Jayco Starcraft 16.51-3

By: Bill Savidan


Jayco Starcraft 16.51-3 Jayco Starcraft 16.51-3
Jayco Starcraft 16.51-3 Jayco Starcraft 16.51-3
Jayco Starcraft 16.51-3 Jayco Starcraft 16.51-3
Jayco Starcraft 16.51-3 Jayco Starcraft 16.51-3
Jayco Starcraft 16.51-3 Jayco Starcraft 16.51-3

Bill Savidan looks at a compact caravan perfectly suited for a couple ready to tour.

Jayco Starcraft 16.51-3
Jayco Starcraft 16.51-3

During the past twenty years New Zealanders have favoured motorhomes over caravans for roaming our fair land. Caravans have tended to be the choice of those who travel to a destination and stay for a few weeks before returning home. However, caravans for touring are on the comeback trail. Compared with motorhomes they cost less per square metre to purchase and per annum to run, with less depreciation in value. Lightweight caravans are leading the way in changing buyers' thinking about the suitability of buying a caravan for touring New Zealand. Although the Starcraft 16.51-3 reviewed here is not truly a lightweight caravan, it is able to be towed by the family car.

All the main ingredients found in larger caravans are packed into the Starcraft 16.51-3 (internal length of 4.47 metres): comfortable arrangements for sleeping, practical space for food preparation and eating, a large bathroom with separate shower, and heaps of storage.

The bathroom runs the full width of the rear of the 'van and is similar in all respects to that in it's larger sibling, the recently reviewed 6.2 metre Jayco Starcraft 20.62-2.12SC, except that the shower is square instead of round. The oval hand-basin sits amidships between the Thetford electric toilet on the left and the shower on the right. There is plenty of storage space for personal effects. Two ceiling hatches, one in the shower, the other over the vanity, and an opening window over the toilet provide practical light and ventilation — important features in an RV bathroom. There are brackets and rails for towels, toilet rolls and a water glass. The concertina folding door provides privacy from the body of the 'van. It's a practical bathroom with good looks to boot.

The L-shaped dinette, located amidships opposite the kitchen, I would describe as 'café-comfortable' for two, adequate accommodation for three, but a squeeze for more than that. Lowering the tabletop converts the dinette into a large single bed for occasional overnight guests. One of the compromises users of small, medium size and, in some cases, large RVs learn to accept is a lack of really comfortable lounge seating. Dinette seats are adequate but you can't lay back and stretch out in them — which is why I like the single bed layout in this 'van. With an extra cushion or two for support, sprawling can be done on the single beds, while still keeping an eye on TV. Furthermore, if you are entertaining a mob, they provide relaxing seating for additional guests.

While it is handy having beds that can seat extra guests, their most important function is to provide a restful night's sleep. These beds do just that. They have inner-sprung mattresses over sprung wooden slats fitted to aluminium frames and are extremely comfortable and functional. Underneath the mattress and frame you'll find more storage space. The high-mounted window behind each bed-head allows ample room for sitting up in bed, but alas, there is no shelf for resting the mandatory 'morning cuppa'. Each bed has a reading light and there is a heap of storage space in the overhead lockers and in the wardrobe cupboard unit between the beds.

Last but not least in our circuit of the interior is the food storage and preparation area: the kitchen. If the stovetop is in use there's not a lot of bench space available for serving up meals. Enough when cooking for two people, but those of us who are less than well organised are likely to end up using the dinette tabletop as extra bench space. Life is full of compromises. The sink is a sensible size and with a faucet that can be swung out of the way, it can accommodate large pots and pans with ease. These utensils have a large drawer under the Dometic 150-litre RM2553 fridge to live in. There are loads of cupboards for stowing food and the two vertical cupboards under the sink could easily be fitted with slide-out pantries if required. The oven has a separate grill and four hobs, three gas and one electric. There is a microwave above the fridge that can be used when 230-volt power is available.

Outside, there is nothing particular to distinguish the Starcraft 16.51-3 from any other Australasian built 'van. It is a well conceived and well executed with everything you would expect in its usual place. As reviewed, it was fitted with a three metre 'Carefree' awning, polished alloy wheels and had two nine kilogram LPG bottles under a neat acrylic cover on the towing frame. The spare alloy wheel is mounted on the rear wall.

In summary, I think this Starcraft 16.51-3 would serve as a wonderful touring caravan for two people. It contains a full bag of goodies in an easily manoeuvred package: a body length of 5.255m (17ft 6in) and a tare weight of 1635kg. Those who enjoy whipping up a feast have a compact, well-appointed kitchen to work in, and an adequate dinette to enjoy the resulting repast. Those who dine out have lots of places to store their finery and a big bathroom for personal grooming prior to stepping out on the town. The twin-single layout reviewed is likely to be most popular with older buyers, who seek to avoid the disturbance of a partner who makes regular nocturnal toilet trips. That said, Jayco offer an island double bed layout in place of the twin singles. Jayco's alloy-frame body construction over a hot-dip galvanised steel chassis is very robust and should easily cope with the rigours of touring life. The loaded travelling weight of this van may well depend on what vehicle you choose to tow it with.

For example, our current car is a 2004 Ford Mondeo fitted with a Ford supplied 1875kg towbar, meaning we would have to limit our payload of food, refreshments, clothing, toys and entertainment, and on-board water to a total of 240kg. We would plan to travel with only a small amount of fresh water aboard and fill up on arrival at our destination. Our previous car, a Ford Falcon AU 2002 model fitted with a Ford heavy-duty tow pack was rated to tow 2300kg, so it could easily handle a fully-laden Starcraft 16.51-3. The point here is that quite a few medium/large cars can tow this 'van so there may be no need to change your existing car for a bigger one to go 'vanning. Check with your service dealer to find out your car's tow capacity.

As reviewed, Coastal Motorhomes retail this Jayco Starcraft 16.51-3 for $58,500 including GST. For more information on the Jayco Starcraft range of caravans call Coastal Motorhomes and Caravans Ltd in Whakatane on 07 307 0503 and speak to Toni, Paul or Mike Farrell, or visit the website at coastalmotorhomes.co.nz.

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