AL-KO's Best Aussie Vans 2018: Marvel Sea Breeze Sport 18

By: Tim van Duyl, Photography by: MATT WILLIAMS AND CAM INNISS


A tough offroader with a tiny price, Marvel's sensational Sea Breeze Sport was judged Best Value for Money caravan at BAV 2018 and scooped the under $65K category title to boot

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Tim van Duyl

The Marvel RV Sea Breeze Sport came to AL-KO’s Best Aussie Vans 2018 on a mission. Agents Sunseeker Caravans had the option to bring another van this time, following a thorough and positive test of the Sunseeker Wild Child at our offroad event, Toughest Tow Test, early in the year. But the team chose to enter a more modest caravan in the highly competitive sub-$65,000 category.

To compete in lower price categories is almost asking for trouble. This might be where the most buyers are but it is also the category with the most vans for sale and, typically, buyers with the tightest budgets. So to bring the Sea Breeze Sport was a risk, but one that paid off.
The Sea Breeze may not have quite the same level of innovation in manufacturing as some of the other vans at AL-KO’s Best Aussie Vans 2018 but its simplicity is also a charm. Its meranti timber frame sits atop a marine ply floor with aluminium composite sides, a traditional method. The chassis is big and tough, supported by independent trailing arm suspension.

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Inside, the layout is traditional and, although a bit tight around the lounge, it has everything you could need or want.

When John ‘Bear’ Willis first reviewed the Sea Breeze Sport on its home turf in Caloundra, Queensland, he came away impressed by its versatility, and commented on the thoughtful and comfortable interior, right down to the posture adjustable bed arangement.
All the BAV judges concurred, but there was more. They were wowed by the Sea Breeze Sport's Value for Money, scoring it highest across all price categories — an impressive feat, which earned it the coveted BAV Best Value for Money award.
It was also one of the highest rating vans for all-important Towability and Suitability. All round, it really is a winner.

Representing Marvel RV at BAV 2018 was the company's owner Chris Michel. He is a firecracker of a bloke, always with something on the go, but ready to help whenever asked. We turned to Chris a few times to help move larger caravans and to ferry people to and from locations, and he always obliged and with a smile.

Thanks Chris and congratulations on the win!

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Laura Gray

Total score: 80.5

Priced at a whisker under $60,000, the fully-warranted offroad Marvel Sea Breeze Sport is a mighty little thing that is definitely punching above its weight.

This was the first modern Marvel van I’d seen but I’m no stranger to owner Chris Michel’s other caravan brand, Sunseeker. He’s aiming to target a different market with the budget-friendly Marvel brand, which will be a really attractive proposition for couples who want to hit the hard stuff but don’t have too much cash to splash.

Its small body length, while creating some compromises in the layout, actually makes it the best offroad towing proposition of all the offroaders at BAV — even the top-end contenders — as size is usually the biggest limiting factor when it comes to offroad use.

Inside you’ll find the de rigueur layout that the majority of vans feature: front island bed, cafe-style dinette, full-width rear bathroom. It’s impressive that so much has been squeezed into this little van, but it's not without its compromises. The dinette is a bit cramped, and the bed’s not suitable for taller folk (like my husband). If you want a longer bed, you’ll need to option a longer van!

But what Marvel does incredibly well is fit and finish. There isn’t a spec out of place in the Sea Breeze and its interior cabinetry lines are pleasingly modular.

While the fixtures and fittings aren’t ground-breakingly innovative (that’s not what this van is about). I was impressed by how much gear you get for just under $60K. It has the battery, water and solar capacity of a much larger, more expensive van.

Its timber frame isn’t surprising at this price point but it’s pleasing to see smooth composite cladding at this lower end of the market.

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Peter Quilty

Total score: 90.5

The Marvel Sea Breeze Sport is a bona fide offroader at a budget price. In fact, it represents unbeatable value for money and exemplifies Marvel’s mantra: "Make a practical caravan and make it look good, and at a price that’s achievable for our customers". I’ll go so far to declare that it would be nigh impossible to find a van for less than $60K that matches the Sea Breeze Sport in terms of out-of-the-box styling and structural integrity. It’s a blooming marvel!

The van looks tough as teak armoured in 3mm-thick aluminium composite, with a robust offroad chassis and sturdy offroad suspension to boot. The laminated steel chassis is a 6in A-frame, 4in chassis and 4in chassis riser configuration, while the suspension is AL-KO Enduro Outback. The front composite wall is rolled, and a one-piece fibreglass roof reduces the chance of water ingress.

Compact and self-sufficient, the Marvel is steeled with sun-soaking solar power, and cascading with water capacity: 300W of solar, 190L of fresh water, and a 95L grey water tank.

Incredibly, an extended A-frame, stone shield, grey water tank, front and rear worklights, and an exterior shower are all standard inclusions. Undoubtedly, this is a go-anywhere van; the only question is where you want to go.

The Sea Breeze Sport also boasts a chic interior layout, best described in a couple of words: ‘fashion and function’. The quality of finish is gobsmacking including ‘everything symmetrical’ satin-finish cabinetry (hardwood ply and ply veneer), and no MDF or chipboard.

Marvel has left no stone unturned. The attention to detail extends to the automotive grade leather cafe dinette with lumbar support. This can better handle sun and sunscreen, as well as friction, and is easily wiped down.

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The internal attributes extend to a bedroom complete with a pillow-top mattress (6ft 2in standard), panoramic windows, copious under-bed storage, and even a ‘toilet’ light switch. And little things mean a lot, including easily accessible overhead lockers in the bedroom, sensibly positioned at a height that enables you to sit up in bed.

A large ensuite comprises a separate shower and toilet, ceramic vanity bowl, linen closet and a 3.5kg NCE top-loading washing machine that weighs only 12kg!

The list goes on: cupboards with one-operation, user-friendly catches, and partitioned for bracing; metal-sided drawers; LED skylights; acrylic splashbacks and matte benchtops; recessed cooktop (practical for benchtop space); 186L Thetford automatic three-way fridge; Sphere microwave; Houghton Belair air-conditioner; Fusion sound system (with a five-metre Bluetooth range); and digital wiring throughout.

Finally, how does it perform while under tow? The Marvel tracks behind like a calming ‘sea breeze’, if you’ll excuse the pun.

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Malcolm Street

Total score: 80

Marvel’s Sea Breeze Sport is slightly unusual in the BAV lineup in that it’s a single-axle caravan. Not that there is anything wrong with that; for an offroad van, it gives it an incredible amount of manoeuvrability. A body length of just 5.5m (18ft) is very handy on heavily undulating tracks.

That’s probably why the chassis is quite substantially built with 100mm x 50mm (4in x 4in) rails, the same sized raiser and 150mm x 50mm (6in x 2in) rails for the drawbar. Riding on 16in alloy wheels and AL-KO Enduro Outback suspension, the Sea Breeze has a very good ground clearance. AL-KO’s suspension is certainly well equipped for the offroad lifestyle with coil springs, trailing arms and twin shock absorbers. Fitted between the chassis rails are two 95L water tanks and a 95L grey water tank as well.

Above the chassis, the body construction is a combination of construction techniques. Staying with tradition, the frame is made from meranti timber but the body is a mixture of 3mm aluminium composite for the walls and one-piece fibreglass for the roof. All around the van, the lower wall areas have black alloy checkerplate for protection.

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For a small van, the Sea Breeze does have very large windows — the acrylic double-glazed awning style, and the door has a separate security screen. A front tunnel boot supplies the external storage and, since this is a relatively lightweight van, it would be good not to cart around too much gear anyway.

Inside all the cabinetry is fitted together quite well. The cupboard and locker doors have piano hinges and, in the case of the overhead lockers, metal struts to hold them open. All the drawer and door handles are of the user-friendly type, that is, easy to use, especially for those with less flexible fingers.

All in all, this is a very well-priced caravan, given it’s built for offroad use but costs less than $60,000. It’s well equipped for a relatively small van and has a weight that is well suited for a variety of tow vehicles, including utes.

 

John 'Bear' Willis

Total score: 85.5

The Marvel Sea Breeze Sport could almost be called a hybrid camper. It has genuine offroad construction and abilities while still retaining all the comforts of a modern caravan — including an ensuite!

This value-packed offering captured my adventurous heart with a very easily towed single-axle trailer that I can happily tow either on the blacktop or more extreme offroad conditions.
This Marvel is well suited to a touring couple of any age due to its flexibility and ease, and you don't need a Dodge RAM to tow it safely and efficiently. It’s an ideal size, whether you intend towing with a large family vehicle, mid-range or large 4WD. Any bigger, and a van can fall into the realm of maxi-towing; any smaller, and you're restricted in the facilities, flexibility and comforts for long-term touring which, in my opinion, takes away any opportunity for what I would define as sensible "offroad".

At around 18ft and 2.2 tonne Tare, plus a realistic 2.7 tonne ATM, this Marvel muscle machine fits the mould for reasonable weights and measures perfectly, and offers comfortable, luxury accommodation and plenty of capable homeliness.

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Although our demonstration unit wasn't fitted with a drop-down dinette option, this would be worth considering for those with small children and, to be honest, the table is just a bit squeezy for my larger proportions — but that's easily remedied in manufacture.

Otherwise the Sea Breeze Sport has an amazingly complete list of standard equipment, as well as very reasonable power and water capacity, plus a 190L fridge/freezer.

The Sea Breeze Sport was the true blue Aussie digger of the 2018 Best Aussie Van competition. It will be a trustworthy companion on any hard road, but then an entertaining friend when it comes play time! It will save you plenty in both the original purchase price and towing economy, with very little sacrifice for extended flexibility and capability.

 

 

Peter Quitly

Laura Gray

Malcolm Street

John Willis

 

Value for Money

9.50

9.00

9.50

9.00

9.25

Self-Sufficiency

8.00

7.00

8.00

8.00

9.75

Towability

9.00

10.00

9.00

9.00

9.25

Suitability for Intended Touring

9.00

9.50

8.50

9.00

9.00

Layout

9.00

7.50

7.50

8.50

8.13

Quality of Finish

9.00

9.00

8.00

8.00

8.50

Build Quality

9.00

8.00

8.00

8.00

8.25

Creature Comforts

9.00

7.00

8.00

8.00

8.00

Innovation

10.00

10.00

9.00

10.00

9.75

X-Factor

9.00

6.00

7.50

9.00

7.86

Totals

90.50

80.50

83.00

85.50

 

Judges Average

84.88

 

 

MORE INFORMATION

To enquire about this caravan, please visit: www.marvelrv.com.au or call (07) 5491 1888

The full feature appeared in Caravan World #583. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!