There are few caravan manufacturers that are as much a household name as Roma Caravans. Roma has been building caravans in Australia for more than 80 years, and its Best Aussie Vans entrant, the Sov’reign 17ft 6in pop-top, really shows it.
Breakdown - Roma Sov’reign 17ft 6in Pop-Top
Design and Construction
The Sov’reign has the fine blend of tradition and technology. The tried-and-trusted timber frame is clad in aluminium sheeting. The pop-top roof is locked into position with the typical tubular cantilever frame at each end of the top, but aside from that and the pop-top skirt keeping the elements out, this particular design is a radical departure from the norm.
One of the biggest bugbears people have with a pop-top – especially in a longer caravan like this one – is the amount of effort needed to get the roof up. The top can be heavy and, therefore, require a lot of effort to raise it into position. To combat this problem, Roma has included an air-lift system that raises and lowers the Sov’reign’s pop-top roof. It is a brilliant, effective idea.
Chassis and Suspension
The chassis has a galvanised 4in box section A-frame that extends back to the wheel set, while the body sits on a 4in steel gal frame with 2in longitudinal and lateral cross members. The A-frame has a lower rub guard as well. This kind of attention to detail to the chassis – the foundation of any caravan – is a promising start.
The A-frame houses the two 9kg gas cylinders and also offers a small amount of storage for firewood and so on with a mesh floor fitted towards the rear of the A-frame. The jockey wheel is centrally mounted, freeing up the rails for fitment of a weight distribution hitch.
The suspension is also a very reliable, traditional setup. The Rocker-Roller, load-sharing leaf spring design is a tandem-axle norm in the caravan industry, known for its superb simplicity and ease of maintenance. At the rear, a simple boxed section bumper bar accommodates the spare alloy wheel. Black checkerplate aluminium protection is fitted to the front of van, and it runs to just above the boot and along the sides.
The exterior has all you need to get out there and relax. The Dometic awning provides the shade over a nearside picnic table. The table is the usual lockable fold-down type but it is one of the larger ones available. And there is a gas bayonet outlet at the nearside front, which is a handy spot to set up a barbecue.
External storage is better than average, with a front boot and a tunnel boot. The strut-assisted front boot, which houses the battery and battery charger, is not a very deep space, while the tunnel boot – accessed by a lockable hatch on the nearside – is also not quite as deep as you might expect, as the air-conditioning unit is housed within it.
When you step inside via the two-piece security mesh door, you’re faced with a pleasant, traditional ambience. What you notice straight away is the extensive bench space – an absolute boon when out on the road.
There’s the rear kitchen on your right as you step in, with its stainless steel sink, low-mounted microwave and ample cupboard space and then, above the wheelset on the offside, is another bench, housing the cooker and oven and the large, 121L fridge/freezer.
This part of the interior feels a bit dark, especially with the dark-coloured benchtop used – so it could,Storage perhaps, do with another window here, although, admittedly, there would not be much height to put one in.
The shower/toilet combination in the rear offside corner, accessed via an opaque glass door, is roomy enough and there is something to be said for this layout – having it as far as possible from the bed.
The café-style dinette at the nearside is nicely trimmed in leatherette and has a tri-fold table. Because the dinette is located over the wheelset and there are cupboards and the air-conditioning outlet above, this is really only a two-seater arrangement, unless those sitting against the wall are small children.
The island bed has ample space to move around it and the bed itself is 1.88m long and 1.5m wide – queen-size in width, but not quite in length. Wardrobes on each side of the bed have mirrors on the doors and below them a bedside table and drawers. Both the small bedside tables and the bedhead area offer excellent storage for books, glasses and so on, sometimes overlooked in a caravan layout.
Interior storage is very good in this van – there are overhead lockers along the sides and above the bed, the bedside wardrobes and drawers, under-bed storage and, of course, a multitude of cupboards underneath the two benches. The dinette also has space under the seats and two lipped cubbies under the table.
Lighting is an important element of any caravan, and it certainly has not been overlooked here. There seven lights, three in the ceiling, two over the cafe dinette, one each side of the bed, all LED. There’s also lights in the Swift rangehood and a light in the bathroom. Two lights are fitted on the external nearside wall.
THE BOTTOM LINE
While this is, in some respects, a traditional van – in particular, its interior decor – it has a lot of well thought-out features and a dash of inspiration to it with the air-lift roof system. You could imagine yourself living in the Roma for a long time and really feeling like it is a home-away-from-home.
- Air-lift pop-top roof
- Ample bench space
- Strong chassis
I would have liked...
- More modern interior
- More headroom over dinette
The full test will appear in Caravan World #533, January 2015. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!