Best Aussie Vans Winner 2015 Compass Navigator Test Review
Compass scoops top honours with the Navigator for its simple philosophy: quality and affordability.
Roadstar Caravans’ head honcho Ken Nizam is heading in one direction with a revitalised Compass range.
Nizam is taking on the entry level market with gusto and a very simple philosophy: building a quality, lightweight caravan at an affordable price. And the Compass Navigator is one of the ‘comeback kids’ built to this rationale. Okay, it doesn’t have all the premium inclusions of Nizam’s premium Roadstar nameplate, but it’s constructed on a similar premise and the Navigator doesn’t compromise on quality, finish or careful attention to detail.
It was these indicators that impressed the Best Aussie Vans judges enough for it to take the crown in the $50K-$65K category, where it was up against quality contenders.
Nizam says the Navigator is built "completely differently" to the Compass range from around a decade ago. For starters, it has a straight rear profile, less external checkerplate, and employs lighter ply for the internal cabinetry. Consequently, its 2080kg Tare weight puts it in the mid-size SUV category for towing.
LAYOUT & DESIGN
The Navigator has a traditional layout – north-south island bed up front, a reasonable size kitchen and comfortable dinette in the centre, and a spacious, full-width ensuite up back. It’s not an overly striking or innovative layout, but the large Euro-style, double-glazed windows give the van plenty of light and ventilation.
The Navigator boasts a sufficient appliances suite including a Thetford 184L three-way fridge-freezer, gas/electric hot water system, 22in TV/DVD player and CD/MP3 sound system with external speakers. It also comes with a roof-mounted air-conditioner, 120Ah battery system, two 95L water tanks and a Dometic awning.
The mod cons are nothing above what is expected in a van these days; they’re more serviceable than outstanding, but this is an entry level van, after all. I did like the new internal LED lights, premium thick felt-backed lino, and 19mm-thick ply table and benchtops, and the posture adjustable slatted bed frame on gas struts.
The Compass doesn’t feature all the higher-grade appliances of the up-spec Roadstar range, but it does have LED lighting and Euro-style, handle-less cabinetry. The cabinetry looks, and is, solid but the handle-less cupboards and drawers were a little tricky to get a handle on (so to speak). I found them slightly ‘sticky’ in terms of opening and closing.
The cafe-style dinette is appealing, with leather-look Annahide upholstery and dual-density comfort lounges and footrests, and the kitchen comes with a Swift 500 Series combo four-burner cooktop, grill, low-set Sharp Carousel microwave and good storage provision.
Meanwhile, the Navigator’s rear ensuite cuts the mustard with a full-length mirror, concealed top-loading washing machine, and fully-moulded fibreglass shower, plus some nice touches including a double towel rail and toilet roll holder.
THE BOTTOM LINE
While it is a relatively traditional build, the Navigator’s interior strikes an appealing balance between simplicity and elegance with plenty of attention to detail in the fittings and finishes.
Its strong build and solid suspension means this on-roader could definitely venture down some rougher tracks, and for those that like to free camp, all the provisions are there for heading out bush.
At $61,990, the Navigator will definitely appeal to the more budget conscious and provides a good list of standard features while maintaining a relatively light Tare weight. It certainly meets its brief, packing plenty of punch in terms of value for money, build quality and finish. And there’s no disputing that this Compass outshines its predecessors.
HITS & MISSES
- Competitive pricing
- Lightweight ply cabinetry
- Premium sealing
- ‘Sticky’ cabinetry
- Light on innovation
The full test appears in Caravan World #545 January 2016. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!