After a couple of false starts earlier this year — thanks to the wet weather we had been experiencing and the start of the show season — I finally found myself at the headquarters of Windsor Caravans at Northgate in Brisbane.
Thankfully, on what could only be described as a glorious summer’s day, the weather wasn’t going to be a problem, so we hitched the Windsor Genesis 196MD up behind the D-Max, checked the tail-lights and safety chains and pulled out into morning rush hour traffic.
Thanks to the relatively low tare of 2031kg, with little fuss we were soon merging onto the M1 at Nudgee and making our way north to the idyllic surrounds of Bribie Island for our day of testing.
Primarily designed for black top touring, you would expect the Genesis 196MD to behave well at highway speeds. Apart from a couple of times when those big, bad B-Doubles got a little too close when overtaking us, the van towed and tracked well at speeds up to 100km/h.
The Genesis 196MD utilises the AL-KO IRS suspension system on both axles, giving it stable footing on the bitumen, while also allowing it to tackle the occasional gravel track so you can get to that secret camping spot — the standard 50mm hitch will likely limit your offroad expectations before the suspension does.
First and foremost, the Genesis 196MD is a family van, and it's a family van that is going to spend the majority of its time on the bitumen and in caravan parks for family holidays around Australia.
It doesn't pretend to be something it isn’t — an offroad van — so you won't find metre upon metre of aluminium checkerplate wrapped around its lower section. Instead, you'll find a carbon fibre sticker, which adds a bit of flair without adding unnecessary weight.
It's also priced right. At a shade under $61k, it sits smack bang in the middle of the ultra-competitive mid-priced touring market. And while it does have a lot of standard features, there are more options you can add to make this van all your own. For a young family about to hit the road, who don't want to stray too far off the well-beaten path, this van will tick a lot of boxes.
FROM THE GROUND UP
As previously mentioned, the dual axle Genesis 196MD runs on the AL-KO Independent Rubber System (IRS) suspension, which gives it good manners for highway and well-maintained dirt road touring. It's also a relatively compact system, allowing the caravan to have a lower ride height and subsequently a lower centre of gravity.
The Genesis rolls along on light truck rated 235/75R15 All Terrain tyres which are wrapped around black alloy rims. A single spare tyre is mounted underneath, forward of the axles and offset to the passenger side, making it that little bit easier to access when required. AL-KO 10in electric brakes provide the stopping power, but Electronic Stability Control is an optional extra.
Windsor caravans utilise a 150mm x 50mm, one-piece, hot dipped galvanised steel chassis and drawbar to minimise weight and maximise strength — it’s also laminated at high stress points. Cross bracing is in the form of 50mm x 50mm galvanised steel, while 25mm x 25mm sections support the two 82L water tanks which have a zincalume shroud for protection from errant rocks.
Missing from the standard range of features is a grey water tank, which is instead optional — there is plenty of room underneath for one — and will be needed if you are looking to do any travel away from parks.
While the majority of the wiring, plumbing and gas lines were run high and tucked in tight against the chassis rail, there were a few items that grabbed my attention.
The first was the wiring to the brakes. In all four instances, the final 150–200mm of wiring is unprotected. The use of a standard 2-pole automotive connector is also highly susceptible to water ingress and hence, corrosion, leaving you with potentially less than optimal braking performance. A weatherproof Deutsch connector and some split tube convolute would make a lot more sense.
Secondly, two protrusions through the single piece composite floor beneath the vanity unit on the offside of the van have not been sealed off. Elsewhere, these penetrations have been filled with silicone to keep the dust and water out.
Finally, the filler hose for the freshwater tanks has a couple of issues. Firstly, it has been cut too long and hangs below the chassis rail making it a prime target to be snagged by a stray stick. Secondly, it passes through a hole in one of the 50mm x 50mm cross braces that has a raw and sharp edge to it. It wouldn't take a lot of driving for this to become a problem.
BIG WHITE BOX
Traditional manufacturing methods have given way to 21st century technology, with all new Windsor caravans employing structural composite panels with an XPS (extruded polystyrene) foam core for better insulation properties.
The roof, walls and floor are all constructed from a single piece, with an aluminium extrusion used on the corners to join the pieces together. Interior and exterior walls are finished in a high-gloss gel coat and you get to choose the colour of the decals.
Along the near side of the van, a manually operated Carefree awning and fold down picnic table are the main features. While the van has been pre-wired with an external TV antenna, 12V and USB points, the external TV mount is an optional extra. A fold down Thule step and illuminated grab handle make getting inside that little bit easier.
External storage is limited to the full width tunnel boot at the front of the van. A toolbox could be added to the drawbar for additional storage, but you will need to be mindful of the 469kg payload you have to play with.
The tunnel boot also houses the Camec breakaway system, the single 120Ah battery (in a battery box), as well as the solar charge controller (which is fed by a single 150W panel) and Projecta 12V charging system.
Unfortunately, the battery box limits storage space, while the untidy wiring associated with the 12V system would be prone to get caught when packing or unpacking items — a better solution would have been to house the battery and associated components under the lounge seats inside.
If approaching from behind, the rear of the van looks more like a motorhome than a caravan, with its moulded rear bumper with integrated LED tail-lights, although the Genesis misses out on a reversing camera straight from the factory.
Upon stepping inside, no doubt the first thing you'll notice is the east–west queen-sized master bed. Well, at least that is what caught my eye, perhaps because I'm not a massive fan of the concept — the thought of having to climb over your partner, or be climbed over yourself, in the middle of the night just doesn't do it for me.
I understand the reasons behind the design, but I'm sure it would get pretty tiring if you were spending an extended period of time living out of the van.
For those out there who like me, aren’t overly fond of the east-west bed orientation, Windsor have your back by way of the 22ft Genesis 220MD. This is another family friendly, twin bunk van from the new Genesis range, but with a north-south bed configuration. I'll leave it up to you to decide whether the extra van length and floorplan are worth spending another $5500.
With only small windows at the foot and head of the bed, and the absence of a 12V fan or two, the IBIS 4 air conditioner will get plenty of use during the warmer months.
Storage needs are taken care of by four overhead lockers and three large underbed drawers. Surprisingly, these drawers missed out on the soft close feature found elsewhere in the van.
A great little nook and shelf are located at the foot of the bed, complete with a pair of 240V power outlets, twin USB socket and a standard 12V socket — there are no excuses for not having everything charged up and ready to go.
Occupying the central section of the nearside wall in the van is the small, but functional galley kitchen. It's got all the usual suspects, with the Thetford stove (one electric/three gas) and grill, large stainless-steel sink with mixer and filtered water, a Camec 25L microwave and a 188L Dometic slimline 3-way fridge/freezer.
Preparation space is limited, but a clever lift up extension can be employed to gain a bit more. The only issue is, when this extension is in use, it protrudes past the doorway, somewhat limiting access in and out of the van.
Four large drawers and a pair of cupboards below the sink, paired with overhead lockers, provide adequate storage for cooking equipment and pantry items.
Located on the opposite wall to the kitchen is the cafe dinette/lounge area.
While the majority of dining would no doubt take place outside under the awning, taking advantage of our wonderful climate, I think you would struggle to fit two adults and two children around the inside dining table.
Another bank of 240V power points, USB and 12V charging outlets are located in the seat base of the lounge, while a Bluetooth operated CD stereo complements the 24in LED TV for entertainment duties.
UP THE BACK
At the rear of the van, running along the near side wall is what all kids love — bunk beds! A simple cutout ladder provides access to the top bunk, and each child has their own LED reading light, 12V and USB charging ports.
A small window allows the kids to wake up to a nice view and provides additional ventilation to that of the roof hatch located above.
One thing missing from the Genesis 196MD is some form of separator between the main living area of the van and the kids' room, as a bit of privacy for the adults would definitely be a good thing.
Occupying the opposite side of the van to the bunks is the bathroom with separate toilet/vanity and shower.
The shower cubicle isn't a single piece fibreglass unit commonly found in other caravans and sub-optimal care and attention has led to poor joints in the corners. An LED backlit shower column may look pretty cool, but doesn't disguise a poor finish. This was such a surprise to see that we reached out to Apollo to ask about it. See below for a discussion of what happened, and why you can expect to see a better finish on retail models.
For those longer trips away from home, and so you don't have to worry about van park laundries, the Genesis 196MD comes equipped with a 4kg Camec front loading washing machine, as well as a large linen cupboard above.
After the writing of this review, Caravan World reached out to Apollo to try and get to the bottom of a couple of issues that were raised.
Former National Marketing Manager, Simon Kerr, kindly gave up his time to have a good chat to the author of the article about the Genesis 196MD that was reviewed.
First up, I'd like to say that Simon took full responsibility for the van that was sent out for review and did not try to make excuses for the faults that I found. Instead, he offered up an explanation as to why.
Apollo/Windsor were in a very busy period of trying to get vans ready for back to back shows at either end of the country, and the Genesis 196MD reviewed was in fact a prototype model. It was also sent out for review without first being given a thorough check over by himself and the production manager.
Simon assured me that it is the aim of Apollo/Windsor to produce a perfect product, and that the issues raised during the course of my review would not be present in the production models.
To make sure that all of our 'I’s' were dotted and 'T’s' were crossed I headed back out to the Apollo factory to run my eye over a full production model of the Windsor 196MD in early June.
Compared to my original findings and some of the issues that were raised, this is what I found:
The last 200mm of wiring to the trailer brakes remains as per the original review with split tube convolute not used to protect the wires. I have been informed that if a customer wants Deutsch connectors fitted, they are available as an upgrade.
All floor penetrations have been adequately sealed with silicon to prevent dust and water ingress.
The water tank filler hose has been shortened and now runs along the chassis rail. However, the plastic water pipes still run through the 50 x 50 cross braces with the raw and sharp edge. There was already evidence of wear and rubbing on the plastic pipes.
The battery box located in the off side of the tunnel boot has had a slight redesign. The original battery box was positioned more to the centre of the tunnel boot, running north-south across the boot. The wiring was also very untidy. In the production model, the battery box now runs east-west and is positioned much closer to the outer edge of the tunnel boot. Wiring is also much neater.
The shower cubicle has benefitted from a redesign as well. There are no more chipped panels and poor joins thanks to the use of an anodised aluminium extrusion in the corners which provides a stronger and neater finish.
Overall, the finish of the van has been taken up a notch or two, with all areas now benefitting from more care and attention to detail.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Overall, the interior styling and the extensive range of standard features will appeal to a lot of buyers, especially young families looking for a true value-for-money Australian made touring caravan. While you won't be tackling the Tanami or Gibb River Road, there's still a lot of Australia you can see in a Genesis.
THE NEW WINDSOR
With a history dating back to the early '70s, the Windsor name has always been synonymous with quality and affordability.
Originally manufactured in Melbourne, the Windsor range was more recently built in Perth, before Apollo Tourism and Leisure purchased the brand and moved it to its production facility in Brisbane.
Starting in mid-2019, the much-loved Genesis range of caravans started to come off the production line, employing new construction methods and materials, resulting in better thermal insulation properties and reduced tare.
Also new is the 5-3-3 Warranty, which means:
- Five years Structural Guarantee on all parts, window fitments, floor and roof
- Three years Body and Interior Guarantee on all parts of the interior build including cabinets, furniture, framing and wet area fittings, plus
- Three years of Roadside Assistance
More models are planned for the Windsor brand, with the Windsor Daintree, a Renault based motorhome, recently appearing on the market.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Body length 5.81m (19ft 1in)
Overall length 7.29m (23ft 11in)
Width 2.5m (8ft 3in)
Height 2.71m (8ft 11in)
Payload kg (calculated) 469kg
Ball weight 210kg (unladen)
Bed Size Queen (east–west)
Frame Frameless design with aluminium extrusions joining the panels at the corners
Cladding Gel coat single piece structural composite panel (XPS insulated)
Chassis Hot dipped galvanised steel RHS drawbar and chassis rails
Suspension AL-KO Independent Rubber Suspension (IRS)
Coupling AL-KO 50mm ball coupling
Brakes AL-KO 10in electric drum brakes
Wheels 15in alloy wheels w/ A/T tyres
Water 2 x 82L (potable)
Battery 1 x 120Ah
Solar 1 x 150W
Air conditioner Dometic IBIS 4 3.2kW reverse cycle
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control No
Cooking Stove (3 x gas, 1 x electric) with grill
Fridge 188L absorption (12V, 240V, gas)
Bathroom Ensuite w/ separate shower
Hot water 20L Gas/electric HWS
Washing Machine 4kg CAMEC front loader
PRICE AS SHOWN
To enquire about this caravan, visit windsorcaravans.com.au