TRACK Trailer bought Pioneer and Trakmaster in 2020 with big plans for these two iconic brands. COVID intervened, and while TRACK spent the downtime on engineering and concept planning, it has taken longer than the company hoped to develop contemporary models. The recent release of the Pioneer Verve is a powerful indicator that TRACK is ‘on track’ to build on its range of high-quality camper hybrids and caravans.
The Verve sits perfectly in the growing tribe of hybrids, and it’s encouraging to see a locally grown version taking on the stream of imports in the sector. The Verve joins the recently released Cub C16 as an alternative for those looking for a locally manufactured high-end and very capable compact van.
On meeting TRACK marketing manager Lloyd Waldron and his wife Kylie, it was immediately obvious TRACK hadn’t wasted the COVID years. The Verve is a standout. Lloyd and Kylie were heading back to their Melbourne base after a promotional tour with the new van, and we met at Gillards Campground on the NSW south coast, not far from our home base.
The new Verve adds to TRACK’s range of recreational vehicles with a full-height caravan to complement its selection of TRACK T4 pop-tops. It’s a natural evolution of the Pioneer name that has included hardcore offroad trailers like the Mitchell ‘super hybrid camper’, impressive enough to score our Camper of the Year award in 2017. And while it continues the hardcore Pioneer tradition, there’s also a blend of TRACK and Trakmaster technology in the mix.
At first sight, the Verve belies its internal length of 14ft (4.3m) because a substantial storage space up front and more options at the rear give a roomier impression. External body length is 6.3m (7m with a bike rack), and travel height is 2.8m (3m with AC), reinforcing the bulky image. Styling stays true to the Pioneer colour choices of grey, black and red, with red metal corner caps down the back and a set of red MAXTRAX helping tie everything neatly together. Black graphics along the sides give a modern appeal and a sense of purpose with a stylised arrow pointing forward. The look is distinctive, fresh and tough without resorting to acres of checkerplate.
TRACK is a leader in the offroad camper scene and its robust and reliable build quality shows in the new Verve. The in-house construction method is unusual and has been developed from the process for their campers and hybrids. A frameless process sees individual powder-coated sheet metal wall panels over closed cell foam bonded together with internal fixings and an external skeletal support. Each rivetted panel has end folds, so there is no exposed foam and no chance of water or dust ingress. The result is strong and relatively lightweight, and once the single-piece roof and floor are bonded in place, the structure is a single monocoque entity. The wall structure includes mounting points for internal furniture to add even more to the overall strength. The electronics are neatly installed with a custom loom, including quality fittings and appropriate spec wire, but more on the battery system later.
The body sits on a hot dipped galvanised ladder chassis for which TRACK claims a fourfold increase in rust protection from the process over DuraGal. The chassis was engineered along with the new Trakmaster Trak-Two independent suspension for even weight distribution and a ball weight in the 10–15 per cent range for safe towing. I understand that new owners get a thorough briefing on weight distribution as the front storage compartments are huge, with the potential to be overloaded.
Incorporating the Trakmaster name into the build is a smart move. Trakmaster suspension has a great reputation in the caravan industry, and this latest version reflects the original trailing arm angles and dimensions and includes twin custom-made shock absorbers at each wheel. According to TRACK, the suspension considers the overall dimensions of the body and is tuned to reduce sway during long corners or wind buffeting, such as by a passing truck. By managing these factors at the design stage, TRACK ensures that the Pioneer Verve will tow superbly behind 4WDs that are appropriately specified.
A 150L and a 100L freshwater tank are positioned on either side of the single axle, and a 50L grey tank is standard. The spare wheel is also chassis mounted, with a wind-down winch to retrieve it.
The aerodynamic contours up front have a modern look that sets the Verve apart and should cut back on fuel bills. For a hybrid van to be successful, it needs loads of internal and external storage, and for a 14ft version, the Verve is a standout for soaking up all your travel needs. We mentioned the up front space, but let’s emphasise the size. Front boot side lockers are 120L each, and there are 750L and 900L boxes in the main section. There are also sealed hatches on both sides and provision at the rear bumper for more.
A valuable feature is a single-piece door over the entire front section for easily locating and accessing everything. All hatches and doors have automotive-quality rubber seals and compression locks for weatherproofing and security. Unless you opt for a fully electric power system, twin 4kg gas bottles store in one of the lower hatches. You also get a set of ARB tie-down rails and four movable mounting points.
In the hybrid tradition, most of the cooking will be outdoors, where shelves in the side pantry are handy for often-used essentials. Our review van boasted the larger premium slide-out kitchen as an option, and it’s a beauty. Centrally located between a slide-out 95L fridge/freezer and the side pantry, the stainless steel and alloy kitchen is beautifully crafted with rounded edges and powder coating for a durable finish. A Thetford three-burner cooktop has a glass lid accompanied by a matching stainless-steel sink that slides out from the main structure to add a workspace for outdoor cooking. Meanwhile, integrated wind guards pop into place to keep us cooking when it came to mealtime.
A wind-out awning covers the main exterior area, and there’s an extra cover that slides into the sail TRACK for the fridge.
At the rear, a sturdy bar has options for a mix of jerry cans, a wood box, an extra spare tyre or bike racks. Mix and match your requirements. A couple of exterior features result from TRACK’s offroad experience. The entry step is removable because a fold-down version won’t last the distance on rough terrain. Similarly, the corner stays are removable because they, too, can be vulnerable if the going is extreme.
Not all caravan entry doors are as secure and well-built as the one on the Verve. A strong single-piece aluminium exterior panel, an interior insect and a theft-resistant screen work a treat and look the part. And once inside, the layout makes the most of the relatively compact space.
From the concept drawings, TRACK envisioned a versatile layout that would suit a big range of expectations, so you should be able to find a setup to work. Options include a north-south bed with seating for four at the dinette, an east-west bed that will give seating for six and the possibility of a fold-down bunk and a set of singles. The review van went with the north-south couple’s bed, which left room for twin seats and a single seat on the RHS of the living space and a removable and swivelling table.
High cupboards all around show the storage advantage of a full-height caravan, and there is more space inside cabinets and in every available area. The bench at the back has an optional 85L fridge and drawers with manual central locking to keep them closed when travelling.
A combination shower and cassette toilet in the driver-side rear quarter has ample room to move, decent access and good ventilation. Composting toilet options are also available.
Located on the rear wall is a small kitchenette with a sink and provision for cooking meals if the weather is crook. You could set up an induction cooktop here and not have to worry about gas vents which would be a bonus for keeping things clean inside. Owners control which water tank is in use from here, and there’s an option for drawing from an external source.
On reflection, it is amazing what today’s builders fit into a small space. There’s enough room to move, comfortable sleeping and very usable seating for dining or relaxing.
Two 200W roof-mounted solar panels power a 250Ah Revolution lithium battery through a REDARC Manager 30 charger. A RedVision screen near the door keeps the condition up to date, and you can Bluetooth it to your phone for remote updates. A REDARC 1000W inverter is standard, and that’s enough to keep devices and small 240V appliances running. For more power, you can also add a third 200W panel to get 600W and up to three additional 250Ah lithium batteries to get to 1000Ah. The inverter can also be upgraded to take full advantage.
From experience, there are enough standard electronics for most situations, even in cloudy weather. If you start churning through power with Starlink, you will need an upgrade or consider a small backup generator to top up the batteries.
The 250L of freshwater will also be enough if you are frugal with showers. Camped next to a stream, you can stay as long as you like.
The Verve’s relatively light weight, offroad suspension and narrow two-metre width make it the ideal adventure vehicle. Dexter sway control is a standard feature that adds to the safety margin. Lloyd and Kylie arrived with the van behind a short wheelbase Prado and reported a 13L/100km average for their travels. So, there are loads of mid-size 4WDs that will suit. The van followed faithfully and smoothly down the dirt tracks into camp and quickly backed and turned into a tight spot for our photos.
As we transition to electric vehicles, we are heading to a new era in caravanning, so smaller vans make sense. What TRACK has done with the Pioneer Verve makes a lot of sense. It broadens its brand appeal and gives a full-height option to complement the T4 pop-top offerings.
Thousands of owners are touring the country in big-arse offroad vans, and many realise they can only get into some of the hard-to-reach places with such a big load. Some will be tempted to downsize and have another go, and hybrids like the Verve might be a more suitable choice.
The Verve has many smart features and an enduring build quality that only comes from an experienced offroad builder. The $129,795 price point puts it in the higher end of its sector but reflects a van that will perform well and last for generations.
HITS AND MISSES
- Compact and lightweight to get you into remote places
- Iconic local brand with valuable experience
- Smart design makes the best of a small space
- Quality costs
PIONEER VERVE RATINGS
VALUE FOR MONEY
Priced well among its locally made competitors, but struggles against imports
Well-sorted suspension and relatively light weight mean it tows easily and will suit many mid-range vehicles
SUITABILITY FOR INTENDED TOURING
Compact design and ample electronics make it suited for narrow tracks and lengthy stays off the grid
Innovative modern build that should last generations
Compact van with all the necessities. Will suit if you enjoy outside cooking
The standard package will suit most but you will need more solar and battery with Starlink and induction cooking
TRACK and Pioneer Campers have a good reputation for looking after their products
A mix of proven process and design. A lot of little features make camping life easier
A great-looking van with a well-won reputation for quality
PIONEER VERVE SPECS
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
|Internal body length||4.3 (14ft)|
|External body length||6.3m (20ft 8in|
|Overall length||8.1m (26ft 6in)|
|Width||1.99m (6ft 5in)|
|Height||2.8m (9ft 1in)|
|Ball weight (at tare)||196kg|
|Ball to tare ratio||10.4%|
|Frame||Riveted panels and external skeleton|
|Cladding||Powder-coated sheet metal|
|Chassis||Ladder section hot dip galvanised 150 x 50 x 4mm RHS|
|Suspension||Independent trailing arm, twin shock absorbers|
|Brakes||12in Cruisemaster drums|
|Water||1 x 150L and 1 x 100L freshwater, 1 x 50L greywater tank|
|Battery||1 x 250Ah Lithium|
|Solar||2 x 200W|
|Gas||2 x 4kg|
|Cooking||External Thetford three-burner gas cooktop option|
|Fridge||85L internal, 95L external fridge/freezer|
|Bathroom||Combination shower and cassette toilet|
|Hot water||14L gas electric|
Pioneer Verve price from $129,795
- N/S bed orientation and bedside consoles
- Truma roof-mounted reverse cycle air-conditioner
- 2 x drawer unit including USB and 240V outlets, magazine holder, central locking
- 900W microwave
- Internal three-burner stove
- Internal upright 85L fridge
- Sail awning (extending alongside front nose cone)
- 2 x Jerry can module
Pioneer Verve price as shown $151,635
Bayswater North Vic 3153
P: (03) 8727 6100
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