These days, many caravans tend to be large and very well-appointed, meaning they can are also be quite heavy and, often, pricey. But there’s also a good range of smaller RVs that are particularly well-suited to families on a tight budget.
LAYOUT & DESIGN
Take, for instance, the Jayco Expanda 14.44-4. It has a body length of just 4.56m (15ft) and a Tare weight of 1428kg, along with a load capacity of 322kg and, yet, it is designed for a family of four. Sure, with those specifications it obviously doesn’t have a huge interior living area, but for families who prefer to spend their time outdoors anyway, it is worth a good look.
The Expanda’s body structure has a familiar feel to it, with an aluminium frame, high density polystyrene foam insulation, internal and external 3mm plywood to cover both and an external covering of fibreglass. It’s all vacuum-bonded together for strength while still keeping the weight down.
The front extension means there’s no space for a front boot. Instead, there’s a small front tunnel boot which can also be accessed from inside, and a rear storage bin with access from the rear offside. It’s not overkill in terms of storage, but should be adequate for most family holidays.
BEDROOM & STORAGE
There are two layout options in Jayco’s ‘14’ pop-top range. Both have the front extending bedroom, front offside dinette and mid-to-rear kitchen. The only difference is at the back – one layout has a small, full-width rear bathroom and the other has two bunks. Our review van had the bunk option. This layout is designed for a young family who would mostly be staying in caravan parks.
As with any good tented bedroom, there are screened windows all-round with internal privacy and weather flaps, which provides good airflow. It’s a relatively confined space, but there is still room for two people to sleep comfortably in the 1.93x1.4m (6ft 4in x 4ft 7in) bed. Although there are no fixed lights in the tent, Jayco has a simple system that incorporates an LED light on a flexible cord, which plugs into the ceiling lamp.
There is no storage in the canvas bed end but there’s a row of overhead lockers at the top of the front wall. Additionally, the tunnel storage can be easily accessed by a couple of ply hatches at the front of the bed.
At the other end of the van, the 1.95x0.71m (6ft 5in x 2ft 4in) bunks are generously sized for junior family members and will even be comfortable for adults – a rarity for caravan bunks. Both beds can be curtained off and have a powerpoint, a light for reading and a small storage locker. A lightweight aluminium ladder saves a scramble to the top bunk and a floor locker provides access to the under-bed storage.
A family of four, with two smaller kids, could fit into the cafe-style dinette without too much trouble. And, after dinner, the dinette can be converted into yet another bed, with the help of the optional bed converter.
There are two overhead lockers above the dinette and two drawers fitted under the seats – a much better arrangement than fiddling around with ply hatches and seat cushions. There’s a double powerpoint between the seats, fairly close to floor level, but I wondered if it might be more convenient located in the cabinet near the fridge.
Additional cabinets are located at diagonally opposite corners in the van. Between the fridge and rear bunks is a small wardrobe offering both hanging space and shelving. On the other side, between the entry door and front bed, there’s a cupboard as well as space for a flatscreen TV and the outlet for the split-system Heron 2.2 air-conditioner. A very versatile arrangement.
THE BOTTOM LINE
While there are certainly larger Expanda vans available – with extending beds at both ends and even with a slide-out – what I like about this little Expanda is that it demonstrates that a practical family layout can be achieved in a relatively small pop-top caravan.
Although often overshadowed by its much larger brothers and sisters, the little Expanda 14.44-4 certainly has a lot to offer.
HITS & MISSES
- Practical family layout in a small van
- Good bunk bed arrangement
- Reasonably-sized kitchen and dinette
- Good internal storage capability
- Slightly awkward placement of the powerpoint under the table
- Low mounting of sound system speakers