Caravan review: New Age Manta Ray MR19BE Limited Edition

John Hughes — 7 October 2021
Stepping into the new age

The Manta Ray is a mid-range van that has been in the New Age stable since 2013. It has received a number of upgrades over time and has proven to be one of New Age’s bestsellers. This new Limited Edition iteration stands out predominantly for its new chassis, touted to save approximately 29kg compared to its predecessor. Other upgrades include the adoption of Alucobond exterior smooth panels — previously reserved for more premium models — and increased water carrying capacity.

BELOW DECK

The new chassis is a refinement from parent company Walkinshaw Group, with the Manta Ray being the very first van fitted with the chassis officially known as Walkinshaw 2.0. New Age outlined a number of changes to achieve weight saving and more. 



The number of floor supports in the chassis have been minimised to only where they are needed, and reducing the amount of joins in the floor has helped here. On top of this, the number of chassis outriggers has also been reduced by using full height components with punch holes. Pressed front and rear members provide extra support to the front and rear walls. The bumper is now tubular without impacting on protection.

New Age claim the new chassis has many other benefits; there is now more flexibility where water tanks can be positioned under the chassis allowing for more precise weight distribution. Less welds are required, and when they are used more of them can be done robotically which creates less heat distortion for a ‘straighter’ chassis, and the open sections throughout the chassis enables a more even flow in the galvanising dipping process for greater corrosion protection.

When you take material out of a load bearing system you want to be very confident it works. New Age’s proving process has four pillars:

  1. The chassis is put through its paces at the Australian Automotive Research Centre Proving Ground. This is a vehicle test track used by automotive companies, the military, and the caravan industry. There are a variety of track types replicating many road conditions. Having been personally involved in testing at this facility I can assure you many of the conditions are far more brutal than many caravans would ever see in a lifetime. New Age clocked over 7000km at the proving ground, which is significantly more than some others in the caravan industry.
  2. Approximately 16,000km of real world testing was conducted by way of driving from Melbourne to Perth, Broome to Darwin, and then back to Melbourne. These tests involve digitally recording the loads imparted on the caravan in a variety of conditions.
  3. The chassis is dynamically loaded in a physical test rig at the Walkinshaw testing facility. The data captured in real world testing can be “replayed in fast forward and repeat” on a simulator. This is achieved by placing the caravan on a rig where each caravan wheel sits on a ‘post’ that moves rapidly up and down replicating road conditions. Thousands of kilometres can be simulated in a matter of hours and then repeated over and over. 
  4. Computer modelling testing — known as finite element analysis — is also conducted to automotive standards to identify any stress points in the chassis. While the chassis might be the latest and greatest, the suspension system is more humble — though this is not to denigrate the rocker roller system, as there are undoubtedly more of these on Australian roads than any other suspension configuration. The wheels are smart-looking black rims with New Age badging. They are shod with Provato branded 15in all-terrains that New Age tell me are manufactured by Goodyear.

The aforementioned increase in water carrying capacity comes in the form of 2 x 110L water tanks and 1 x 110L grey water tank as standard. The polyethylene tanks have good stone shields but it is apparent that this van is aimed as a road touring product due to the lack of further stone shielding for plumbing and electrical lines. The external tap mounted to the A-frame does, however, feature a neat little stone shield.

Suspension and the undercarriage

ABOVE DECK

The Limited Edition Manta Ray’s smooth-sided walls are much nicer on the eye than the previous profiled cladding. This is achieved with an Alucobond cladding adhered to a meranti frame. The cladding comprises an aluminium outer and inner skin with a low density polyethylene core — while this a composite material, it is not the same as the composite walls that have significantly thicker foam cores and do away with a timber frame. The cladding method has a few joins in it, but they appear to be well-sealed. 

Under the guidance of Walkinshaw, New Age released new rear styling with curved panels and a recessed spare wheel. This has graced vans for a couple of years. Not only does it look quite smart, it takes the weight of the spare wheel off the very extremity of the bumper bar putting less stress on the chassis.

The van exterior has a classy look

LIVEABILITY

I sat at the faux leather U-shaped lounge to write this review, which was a proper amount of time to get a feel for the comfort. When I first sat down I thought the base was a bit too firm, but I soon forgot that and appreciated the ample lumbar support. And, it passes the ‘five beds provided, therefore five seating positions provided’ test.

When not in use the table can be partially hinged down to provide more walkthrough room.

A Thetford 4-burner mini grill cooktop paired with a Camec range hood take care of cooking. Well-sized cupboards directly underneath the grill will accommodate pots and pans. The NCE 23L microwave is at a reachable height. Some can be dangerously high where there is a risk of spilling hot food on yourself when you are taking it out. And the Dometic 175L 3-way fridge is a good size for a family of five.

There are plenty of bright LED lights and an abundance of 240V power points. Two Ranger branded skylight hatches let in plenty of natural light and ventilation when you need it. If that doesn’t make you cool enough you always have the Gree air-conditioner, which has an unobtrusive, slim design.

Adults get some deep storage bins at the head of the bed, but the kids miss out on any little storage nooks in the bunk area. Speaking of bunks, the van tested was the triple version. When it comes to making the beds, just accept you are on holidays and don’t bother! Like all the other triple bunks I have seen, an adult would need the flexibility of a contortionist to reach the far side of the mattress to tuck it in and most little kids wouldn’t have the strength to lift the mattress. Note the van is also available in a twin bunk version too.

There's plenty of natural light inside

TV viewing is great from the lounge or main bed. You even get a reasonable view from the bunks, but the kids are probably going to want to look at their own devices anyway. The 28in HD smart TV/DVD with Bluetooth is connected to a Winegard wind-up antenna, which you will see on many vans. Fusion all in one sound systems with Bluetooth pairing and USB connection feature inside and out.

The bathroom with separate shower and Thetford toilet is plenty big enough. The shower has a deep receptacle great for bathing small children. Storage for toiletries and towels is more than adequate. The corner basin is ergonomic, and the area is capped off with a big, functional mirror. 

The wall-mounted Winia branded washing machine will get you through a small load of summer clothes when you have access to 240V, but I suspect if you have two adults and three kids on board there will be times when you will be looking for the park washing machine. The Dometic awning and Lifestyle Table are the kind of specs that enhances outdoor experiences for travellers.

SHORT STAYS OFF-GRID

The Manta Ray is a touring van with some off-grid capability. It scores well with fresh and grey water carrying capacity, and two 9kg gas bottles will keep that fridge humming long past the time five people will take to empty it. The single 150W solar panel on the roof combined with the single 100Ah AGM battery will give you a few days away depending on the weather. A portable solar panel can be plugged into the Anderson plug provided to increase power input.

TOWABILITY

The Manta Ray sat behind a tricked up Holden Colorado Sports Cat modified by the Walkinshaw Group. The journey involved freeway cruising, navigating some tight inner suburban roads and some very pleasant country driving through the hills. The freeway was mainly cruisy except for some bursts of very strong winds that did buffet the van, but everything pulled back in straight and in control.

The rig was road tested with the van empty at a tare of 2350kg which was a piece of cake for the also empty Sports Cat. This is no criticism whatsoever, but you do need to be careful with matching any fully loaded van with an ATM of around 2900kg with a dual cab ute fully loaded to its Gross Vehicle Mass. While both loads are fine in isolation, when you add them together, and they may exceed the Gross Combination Mass specified by the car manufacturer.

The van under tow

CUSTOMER CARE

New Age describe their warranty as ‘Hitch to Bumper’ meaning the whole van including third party appliances and components are covered for three years by the caravan manufacturer. A new van purchase is also covered with roadside assistance for 12 months. A visit to their website will show a huge list of service repairers nationwide.

THE WRAP

The Manta Ray 19ft Limited Edition triple (or double) bunker has everything you need to set off on a general touring holiday with the kids. It is well-appointed with good appliances including a compact washing machine. A modern chassis mated to a traditional suspension system works well. I like the look of it too with a contemporary aesthetic of smooth walls and distinctive decals. The price is on par with what you would expect, and New Age has one of the best customer care programs in the country. 

Bottom line, this is worth putting on your shortlist if you are in the market for a well-specced family van. 

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES

Body length 6.04m (19ft 10in)    

Overall length 7.88m (25ft 10in)

Overall width 2.5m (8ft 3in)

Height 2.95m (9ft 8in)

Tare 2350kg

ATM 2950kg

Payload 600kg (calculated)

Ball weight at tare 170kg

EXTERNAL

Frame Meranti timber

Cladding Silver Alucobond front, rear and sides, with raven coating

Chassis Walkinshaw hot dipped galvanised

Suspension AL-KO Rocker Roller 

Coupling 50mm towball

Brakes AL-KO 10in electric drum

Wheels 15in rims and 235/75 R15 tyres (manufactured by Goodyear)

Water 2 x 110L freshwater tanks, 1 x 110L grey water tank

Battery 1 x 100Ah AGM

Solar 1 x 150W solar panel c/w controller

Air-conditioner Gree reverse cycle

Gas 2 x 9kg gas bottles

Sway control BMPRO Sway Control / BMPRO Trail Safe

INTERNAL

Cooking Thetford 4 burner mini grill cooktop

Microwave NCE 23L FB

Fridge Dometic 175L 3-way

Bathroom Ensuite with separate shower & toilet

Hot water HWS gas/electric

PRICE FROM $74,990 (inc. GST)

OPTIONS INCLUDED IN LIMITED EDITION

Winia compact washing machine

Fusion All in One sound panel – internal and external

Pull out step

Double or triple bunk layout options available

PRICE AS SHOWN $74,990 (inc. GST)

MORE FROM NEW AGE CARAVANS HERE


Tags

Caravan Review New Age Caravans Manta Ray MR19BE

Photographer

John Hughes