The battle of the Kokoda Trail during World War II was one of Australia’s toughest and most significant wartime conflicts and the diggers who fought there bravely earned themselves the pride of Australia.
So it was, perhaps, fitting that as Anzac Day loomed, the aptly-named Kokoda Aussie Pride caravan rolled into McCrae, Vic, to be put through its paces.
Kokoda is Melbourne-based, with dealers across Victoria – including Seaford Caravans, where this van came from – as well as one in Queensland. Kokoda caravans are Australian-made and have patriotic names such as the Prospector, 2-Up, Little Digger, Aussie Spirit and, of course, the Aussie Pride.
Kokoda claims the 22ft (6.7m – internal length) Aussie Pride is ‘Australia’s best value van’. It’s a bold claim to make in a well-supplied market but, at a shade under $60,000 for a fully-featured, full-ensuite, tandem-axle van, it is certainly up there.
At first glance, the Aussie Pride appears to have all the essentials that buyers demand these days, including everything a serious touring couple would need to hit the road in comfort – ensuite, tick; outdoor entertainment pack, tick; air-conditioner, tick; and washing machine, tick.
And with some bonuses such as the three-way fridge, 190L of water storage capacity, deep-cycle battery, solar provision, and a gal-lined generator hatch, you even have the ability to head off the grid for a few days of solitude, should the mood strike you.
This is a striking van to look at, there’s no doubt about that. The predominantly white aluminium composite-clad exterior is spiced up by a lot of contrasting black trim including shoulder-high black checkerplate on the front, black Seitz windows, and a black skirt along the sides. Each side of the van is accented by a colourful Australian flag and the front and rear of the van are emblazoned with Kokoda’s motto – Strength, Passion, Pride.
There isn’t a huge amount of external storage – there’s no front or rear boot – but clever use of the full-length front tunnel (accessible from both sides) and two rear corner lockers should give you enough space for the essentials. The offside corner locker is gal-lined, making it ideal for a generator to improve your self-sufficiency.
The drawbar is a fairly standard affair with a 3.5t Al-Ko ball coupling, jockey wheel, two 9kg gas cylinders, tap, and a mesh storage platform between the rails. As is often the case, the offside rail-mounted tap has no protection from the elements but, on the upside, the twin 95L water tanks under the chassis are suitably protected with a galvanised stoneguard – the importance of which can’t be underestimated.
The Aussie Pride’s clean lines are even more pronounced at the rear where the simple bumper bar houses just the spare wheel.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Australians, more than anyone else, I believe, like to live outdoors as much as possible. Maybe it’s our near-perfect weather, beautiful scenery or just the fact that we’re a friendly, sociable bunch who’d rather stand around a barbie full of steaks than hole up inside four walls. But, whatever it is, caravan manufacturers have taken on outdoor living and run with it. Kokoda is no different and the Aussie Pride features, as standard, an outdoor ‘entertainment pack’ including full-length Dometic roll-out awning, fold-down picnic table, TV mounting bracket and antenna jack, two 240V powerpoints, a 12V outlet for your iPod or phone charger, and two speakers. If that isn’t enough to get the party started under your awning, I’m not sure what is!
Other external features include a useful grab handle by the Camec centre-entry door (with security screen) and two LED awning lights.
A PACKED HOUSE
It’s rare to see a van these days that doesn’t employ the front bedroom/rear bathroom layout that manufacturers, and buyers, seem to favour, and there’s a very good reason for that – it’s a practical, proven design that makes the best use of space. Imagine trying to stand up in a shower under the canted front wall of a caravan!
Kokoda has stuck with the crowd here and managed to squeeze a whole lot into the Aussie Pride’s 22ft body.
The first thing that strikes you as you enter this van (assuming you don’t do it in the dead of night) is the amount of natural light that floods in. There are two large windows on either side of the bed, a front window, roof hatch, skylight, dinette window, kitchen window and two bathroom windows and hatches. All the windows have block-out blinds and flyscreens and the skylight comes with shade screen.
The Aussie Pride has powerpoints and lighting in abundance. The natural light is complemented by ambient light from LED downlights scattered across the roof, as well as two reading lights in the bedroom.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and tell you I prefer a modern-looking caravan interior, rather than the all-timber look that is so common. I realise it’s not a popular opinion but isn’t personal choice a wonderful thing? That being said, I was pleasantly surprised to discover how much I admired the Aussie Pride’s interior décor – despite the timber-look floor and cabinetry. They’ve done it right here, I think, by sticking to light shades of timber and balancing it out with white walls, pale granite-look benchtops and upholstery.
To the left of the entry is, of course, the north-south island bed. What the Aussie Pride lacks in external storage space it makes up for with internal hidey-holes. The bed is literally surrounded by them, with three overhead lockers, bedside robes, drawers, cupboards, shelves, and full-height corner cupboards. Under-bed storage is limited to just the bottom half of the space, but there is a handy door in the bed base to allow access and retrieve smaller, easy-to-reach items.
Opposite the entry door is the offside dinette, which comfortably seats two in its squashy cushioned seats. They are upholstered in a light fabric with a two-tone beige and chocolate trim. Between the seats is a large tri-fold table that can fold out or away, depending on your needs. My only point of concern here is the weight of the table – it’s not light, and requires a fair effort to fold in and out.
Storage is supplied by four overhead lockers with frosted Perspex doors and some ingenious under-seat spaces. There is a spacious drawer under each seat, each of which are relatively easy to access (once you’re on your hands and knees), and a further two lockers with shelves under the table.
The nearside kitchen is, in my view, one of the highlights of the Aussie Pride. It’s a kitchen I’d be happy to use every day, requiring very little compromise.
The first thing you’ll notice is the very generous amount of benchtop working space. There’s at least a metre of permanent benchtop, which increases to about 1.5m when the flush lid over the Swift combo four-burner cooktop (with grill and oven below) is lowered.
At the far end of the kitchen is a round stainless steel sink with mixer tap and drainer. The fact the sink is angled creates some bench space behind the sink, under the window, which would be useful for storing cooking essentials you need at hand while the van is parked. The microwave is above the sink, but only at face-height for this 5ft 9in reviewer (see left).
Just aft of the dinette, on the offside, is the 181L three-way fridge-freezer and full-height slide-out pantry. Full-height pantries are not as common as they should be, in my view, so this is a very welcome addition.
Again, kitchen storage is very well supplied with a huge array of drawers, lockers and cupboards both above and below the bench.
The TV is mounted over the kitchen bench, giving excellent visibility to anyone seated at the dinette or lying on the offside of the bed. But, despite its swivelling bracket, I think visibility would be limited for the nearside bed occupant.
The full-width rear bathroom is separated from the rest of the van by a sturdy-enough sliding door and it follows a pretty standard layout: Thetford cassette toilet with window and ventilation hatch on the offside, centre-rear vanity with ceramic sink, large mirror and top-loading washing machine with flush lid, and separate nearside shower cubicle with another window and ventilation hatch. There’s plenty of vanity bench space, especially with the washing machine’s lid closed, and also heaps of overhead and under-bench storage.
THE BOTTOM LINE
At less than $60,000 for a tandem-axle, full-ensuite van with all the mod cons, it would be hard to go past the Kokoda Aussie Pride if it suits your touring style. With a price at the lower end of the market and a spec list at the higher end, it really does offer exceptional value.
Over the past few months, the Postbag pages of CW have raged with debate over the height of microwaves in caravan kitchens. It’s fair to say that in the vast majority of standard (non-customised) vans, microwaves are usually placed high overhead – commonly above the fridge or in an overhead locker. This makes them difficult (and potentially) unsafe for many people to use. So it is notable when a manufacturer breaks the mould.
Kokoda has placed the Aussie Pride’s microwave at a conveniently lower height than most. Yes, it’s still in the overhead cabinet above the sink, but these cabinets sit about 4in lower than the others above the stove and bench, for example. And, yes, you still have to reach up, not bend down to get at it, but it puts the Daewoo microwave at a much more usable, and safer, height than many.
I WOULD HAVE LIKED...
· Stronger catches on the kitchen drawers
Originally published in Caravan World #55, June/July 2013.