The best things in life are free. When it comes to caravanning, isn’t that the truth. In fact, it’s what it’s all about. Fireside companionship, a magnificent outlook, fine wine…
I’d been in the office too much. It was time to down tools, hitch up and get away. Andrew Phillips runs the RV Repair Centre in Bayswater, Vic, but also owns the Coronet Caravans marque, and the conversation went something like this:
"Andrew, I’m stuffed. Can I borrow a van?"
"Sure, I’ve got a 2010 Coronet Prince pop-top. Look after it and she’s all yours."
So with a patch of sunshine amid a very gloomy weather forecast, I put the Prince on the back of my Toyota HiLux and headed down the South Gippsland Highway towards the Bass Coast. Kilcunda, a coastal community not far from Phillip Island, was my destination.
Our review pop-top is officially termed the "17ft 6in, rear kitchen, island bed" model. The measurement refers to the internal length (overall, you’re looking at 7.4m or 24ft 3in).
Clearly it’s not a van for the Gunbarrel, but it doesn’t pretend to be. Rather, coastal and hinterland cruising are more its speed. And for that purpose, it does a very good job. It proved an adequate tow behind the HiLux, but some slight jostling had me wondering if it was a tad light on the nose. Nothing dramatic, mind you, and by no means a deal breaker. Had the gas cylinders been full, I reckon it would have towed perfectly.
The deal makers of this tandem-axle caravan are on the inside. And it starts as soon as you enter through the ubiquitous Camec triple-locker door. The kitchen, which runs the full width of the rear, is all class with more storage space than you could hope to fill. The benchtop is smooth Laminex with about 200mm of splashback in the same finish. There’s no moulding or beading (which might indicate a covering up of mistakes) where the benchtop joins the splashback. Rather, it’s a crisp line of no more than 1mm that’s neatly gapped with silicone to prevent water ingress. This construction method requires all measurements and cuts to be millimetre-perfect.
The kitchen, which also features all the necessary mod cons (stainless steel four-burner cooktop and grill, 110L Dometic fridge, sink and microwave), also comes with a hatch in the offside corner. Beneath the hatch is a small basket– perfect for storing vegetables, etc. However, I would like to see a rubber seal around the edges, considering it’s so close to the sink. Andrew Phillips’ reasoning against the seal is that having one would disrupt the very smooth finish of the bench (he’s right, it would). Besides, the hatch is made of marine ply, which doesn’t rot.
The 12V Shurflo water pump is under the sink– the cuts in the shelving through which the plumbing runs are neat and tidy. The build quality of the cabinetry overall is sound, with 3mm polyply glued and screwed to the cabinets’ meranti timber frame– one of the lightest construction methods for cabinetry.
On the topic of internal construction, the floor is typical 12mm marine ply glued and screwed to the chassis. The linoleum floor, though, is not glued– it’s stapled at one end, then stretched as one piece over the ply and stapled at the other end. A special padding on the lino’s underside grips the ply and prevents air bubbles. It also prevents the lino from ‘warping’ when exposed to direct sunlight for long periods.
The offside lounge is the real highlight of the Prince. It faces the L-shaped dinette on the nearside, and is just a beautiful place to be. The high density foam is comfy –
I put my feet up and read a book, and fell asleep as I listened to the ocean. Magic. The storage space beneath both lounge and dinette is quite good, and that under the queen-size bed (the innerspring mattress of which measures 5ft x 6ft 2in or 1.52x1.87m) is very good.
The bed itself… what can I say? I always sleep better in caravans so I had high expectations. I’m pleased to report that I was not disappointed. The bedroom has the usual bedhead of overhead lockers and wardrobes and it’s all nicely done with a shelf across the front.
As for general storage throughout– such an important factor in finding the right caravan– you’ve also got four lockers above the lounge with (optional) lead-light inserts, and three above the dinette without the inserts.
The pop-top’s 350mm-high tent section is of a heavy-duty vinyl that does a good job of blocking out external light. On the topic of light, each of the living ‘zones’– bedroom, dinette and lounge– has two multidirectional halogen spotlights. There are three dome lights in the ceiling and a great spread of double powerpoints throughout.
As for entertainment, the Prince comes with a CD/MP3 player that’s connected to two internal DNA speakers. A flatscreen TV and DVD player isn’t part of the package, but can be optioned in.
For the kind of touring it’s designed for, the Coronet Prince pop-top has its priorities right. It’s not about the bells and whistles. Instead, it’s a rig with a back-to-basics-in-style emphasis, and I like that.
It has a 4in, extended A-frame and a 4in chassis back to the front spring hangers. The main rails are 4in from the loadsharing suspension to the rear. The 14in alloy wheels are part of the standard package and look terrific.
The rig’s meranti frame is clad with shallow form (flatter profile) aluminium, and, of course, the walls are insulated. The A-frame is home to a couple of 4.5kg gas cylinders and a brass mains pressure tap. A stone guard for the tap wouldn’t go astray.
Coronet uses LEDs for the running lights (and has done so for the last five years), as well as the taillights. The light under the A&E roll-out awning, however, is a fluorescent. You also get Al-Ko drop-down corner stabilisers and a spare wheel mounted to the rear bumper, which is U-bolted to the main chassis rails.
The lid of the front boot is surrounded by a padded pebble guard. Since the gas cylinders are on the drawbar, the boot itself, finished in powder-coated aluminium, has adequate space for storing the jockey wheel when hitched up (indeed, short of putting the jockey in your tow vehicle, it’s the only place to store it– the boot is the only external storage bin). The boot is also home to the optional 100Ah battery and charger.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Prince pop-top sits in the entry level of the Coronet range, and is also available in caravan configuration. For a Coronet with a bathroom, you’re looking at the Carrington, a van with the lot. The Farren, named after Ian Farren, the founder of the Coronet marque, is the family van –
a new, special development of Andrew’s that we’ll be reviewing in short order.
The Prince was a faithful, comfortable home base for our tour of the Bass Coast, and I’d have no qualms about hitching one up for a longer trip. Comfortable. Compact. Cairns, here I come.
Regency Caravans, 120 Canterbury Road, Bayswater, Vic, (03) 9761 4189, www.coronetcaravans.com.au
Source: Caravan World, Oct 2010