Eco Mate 19’6 Caravan World Review
Unique family layout
Our van on review is a bunk version but it is available as a couple’s van too. Let’s kick off with the layout because that’s what makes this van a standout. At the rear, we have the huge club lounge-style seating and table spanning the full width of the van. I reckon you could seat eight people here but there’s probably enough room for six place settings at the table. To set up bed for the night, you lower the table and then just press a button and the bed automatically comes down using an electric motor. You can lower the bed all the way or part way down, enabling room for the seating to be converted into another bed creating bunks. If you have people sleeping under the suspended bed it is good to know the system is rated to 280kg.
Whatever design feature you implement in a caravan, there is always a compromise. The trade-off is the main bed area has less storage than conventional layouts. So, you miss out on overhead lockers above the bed and wardrobes and drawers beside the bed. You do get some storage nooks on either side of the nice rear window, however.
Moving to the centre of the van, the kitchen setup is a bit different too. There are kitchen benches on both sides which are great for meal preparation. The bench on the offside can perform bedside table duties complete with a wireless/USB charge point and drawers underneath. There are plenty more drawers below the benches and the one below the cooker is a ‘drawer in a drawer’ for stowing cutlery and other smaller bits and pieces. Beside that is a handy little slide-out pantry often seen in vans these days.
The kitchen sink features a dual tap system, one for standard freshwater and another for dedicated drinking water (more on that later). The appliances are good mainstream products with a Thetford 274L compressor fridge situated opposite the main door and a NCE 25L microwave above that. NCE also takes care of the Gree reverse cycle air-conditioner and rangehood and Thetford completes the suite with a three gas, one electric cooktop and grill.
Up front, triple bunks are tucked in the corner just to the left of the main door. The beds are very wide and cut off at an angle. They look about 1.8m long by eye so a nice size for most kids but a giant teenager will need to curl up a bit. Windows, fans and lights with built-in USB charging points are supplied with each bunk compartment but there are no little storage nooks that you do see in some other bunk vans.
On the opposite front side is a separate shower and toilet. It’s quite compact but they did find room for a wall-hung washing machine. And a fun fact, the light switches look like any other regular switch, but they are not hard-wired. They can be removed and operated from anywhere. Novel idea if you are organised enough not to lose them.
Contemporary take on traditional materials with clever add-ons
Royal Flair uses traditional materials such as a timber frame and aluminium cladding but with a contemporary take. The frame is 18mm CNC cut structural marine ply which delivers a precise and strong structure. The wall and roof cladding is smooth-sided composite sheeting with aluminium skin and foam core. The modern honeycomb floor is known for a good blend of weight reduction, strength and thermal insulation properties.
And now to the add-ons. Attached to the roof is a dome-shaped cap 302mm high x 302mm wide which is a TV and radio antenna. The quirky branded Cowfish unit does not wind up and down and does not need to be rotated to pick up an optimal signal as it is a multidirectional receiver. The height is critical, according to Cowfish, because it sits no higher than the average air-conditioner which is typically the tallest object on the roof.
An attention-to-detail touch I haven’t noticed before is this van has grease nipples mounted onto the door hinges of the toolboxes up front. This should be a big help in preventing squeaks and minimising wear as these hinges work hard carrying the load of door-mounted jerry cans.
The Eco Mate has clean lines up front due to an absence of stoneguards. The turning circle is also improved as a stoneguard is usually the first thing likely to strike the tow vehicle in a sharp turn. Royal Flair decided not to run stoneguards as it has faith in the X Guard protection coating applied on the A-frame, toolbox, jerry can holders and front panel.
Not a lightweight
A traditional steel chassis bearing the AL-KO brand underpins the body. AL-KO has been known more for lightweight chassis in European-style vans, but acquisitions of G&S Chassis and Preston Chassis have given it access to more Australian-style heavy-duty chassis as featured in this van. Similarly, acquisitions have given AL-KO access to the Control Rider TS trailing arm independent suspension fitted here. The heavy-duty chassis and suspension combo is required to carry this van which leans on the heavier side with a tare of 3009kg. The 600kg payload rating brings this van up to an ATM of 3609kg, meaning the Ford Ranger pictured could not tow this van fully loaded. This is by no means a deal breaker as Australian towers are acquiring a taste for American pickups that eat these towing duties for breakfast.
Completing the undercarriage are classy looking 16in alloy rims wrapped with Mickey Thompson Baja Boss tyres. They are called all terrains but feature an aggressive tread pattern akin to many mud tyres.
Onboard are 1 x 95L and 2 x 65L general freshwater tanks and 1 x 50L dedicated drinking water tank, totalling 275L of freshwater. This is appreciably above average, which is great but also eats 45 per cent of your payload. Conversely, the greywater is smaller than average at 50L, meaning you can only capture 18 per cent of your freshwater capacity.
The dedicated drinking water system has discrete plumbing throughout including the water filler, tank, separate pump and tap outlet at the kitchen sink. It’s nice to know that your drinking water is completely separate if you need to take on subpar water in the general tanks.
Power to the people
The Eco Mate has 4 x 210W solar panels and in typical Royal Flair style, it’s done a bit differently. With the press of the button, two of the four solar panels slide out beyond the roof line to catch the rays. This feeds a full Enerdrive power system made up of twin MPPT solar controllers, a three bank multi-stage charger, a DC-to-DC charger, 2 x 300Ah lithium batteries and a 2600W inverter.
You have enough power on board to run a variety of 240V appliances including the reverse cycle air-conditioner for short bursts. Unlike some other high-end vans, the Eco Mate does not run entirely on electricity, sporting two trusty 9kg gas bottles up front tucked neatly in a storage box.
The bottom line
The Eco Mate is yet another example of Royal Flair thinking outside the box. I keep coming back to the elevator bed because it is the standout feature allowing an expansive club lounge. Caravanning is all about outside living, but it is nice to be able to enjoy the room to move when the weather isn’t playing nice or have that extra bit of space if you have a couple of friends over.
And it’s not a one-trick pony, with distinctive features such as slide-out solar panels, a separate drinking water system and an innovative new TV antenna. Combined with a robust outback touring suspension setup the Eco Mate is a strong contender provided you are up for a large tow vehicle.
HITS AND MISSES
- Elevating bed is a winner
- Slide-out solar panels optimise roof space
- Dedicated drinking water is a nice touch
- Exceeds 3500kg ATM
Royal Flair Eco Mate 19’6″ Ratings
VALUE FOR MONEY
Innovation worth paying for
All good if you run an American ute
SUITABILITY FOR INTENDED TOURING
Has everything you need to go out and explore
Royal Flair has been doing it for a long time and the quality shows
Outstanding living space with a little less storage
Very high freshwater capacity but minimal greywater capacity. Plenty of electrical power at your disposal
Three-year warranty is a tick
Packed with a bunch of features adding up to a highly innovative package
It’s all about that elevator bed!