2014 BAV: Retreat Spinnaker

Laura Keys — 26 December 2014

The Spinnaker is one of just a few Retreat vans without an island-inspired moniker (although there is a tiny island named Spinnaker in Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin), but its name still evokes the nautical feeling Retreat is chasing. That feeling is enhanced by the oceanic blue tones used for the external decals and interior accents. Love it or hate it, the Retreat’s maritime-inspired colour scheme is sure to provoke a reaction. And it was a favourable one from all our BAV judges, setting it up on the path to victory in this year’s $50K-$65K category.

But what really helped the Spinnaker sail into first place was the high quality of finish evident throughout the van, with nary a dollop of sealant out of place, and the extensive list of goodies befitting a larger van in a higher price range.

Design and Construction

From the outside, there are a few things about the Spinnaker that stand out. The first is those distinctive blue decals that flash down each side. The second distinguishing feature is the slightly snub-nosed front. On first impressions, the van does not look as aerodynamic in shape as some. That front is, however, seriously well protected from road debris and damage, with black checkerplate to shoulder height and black checkerplate-patterned padded protection running almost to full-height. Add a couple of grab handles on the body, two 9kg gas cylinders (unprotected), mesh rack, central jockey wheel, standard ball hitch, a tap, and Al-Ko’s Electronic Stability Control on the A-frame and there’s everything you’d expect to see on an on-road van of this calibre.

It’s worth mentioning the Spinnaker’s A-frame tap, which is well-protected by a small checkerplate stoneguard. While this is literally a 50-cent fix, it adds immeasurable protection and indicates that the manufacturer has their thinking cap on. It is also something missing from too many modern vans.


The Spinnaker’s layout follows a popular narrative, with a front bed, nearside café-style dinette, offside kitchen and full-width rear bathroom. And for a van that’s 20ft long, Retreat has done a fine job getting all that in there and still leaving room to move around.
The front bed measures 1.86x1.5m (6ft 1in x 4ft 11in) and could do with being a couple of inches longer. Bedside and overhead storage is plentiful, while bonus extras include bedside cubbyholes, reading lights and one powerpoint on each side. There are another two powerpoints above the offside window, as well as the TV aerial socket.

The offside kitchen bench, which sits beneath the full-length aqua splashback, doesn’t look particularly large but it, somehow, manages to squeeze in a deep sink with drainer and filter tap, four-burner cooktop with grill below and 460mm of free bench space, which will make meal preparation quick and easy, with no need to cut and chop on top of the sink or stove.


Again, there is no shortage of storage and a half-height slide-out pantry has also been included. The solar regulator, water pump, water heater switch and fuses are located in the rear overhead cupboard, while the Axis touchscreen entertainment unit and the digital water level monitor sit next to it. A 190L Dometic three-way fridge rounds out the kitchen essentials.

The Bottom Line

Whether we like it or not, first impressions do count and, happily for the Retreat Spinnaker, it makes a darn good one. But it also has the goods to back it up, which is what helped propel the van into the Best Aussie Vans’ winner’s circle. The quality of finish was near flawless, the list of inclusions impressively long and the build quality second to none.
The van is perfectly suited for a touring couple who wants to hit the road long-term or stay off the grid for a few days – and that’s the stuff dreams are made of.

Measuring up

I liked...

  • Internal colour scheme
  • Length of kitchen bench
  • Having USB plugs

I would have liked...

  • A longer bed
  • Lower microwave


The full test will appear in Caravan World #533, January 2015. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month! 


Retreat Spinnaker Test Review video review test


Ellen Dewar and Nathan Jacobs