Timing is almost everything in the business of recreational vehicles. I’d organised with Parravans Caravan World at Windsor, NSW, to take an RP Caravans Family Cruzer out for a look over, the plan being to use a couple of locations along the Hawkesbury River. A cautious plan it was since the area is still very soggy from the recent flooding.
Instead of putting it off, I had a successful time on tour with the van, finding a few mostly dry spots. Little did I know most of the areas would be fully underwater about a week later as Sydney suffered through its third round of excessive rain. As I said, timing is everything.
RP Caravans is a manufacturer like many based in regional Melbourne. The company builds a small range of caravans in lengths between 5.6m (18ft 6in) and 6.4m (21ft), both for couples and families. RP Caravans offers a two-year structural warranty on its caravans with the usual proviso for components from other manufacturers. My review van was a Family Cruzer and named appropriately, fitted with triple bunks with an external body length of 6.4m (21ft).
HITTING THE ROAD
The team from Parravans had hitched up the RP Family Cruzer to a Mazda BT-50 dual cab ute and it proved to be quite a good towing combination. Certainly, the 3.0 litre turbo diesel handled things with aplomb, particularly since the Family Cruzer has a Tare Mass of 2340kg. What made it quite impressive was that having an ATM of 3200kg, the payload was a very impressive 860kg. Of course, with a fully loaded van you might have to consider something a little larger than a dual cab ute.
It’s not something that everyone thinks about when purchasing a potential tow vehicle, but the Mazda’s rearview camera was quite good. I’m frequently on my own when out reviewing caravans and hitching up either relies on my judgement or having a good reversing camera. I’ll go for the latter every time. On that note, the Family Cruzer is not only an easy towing van, but it’s also not difficult to manoeuvre around when reversing.
This is just my opinion really, but I reckon one of the best ways to determine the quality of a caravan build is to have a look underneath in the chassis area. The Family Cruzer’s chassis is built by SilverShine, and it’s built in the way that is very standard on Australian caravans with 150mm x 50m (6in x 2in) DuraGal® RHS steel used for the main and drawbar rails. In addition, a 50mm x 50mm (2in x 2in) raiser supports the suspension. Being tandem axles, Rocker Roller suspension is used to ensure a more even spread of load when crossing uneven undulations and 38cm (15in) alloy wheels fitted with 25.4cm (10in) electric brakes are used.
Two 95-litre freshwater tanks are fitted between the chassis rails forward of the axles, and even though this is not in any way an offroad/rough road caravan, a 95-litre grey water tank is fitted behind the axles. All the tanks have galvanized sheet protection and it’s clear from several of the plumbing connections that sealant seems to have been used with enthusiasm. All the plumbing and electrical work has been strapped up out of harm’s way. Two battery boxes, each with a 100Ah AGM battery, are mounted on the chassis rails, forward of the offside wheels. There are two 170W solar panels mounted on the caravan roof.
Above all the steelwork, the aluminium composite body panelling is a stunning silver colour, at least the top two thirds with the lower edges clad in black alloy checkerplate. Around the outside, the van is quite well-appointed with the expected double glazed acrylic windows, Milenco Columbia habitation door with security screen and a Sunburst Eclipse awning. In addition, there are external lights fitted on both sides of the van plus speakers and a picnic table on the nearside. Above the picnic table are the necessary connections for a TV.
External storage comes in the form of a tunnel storage across the front plus an alloy checkerplate toolbox mounted on the front drawbar which is a handy feature for ready-use items like hoses and power leads. The two nine-litre gas cylinders are mounted on the drawbar and therefore don’t take up any valuable storage space.
YOUNG ONES TO THE REAR
There’s a certain similarity among various caravan manufacturers with bunk bed layouts in vans this length and, to be fair, it is a design that seems to work quite well. The colour scheme is a little different. White and various shades of grey are the predominant colours but the table, bench tops and splashback are all finished in faux timber laminate. Starting in the rear area, triple bunks are fitted along the offside wall and the opposite side is all taken up by a full bathroom. Filling the mid area is an offside L-shaped dinette and a kitchen bench, leaving the forward area for the time-honoured island bed. A family of five is going to fill the van very nicely but there’s still room to move around without too much trouble.
BUNKS AND BATHROOM
Each of the 1.83m x 0.65m (6ft x 2ft 2in) bunk beds comes with its own reading light and window and the top bunk gets the industry-standard timber ladder which does require a certain amount of flexibility to use. Between the bunks and the bathroom is a full-height cupboard that contains multi-shelf space in the upper section, a couple of drawers in the middle and a front-loading washing machine down below. Mostly for small, regular washing loads I suspect.
It does have a separate shower cubicle but compact is a good word to describe the bathroom area. Everything, including the Thetford cassette toilet, overhead cupboards, wash basin and vanity cabinet fits in very neatly though. There’s a fan hatch and a window for ventilation.
One of the notable points about the kitchen bench is that there’s plenty of cupboard, overhead locker and drawer space - essential in any family caravan. Another essential is the Thetford 184 three-way fridge that can hold a copious amount of food and drink. For quick and easy meal, the microwave oven is located above the fridge. Its height though, does mean that shorter family members may not be able to reach it safely. Fitted into the kitchen bench itself are the necessary Swift four-burner cooktop and grill, alongside a square sink without a drainer. I ponder the size of the sink because although it will take numerous washing-up items, it will also need a fair bit of hot water to fill it sufficiently. Just a footnote here, Swift 500 gas cookers have recently been the subject of a product recall. At the time of writing, those manufactured after 1 June 2020 have been declared safe to use.
For a family of four or five, the L-shaped lounge certainly is the most practical. The table is a decent size and easy to shift around to suit different needs. For a larger family, an extra chair is certainly going to be useful. Overhead lockers are fitted above the seat and there’s also below-seat storage as well, although it’s a bit fiddly to get at.
MUM AND DAD’S AREA
Undoubtedly, the features of note in the forward area are the large windows on either side of the bed - no shortage of natural light or ventilation for sure. Being the so-called “caravan queen” size, the innerspring mattress measures 1.85m x 1.53m (6ft 2in x 5ft) and sits on a posture slat bed base that can easily be lifted to get to the storage area underneath. It’s not compartmented, so whatever you like can be fitted in. Around the bedhead is the usual array of wardrobes, overhead lockers and drawers. At the base of the wardrobe, there are pillow cubbies on either side.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Family Cruzer is aptly named. It’s nicely designed for a cruising family and not overly heavy for towing. It’s certainly well-appointed and has enough battery/solar panel capacity to ensure that some off-the-grid travel can be enjoyed without any problem.
HITS AND MISSES
- Nicely laid out interior
- Good payload
- Grey water tank standard
- Reversing camera fitted
- Off the grid capability
- High microwave oven
- Basic bunk bed ladder
- Rather large sink
Value for Money : 7.5
On a par with several of its contemporaries
Towability : 8
Easy towing van, reversing camera a handy feature
Suitability for Intended Touring : 8.5
Family van with bunk bed layout
Build Quality : 8
Everything functioned as it should, the general fit and finish look quite good
Liveability : 7.5
Family living is always going to be a bit cramped, but the layout is quite practical
Self-sufficiency : 7.5
Water tank capacity and electrical rating is good for a few days off the grid, the limiter being the toilet cassette
Customer Care : 7.5
A two-year structural warranty is offered but there’s little information on the manufacturer’s website
Innovation : 7
It’s a fairly standard layout with all the essentials
X-Factor : 7.5
For a family van, its relatively light weight and high payload
RP Caravans Family Cruzer Specs
Weights and Measures
|Body length||6.4m (21ft)|
|Overall length||8.36m (27ft 5in)|
|Width (incl awn)||3.44m (8ft)|
|Height||2.96m (9ft 9in)|
|Suspension||Tandem axle roller rocker leaf spring|
|Water||2 x 95 litre|
|Grey water||1 x 95 litre|
|Solar||2 x 170W|
|Air-conditioner||Houghton Belaire 3400|
|Gas||2 x 9.0kg|
|Cooking||Swift 500, four burner (1 elec, 3 gas) and grill|
|Fridge||Thetford 614E.3F 184 litre 3 way|
|Bathroom||Thetford cassette toilet with separate shower cubicle|
|Hot water||Swift 28 litre gas/electric|
RP Caravans Family Cruzer price $76,900 (as tested)
Supplied by Parravans Caravan World
THE NEXT STEP
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