Motorhome review: Carado T449 2014

By: Lawrence Schäffler

Motorhome review: Carado T449 Motorhome review: Carado T449
Motorhome review: Carado T449 Motorhome review: Carado T449
Motorhome review: Carado T449 Motorhome review: Carado T449
Motorhome review: Carado T449 Motorhome review: Carado T449
Motorhome review: Carado T449 Motorhome review: Carado T449
Motorhome review: Carado T449 Motorhome review: Carado T449
Motorhome review: Carado T449 Motorhome review: Carado T449
Motorhome review: Carado T449 Motorhome review: Carado T449
Motorhome review: Carado T449 Motorhome review: Carado T449
Motorhome review: Carado T449 Motorhome review: Carado T449

Carado's new low-profile T449 has all the bells and whistles you'd expect from one of Germany's premier motorhome manufacturers, but it's the upgrades fitted by the local agent that turns the base vehicle into a freedom camper's dream.

Like many European motorhome manufacturers, Carado has standardised the popular Fiat Ducato chassis for its vehicles. And the 2015 motorhomes enjoy a number of small upgrades from Fiat – snappier styling around the front spoiler and headlights and, inside, a redesigned centre console (more convenient mug holders) and a flash new steering wheel.

Carado's range comprises 13 motorhomes divided between the alcove (bed above cab) and low-profile models. With sleeker streamlining, the latter offer better fuel economy – often a pertinent consideration in hilly, windswept New Zealand.

The 7.43-metre T449 – one of its largest motorhomes – is a low-profile model and available with any of Ducato's engine options. Our review vehicle – the first of its kind here – is fitted with the top-of-the-range three-litre, turbo-charged, 180hp engine.

In running order the T449 weighs in at a shade under three tonnes (2930kg), with a 565kg payload – not particularly heavy – and the big engine shrugs it away with indifference. With the six-speed automatic transmission, the Carado is smooth, easy and a pleasure to drive. It's also fitted with ESP (electronic stability programme), ASR (anti-slip regulation) and hillholder (a compulsory feature with the automatic transmission) – excellent safety features to keep operations fuss-free.

A large skylight above the cab enhances the driving experience – and I particularly like the more versatile reversing camera's seven-inch screen in the dash. While this unit is equipped with the usual electronic essentials (USB port, Bluetooth, radio, CD, GPS with New Zealand maps, etc), it also allows you to keep the reversing camera active while you're driving (most function only when reversing).

This upgrade means you can keep an eye on things happening on the road behind you – useful when judging or preparing for an overtaking manoeuvre. It's also good for keeping an eye on what you're towing. This T449 is fitted with a tow bar – perfect for hauling a trailer carrying kayaks, a jet ski, a motorbike or small dinghy.

The tow bar's a sensible accessory with the three-litre engine, but if you don't fancy towing a trailer, you can instead use the hitch for a bike rack. And if you don't like that plan, you could instead carry the bikes in the large garage built into the rear of the motorhome. Accessible from both sides, it's a cavernous space and, equipped with built-in tie-downs, it will easily accommodate a few bikes or an inflatable dinghy. This Carado offers plenty of flexibility.

Carado _T449_3

More freedom

But it's the upgrades and extras fitted by the local agent (Auckland's Euro RV) that makes this T449 particularly appealing. Like the long range fuel tank. Standard Ducatos have a 90-litre fuel tank – this one carries the 120-litre upgrade.

Fiat's Euro 5 engines are frugal beasts and even with the three-litre engine you should get close to 1000 kilometres from a full tank of fuel (depending on how you drive). In effect, this gives you more opportunity for exploring remote parts of the country.

To support this extra range, the motorhome carries twin 95 amp/hour batteries and a 190-watt, roof-mounted solar panel to keep them healthy, as well as an upgraded (bigger) fridge/freezer for more supplies. The standard units have a 141-litre fridge and 23-litre freezer – this one's are 167 and 29 litres respectively.

Together, these upgrades all lend much greater freedom and spontaneity to your adventures. And if your touring extends to winter months, you'll take comfort from the 6kW Truma heating system. This unit runs on electricity as well as gas, so you can run it off camp power to save gas.

Sleeping accommodation

T449s are designed for four and various layouts are on offer. This one has a queen-sized island bed in the rear (other configurations include twin singles or a rear bed against the side). The second bed – one of my favourite features – is a drop-down bed in the ceiling above the lounge area.

You won't lack for storage in the rear suite – the bed's flanked by tall his and hers wardrobes, and complemented by large lockers at the foot of the bed. The island bed works especially well relative to the rear suite's overall layout – particularly because of the separate shower and toilet/basin cubicles. A sense of generous space is accentuated by the design of the show cubicle.

When unoccupied, the shower doors (bi-fold acrylic) swing out of the way, leaving a wider 'avenue' and more room to manoeuvre around the foot of the bed. Furthermore, the shower cubicle has a lift-out floor. In situ, this floor serves as a 'restrainer' for the acrylic doors in their folded position, preventing them from rattling while you're driving.
It's removed for showering and reveals a deep recess equipped with a teak duckboard. This design ensures that water is contained within the cubicle. Under the duckboard are two drains (in opposite corners) to cater for non-level parking.

Across the way is the swivel toilet and basin. Plenty of built-in storage on offer here, and I like the way the door doubles for the entire rear cabin – swinging it open closes off the rear suite from the rest of the motorhome. A large mirror and a towel rack adorn the inside of the door – both conveniently positioned.

The drop-down bed in the ceiling above the lounge area is an excellent piece of design – firstly because it's so discreet and superbly integrated into the overall design (you would be pressed to find it if you didn't know it was there), and secondly because it's so well-engineered.

It can be deployed and retracted with little more than finger pressure – very smooth. Pragmatists might prefer this to the electric control often provided with drop-down beds – manual operation usually appeals to the 'less-to-go-wrong' mindset.

That large roof window above the cab, incidentally, is perfectly-positioned for those sleeping in the drop-drop bed. It not only offers a clear view of the stars but as an opening window (fitted with insect screens), it will provide welcome ventilation.

Carado _T449_8

Kitchen and dinette

Relatively compact, the kitchen offers modest working surfaces but these are significantly increased by the hinged glass covers over the sink and cooker. The three-ring hob is complemented by an oven below. There's good storage in the drawers below and lockers above. I like the glass splash guard against the bulkhead next to the cooker – it will help to keep the timber bulkhead looking pristine. The large fridge/freezer is opposite.

Thanks to its swivel table, the dinette can easily accommodate six, particularly when the two swivelling cab seats are brought into the equation. The table can be oriented across or along the dinette, centred, or off-centre, catering easily for different seating arrangements. Very nice.

Overall, the T449 presents with a classy interior, its timber cabinets offering a rich backdrop to the quality upholstery. Lots of natural light floods in through large windows above and around the motorhome (all double-glazed to support the insulation) – and it all makes for a very homely ambience. All windows are fitted with blinds and insect screens.

Electronic entertainment comes in the form of a 19-inch LED TV (with built-in DVD player and Sky decoder slot), connected to a fully automated satellite dish. The TV's 180-degree swivel mounting allows it to be viewed from the lounge or the bedroom.

The verdict

I only have one concern about the T449 – its split-level floor. That drop-drown bed would compromise headroom in the dinette/lounge area. To compensate, the designers have lowered the floor in this area. Stumbling through the motorhome in the dark might test your reflexes, but I guess you'd only have to knock your head once to know to proceed warily at night.

'Made in Germany' is something of a cliché for durable quality, but it's an apt one for Carado's T449. At $146,900 it offers good value for money – particularly with all the upgrades and extras. Having invested in one, the only decisions you're likely to wrestle with are 'where to go' and 'for how long'. Don't be scared to set your imagination free.

For more information about the Carado T449 call Euro RV on
021 266 3602. 

Thumbs up

  • Bigger fuel tank, twin batteries – long-range touring.
  • Rear suite configuration – clever use of space.
  • Drop-down bed – excellent engineering.

Thumbs down

  • Split-level floor – take care in the dark.

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