Caravan Reviews

Designer Series Review: Caravan World

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By Malcolm Street of Caravan World

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Very much part of the regional Melbourne based caravan manufacturing scene, Royal Flair has been around since the mid ‘70s, owned continuously by the Deralas family. A boutique manufacturer with ISO 9001 certification, Royal Flair produces a range of caravans with something for everyone. Some of the stand out models include the Raptor, designed for those who like adventure on a big scale, or the Piazza, with its front fold down deck, for those who like to take it easy.

 

In between are a number of other models, including the Designer Series, something of an up-market model which comes with plenty of features. I had an opportunity recently to check out one of the larger models, the DS 23-4 because I had a Jeep Grand Cherokee for tow testing and Australian Motor Homes and Caravans happened to have one of 7.01m (23ft) models in their sales yard. After some adjustments by the Australian team to the tow hitch height and the electricals — for some reason the Jeep was fitted with a seven pin flat electrical socket, not the more usual and essential 12 pin — I was on my way.

 

With an ATM of 3217kg and a tare of 2619kg, the 23-4 was a good match for the Cherokee and proved to be a good towing combination. Some caravans take a bit of work when towing, but the Royal Flair van wasn’t one of
them.

 

CLIMB ABOARD

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One reason I opted for this caravan was that instead of the more usual rear bathroom, it has a club lounge. Stepping through the rear entry door reveals the lounge to the right and kitchen to the left. Between that and the front bedroom is a split bathroom, neatly dividing the living and bedroom areas. I think it’s an arrangement that works quite well, particularly for people who like a bit of space or the idea of a lounge area with windows around it.

 

 

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There’s almost no need for mirrors inside the van, as the finish on the cabinetry is very glossy indeed. Finished in various shades of grey, along with white for the upper areas, the interior is quite stylish. About the only splash of colour was the turquoise of the Akril splash back behind the cooktop. In a touch of class, although the windows have the standard integrated blinds and insect screens, curtains and pelmets have been fitted. Apart from anything else, on warm nights it solves the dilemma of having the blinds open for air flow against that of privacy. Although the van had a fairly bright interior, the multiple LED ceiling lights were quite obvious, as were the strip lights that ran around the top of the overhead lockers. By night it’s a lighting system that has several moods.

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REAR LOUNGE


The feature item in this van is the U-shaped lounge at the back. It’s not symmetrical but that doesn’t really matter because the pedestal table has a corner lopped off to facilitate ease of access. Certainly, there’s plenty of seating for two people to stretch out in comfort. There are windows fitted to both the rear and offside walls but — showing my Kiwiphile tendencies here — I’d like one on the nearside wall as well. I know the awning arm is an issue, but it messes up the all-round window effect without one.

It’s a little unusual but the TV mounting is above the doorway. Obviously a big screen TV cannot be fitted, but it can be easily seen from the lounge!

 

Overhead lockers are fitted above the seating, so there’s no shortage of storage space. Like the rest of the van, the doors have the clam shell style catches which are easy to use, even for those who suffer from stiff fingers. Reading lights are fitted in both rear corners and there are both 240V mains power points and charger connections fitted under the offside seat. They are a tad fiddly to get at, but there’s an alternative set of power sockets, both 240V and 12V/USB, above the adjacent cabinet, which isn’t just a cabinet because it happens to contain a top loading washing machine — future models will have a Camec front loader.

 

FULL KITCHEN


Because of its size, this is a catering area a traveling chef is going to love. For starters
there’s plenty of bench top space, both on the main bench and on the washing machine cabinet on the opposite side. Additionally, floor locker and drawer space abounds with varying sizes to suit all needs. In addition to that, there’s a full height multi shelved pantry fitted in between the washing machine cabinet and the 182L Thetford three-way fridge. There’s certainly no shortage of storage for foodstuff, both dry and refrigerated. All the other essentials are fitted into the kitchen bench or above it — four burner cooktop/grill, stainless steel sink and NCE microwave oven. Anyone that desires an oven would lose one of the drawers.

 

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SPLIT BATHROOM

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I’m aware many folks prefer a bathroom across the rear of a caravan because it can be shut off from the rest of the caravan. However, I don’t mind a walk-through arrangement like this one. It’s a bit academic, but the walkway space gets a dual use — it gives access to the bedroom, but by closing both sliding doors, you get the full bathroom effect. In addition, if you have guests, the bathroom and bedroom can be closed off from the rest of the van if necessary.

 

A full-size shower cubicle takes up the nearside space and it comes with the expected flexible hose fully height adjustable faucet plus a fan hatch. On the opposite side, the Thetford cassette toilet sits against the offside wall leaving the forward wall space for the vanity cabinet, which is a neat little setup that includes a pedestal wash basin, large wall mirror, drawer, cupboards, a couple of overhead lockers and two cubby holes. There isn’t a great deal of bench area, so neatness is essential!

There isn’t a roof hatch, just a window. Fitted to the rear sliding door are both a towel rail and all essential loo roll holder.


UP FRONT

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An asset of this layout is a totally separate bedroom. However, for people who like a more open plan arrangement, the front bed area might feel a bit confined. That said, there is plenty of room for the 1.85m x 1.52m (6ft 1in x 5ft) island bed and there are large windows on either side plus a decent sized roof hatch to assist with both air flow and space perception. Fitted with all the expected cabinetry items, the bedhead has the triple of bedside shelf space, pillow cubbies and magazine pouched on either side — very well equipped OUTSIDE Under the awning, because of the length of the van, there’s quite an extensive area for al fresco activities. In addition to the entertainment unit, there’s a picnic table and all the necessary connections for a TV and charging portable devices. By night there’s plenty of lighting, a grab handle light plus three wall lights, one of which is towards the front above the gas BBQ connection.


CONSTRUCTION

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A look under the Designer Series 23-4 reveals a SupaGal box section chassis with 100mm x 50mm (4in x 2in) rails and drawbar and a 50mm/2in raiser. A little differently from usual, Dexter Torflex independent rubber suspension is fitted to the tandem axle 16in alloy wheels. The two 95L water tanks are fitted either side of the axles, and plumbing looks a bit more concentrated than usual mid van because of the more central location of the bathroom above. The CNC cut marine ply structural wall provides a rigidity for the bodywork whilst the honeycomb composite floor ensures a good base. Probond aluminium composite is used for the body panelling which in this case is coloured blue for the front and rear walls and grey for the side all. Along with the black alloy checkerplate lower waistline, it all looks quite striking!

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REMOTE STAYS

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Although the van only has one 105Ah battery, it does have a decent solar panel capacity of 160W which should certainly be good enough for several nights away. An Anderson plug is fitted to the offside chassis rail. The two water tanks will provide enough freshwater capacity, but there isn’t a grey water tank.

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WARRANTY MATTERS

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Unlike many manufacturers, Royal Flair supply a three-year warranty on the overall construction of the van. However, like many other caravan manufactures, the chassis, brakes, tyres and items like fridges, cooktop and air conditioners are covered by the respective manufacturers/importers, with each having their own time frame. All warranty work has to be done by an approved agent.

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THE BOTTOM LINE

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There’s much to be said for this van. Its length gives a good interior space, and the rear club lounge is going to be a winner for those who like to kick back and watch the world going by. In addition to that, it’s a van that’s easy to tow despite its size. In short, it’s a nice all round package.

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