One of the benefits of buying a caravan from a manufacturer like Jayco – Australia’s largest – is that there’s something available for every wish and budget. When Caravan World is looking for caravans to review, manufacturers will often offer their top-line models, which can be quite large and heavy. However, I like to make an effort to look at all aspects of the market, particularly the smaller, lighter and cheaper models – hence, the subject of this review; a Jayco Starcraft 15 pop-top, kindly supplied by Jayco Sydney, which rings up the register at a measly $34,789 (NSW)!
One of the most noticeable things about the Starcraft 15 is its size – or lack thereof. It’s just 4.9m (16ft 1in) long and has a travelling height of just 2.23m (7ft 4in). That’s mighty attractive to anyone who fancies the caravan lifestyle but is daunted by hauling a large towing combination.
Having done a quick spin down the freeway and into the hills of the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, I can definitively say the little Jayco is a very easy tow indeed. One other distinct advantage is that it’s not too difficult to push the van around by hand – which is definitely an asset when you’re hitching up.
Jayco’s caravan construction technique is fairly standard throughout its enormous range. The Jayco Endurance chassis is designed in-house and, in this case, has 100x50mm (4ix2in) main rails and drawbar. Where it differs from a typical industry chassis is in the cross members. Instead of being 50x50mm (2ix2in) RHS, Jayco uses pressed steel C section – the C section still gives good strength but the punched holes reduce the overall weight of the members.
Jayco has long used an aluminium frame for the bodies of its caravans, believing that the lightweight to strength ratio is superior to that of timber and that aluminium doesn’t have a problem with damp conditions. For the walls, a vacuum bonded structure of aluminium cladding/plywood/aluminium/polystyrene/plywood is used. And, up top, the one-piece roof is designed to be hail resistant.
Storage is limited to a fairly small front tunnel boot but it’s large enough for all the camping basics, like hoses, camp chairs and wheel ramps. There is also an awning, something most require as essential these days. This one has an LED light strip along the Carefree awning roller, giving a nice light balance when used in conjunction with the wall light.
On the drawbar, there’s one 9kg gas cylinder which is going to last almost forever if you just use it for cooking. However, for easier handling and monitoring, I thought two smaller 4.5kg cylinders would be better.
When a caravan doesn’t have a bathroom of any sort – like this Starcraft – you can achieve a surprisingly spacious layout, even in a van of this length. Even without the space it takes up, the bulk of a bathroom makes a visual difference.
In this case, with nothing except air above shoulder height, the spacious feeling is of the Starcraft is enhanced. What we end up with is a layout with a front island bed and an L-shaped dinette in the rear offside corner, leaving room for a kitchen in the middle.
There is an alternative layout available with single beds up front. And, for the less agile, that may well be the preferred layout. Lifting the roof is simply a matter of undoing the external corner clips, setting the awning to ‘open’ and using the lifting mechanism at either end inside to lift the roof. And that’s where the single beds have an advantage because you need to clamber on to the double bed to do that here.
The bedroom is fairly conventional, except that the overhead lockers above the bed are lower than usual, due to the pop-top. But, otherwise, there is the normal amount of cupboard and drawer space. Lifting the posture slat bed base reveals a generous storage space that doesn’t even house the house battery – which is an option. With the bed base extended to full length, the walkway is a bit tight against the kitchen bench.
KITCHEN AND DINING
Jayco has opted for an L-shaped kitchen bench with the four-burner cooktop/grill against the wall and the stainless steel sink/drainer in the right-angled section. Some of the under-bench area is taken up by the microwave oven but otherwise, there’s a good selection of drawers and cupboards. On the opposite side of the van, the optional 164L three-way fridge should provide enough capacity for most users.
In a van layout like this, the corner lounge arrangement works well. It’s designed so that two people can get in and out quite easily. Underneath the seats there are a couple of drawers and also a double powerpoint. However, the latter might be better wall-mounted – less leads to trip over.
Above the rear corner cupboard, the wall space is used for a flatscreen TV mounting but it’s a bit awkward viewing for the person in the rear wall seat, unless they turn sideways and put their feet up!
THE BOTTOM LINE
This Jayco Starcraft pop-top might not have a shower or toilet but for anyone who is content with the caravan park lifestyle, then it’s a winner on several fronts: relatively lightweight towing, minimal storage space requirements (both ground space and height) and still with a good internal living area space. And, on top of all that, it’s a supremely affordable van!
HITS AND MISSES
- Can be towed by small vehicle
- Easy to manoeuvre and store
- Reasonably spacious layout
- Easy to set up
- Dinette ideal for two
- Single 9kg gas cylinder rather than two 4.5kg
- Lack of space around bed and kitchen bench
- TV viewing is a bit awkward
Weights and Measures
- Overall length 6.28m (20ft 7in)
- External body length 4.86m (15ft 9in)
- External body width 2.47m (8ft 1in)
- Travel height 2.23m (7ft 4in)
- Internal height 2.05m (6ft 9in)
- Tare 1299kg
- ATM 1630kg
- Payload 331kg
- Ball weight 130kg
Price as shown
The full feature appeared in Caravan World #566. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!