Roma Caravans is one of the stalwarts of the Australian caravan industry and one of its true survivors, its origins stretching back to 1928. But that doesn’t mean it is stuck in the past. Far from it.
While the Campbellfield, Vic, manufacturer is well-known for large, custom-built tandem and tri-axle caravans that appeal to experienced travellers, it has not been immune to the winds of change that have been blowing through the industry in recent years, with more and more budget-conscious buyers looking to buy vans.
In response, Victorio’s grandsons Brendan and Mark, along with their father Tony, who took over from Victorio in 1962 and still works in the business, have planned a raft of changes for 2013 that will not only keep Roma in the game, but take it in some new directions.
The single-axle Punto, first shown at Melbourne’s Sandown’s Leisurefest last October, is a good example of this new thinking, but there is more in the pipeline to come.
TAKE A PUNTO
CAD/CAM design and lighter, stronger European-ply laser-cut interior furniture are among the features making their way into the Roma range this year.
The new Punto, which is an entry-level model in the 2013 Roma range, doesn’t yet have these features, but it’s a significant and affordable new model that reflects the fresh thinking of this experienced manufacturer.
The Punto is a fully-featured RV, with even the smallest 5.03m (16ft 6in internal length) model that we tested equipped with a full ensuite, a north-south queen-sized bed with a proper mattress, the choice of a cafe or L-shaped lounge/dinette, a deep-cycle battery, roof-mounted solar panel, TV/sound system, dual water tanks and a full-sized Dometic awning.
All this will cost you $51,990, which puts the Punto smack in the middle of the current caravan industry sweet spot. Just as important for many buyers, its 1880kg Tare weight (and ATM of 2180kg) means that it can be safely and comfortably hauled around the country by an average mid-sized 4WD, or even a large family sedan.
Our tow vehicle for this test was a current-model Nissan Y61 Patrol ST diesel that sells for around $66,500 on the road with the optional five-speed automatic transmission and was typical of what some buyers might use for a long-term touring holiday.
Despite its 3L common rail, intercooled, four-cylinder, turbodiesel engine developing a modest 118kW and 380Nm of torque (between 2000 and 2400rpm), the Y61 felt surprisingly spritely towing the Punto to our seaside photographic location and consistently needed checking to avoid cruising above the 100km/h limit.
Perhaps the Punto’s aerodynamic roofline, which rises above the bed and peaks mid-van, had something to do with this, and on a long trip it is certain to be reflected in lower fuel usage.
The Patrol also steered the Punto confidently when the route became narrow and twisting, giving us confidence that the combination was prepared for anything the road might throw at it.
Like other Romas, the Punto uses one-piece front, rear and roof sections, which simplify construction and offer the additional benefit of better insulation. Frame construction is meranti timber, while the ribbed aluminium exterior wall cladding has the proven benefits of light weight and easy repair.
The LED external lighting is a modern touch which is now almost universal across the caravan industry.
Look underneath the Punto and you’ll find the 100mm DuraGal ‘Roadrunner’ chassis, leaf springs for the beam axle and 10in electric brakes.
Standard wheels are six-bolt, six-spoke 15in alloys shod with 235/75-15 Light Truck tyres. Other features include both a mains pressure inlet and a tap on the van’s A-frame, as well as a wall-mounted drop-down picnic table.
The large front boot behind the dual A-frame-mounted 9kg gas cylinders is usefully deep and as well as housing the Punto’s standard 100W deep-cycle battery, 30A battery charger and a powerpoint, it includes a light. A 120W roof-mounted solar panel helps keep the battery charged, too.
Behind the front boot, on the nearside of the van, is a tunnel boot ideal for storing folding chairs and other things you need to access during a roadside stop, while below is a bayonet for attaching an external barbecue.
Black checkerplate stone-protection is fitted along the lower sides of the van, but it does not extend far up the Punto’s nose.
The centre-entry door with its built-in drop step recess gives excellent access to the van’s interior, where you will find the Punto’s north-south island bed to the left, the galley/dinette to the right and, beyond that at the rear, the separate shower/toilet ensuite.
BEDROOM AND BEYOND
Large double-glazed Dometic windows at the front of the van surround the bed, creating a light, airy feel inside, making the van seem roomier than its 16ft 6in internal length. With their wide openings, the windows offer plenty of ventilation on hot nights.
This feeling of spaciousness was enhanced by our test Punto’s light-toned timber finish that extends to the flooring.
There is plenty of clothes storage, with hanging wardrobes either side of the bed and a cupboard below them and lockers above the bedhead, while the bed also lifts up for storage of other items such as linen, wine, etc.
The rectangular kitchen, with its four-burner Swift cooktop, offers good bench space, particularly with the sink insert in place, and the shape of the cupboard furniture gives it a distinctive, upmarket look. However, I found the standard Daewoo microwave to be set quite high – a problem for shorter people – while the van’s standard 110L Dometic three-way fridge-freezer seems to me to be on the small side for a caravan of this size.
On the plus side, there is a good water supply, with the Punto coming with
twin 84L tanks as standard.
The (optional) leather-trimmed cafe-style dinette opposite the kitchen provides comfortable seating for four or, if you prefer, you can specify the alternative L-shaped lounge during the build process.
With its wind-up Winegard antenna, the LCD TV can be viewed from the bed or the rearmost seats of the dinette, but couch potatoes would be better opting for the L-shaped dinette for the best view of their favourite programs. A JVC sound system with built-in speakers is also fitted.
A roof-mounted Aircommand Sparrow reverse-cycle air-conditioner and a Dometic Four Seasons hatch are fitted to take care of ventilation, heating and cooling.
The rear ensuite, meanwhile, ticks most of the boxes that today’s caravanner wants, with its separate swivelling Thetford cassette toilet and fibreglass shower cubicle – both with roof-mounted power hatches – separated by a washbasin and shielded from the van’s living quarters by a sliding door.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Roma Punto is an honest, well-equipped caravan from one of Australia’s oldest makers. Roma has been able to achieve its keen pricing by limiting buyer choices and paring down some the specifications, like the fridge and air-conditioning system, but the result is excellent value for money.
Roma estimates that about 40 per cent of the 350 caravans it builds on average each year are going to past Roma owners, which is not only comforting for potential purchases, but means good resale value in the long term.
- Value for money
- Very liveable, compact layout
- Ease of towing
I WOULD HAVE LIKED...
- A bigger fridge
- More front stone protection
Originally published in Caravan World #512, March 2013.