In a former life I worked for a van manufacturer for a number of years and had the luxury of being able to pick out just about any style of van I liked to head off on holidays. Rather than a big spacious van, my go-to was a compact, lightweight, offroad-oriented pop-top not dissimilar to this little Jayco CrossTrak on review.
Hybrid vans of this nature are appealing to me because their light weight and compact size means you can take them to many more places off the beaten track. Plus, you can very comfortably pull them with twin cab utes. You have plenty of power to spare and more importantly a very nice weight compared to the tow vehicle. Call me old school, I just prefer the van not to outweigh the car due to the increased safety margins in dynamic handling.
So, you can tell I am already sold on the concept of compact hybrids. The question is how well does Jayco execute? For this review, I had plenty of time to become acquainted with the CrossTrak as I towed it a few hundred kilometres and had three days to crawl all over and under it and play with everything that opens and shuts.
This variant of the CrossTrak is a 14-footer, available as a couple’s van only with a little bathroom. Jayco also offers 13ft versions without bathrooms in couples and bunk layouts. A slightly more spacious 16ft couples-only version with a bathroom completes the range.
We recently reviewed a Jayco All-Terrain Off-Grid X 19.61-2 (issue 640 of Caravan World) which is much bigger, fancier and nearly twice the price, but the fundamental build structure is the same with much of it being manufactured by Jayco directly.
The Jayco-designed ‘Endurance 2.0’ chassis is fabricated in-house before being sent off-site for a hot dip galvanised treatment. The A-frame is 127mm x 50mm and the main rails are 150mm x 50mm RHS steel. Additional rails are pressed steel C-section to minimise weight.
The CrossTrak sports Jayco’s proprietary suspension system known as JTECH 2.0 which appears in many of its larger siblings. JTECH features Pedders heavy-duty shock absorbers and springs tuned to the van and toe-in-toe-out adjustment for wheel alignment.
Jayco also make its own one-piece walls and roofs. It starts with a welded aluminium frame marketed as Tough Frame. A fibreglass skin, outer and inner ply along with polystyrene insulation is then laminated to the frame in a vacuum press.
External suppliers play their part too. Upfront there is a DO35 hitch from local maker Cruisemaster which is a great piece of kit in an entry-level van. Similarly, it’s nice to see Lippert sway control supplied as standard as this is where some brands save cost on budget vans.
I would call this CrossTrak a purist’s hybrid in that all kitchen facilities are external. On the awning side of the van, a mid-compartment houses a neat little slide-out kitchen with hot and cold running water to a sink, a two-burner gas stove and a useful meal preparation surface. The front compartment contains a fridge slide designed for a chest-style fridge complete with another little meal preparation surface. The upside is the kitchen is simple and effective. The downside is there is only one access point for external storage via a hatch on the offside of the van. There is quite a bit of room in there, it’s just not that easy to reach everything from the outside.
We rarely mention manual roll-out awnings because they tend to be all pretty similar. This particular Solera branded awning set up just like all the other awnings but packing it up had some teething problems. When we went to slide the inner arm back along the inside of the outer arm, we found it could not be unlatched until we ‘reshaped’ the latch with a pair of pliers. It worked fine for multiple uses after that first run but it is not the most elegant mechanism we have seen.
Turning attention to the inside, the layout is cosy, minimalist and functional. There is just enough room for a north-south bed with a dinette butting up against it. Even though it is a north-south bed it is like an east-west bed in that you need to get in and out from the foot of the bed as there is no room on the sides to walk around. Each side of the bed has a narrow infill panel with a handy little receptacle for holding phones and the like.
The bulk of the internal storage is in the form of a narrow cupboard on one side and a set of drawers at the rear of the van along with a few wall-mounted storage nooks. Minimalist packing is the order of the day, but if you really felt the urge to carry more a couple of duffel bags could do the trick.
The surprise packet in a van this tiny is the combination shower/toilet in the rear corner. Again, it is very minimalist but hey, it works. The bathroom door set-up is a little bit on the flexy side, and we found it needed a little encouragement to open and close after travelling on a number of corrugated and pothole-ridden roads.
There is capacity for 160L of fresh water which is the bare minimum you would want to carry. You can gain another 40L utilising the two jerry can holders up front, otherwise you can consider carrying more water in the van storage compartment or the tow vehicle.
The lack of a grey water tank on an offroad hybrid is a bit of a miss. Looking under the van it appears that there is room for a grey water tank, but the Jayco brochure indicates that this is not an option. If this is a deal breaker for you the Jayco All-Terrain Pop Top series might be worth considering.
Power is fed in with a 200W solar panel and stored with the optioned up 120Ah lithium battery (100Ah as standard). This is quite reasonable as you will only be running a 60–80L chest-style compressor fridge which is more energy efficient than larger upright-style fridges.
Some of these hybrid-style vans have two spare wheels hanging off the rear of the van, which on a lightweight van can have a significant impact in reducing the tow ball weight due to the leverage effect of weight being concentrated at the rear. Towball weights under 10 per cent of the loaded weight can contribute to instability when towing.
This is not a problem with the CrossTrak in theory or practice. The CrossTrak features an underslung spare wheel forward of the axle contributing to a nose weight of 210kg. With an ATM of 2042kg, the magic 10 per cent ball weight ratio is on the mark. I did a lot of towing with this van fairly empty behind an Isuzu D-MAX and the combination was very stable. We have found on more than one occasion other single-axle small vans requiring a good load to be added into front toolboxes and so on to achieve stable towing.
The tare weight of under 1500kg is a lot lighter than many other vans going around and the payload of 570kg is more than adequate for a van of this size.
The bottom line
This is a great little van for venturing off further afield. It’s not perfect but we are yet to find that unicorn. It represents great value and has the backing of a big Australian company with service centres throughout the country to keep you on the road. If you are looking at the budget end of the market it is hard to go past.
HITS AND MISSES
- Compact size allows this van to negotiate tight tracks where larger vans can’t go
- Squeezing a shower/toilet into a tiny van
- No grey water tank
- Limited storage
JAYCO CROSSTRAK 14.44-1 RATINGS
VALUE FOR MONEY
This Aussie-made Jayco sits in the same price bracket as some Chinese-built hybrid vans making it great value
Excellent towing manners made the CrossTrak a breeze behind the Isuzu twin cab ute
SUITABILITY FOR INTENDED TOURING
I would happily head off into the bush with this neat little unit
It all appeared pretty sound apart from the flexy bathroom door
It’s definitely compact living that will appeal to minimalists
Adequate water and power. Lack of a grey water tank will not suit some
Two-year manufacturing and five-year structural warranty along with an enormous dealership network is reassuring
Innovation is not the first word that comes to mind with the CrossTrak but I like it anyway
A nice little, great value package
JAYCO CROSSTRAK 14.44-1 SPECS
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
|4.45m (14ft 7in)
|6.25m (20ft 6in)
|2.04m (6ft 8in)
|2.58m (8ft 6in)
|Ball weight at tare
|Fibreglass fully insulated Tough Frame, hail and dent resistant
|Endurance, hot dipped galvanised
|JTECH independent coil with heavy-duty shock absorbers
|16in alloy rims with 245/70R16 AT tyres
|2 x 80L freshwater
|120Ah lithium option fitted (100Ah lithium standard)
|Roof-mounted Dometic Harrier Lite (option)
|2 x 9kg
|Lippert Sway Command Tow Control
|External slide-out kitchen with sink and two-burner cooktop
|myCOOLMAN 60L slide-out (optional)
|Internal combo shower and toilet
|22L tank gas/electric
Jayco CrossTrak 14.44-1 price from $51,430
- Mains water tap to A-frame
- Reverse camera
- Upgraded Pm335j + DC30 12v Power system
- 120Ah lithium battery upgrade
- Wind-up antenna
- Projecta LCD Control Panel
- Harrier Lite air-con
- Furrion sound system
- 24in TV with two-arm bracket
Jayco CrossTrak 14.44-1 price as shown $59,640
To enquire about this caravan, contact your local Jayco dealer.
THE NEXT STEP
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