RV TEST: Billabong Custom Caravans Grove 1
Billabong’s new Grove 1 caravan has a striking interior.
• Rear ensuite van with front bedroom
• White polyester interior decor
• Mid to large tow vehicle required
• Spacious interior
Gold Coast-based Hinterland Caravans is, strangely enough, not based in the Gold Coast hinterland. But there’s nothing strange about the caravans it carries, including the simply named Grove 1.
One of the newest models in the Billabong range, the front bedroom/rear-bathroom Grove 1 looks pretty standard on the outside but it’s certainly a bit different on the inside. Although there is nothing radical about the layout, it’s the internal décor that really strikes you.
The interior is predominantly a stark white, offset by chocolate brown upholstery, doors, pelmets and, in some cases, door frames. In caravan terms, it’s very contemporary. I understand that it might not be to everyone’s taste but it’s a nice change from the ubiquitous timber finish we so often see.
The café style dinette is the place to sit back and take in the rest of the van. Although it doesn’t have hinged foot rests, the seat backs do extend around the van wall and the tri-fold table is an excellent place to park the sunnies. Speaking of sunnies, all the windows in the Grove 1 come with slimline venetian blinds and, although some folks don’t like the amount of dusting they require, the blinds are excellent for varying the amount of light that comes through.
One of the best features of this dinette is that while the overhead lockers have doors (all white), the under-table cupboard does not – it’s just open shelving. While this does mean nothing can really be carried when travelling, the shelves are a heck of a lot easier to access. One odd thing about the dinette, however, is the powerpoint. Although it’s good to have one, it’s located just under the overhead lockers, which makes it look like an afterthought.
Ask any keen chef and they will tell you that the kitchen is the most important part of any caravan and should always been centrally located. This one is certainly well-located on the mid-offside wall and it contains all the important features, such as a four-burner cooktop with grill, stainless steel sink with drainer, Dometic 186L two-door fridge and a microwave oven in an overhead locker.
At first glance, the kitchen bench looks a bit small but that’s deceptive because it comes with five drawers (which are an excellent use of space), a two-door cupboard and one floor locker.
In another overhead locker, near the microwaves, is a radio/CD player and about the only problem with this is that a short person or one who wears multi-focal glasses may have a little trouble focusing on the controls.
Those who love fresh air and natural light are really going to appreciate the front bedroom. The 1.85x1.52m (6ft 1in x 5ft) bed has large windows all around it and a Four Seasons hatch above, which ensures a light-filled area (by day at least) with good cross-flow ventilation. There are the usual side wardrobes and cabinets with a good-sized bedside shelf plus three drawers and three overhead lockers above the bed.
At the other end of the van, the bathroom has a Thetford cassette toilet, separate shower cubicle and rear cabinet which includes both a washbasin and an offside corner top-loading washing machine. The lower cabinet has one-and-a-half cupboards. Both are the same height and width but the one nearest the shower cubicle has less depth to allow for the shower cubicle door to be opened.
Instead of normal overhead lockers, two small cupboards are fitted either side of the wall mirror.
On the outside of the van, the body structure is fairly standard, with a timber frame, aluminium cladding and insulation. It has tinted acrylic hopper windows and the entry door is a standard Camec triple-locker. For external storage there is both a good-sized front boot and tunnel storage directly behind it. Inside the boot itself are the standard electrical items: 100Ah battery and charger plus a well put together panel for everything including the 12V fuses.
Under the Dometic awning, there is an antenna connection, 12V socket beside the picnic table, a 240V outlet above, and an LED strip light to keep things illuminated at night.
Like any good caravan, this one rides on a 100x50mm (4x2in) railed box section chassis that has the same sized drawbar rails running back to the front suspension mounts. Simple leafspring suspension, which attaches to the chassis via a 50mm (2in) riser, is fitted to the tandem axles. Ball coupling, twin 9kg gas cylinders and mesh rack form the drawbar while, at the rear, the spare wheel rides on a looped-end bumper bar.
On the road, the 6.4m (21ft) van handles quite well. Given its ATM of 2590kg, a vehicle such as a Toyota Prado could be used with careful loading, otherwise a mid to large size 4WD will be needed.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you are looking for a van with a unique interior, then this is it. There are some things that look very familiar about this van but the internal colour scheme certainly sets it apart.
That said, the Billabong Grove 1 is very well-appointed for long term touring. It’s more a caravan park sort of van than an offroad tourer, but it would be capable of touring many parts of Australia.
• Internal décor
• Good use of windows
• Generous drawer space in kitchen
• Shelf space under table
I WOULD HAVE LIKED
• Sandpaper over a few rough edges
• Some drawers being easier to open without a good pull
• More shelving in lower bathroom cupboard
SPECIFICATIONS: Billabong Custom Caravans Grove 1
Overall length 8.35m (27ft 5in)
External body length 6.4m (21ft)
External width 2.39m (7ft 10in)
External height 2.68m (8ft 10in)
Internal height 2.01m (6ft 7in)
Nameplate Tare 2190kg
Nameplate ATM 2590kg
Advised ball weight 160kg
Cooktop Swift four-burner/grill/oven
Fridge Dometic RM4601 186L
Microwave Sharp Carousel
Shower Separate cubicle
Toilet Thetford cassette
Lighting 12V LED
Hot water Suburban 23L
Fresh water 2x90L
Price $69,990 (tow-away, Qld)
Hinterland Caravans, 90 Kortum
Drive, Burleigh, Qld, 1300 598 440,