There was a time, a decade or three ago, when family caravans were the mainstay of the caravan manufacturing industry. But along with the Kingswoods, Falcons and Valiants used to tow them, those times are long gone.
To the uninitiated, it might appear that the family caravan has disappeared altogether, unless your budget runs to a $75K custom-built van, that is. However, a little research will reveal plenty on the market. A van such as this Jayco Starcraft pop-top comes in at just over (a very respectable) $30,000. Sure, it doesn’t feature some of the flashier items found in the pages of this magazine, but what does it come with? Read on…
CHASSIS AND STRUCTURE
This Starcraft 16.67.SC is underpinned by the company’s Endurance chassis. This translates to 100x50mm main rails, a similarly-sized drawbar, and pressed-hole cross members between the rails. This design is all about keeping the weight in check while retaining the required strength. The suspension is standard fare: a leafspring setup that’s undemanding and simple to maintain and repair.
The body structure of the Starcraft range is pretty straightforward. It comes with a 19mm square aluminium frame clad with aluminium. The roof is a one-piece fibreglass sandwich arrangement.
Instead of the traditional front boot, Jayco has fitted a front tunnel that offers a nominal amount of storage space for hoses, camp chairs and the like. There is also a small storage bin at the nearside rear.
A question which comes to mind with a budget caravan is the affordability of a matching tow vehicle. Well, the good news is that with a Tare of 1365kg and an ATM of 1665kg, this van is a good match with many vehicles found in the family garage. It’s worth keeping in mind this van’s ball weight, though. Unladen, our van’s ball weight came in at 147kg, but that’s certainly going to increase 20-30kg, at least, so, depending on your vehicle, I’d recommend careful packing and weighing. A family is certainly going to have more gear on board than a couple, but there’s a limit to what you can take.
In a van of this size, there are bound to be compromises, but the big surprise in this Starcraft is the bed layout. Up front is the bed for mum and dad, while the junior members get a choice of three beds: bunks in the rear offside corner or a raised bed across the rear. This leaves room for a kitchen bench mid-offside and a dinette opposite. With four people in the van, things are going to be a little cramped and, for long term stays, there’s definitely a case for extending the budget for an annexe to go with the awning.
The corner bunk bed arrangement has been designed with a dual purpose in mind. One is, naturally, for sleeping, with the three beds suitable only for children. But the reason for the raised bed is the considerable amount of storage space underneath, with multiple drawers and cupboards fitted. And for yet more storage in this part of the van, there’s a wardrobe fitted between the bed and the dinette. Each of the beds comes with a window, curtain, reading light and a powerpoint.
Inevitably, a small family caravan is going to have a compact kitchen – in this case, there’s almost no bench space. Filling the bench is a four-burner cooktop (one gas, three electric) with a griller, and a stainless steel sink and drainer. As standard, this van is fitted with a 90L Dometic fridge, but the optional 150L three-way unit seen here is definitely a welcome addition – this is a family van, after all.
Given there’s no overhead locker space, the microwave is mounted under the griller – so a little bit of bending over is required. All of this leaves space for two drawers, two floor lockers and a small wall-height locker above the sink.
Opposite the kitchen, the café-style dinette is good for two adults and two children. There are no reading lights, though. Under-seat drawers are fitted to both seats as well as to the back of the front seat, near the entry door.
The forward bed (with foam mattress) measures 1.98x1.17m (6ft 6in x 3ft 10in). A small bedhead with storage cavities and shelf takes up the offside wall.
Also fitted here are two reading lights, a powerpoint and antenna connection for a small TV. Lifting the bed reveals not only the metal-framed, timber-slatted bed base, but a storage area, too.
THE BOTTOM LINE
This little Starcraft comes with all the features you would expect in a contemporary van. Its compact interior, meanwhile, is to be expected, considering the length. I’d therefore recommend a family spend some time just sitting in in this van, going through some of the motions of caravan living, and to considering an annexe as part of the purchase, before committing to it.
That said, you can’t deny the Jayco Starcraft 16.67.SC pop-top offers family caravanning holidays at a budget price.
- Bunk bed layout with reasonable cupboard space
- Upgraded fridge
- Easily-accessible spare wheel
I WOULD HAVE LIKED...
- Reading lights at dinette
- Wider main bed
Originally published in Caravan World #514, May 2013.