From last year, Apollo Motorhome Holidays (which owns the Winnebago name in Australia) has been teasing us with the news that the new US-built Winnie Minnie caravans were on the way, but their actual presence was denied us for some time. Finally, the big moment arrived and the grand launch happened at the Victorian Caravan, Camping and Touring Supershow earlier this year.
Anyone visiting a major caravan show, especially for the first time, will know that vans often look pretty similar, especially on the outside but also on the inside, in many cases. Well, the Winnebago design team obviously gave that some thought and has come up with some striking external colours such as red, yellow and orange. Mine was a brilliant green.
As far as the colours go, though, the question is for you, the reader, as to whether you like to stand out in the crowd? If not, a more muted grey is also available.
LAYOUT & DESIGN
Since the Minnie is built in the US, you might expect it to have a slightly ‘American’ look inside and you’d be correct. However, it’s been toned down a bit, which is definitely more appealing to Australian eyes. Having talked to a number of importers, I know it can sometimes be difficult to get US manufacturers to change what they do, even decor colours, so this is something of an achievement in itself.
In keeping with fine Australian caravan tradition, Winnebago has opted for a front bedroom, rear bathroom layout for the Minnie 2206AUS. However, it does have a few variations – the offside club-style dinette is fitted into a slide-out and, while the nearside kitchen is on the small side, the rear bathroom is about the size of a small (caravan) bedroom!
This wouldn’t usually rate a mention but the Minnie is narrower than most caravans, with an external width of just 2.15m (7ft 1in) and I thought that was a bit curious, given most American things are usually bigger. There’s quite a simple explanation, though – they’re made to fit the width of a shipping container! It’s worth mentioning because the lack of width is noticeable inside, in particular around the bed, which feels a little cramped.
BEDROOM & STORAGE
The bedroom is a bit different to the conventional caravan style. It does have a queen-sized island bed, but the walkway on either side of the bed is narrower than usual. A bedside cabinet is supplied for the nearside bed occupant but their partner has to make do with a full-height wardrobe. Two overhead lockers are fitted but, given the front slope of the Minnie, they are set further back into the van than usual. There are no reading lights fitted and, instead, a single light is installed under the overhead lockers – in just about the right place for shining into a reader’s eyes, I thought.
A club-style lounge is fitted into the offside slide-out. It’s quite comfortable for two people but there’s a bit of a step getting in and out. Apparently this is due to the construction and mechanical drive of the slide-out, not a design feature and not easy to avoid. When the slide-out is closed up, it takes up a fair bit of space and needs to be slightly open to access the kitchen and the bathroom.
A neat little trick for getting a bit more kitchen cupboard and benchtop area is to make one end of the kitchen bench, in this case, the forward one, angle into the walkway. It doesn’t take up too much space but is quite effective for kitchen users. This particular kitchen comes with a familiar Dometic four-burner cooktop, grill and oven and a 186L Dometic fridge, and less-than-familiar twin bowl sink. Three drawers and a cupboard are fitted under the sink.
As bathrooms go, this Minnie has to have one of the biggest I have ever come across. Along the offside wall is a vanity cabinet complete with wash basin, cassette toilet and, in the rear corner, a US-style shower cubicle (that is, with frosted panels on three sides). This leaves the entire nearside for a three-door wardrobe that offers considerable hanging space and large shelves as well.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The obvious question that arises here is, of course, is this UB-built van suitable for Australian conditions? Without doing a three week, around-the-state, rough-road test, it’s a bit hard to answer that question fully. However, I’ll confidently make two observations.
One is that Apollo Motorhomes is a local manufacturer that is familiar with local conditions and has been down the imported caravan route before. It looked to me like the build quality has improved considerably from earlier imports.
The second point is that a weakness with some US imports in years gone by was in the suspension. While the Al-Ko suspension on the Minnie is only used by a few Australian manufacturers regularly, it is used by a number of importers who all seem to be happy with it.
Has it been worth the wait for the very new and somewhat different Winnebago Minnie range of caravans? In short, the answer is, yes. Although I didn’t really like the space ratios of this particular layout – a bit too much bathroom and not quite enough kitchen and bedroom – I did like that the Minnie is different to just about anything else around. In a crowded market, that’s a really good feature.
- Easy-to-tow van
- Different external and internal look
- External storage capacity
- Internal wardrobe
- Good-sized club lounge and table
I would have liked...
- Less enclosed bedroom area
- Lower step to slide-out
- Larger windows
- Bedside reading lights
The full test appears in Caravan World #538 June 2015.