Review: Retreat Caravans Macquarie
It doesn't break the design mould, but Retreat's Macquarie delivers on the little things.
THERE WAS A TIME in Australia when hitting the road for a camping holiday immediately brought to mind the term "roughing it". Even for those 'wealthy' people who owned a caravan, things were still quite basic, with a two-burner cooktop, maybe a gas fridge and probably a fold-down dinette or day/night lounge for a bed. But times have, of course, changed, especially over the last 10 years when even basic caravans have become very sophisticated.
All of these thoughts were passing through my mind as I looked over a new Retreat Macquarie from Newcastle-based 7th Street Caravans.
In many ways the Macquarie represents the typical caravan in today's Australian market, in both its external finish and interior layout. This is something the market must desire, because as 7th Street's Aiden Saggers pointed out to me, there weren't too many in his sales yard not brandishing a "sold" sticker.
"I wish I had a few more to sell," he told me with a smile.
Although the Macquarie has the fairly standard layout of front bedroom, full-width rear bathroom, and mid-kitchen/dining area, it does have a different colour scheme to the increasingly regular light-stained timber look.
The cabinetry is finished in a darker cherrywood that, along with the lead-light window locker doors, wooden pelmets, timber-edged benchtops and mottled laminate, offers an attractive alternative.
Darker interior colours mean larger windows are desirable, as is good interior lighting. The Macquarie delivers on both. The lighting is a mixture of halogen and fluorescent fittings. Four Seasons hatches are fitted to both ends of the van. All windows are curtained and netted.
IF IT AIN'T BROKE...
Broadly speaking, the internal layout of the Macquarie is the contemporary favourite; that is, full-width rear bathroom, front bedroom, nearside dinette and offside kitchen. There are a few design compromises to get all this into a van measuring slightly more than 6m (19ft 8in), but it is still a very liveable rig.
Starting in the rear, the single-piece moulded shower cubicle is larger than quite a few I have seen. It does have a slightly rough finish to its interior, but that is done deliberately for better strength. On the opposite side is a Thetford china bowl cassette toilet. Both the toilet and shower have fan ventilation hatches, plus a window behind the toilet.
Most of the rear bathroom wall is filled by a substantial vanity cabinet. It contains a multi-shelved linen cupboard, below-bench cupboard, overhead lockers and a good-sized wall mirror. Also included under the bench is a top-loading washing machine. A sliding door closes off the bathroom.
Running entirely along the offside wall, the kitchen comes with a microwave atop a 175L Dometic fridge, a Swift four-burner cooktop and grill, and a decent stainless steel sink and drainer. The flush-fitting laminated cover for the cooktop improves the space benchtop space quite significantly. At the other end of the bench, one of the bedroom corner cupboards integrated into the kitchen bench does the same thing.
Storage below the bench includes two cupboards, a wire basket slide-out pantry and two drawers of different sizes.
The usual entertainment area is fitted at the bedroom end of the overhead lockers, featuring a radio/DVD player, powerpoint and antenna connections for the TV. Although my review van did not have one fitted, a flatscreen TV would normally be mounted and be visible from both the opposite dinette and the bed.
Given this really is a two person van, those same people can sit comfortably at the L-shaped dinette. It comes with a single pole-mounted table, overhead lockers (with plain wooden doors) and storage area underneath - drawer at one end, floor locker at the other.
Occupying the front of the van, the 1.85x1.55m (6ft 1in x 5ft 1in) innerspring mattress sits on a posture slat bed base. Below is a compartmentalised storage space that includes a drawer. The bedhead includes a rear shelf and mirrored doors all-round. Handily mounted to the offside cabinet is the remote for the overhead air-conditioner.
Assembly-wise, the Macquarie is built along very familiar, but reliable, lines. A timber frame with full insulation and aluminium cladding make up the body. All the normal fittings, including awning, Camec doors and windows, picnic table and TV antenna, are fitted, but there are a few extra dealer items, such as the external speakers and wall lights.
There is, of course, a front boot, containing the house battery and accompanying charger.
Below the body, a 100mm-railed SupaGal chassis rides on leaf spring-fitted tandem axle suspension. Standard Retreat vans come with 14in wheels, but the 7th Street rigs are fitted with larger alloys. Two 9kg gas cylinders ride on the drawbar and the spare wheel is fitted at the rear.
With an external body length of 6.25m (20ft 6in) and an ATM of 2419kg, the Macquarie is not a difficult van to tow, which means that a large variety of tow vehicles can be used - a factor in choosing the right van. It's often great to have all the bells and whistles (not that the Macquarie doesn't have most), but not when towing becomes a stress factor. Our turbodiesel Nissan Navara tow tug proved a very good match during our travels.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Although the Retreat Macquarie might have a familiar layout and appearance, it does have a few little features that give it a boost. After all, it's the little things that make the difference.
The Macquarie is a very easy towing van and, more importantly, it's one that is easily lived in when on the road.