We have reviewed several Snowy River caravans over the last couple of years. Their great value SR20 won its class at 2019’s BLA CZone Best Aussie Vans event in October, so they have had their fair share of coverage. Even so, I’m not convinced we have given full credit for their innovative and determined approach to changing the face of the local caravan landscape.
When the monster RV Daide Group bought Regent Caravans six years ago, they purchased one of our better-known brands and decades of local caravanning knowhow. Based on a 130ha site 100km out of Shanghai in China’s east, RV Daide was already building cars and motorhomes. They began a multimillion-dollar, four-year program of development for a totally new range of caravans for the world market.
When introducing the Snowy River brand, RV Daide borrowed from the European, American and Australian caravan industries and added the experience and wish list of the Regent team. Unlike several half-baked attempts to import caravans from China and Europe that we have seen in the past few years, the Snowy River project started from the ground up to ensure a demanding Australian public would be satisfied with the result. Staff from the Australian side of the company spent months in China working with the factory to meet high levels of quality control and engineering suited to demanding local conditions.
Much of the development costs went into designing and producing the lightweight but immensely durable body panels. These are formed from outside layers of fibreglass sheet covering a mix of aluminium extrusions and high-density XPS insulating foam to make the walls and end sections.
Integral to the design is forming an infallible join of the fibreglass exterior to the internal foam so that no ripple effect becomes visible over time. Demonstrating the success of the process, the surfaces of our review van were perfectly smooth. The panels are permanently bonded with a 42mm composite floor and 32mm roof to form a robust monocoque structure that is also weatherproof.
Without getting too far into the pros and cons of Meranti timber frames used in many locally made vans, the fact is the Snowy River’s construction method answers the worries many buyers have about prospective rot in timber frames. In the eyes of those critics who claim the 'stick-built' product is past its use-by date, the composite Snowy should be a superior product.
The body of the van is completed in China and shipped on its chassis in a container to the Snowy River factory in Somerton, Victoria. There the wheels, electronics, plumbing and gas are fitted to Australian compliant standards before being distributed to dealers across the country.
Styling across the range from the compact 15 through to the more opulent 21 footer is a similarly conservative, well-balanced look with a swept-back front and a square rear end. Most models I have seen have been white, so the light brown Mocha sides and ends with black checkerplate and trim made a pleasant change. There’s also a light grey version available if you want to look the part of the tough offroad set, and a silver checkerplate option to be less obtrusive.
The chassis is 4in Duragal steel plus a 8in riser under the caravan body with a 6in A-frame and a 50mm ball hitch to the tow vehicle. The suspension is an Al-Ko rubber torsion system that utilises rubber blocks inside metal tubes to give torsional resistance as the van moves over uneven ground. It sounds simple, and it is. It’s also a very efficient way of delivering independent travel to each wheel in the tandem setup for comfortable dirt road travel.
Low ground clearance limits serious offroading, but corrugated tracks shouldn't be a problem if you ajdust your tyre pressure and drive to the conditions.
Two 95L water tanks are mounted high out of harm’s way on each side of the suspension and they have the added protection of checkerplate sheets. Meanwhile, all the plumbing and electrics are led sensibly and seem to have suitably sealed entry points to the van.
Up front is the usual collection of A-frame accessories, including a pair of 9kg gas bottles, a storage tray and a centrally located wind-up jockey wheel. There’s also a tap and a mains pressure fitting, but I would have liked some protection from flying stones. An aluminium cover protects the front window and lifts on struts when camped for extra light inside.
External storage is generous with both a front and full-width tunnel boot. The boot has a light and individual spaces for the tools for the awning clip and the wind-down corner jacks, and I also noted an Australian fitted gas compliance plate.
A single spare sits on a two-arm bar, a rear camera and external shower are standard, and the traffic lights are large LED’s that would be hard to miss.
Entry to the van is towards the back, and it was pleasing to see the designers were able to avoid a clash between the kitchen window and door when both are open. A fold-down table sits alongside power points, making a handy place for a television. The weatherproof speakers with Snowy River logos should impress. Overhead, a manual awning covers most of the outside area.
You get a hint of the upmarket interior when the push of a button deploys the two-stage step. Once aboard you are not disappointed. Nearly 1.9m head height adds to the good impression, and there's a good amount of light from large windows and two Ranger roof hatches. The layout is the popular rear ensuite and front bedroom, with the double benefit of a private sleeping space and quick access to the bathroom without having to tramp dirt through the van. The club lounge at the centre looks inviting, but when another switch slides it outward, the extra space is remarkable and welcome. Slide-outs are no longer a novelty, I know, but I still get a kick out of them and the incongruous amount of extra space that the 800mm movement conjures from nowhere.
Colours are muted, with off white granite benchtops against white walls and brown leather lounge and trim. The leather adds an extra element of class and the rounded corners and smooth finish on the seats is both practical and comfortable.
A 3-way 185L fridge is on the wall opposite the entrance, and a simple kitchen runs along the passenger side further back. While not as big as some would like, the kitchen is well equipped with contemporary caravan appliances, and it’s as large as possible in a 19ft van — perhaps a U-shaped slide-out kitchen is next, but imagine the plumbing nightmares.
Set into the rear of the kitchen bench, a Thetford Britain oven will be popular with the cook, and its folding lid adds some much-needed bench space. For times you need a quick snack when hooked up to 240V power, there’s a DLuxx microwave, but it’s mounted high over the bench so be careful. A stainless steel sink with draining board includes a smart-looking black mixer and separate filtered drinking water tap.
Overhead cupboards have a stylish rounded shape while those below include a small pantry. Hinges are sturdy and smooth, and drawers have positive self-closing latches.
Panoramic windows surround the club lounge for 180-degree views of the scenery. For a couple, there’s loads of room to spread out, enough for up to five adults, so there’s space for entertaining if that ever takes off again post-quarantine.
The queen size pillowtop mattress is comfortable, and access is easy around the bed area. There’s a side table, hanging closet and overhead cupboard each side of the bed. The under-bed space is free of pumps or electronics, so it offers ample storage space for bulky items.
Continuing the classy interior feeling is the rear ensuite, where a square washbasin and designer black mixer floats on the granite vanity ahead of a large makeup mirror. A 2.5kg top-load washer sits in the corner, and with a top sliding out over the toilet, there’s space for a washing basket. Ventilation is excellent, with extractor fans in the main room and shower.
Our review van has one 120W solar panel and one 105Ah battery, but subsequent versions have two of each so, along with two 95L water tanks and the gas fridge, you could spend a decent amount of time self-isolating. A BMPro Genius battery management system is charged through a JR New Energy solar controller. Wiring looks neat and well-executed, but it would be good to see fuse application marked at the controller.
Like the SR20 at Best Aussie Vans, the 19S tows smoothly and without sway even over rougher roads and at speed. It’s well balanced, and there was no banging from the 50mm ball hitch. With a 2516kg Tare weight, it was an easy drive behind the BT50 Mazda tow vehicle.
Payload is 600kg to an ATM at 3116kg, so even fully loaded it should match most of the twin cab utes currently out there.
Warranty is 12 months, which seems a touch light on, but a dedicated staff member takes care of any problems. An active, independent member forum is very positive about the van, and from all accounts, problems are rare and are sorted quickly.
Snowy River’s relationship with the Regent brand and their way of doing things give it an edge as an importer. All appliances and fittings in the van are known products, and many are used across the local industry. Build quality doesn't show any shortcuts and the vans are well-engineered to handle our rough roads and long-distance travel. So $64,990 as tested makes it excellent value, and the added living space the slide-out affords makes it an extremely comfortable van to live with.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Overall length 8.22m (26ft 9in)
External body length 6.4m (21ft)
External body width 2.42m (7ft 11in)
Travel height 3.12m (10ft 3in)
Internal height 1.9m (6ft 3in)
Payload 600kg (calculated)
Ball weight 126kg
Chassis 4in and 8in riser
Suspension torsion -1.8T ea
Coupling 50mm Al-Ko
Brakes 12in drum
Wheels 15in alloy 205/70 tyres
Water 2 x 95L
Battery 2 x100Ah
Solar 2 x 120W
Air conditioner Yes
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control Optional
Cooking recessed oven (fan-forced as optional upgrade)
Washing machine 2.5kg top load
Hot water Yes
PRICE AS SHOWN
To enquire about this caravan, please visit snowyrivercaravans.com.au or phone your closest dealer:
NSW: (02) 4421 2055
VIC: (03) 9798 3954
SA: (08) 8277 4388
QLD: (07) 5356 5000
TAS: (03) 6343 4191
NZ: (02) 1100 3852