetford Slimline gas/electric fridge at the back and a central bench with stainless steel sink and Swift 500 cooktop/grill. An NCE microwave is over the counter and set at a sensible height for easy and safe access. The Slimline fridge allows extra bench space and has a large drawer at the base for wine bottle storage.
Most of the electronics are found in a small cupboard above the microwave. A Fusion sound system sits alongside two 12V/USB outlets, and there's enough shelf space for phones to rest when charging. Also here is the main breaker and various fuses as well as a BMPro screen for water tank level, solar input and battery monitoring.
A single 105Ah AGM battery, charged through a 160W Flexi solar panel on the roof would give a degree of off-grid capability as long as the sun was shining. Battery usage would be confined to lights and TV with gas supply handling most of the rest. An extra battery and solar is an option, but they will add to the van's ATM.
The bed has good access and the cupboards include hanging wardrobes with shelves and handy dressing tables on each side. At the dinette, the L-shaped lounge has loads of room for two and could even accommodate a couple of extra guests.
Almost half of the Coronet RV’s output are hefty offroad beasts, but the CL-series is a different species altogether, based around the concept of light weight and ease of towing. The aerodynamic nose is designed to cut down on wind resistance, and the van achieves a 1798kg Tare Weight, which is impressively low for a 6m van.
Load the van to its 500kg payload and it hits the scales at 2298kg, meaning plenty of medium-size tow vehicles are legal and capable. The AL-KO rubber suspension is ideal for blacktop touring but is also up to some dirt road travel as long as speed and tyre pressures are reduced.
Coronet RV sales rep Peter’s Jeep Grand Cherokee with a 3L V6 Mercedes turbo diesel is a willing performer under much more arduous going and was having an easy day towing the CL-6000. We found our way through heavy Melbourne traffic out into the wineries to the north for photos.
Neither Peter nor I knew the area very well, but you have to hand it to our young photographer, Marcus, who found a great location on street view on Google maps.
The drive proved the Coronet is well-balanced at tare and tows smoothly without movement at the ball or swaying through turns or at speed. Load it sensibly and there is no reason your travels won’t be enjoyable.
THE BOTTOM LINE
I love seeing innovative ideas come to life in a caravan and the CL-6000 fits the bill, not only with the wind-cheating shape but with a roomy couple’s van that won’t see your medium-sized tow vehicle struggling up hills.
The combination of a bantamweight tourer with all the features most couples will want is smart thinking from this boutique builder. At $61,500 it’s also well priced, and there are several layouts already on offer and a long list of options to make the van your own.
Coronet RV is a boutique builder in Melbourne’s east that has been owned by Andrew Phillips since 1991, making it one of our most enduring brands and one of the longest for a builder under one ownership. Additionally, Andrew is also the director of the RV Repair Centre located within the same Bayswater, Victoria complex.
Both the company’s and Andrew’s history with caravans go back even further. Coronet began making vans in 1959 in Ballarat and Andrew built his first caravan from plans he drew himself at 15 as an addition to his family’s caravan hire fleet — CJ Phillips Caravan Hire.
That initial build was a timber framed aluminium clad thirteen-footer, most likely towed by a VH Commodore of the day and headed to a campground on the Mornington Peninsular. Hire caravans need to be durable and practical, so experience from those early days shows in his attitude to build-quality over the years.
When his mother and father sold their business in 1984, Andrew found himself working with two local caravan dealers for a while, before setting up ADP Caravan Services as a repair and hire company.
In 1990 he established a caravan repair shop at Caravan City in Croydon, Vic, selling his own Hacienda caravans and a year later took over Coronet RV. Initially building in the traditional timber ‘stick’ frame style, the construction method evolved to composite veneer and foam walls manufactured by Worthington’s Industries, which Andrew rates highly for their strength and light weight.
As a small builder he turns out around 60 caravans a year — Andrew likes that he can still be hands-on in the business to exceed customer expectations, many of whom are repeat buyers. About half the caravans are offroaders for customers who appreciate the attention to detail and the thoughtful engineering that keeps weight to a minimum.
In recent years Andrew sold the retail side of his operation to concentrate on Coronet RV and the service operation. The service side does all manner of repairs for all brands and the manufacturing arm turns out custom designed vans that are sold through their dealers Caravan Country Pty Ltd and Accessavan Pty Ltd for disability customers with special needs such as wheelchair access.
While that first humble van was drawn up on the kitchen table with Laverne and Shirley blaring on the TV in the background, today’s floor plans and elevations are consummated on Auto CAD computer programs in the factory with an eye on recycling and as much green manufacture as possible.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Body length 6.3m (20ft 8in)
Overall length 7.8m (25ft 7in)
Width (incl. awning) 2.4m (7ft 10in)
Height (incl. hatches) 2.77m (9ft 1in)
Payload kg (calculated)500kg
Ball weight 174kg at Tare, 300kg maximum loaded
Frame Composite foam
Cladding Aluminum cladding
Chassis G & S chassis/100mm main rails
Suspension AL-KO Torflex (independent rubber)
Coupling AL-KO 50mm Ball coupling
Brakes AL-KO 10" electric
Wheels 15” Primal black alloy including 1 x spare
Water 1 X 95 L Fresh water tank (can option additional tank)
Battery 1 x 100A AGM Century
Solar 1 x 150W lightweight flex solar panel
Air conditioner Option (Roof mount or ducted available)
Gas 2 x 4.5kg
Sway control AL-KO Electronic Stability Control
Cooking Swift 3 x gas/1 x 240V Element with grill
Fridge Thetford N3141
Bathroom Thetford 12v flush toilet/Jayee shower screen/Kings shower recess/Phoenix tapware.
Hot water Camec Lp Gas instantaneous hot water service
PRICE AS SHOWN
$61,500 Inc on-road (Vic)
Coronet RV Bayswater Vic Ph 03 97615286 www.coronetrv.com.au