Winjana Kalbarri 690: Review
Winjana’s evolving design has resulted in its latest Kalbarri 690 Hybrid Cargo – a fifth wheeler with a difference.
Although Winjana RV, which produces a range of fifth wheelers, is not a large manufacturer by RV industry standards, there seems to be a constantly evolving range of layouts coming from the mind of proprietor Andrew Brennen. Or, as he more modestly puts it, from his customers.
This is the case with this Kalbarri 690 Hybrid Cargo (HC), which evolved from customer feedback on another Winjana model, the Cattai. Many fifth wheeler layouts come with the main bed in the overhang above the tow hitch; the Cattai was designed with the bed up front but at floor level, and the overhang as a dedicated and very large storage space. However, the overhang is fairly high off the ground and customer feedback was that it was awkward to use the space effectively. And, so, evolved the Kalbarri 690HC. It comes with all the usual Winjana features but has a shortened nose and an open storage rack above the tow hitch.
LAYOUT & DESIGN
The layout of this 690HC closely resembles the front bedroom, full-width rear bathroom arrangement that is currently favoured in the caravan sector. In this case, it has a nearside kitchen bench and an offside lounge/dining area, although there is a slight variation with a three-quarter width bathroom (with the fridge taking up the remainder of the rear) and an east-west bed up front. With the bathroom in the rear, it’s a fairly open layout except for the partition that divides the bedroom from the adjoining lounge, mainly for structural reasons.
Internal colours and general decor is very much customer choice at Winjana and our review model had an interesting mix of contemporary white and black with timber finishes. All the doors are finished in tongue and grooved North American oak and solid timber benchtops have been used as an effective-looking alternative to laminate. Adding a touch of colour to the black leather lounge, and white and black pattern of the bedspread is the bright yellow throw and cushions.
BEDROOM & STORAGE
Bedroom design, especially with double beds, can be limited. However, in this case, the east-west bed can also come in a standard north-south island arrangement or you could opt for single beds if preferred. It just depends how easily you want to be able to access the front cupboard. Like the bedroom itself, the front cupboard space is a very flexible design. In this case, there is a hanging area on one side and shelves on the other.
With the east-west bed, windows on either side give good cross flow ventilation and both sides of the bed have reading lights, a 240V powerpoint and a small shelf.
On initial glance, the kitchen bench might seem on the small side. However, it’s a bit deceptive given the 210L Evakool fridge sits in the rear nearside corner, which effectively leaves the bench for everything else. That includes a four-burner cooktop and grill, a full-sized stainless steel sink with drainer, and the microwave set in the overhead lockers. Most of the under-bench storage is fitted out with drawers, including a couple large enough for pots and pans. However, if desired, they can be replaced with cupboards. Personally, I reckon the drawers work well.
Facing the kitchen bench, the dining area is made up of a sideways-facing lounge and a table mounted on a swivel arm. Two people can sit down without difficulty, the table can be removed if not needed and there’s room to walk by. I think it works well. In addition, a small cupboard at the bathroom end not only offers a bit of storage but also shelf space for any devices that can be charged by the adjacent 12V and 5V USB sockets (but not 240V).
The solar panel regulator and the radio/CD player are fitted into the wall above. Still on the subject of entertainment, the TV hadn’t yet been fitted but the position of choice is at the end of the overhead lockers, where it can be seen from the lounge and the bed.
Being less than full-width, the bathroom doesn’t have space for an elaborate vanity cabinet but it does have a simple one, complete with washbasin and shaving cabinet. There is also a Dometic cassette toilet and a good-sized shower cubicle. Ventilation is handled by both a rear wall window and a ceiling fan hatch.
THE BOTTOM LINE
One of the issues of a conventional fifth wheeler is that, unlike a caravan, it’s not easy to get a large open storage rack on the front. However, this modification to Winjana’s existing design proves that it can easily be done. What’s also interesting about it is that, even if you don’t want an open rack, the front overhang can be extended to make a more conventional enclosed, lockable storage. The choice is yours, as this Winjana Kalbarri 690 Hybrid Cargo demonstrates very well!
- A fifth wheeler suitable for Aussie utes
- Island bed at floor level
- Excellent storage and load capacity
- Nice-looking timber benches
- Good-sized drawers in kitchen
- General workmanship
- High microwave
- External rack and spare wheel are a fair height off the ground
The full test appears in Caravan World #543 November 2015. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!