Review: Traillite Matakana 545

By: Cameron Officer, Photography by: Cameron Officer


Want plenty of convenience within as small a footprint as possible TrailLite’s Matakana 545, with its space-saving drop-down bed, should be on your inspection list.

The TrailLite Matakana 550 and 545 are basically twin models, save for the orientation of the drop-down bed at the rear. With its north-south positioned bed, the Matakana 550 is around 500mm longer than the motorhome on these pages.

Matakana -545

If you like the idea of the 500 Series from a dimensional point of view but want more traditional fixed sleeping options, TrailLite has those, too, in the form of the Karapiro 554 (twin singles) and the eight-meter-long Oakura 554, with its north-south orientated island bed at the rear.

More into less

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The drop-down bed means that a full rear lounge can be enjoyed during the day, augmented with a kitchenette offering decent bench space and a similarly spacious bathroom area with a full-sized shower box.

Sink

The Matakana 545, which is the smallest model in the 500 Series, achieves a good balance between decent living space and a compact on-road driving experience. Which, of course, is the constant push-and-pull issue for every motorhomer.

Fans of fifth-wheeler arrangements and those with Class 2 licences aside, no motorhomer wants to feel intimidated by the sheer size of their home-away-from-home when out on the road.

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Despite the ‘fevered brow’ factor on some of New Zealand’s twistier back routes, large motorhomes become an issue in some small towns as well, where the local supermarket carpark might prove a bustling ‘no go’ zone for the bigger vehicle. And no one wants to have to walk with three days’ worth of grocery supplies, when the only option has proven to be parking on the closest residential street half a kilometre away.

That’s where the reduced length of the Matakana 545 comes into play. Remember, it still features ample sleeping arrangements, as well as a decently-proportioned lounge, so the owner is ahead in this respect.

Screen -time

Other highlights include a 190-litre fridge, 24" flat-screen TV panel with Freeview and a DVD player built-in, an automatic satellite dish, 150-watt solar panel, a 2kW diesel heating system with bathroom ducting, plenty of wardrobe and cubby storage, as well as a handy pull-out pantry and the convenience of keyless entry (thanks to TrailLite’s digital keypad access).

Slide -out -space

TrailLite’s Mercedes-Benz 

I recently attended the international media launch of the all-new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter range over in Dusseldorf in Germany. In addition to plenty of talk about Euro pallets and cab-chassis configurations, it was interesting to note just how seriously Mercedes-Benz takes the motorhome market. It’s growing just as fast in continental Europe as it is here. 

The media event underlined how big that market is for the Sprinter as a base vehicle, which is reassuring. TrailLite’s 500 series is built on the Stuttgart manufacturer’s vehicles and, as with its siblings, the Matakana 545 benefits from a heap of tech already in these machines (the brand-new generation Sprinter—only the fourth time the vehicle has been updated in more than 20 years—will start to come off the manufacturing line towards the end of 2018).

TrailLite has been using Mercedes-Benz underpinnings for some time and offers choices such as rear super-single or rear dual wheels and model-dependent power ranges of 120kW or 140kW, depending on the engine in your preferred model. Similarly, model-dependent five- or seven-speed automatic transmissions are available too.

I personally prefer the standard automatic trannie in TrailLite’s Mercedes-Benz based models over the sequential auto arrangement in Fiat’s models.

Touchscreen and touchdown

Touch -screen

As is the case with many models these days, TrailLite’s Matakana 545 arrives with a touchscreen system with which the owner can access all aspects of on-board functionality and vehicle data.

The Pukekohe-based manufacturer has opted for FinScan systems and the interface couldn’t be simpler to use. Divided into sub-menus detailing lights, power, battery and tanks, the system acts as a kind of ‘central command’ for everything in the motorhome, from a quick check of the levels in the fresh and grey water tanks, to turning on specific house lights.

Speaking of simple, the Matakana’s drop-down bed is easy to deploy as well, with nothing more complex than an ‘up/down’ switch, which you have to keep your finger on to deploy for safety reasons. It’s an operational thing which will become second nature very quickly, but making sure items are off the table in the dinette and squabs are arranged on the sofas accordingly are the only pre-arranged activities you need to take care of before turning in for the evening.

Accidentally knocking over that wine bottle on the table with the underside of the bed as it lowers will be a mistake you only make once. At least the dining table itself is on a compression stand, meaning it ‘squashes’ down as the bed is lowered.

When stowed during the day, the frame around the bed does eat into existing headroom underneath a bit but only by about 10cm or so.

Verdict

Motorhome

Like its Matakana 550 sibling, this TrailLite’s unique bed set-up gives you all the space and comfort of a traditional low-line motorhome with a full lounge at the back. But instead of having to head up steps into a bed-over-cab, this bed comes down to you.

Drop-downs won’t appeal to every buyer—there remains something to be said for a traditional fixed queen bed arrangement—but they are proving popular in the Kiwi market.

They’re also another indication of the thought that manufacturers such as TrailLite put into motorhome packaging, as the nature of these vehicles’ use changes and the level of comfort and convenience functionality expected from their audience raises.

Matakana 545 Specifications

Vehicle make/model Matakana 545
Engine  120kW 4-cylinder turbo diesel
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Berths  4
Approx. overall length 7100mm
Approx. overall height 3100mm
Tanks  275L fresh, 220L grey
Gas  22L
GVM  Maximum of 5000kg

Matakana 545 price (as reviewed): $206,265

Pluses

  • Interior feels large during the day, despite the compact footprint
  • Drop-down dining table becomes a coffee table with minimal fuss
  • More space inside without the potential headache of a longer motorhome

Minuses

  • Drop-down bed configuration won’t appeal to everyone
  • You need to be strategic about what you will need to access from the overhead cubbies at night once the bed has been lowered

For further information, call 0800 872 455 or visit traillite.co.nz.

Read more reviews on the latest motorhomes and caravans to hit the roads in New Zealand.

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