One of the biggest differences between a fifth wheeler and standard caravan is that the fifth wheeler is considerably easier to tow. I got behind the wheel of the tow vehicle on a dirt road and aimed it at the potholes while travelling quickly. The Winjana RV Cattai 760 followed me with ease, and it felt like I was towing a small camper trailer rather than an 8m (26ft 3in) caravan. There were more potholes in sight, so I aimed at them as well to ensure I wasn’t imagining how easy it is to tow this fifth wheeler. Again, it followed my every move without trying to take over. This is not something I could say if I was towing a similarly sized caravan.
The ease of towing is the reason a lot of the customers are drawn to the Winjana range of fifth wheelers. And after towing one on both rough dirt and tarmac at highway speeds, I can see why it would be difficult to go back to standard towing setups. There are other benefits, including the ability to get the tow vehicle at 90 degrees to the van for ease of reversing into tight spots. There are some obvious differences required in the tow vehicle compared to a standard caravan, as a fifth wheeler requires a ute rather than a wagon. All the Winjana range models can be towed successfully behind the standard Aussie dual cab ute, so there is no need to get a large American pickup.
Where we tested
The Winjana RV factory is based in Toowoomba, Qld, so we didn’t have to travel far to find some steep hills and dirt roads to conduct the drive test part of the review. It should be noted that the tow tug was a D-MAX with a few years and kilometres on the clock, but it still towed the Winjana RV Cattai 760 with ease. It had rained recently so we weren’t able to head out to the rougher tracks as they were either slick clay or deep black soil. All models are ‘rough-road ready’ and would handle the corrugations in outback Australia with ease.
The Cattai 760 is the largest of the Winjana RV range being 8m (26ft 3in) in external length and 7.6m (24ft 9in) internal length. Utilising much of the space above the drawbar means that the external and internal length will be very similar on a fifth wheeler.
There are two construction methods available for the Cattai 760. The test van was constructed using StyroMAX 30mm composite panel and 3/4in composite fibre floor giving it a tare weight of 2580kg. This provides it with a load carrying capacity of 920kg, taking it to a very acceptable 3500kg GTM. The alternative build uses kiln dried Canadian spruce for the wall framing and roof beams, combined with aluminium cladding. The tare weight of this construction will be closer to 2700kg while maintaining the 3500kg GTM.
The chassis rails are powder coated RHS 6in x 2in sitting on Simplicity Independent Inverted Leaf suspension. All models (except the Strezelecki 550) have tandem axles and 16in wheels.
A fifth wheeler uses a very different hitching system to a standard caravan. Winjana uses the Hayman Reese Euro Fifth Wheeler hitch which is ADR compliant with double-pivot and flat-bed models compliant to a load of 3500kg. The tow vehicle will need to have the correct hitch to receive the 2in pin fitted into the bed/tray of the ute. This is the reason why wagons are not suitable towing fifth wheelers.
On the outside
Externally, the obvious difference is the lack of an A-frame. Instead of a jockey wheel, there are two electric jacks or landing gear as they are called. Each jack can operate independently which is great for uneven ground. The switches to operate these are located under the storage area over the raised drawbar. The gas bottles and a water tap are located between the landing gear. The single spare wheel is located above the hitch of the fifth wheeler.
The raised drawbar provides plenty of extra storage space that is not available to a standard caravan. Part of this space is incorporated into an externally accessed tunnel boot that utilises the full width of the van. Another external hatch is on the driver’s side and provides a large storage area suitable for heavier items as it is lower to the ground. The battery system is in this storage area and is easily accessed should there be the need.
A large rollout awning can be extended over the main door and windows on the offside of the van. Below the door is two-stage drop step which provides safe and easy entry into the interior of the van. Above the dual axle wheels is a drop-down table, while further to the rear of the van is storage area with a slide-out table suitable for a barbecue with gas bayonet plumbed to the hatch. At the rear of the Cattai 760 is a hatch to access the cassette for the ceramic bowl toilet. Above this is a window for the ensuite and a reversing camera, which many will find more than useful.
A customised interior
Just as every person is unique, Winjana RVs are too. Each RV is designed and custom-built in Toowoomba to meet the requirements of each owner. This is particularly handy if you have specific needs for yourself or the family and want to ensure your van fits the bill. The Cattai 760 we reviewed was set up for a couple who might have the occasional visitor staying over.
The full queen-sized bed is located east/west (across the van). The area above the drawbar provides a large space suitable for configuring in different ways. Part of the space is taken up by the externally accessed tunnel boot, the top of which then forms a deep shelf for the internal storage – potentially for bulky items that you don’t always use. Other parts of this internal space have been configured for hanging clothes. With the island bed running east/west, you have walking space between the bed and the generous storage area, thus providing easy access to this storage via the four doors. There is also a large storage area under the bed which is accessed by tilting the bed up. If you need storage space for your adventures, the Cattai 760 has plenty.
Another unusual feature is the use of a standard sofa bed for dining seating as well as an extra sleeping space. It is comfortable in both uses and easy to change from sofa to bed simply by removing the table and pulling the sofa out. Above the sofa dining area is more storage, and located on the wall near the fridge is the entertainment centre, water level gauge, gas hot water switch and battery charge monitoring.
The well-appointed kitchen
Opposite the dining area is the well-appointed kitchen sporting a matching calming colour scheme of white, grey and black. Again, there is plenty of storage above and below the spacious preparation area, sink and stove. In this build there is a two-burner gas stove with an oven below. A stainless steel rangehood sits above the cooktop providing light and will help remove cooking moisture. A microwave oven can be found under the food preparation area at the other end of the kitchen.
Both 12V and 240V power sockets are located above the bench. The sink has a hot/cold mixer tap and a filtered water tap. Water is supplied from the 160L freshwater tank while a 110L grey water tank is optional. To keep food cold there is a Bushman 190L fridge opposite the microwave. This has a separate freezer and fridge with side opening doors. Next the fridge is the large pantry, offering even more storage for the adventure-hungry traveller. Above the sofa/dining is the reverse cycle air conditioner which will require shore power to run.
The reviewed Cattai 760 had two 120Ah lithium batteries fitted as well as three 140W solar panels fitted to the roof. The batteries are stored in the externally accessed storage area along with the solar controller. All lighting is 12V, and you will find both 12V and 240V outlets throughout the unit, but for the 240V the owners will need to be connected to shore power as there is no inverter included in this van.
Hot and cold water is available at an outdoor shower outlet, which is very handy for washing off before you head inside. The ensuite is located at the back of the van with a large shower, ceramic bowl toilet and vanity basin, and even more storage you’ll be tempted to fill. The configuration is the doored shower on one side with the vanity basin/storage on the opposite side and the toilet in between. I found that the toilet was in my way when moving about the ensuite, so my preference would be to order it in a slightly different configuration. What suits one person may not suit another, but that is the beauty of Winjana RV’s custom builds.
When it comes to ventilation, there is an exhaust fan and a window that opens above the toilet. An outward swinging hinged door separates the ensuite from the kitchen/living area. It would be wise to take care when opening the door after a shower as it could collide with someone operating the microwave.
All Winjana models come with a Free Camp Ready package included in the standard build. In addition to this, the reviewed Cattai 760 had some additional options including lithium batteries. The customers opted not to include an inverter, but I would have liked to see that included for those items that really need 240V. With the optional upgrades you should be able to stay off-grid for a while if you keep an eye on water usage.
How does it tow?
This is where the fifth wheeler really shines and probably the main reason for getting one. The Winjana RV Cattai 760 was a dream to tow as it followed the standard dual cab ute wherever I pointed it. Often only one partner will be the driver when towing a large van. But with a fifth wheeler, both partners could easily be the driver as although it is a large van, it tows like a small camper trailer, which is great for those who might not have the confidence to tow something large.
The bottom line
The Winjana RV Cattai 760 really will suit someone who wants plenty of space but has concerns about towing. I really was surprised how well it towed and would certainly recommend having a test drive to feel the difference. Both driving and manoeuvring the Cattai 760 are far easier than I would have imagined.
HITS AND MISSES
- A dream to tow
- Locally made
- Each van customised for the new owner
- Needs a ute to tow it
- The review van’s ensuite layout will not suit everyone, but there are other options
Winjana RV Cattai 760 Ratings
VALUE FOR MONEY
The ease of towing makes it worth the money
Fabulous, although it needs a ute for the hitch fitting
SUITABILITY FOR INTENDED TOURING
Rough road ready and will go the distance
Solid local build
Easy to live with when driving and stopped
Additional options make it a good off-grid van
You deal directly with the manufacturer
The fifth wheeler is a tried-and-true innovation for towing
The Cattai 760 is certainly different to the standard van
Winjana RV Cattai 760 Specs
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
|External body length||8m (26ft 3in)|
|Internal body length||7.6m (24ft 9in)|
|External body width||2.43m (7ft 11in)|
|Travel height||3m (10ft)|
|Internal height||1.96m (6ft 4in)|
|Tare||2580kg Weighbridge certificate supplied|
|Ball to tare ratio||10.2%|
|Frame Cladding||StyroMAX Panel 30mm 3/4in Composite Fibre Floor|
|Chassis||Powdercoated RHS 6in x 2in Chassis Rails Tandem Axle|
|Suspension||Independent Suspension – Simplicity Independent Inverted Leaf|
|Couplings||50mm Towing Pin / 3in Ball|
|Wheels||16in Steel Wheels and Light Truck Tyres|
|Water||1 x 160L poly freshwater tank, 1 x 110L poly grey water tank|
|Battery||2 x 120A lithium batteries|
|Solar||3 x 140W solar panels|
|Air-conditioner||Rooftop Reverse Cycle Air Conditioner|
|Gas||2 x 9kg gas bottles|
|Cooking||Thetford two-hob gas burner and oven|
|Washing machine||No - optional|
|Hot water||Suburban 19L gas/electric|
Each van custom fitted
Winjana RV Cattai 760 price as shown: $150,000
THE NEXT STEP
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