Karakampa has been making a name for itself, slowly but surely, over the years. And when Centaur Products, the owner, launched an offroad version of its compact highway tourer, we were the first to hitch it up when it returned from the Border Expo in August, where it made its debut.
Though it doesn’t sit as high as other offroaders in its class, the Karakampa Series II Freedom has a certain swagger, with its smooth, upward-sweeping nose, and squared-off rear. But its appeal lies not in its appearance alone; rather, it’s the overall attention paid to its fit and finish and the excellent use of space that grabbed our interest.
Between 25 and 30 standard Karakampas are built each year; clearly, it is a boutique offering. And with the Series II Freedom having only just hit the ‘shelves’, time will tell if the market has an appetite for another offroad hybrid. But, on first inspection, it’s clear that this pocket-sized rig deserves to find a place.
DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION
The Karakampa is an intriguing unit. Built on a hot-dipped galvanised chassis with one-piece fibreglass sandwich panel walls and a one-piece roof and rear section (with cedar inserts for added strength and rigidity), there are very few outer joins and those that couldn’t be avoided are expertly finished.
This lightweight construction adds up to the surprisingly low Tare of 1440kg (standard Karakampas weigh even less), with an ATM of 2000kg. A payload of 560kg ain’t bad!
The Series II Freedom has been fitted with a suite of features to make it offroad ready. Included in the package are Al-Ko Enduro Outback suspension, two 80W solar panels feeding two 100Ah deep-cycle batteries kept in an offside locker, an 82L fresh water tank, a removable stoneguard and more. But the best bit, in my opinion, is the 82L grey water tank. No, it doesn’t add to the van’s strength or otherwise enhance its ability to tackle rough-and-tumble tracks; however, there aren’t too many vans – let alone so-called offroaders – with grey water tanks. That one has been fitted to a rig measuring 5.9m (19ft 4in) front to back is a challenge to other manufacturers.
From an offroad point of view, however, the Karakampa is missing a couple of key items: an offroad coupling and all-terrain tyres. The Al-Ko ball coupling and highway-pattern rubber won’t cut the mustard when the going gets tough.
Having said that, there is a bucketload of storage space – important for a van designed to get off the beaten track. The front boot is good and deep, with a lid held in place by a sturdy catch. Behind the stoneguard, meanwhile, is a tunnel boot accessible from either side. Just unclip the guard and open the locker door. Easy.
On the 4in box-steel A-frame, you’ll find the spare wheel and a single 9kg gas cylinder, along with a swing-up jockey wheel. The only (small) problem: it’s difficult to wind the jockey wheel because of its close proximity to the gas cylinder.
The smooth fibreglass theme continues inside the Karakampa. With moulded fibreglass cabinets, bed base, dinette base and more, it feels clean and modern.
The kitchen is on the offside of the van, near the entrance, and comes fitted with a stainless steel Dometic sink and three-burner cooktop. Now, 240V appliances (air-conditioner and microwave) have been removed from the Series II Freedom, the thinking being powering them in remote areas is difficult. That’s debatable, but it does keep the price and cost down a little.
A remarkable amount of storage space is on offer in the kitchen, with three cupboards above the benchtop and some cabinets either side of the Waeco two-way fridge. The fresh and grey water tank gauges are at the end of the bench, next to the entrance, along with a 240V and 12V powerpoint.
Opposite the kitchen, the dinette works well enough, though access to the storage space beneath the shorter lounge is a little awkward, while the space beneath the other seat is completely occupied by the wheel arch. Speaking of storage, there are two lockers above the dinette; however, they can only be opened one at a time, otherwise the doors bind against each other.
The bedroom gets lots of storage space, too, with a large cabinet on the offside and a small wardrobe either side of the double bed (1.87x1.34m). The bed base lifts easily on gas struts to reveal a storage area beneath. It’s a modest space due to the imposition of the tunnel boot but it’s a worthwhile trade-off, in my opinion. Sensible, a 240V powerpoint is fitted either side of the bed, so both partners can charge their phones or power their laptops.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Karakampa Series II Freedom mightn’t have every feature under the sun but it is, nonetheless, an attractive package. The grey water tank is a plus and should arguably be fitted to all modern vans, and the bathroom, while not a new design, is well integrated.
Though it doesn’t offer acres of square-footage, the fibreglassing and overall attention to detail are first rate.
As a two-person getaway machine with some offroad aptitude, it’s got a lot to offer.
- Grey water tank
- Dual batteries and solar
- Excellent fibreglass finish
- Locker doors above the dinette unable to open at the same time
- Jockey wheel difficult to wind.