Kea Breeze

By: Bill Savidan , Photography by: Bill Savidan


Kea Breeze Kea Breeze
Kea Breeze Kea Breeze
Kea Breeze Kea Breeze
Kea Breeze Kea Breeze
Kea Breeze Kea Breeze
Kea Breeze Kea Breeze
Kea Breeze Kea Breeze
Kea Breeze Kea Breeze
Kea Breeze Kea Breeze

The Kea Breeze has evolved into a stylishly conceived and well-executed model. Bill Savidan steps into the latest model to review the new upgrades.

The winds of change have blown over the Kea Breeze. The 2016 model has been subjected to a quiet revolution. Most noticeable is the shape of the ‘Luton’*, the part of the body that hangs over the cab. Gone is the ‘cheese-cutter’ style of the previous model, replaced with a nicely rounded, more practical shape.

Gone too is the boxy join between the cab and body, replaced with a new curved GRP moulded transition panel. The new components are stylishly conceived and well executed. A much more elegant arrangement.

Just as the front has been remodelled, so has the back. The old retro-styled rear panel has been thrown away, replaced by a smart new one-piece GRP moulding. It houses the same style protective aluminium bumper as the previous model, but this one is powder coated to colour match the GRP.

The combined light/gutter over the entry door has been replaced with a simpler, straight model. A new 90˚ angle moulding covers the join between roof and sidewall, new round rear wheel arch trims to match those on the front wheels, and an extruded aluminium skirt complete the major changes to the outside of the 2016 Breeze.

The result is a handsome, nicely balanced Breeze body sitting on an LDV cab chassis. A rear mounted double bike rack is part of the package.

There have been changes to the cab/chassis too. LDV sent a team of engineers to New Zealand around 18 months ago to get first-hand feedback from users of their product. A lot of their suggestions have been included in the current models. One improvement significant to motorhome users is the option of a single passenger seat that matches comfort and adjustment of the driver’s seat. Others include hill start assist on the automatic gearbox models, a sports mode for the auto box, and a revised routine for starting the engine and parking on a hill.

CITY CRUISING

The LDV is an energetic performer in city traffic and the AMT (automated manual transmission) gear changes are crisp and positive. I found that once the revs drop below 2000rpm, the motor can become sluggish, so when in hill country, it pays to change gears early to keep the engine revs up. Driver creature comforts include a drinks holder, a glove box, and a cigarette lighter/ashtray. Cab air conditioning and a radio are part of the standard fit-out. Safety features include both driver and passenger airbags, electronic skid control assistance, and hill-hold starting assistance. The instruments are clustered together in a central console mounted on top of the dashboard. The large dials, the speedometer, and rev counter are easily seen, but the fuel and temperature gauges, mounted one each side, are harder to read.

STEPPING INSIDE

But it’s not just the outside that has changed. While the layout remains the same as last year—U-shaped rear lounge (it converts to a double bed), drop down bed over the lounge, kitchen opposite ablutions in the middle, and a pair of passenger seats behind the cab—there are other refinements inside a well.

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The entry step and two-piece door remain the same but the new GRP moulded foot-well is new. Its rounded corners will be much easier to keep clean than the previous squared cornered version.

Because the Luton over the cab has altered, the shelves above the cab have changed too. The new fit-out is simpler and more useful. Each side of the cab has a shelf big enough for both my camera bags and restraining nets kept them safe while travelling. The shelf across the front is divided in two by an acrylic upstand; an ideal spot for personal items such as phones and cameras.

A feature that sets the Breeze apart from many other small motorhomes is the pair of coach-style passenger seats fitted behind the driver’s seat. They give the passengers a comfortable ride and allow easy communication among a family or group as they travel together.

The Breeze has a lot of glass; windows that is. Going against the current trend, they are sliding windows rather than the top-hinged awning style. They are glass, not acrylic, and they are not double-glazed. Kea has installed these windows for a long time now in hundreds of motorhomes and is happy with the trouble-free service they have given. They certainly provide a lot of light inside the Breeze, and along with the three roof hatches and extractor fan, they provide excellent ventilation. All windows have insect screens but not built-in blinds. Instead, the Kea fits roman blinds.

A COMPACT KITCHEN

Kea has chosen to stick with the same kitchen and I can see why. It has all of the key appliances, a ‘3+1’ Smev cooktop—three LPG plus one electric hobs with grill oven below—a large kitchen sink, and an Isotherm 12-volt DC fridge, all housed in a single cabinet.

The cabinet has three drawers—one dedicated to cutlery, another for crockery, and the third for general use. Alongside is a cupboard that houses the waste bin. The sink and cooktop have glass tops and with them lowered, there is adequate bench space for meal preparation. It is a compact galley kitchen that works.

BATHROOM

Opposite the kitchen and behind the shower stall style door is the ablutions department. All white stark and spartan, it houses a shower, a handbasin, and a toilet. The shower shares a vertical adjustment rail with a toilet soap tray. There is an opening vent in the ceiling and a hot air vent in the wall. The wall mirror and the towel rail are new in this year’s model. But there is nowhere to store toiletries or a place to keep the toilet roll dry.

DINE IN

Motorhome lounge seats can be a bit of a mixed bag. Too wide, too high, too upright are the most common faults. So it is a real pleasure to find the seats in the Breeze are just right, for me at least. The table, mounted on a cranked leg attached to the seat front, can be moved to suit two, three, or four diners with a minimum of fuss. Seated in the lounge you are surrounded by windows so the view outside is superb. Should you need privacy, just lower the roman blinds.

IT’S BEDTIME

Pulling out the slat base and dropping in the cushions provided transforms the lounge seating area into a double bed if you need a second one. Because mounted in the ceiling above the lounge is a large drop down bed that can be left made up ready for action at the drop of a hat, or in this case, a bed. Unlike the previous model where the bed lowered to seat height, this model lowers to chest height (mattress top around 1300mm off the floor), so a short ladder (provided) is needed to get into bed. Kea’s experience suggested this was a better height to stop the upper bed. They found the lounge seats being made up as a bed was happening more often than was originally anticipated.

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The drop-down bed has eliminated the lockers above the lounge seats increasing the pressure on storage for clothing, personal items, and toilet gear. Alongside the ablution department, there is a full height cabinet containing a hanging locker with a cupboard beneath. Another cupboard beside the entry door and lockers over the front passenger seat can also be called into service if they are not already taken up with food and beverages. But overall, a shortage of storage space could be an issue when away on long journeys.

In an important change in the creature comfort department, the Breeze is now fitted with a Webasto diesel heater in place of the gas heater fitted previously. It is a quieter heater with a more effective temperature control.

The 12-volt switchboard is located above the passenger seats and has a bank of clearly marked switches for lights and other equipment. There is a separate water tank monitor panel and a DC volt battery monitor. Below the passenger seats is the 230-volt switchboard with three circuit breakers and a battery isolation switch. It is good to see these important items in positions where they are easy to access and identify.

VERDICT

The 2016 Kea Breeze is a good looking, well-built motorhome. There is a lot packed into this small motorhome, which can be driven on a car licence and gets by on a warrant of fitness (WOF). The vehicle I reviewed was not new. It had spent a few months in the Maui rental fleet before being released for sale.

I reviewed the Breeze prototype in September 2015 (MCD #135) and remarked at the time that it would "evolve it into a more sophisticated and much sought after product". Well, it has certainly improved since then, perhaps more on the outside than inside. It will be interesting to see where it goes to from here.

As reviewed, the second-hand Kea Breeze 2016, with around 10,000km on the clock, is now available for sale. For more information, call the RV Super Centres sales team at either Auckland or Christchurch on 0800 52 00 55 or visit rvsupercentre.co.nz.

*The name comes from the town of Luton in the UK where this feature was first marketed by Bedford trucks in the mid-1930s.

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