As far as feathers in caps go, Auckland Motorhomes managing director Dan Monk's headgear is featuring some pretty powerful plumage right now.
The Drury-headquartered caravan and motorhome agent recently secured distribution rights for Australian-manufactured New Age Caravans. This is big news because across the Tasman, New Age is on a roll; the 'it' manufacturer that has gained a heap of traction over the last few years.
Company director Gabby Montagnese recently won the Woman in Industry award for Excellence in Manufacturing. What's more the caravan-builder's range has also won plenty of praise for offering a cost-effective mix of premium level fit-and-finish, clever floorplans that rethink what can be achieved in both the compact and larger caravan footprints, as well as an admirable approach to standardising equipment across its range.
"We're very happy to be partnering with New Age to bring their caravans to the Kiwi market," says Dan.
"I went over to Australia to have a look at a couple of manufacturer operations. Within minutes of setting foot in the New Age factory, I thought to myself, 'Yep, I really want to work with this company'. It's a world-class operation headed up by Gabby and her team, who have an honest customer-focused approach.
"The pride those guys have in what they produce is as much a selling-point as the caravans themselves," he says.
The Manta Ray line-up
The Manta Ray line-up of models offers a mid-range array of options. The MR22BE featured here is a 22-footer (there are 16-, 18- and 19-foot versions also available), with a heap of room aboard, as well as a simple-yet-tasteful approach to interior design.
The Manta Ray MR22BE is a great option for family travel, as it mixes a generous north-south queen size bed with triple bunks at the other end; families of five apply within.
But wait. A triple stacked bunk? Surely that would give the kids a 'confined to barracks' atmos not ideally suited to carefree holiday fun? On the contrary, each bunk has its own full-length window, meaning every berth at the rear feels light and airy.
And just imagine the fun kids will have here; separate spaces to call their own, even if—or especially when—the weather turns sour.
The Manta Ray MR22BE's sleeping quarters feel solidly made. There is an almost Scandinavian vibe to the way the bunk ladder is built from integrated cut-outs rendered in light tones. That feeling of solidity extends itself to the bathroom too (sited directly across from the bunks), which features a separate toilet and shower, augmented with a vanity boasting ceramic basin, chrome tapware, and plenty of storage underneath.
Also—in another clever nod to family living on the road—the Manta Ray MR22BE boasts a tidy wall-mounted washing machine that New Age's designers worked with the manufacturer to perfect. No, it won't do a rugby team's mid-winter jersey wash, but it will certainly take care of togs and towels when a campground laundry room is oversubscribed or simply non-existent.
Kitchen and dining sit amidship, with a comfortable U-shaped dinette against the entry wall sitting opposite a well-appointed kitchen area. The food prep area doesn't shirk on the space front either, offering a multitude of storage options alongside a full 164-litre fridge.
Dan Monk says New Age's willingness to tailor-make aspects of its models to suit client requirements is impressive. This might be a growing business but it hasn't dispensed with a hands-on bespoke approach you'd find with a smaller manufacturer.
"We decided early on that for the New Zealand market, a plain-sided exterior wall was probably going to appeal more to the local audience than the corrugated-effect cladding New Age uses in the Australian market," continues Dan.
"As a result, the New Age model offering we bring in features a smooth-sided finish, which looks really top-notch. We've even heard of a couple of Aussie dealers asking when they can get their hands on the same finish," he laughs.
Elsewhere outside, there is a wide treadplate-covered storage and gas cylinder box at the front of the caravan with a standard full-width screen protecting against stone chips. Behind these elements, within the body itself, sits a full-width storage garage.
A fold-down picnic table, external Clarion audio speakers and provision for an outside TV connection feature down the entry-side flank. As with the living quarters inside, LED lights feature outside, all underneath a standard side awning.
A removable spare wheel sits at the back; a smart 15" alloy present here matching the four in contact with the road.
This is the first New Age product I've seen up close and it doesn't disappoint. The Aussie brand is doing big things in its home market right now and obviously, distributor Auckland Motorhomes is looking for a similarly positive reaction on this side of the Tasman too.
With a variety of models available (also check out the manufacturer's Gecko entry-level caravans for some clever two-berth packaging), the New Age brand should start to become a more common sight on our roads over the course of the summer months.
With a clever floorplan for families and a great feature set of standard equipment on a robust chassis, the Manta Ray MR22BE is as sure-footed a first step as you're likely to find.
- Bunk bed arrangement offers extra space for families
- Robust chassis and exterior design
- Value for money offering in this sector of the market
- Tip-toe to the loo; bathroom opposite the bunks might restrict after hours' ablutions if kids are light sleepers