Best Aussie Vans Finalist 2015 Franklin Arrow Test Review
Franklin hits the mark with this single-axle rough-roader.
Until recently, Franklin caravans have only been available from Queensland dealer Gary Kratzmann, who pioneered the rebirth of the original brand name. But now, the Franklin brand is more readily available throughout Australia and, for that reason, it was great to have the Franklin Arrow included in Caravan World’s 2015 Best Aussie Vans (BAV) event.
LAYOUT & DESIGN
Just about all BAV van inspections start with a look under the van at the chassis. Indeed, we entertained several passersby with the sight of four judges on their knees, crawling underneath the vans. In the case of the Arrow’s SupaGal chassis, it’s built by Preston and comes with 150mm (6in) rails and drawbar, as well as a 100x50mm (4x2in) section fitted between the end of the drawbar rails and the suspension mounts. A mixture of 50x50mm (2x2in) and C-section is used for the cross members.
Both 95L water tanks are fitted forward of the suspension and both have gal sheet protection. Generally speaking, the area under the chassis appears to be reasonably clean, with all the pipes and cabling strapped up out of the way and good ground clearance all-round.
BEDROOM & STORAGE
At the front, the island bed measures 1.83x1.52m (6x5ft) and has a slightly chamfered shape, measuring 1.22m (4ft) at the base to create walk-around space. Both corners at the base of the bed have cupboards – square to the nearside, diagonal to the offside – and both are slightly off the floor to give foot manoeuvring space, but it’s interesting just how much difference it makes for those with big feet.
All the expected cupboard and storage space is found around the bedhead and under the posture slat bed base. Nice additions are the 12V Hella fans on either side of the bed, which make for a more energy-efficient alternative to an air-conditioner on a warm night.
A little unusually, there’s a shallow overhead locker above the offside bedroom window. This is where many of the electrics are conveniently located – 240V circuit breakers, hot water switch, water tank gauge, solar panel regulator and 12V fuses. In keeping with tradition, there are no circuits labelled, but I’m told that a circuit diagram can be supplied if needed.
Often, with a layout like this, the kitchen and dinette are squeezed a bit to get everything else in, but in this case the end result isn’t too bad. Fitted into the kitchen bench are a four-burner cooktop with grill and a stainless steel sink.
The corner area is fully occupied by the Dometic two-door fridge and the microwave. The latter is set back slightly and at a lower level than the existing overhead locker line, making access easier.
Under the bench are two cupboards and several drawers, which are metal-sided. Given the available space, more drawers may offer a bit more versatility. In the air space above the kitchen bench, three deep overhead lockers provide a little more than the usual kitchen storage.
The L-shaped dinette faces the entry door and fits the layout well. It’s large enough for two people and the inside end comes with a foot rest extension. Instead of the usual, hinged arrangement, this one slides out and needs a cushion fitted. The major advantage of this is that it’s strong enough to stand on and, more practically, makes another seat.
Getting a full-width rear bathroom that includes a washing machine into a van of this length is a bit tricky, but it has been achieved by fitting a wall-mounted Daewoo front-loader. It’s certainly not oversized, but it does solve the problem a floor-mounted washing machine creates when space is tight.
For ease of access, the benchtops are curved back either side, and open shelves have been fitted beside the toilet rather than a cupboard, which allows for extra elbow room.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Being a single-axle caravan, the Arrow, with its fairly standard front bedroom, rear bathroom layout is something of a surprise. Not so much that the layout is different, but that it’s been fitted into a very liveable interior which doesn’t feel too cramped. Within reason, I reckon the shorter the van, the better when manoeuvring and driving in road conditions that aren’t the best. A definitive advantage here with a caravan that is 5.44m (17ft 10in) and designed with a bit of rough-road travel in mind.
HITS & MISSES
- Practical layout
- Good external bin storage
- Well thought-out bathroom
- Solid footrest that doubles as a seat
- General fit and finish
- Quite heavy for a single-axle van
- Lack of drawers in the kitchen
The full test appears in Caravan World #545 January 2016. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!