Review: TrailLite 300+

By: Ewan McDonald, Photography by: Supplied


The task: build a premier motorhome designed for six days or more of freedom camping in Kiwi conditions. But does TrailLite’s 300+ stack up?

"You can’t pick up a Rolls-Royce overnight, can you? There’s a waiting list. It’s the same with us; that’s the quality of our product," Ashlee Rose, marketing manager of TrailLite, tells me as we walk through the Pukekohe-based company’s new 300+ series.

Alt TEXT HERE

The 300+ series is based on the new VW Crafter

She, and the 75-strong team that builds this Kiwi-made motorhome, and managing director Pete Newman, who we’ll bump into on the yard, are extremely proud of what he calls "their new baby".

New Zealand’s motorhome-buying community seems to agree with them. TrailLite showed off the new-generation at the NZMCA Motorhome, Caravan & Leisure Show in Hamilton in September; if you hadn’t placed your order by then, you’ll be waiting until Christmas 2019
at least.

"We sold 20 of these sight unseen," Ashlee continues. "There’s a waiting list. We build 80 motorhomes a year and the demand for the product exceeds that.

"We try to encourage people to pay the deposit 12 months before they’re wanting to head out on the road."

I’m a relatively hard-bitten journalist and this sounds like a marketing spiel. My antennae—no, I’m not talking about the built-in TV aerial—are up. C’mon, convince me.

Vehicle

Alt TEXT HERE
The 300+ combines luxury with practicality

The 300+ series is based on the new VW Crafter. The earlier 300 series began life on the Crafter but moved to Mercedes. 

Lots of reasons for going back to the German rivals: big payload, rear dual-driven wheels, and hopefully a move to an AWD version, at a reasonable price, in the near future.

Buy the 300+ and you’ll be driving a luxury vehicle with all the toys—autonomous braking, lane assist, cruise control, Bluetooth, Apple and Android connectivity—plus a few metres of extra pleasure.

Exterior

Alt TEXT HERE
It’s immediately obvious this van reflects the Kiwi motorhome lifestyle

"We’ve changed the moulding to make it more sleek and lowline," Ashlee tells me as we walk around the vehicle.

She points out the four-metre wind-out awning, gas storage, cunningly placed utility lockers and opens the huge garage. "Whatever your hobbies are, you’re going to be able to fit them in here," she says. Yep, she’s right, and there are some neatly incorporated lighting features, too.

I rather like the subtle design features—a discreet Southern Cross and grey-blue accents designed by the company’s production planner to reflect the outlines of New Zealand mountain peaks, and the three model names: Matakana, Oakura, Karapiro; all favourite Kiwi holiday spots. 

Interior

Alt TEXT HERE
The large kitchen is impressive

It’s immediately obvious this van reflects the Kiwi motorhome lifestyle. Those three options revolve around the rear of the cabin, which can be provided as an island bed, two singles, or a big U-shaped lounge with a drop-down bed.

I’m also impressed by the large kitchen—a focus of the van, as it is in most New Zealand homes. Ashlee agrees: "We believe through our customers and feedback over the last 60 years that people like big kitchens.

We build in a large fridge-freezer (190-litre). You’re out fishing, you want to freeze some fish, you need a good-sized fridge-freezer."

Alt TEXT HERE
Interior design focuses on ease of access and functionality

Michelle Bevin, TrailLite’s interior designer, has taken that priority into account with an emphasis on ease of access and functionality: slide-out pantry, big overhead cupboards, and storage. The oven has three hobs and a built-in grill, microwave, and rangehood.

Windows are double-glazed; flyscreens, blackout blinds, and stylish fabric louvres are standard. I’m impressed by the cool yet bold colour scheme; its grey pattern recalls South Island schist landscapes.

"The idea was to be accessible to everybody, while contemporary and upmarket," Ashlee says. "I think Michelle has really nailed that."

Bedroom-bathroom

Alt TEXT HERE
Comfort is key in the bedroom

The 300+ is designed for people who want to spend time on the road so the lounge and the bedroom also take that into account. In the bedroom, you’ll find drawers under the bed, wardrobes on either side and cupboards above (good for laptops and the like).

The Kiwi lifestyle, again. "New Zealanders like comfortable beds like their beds at home; you don’t want to be sleeping on foam."

Shower and toilet are separate, and there’s an ingenious drying rack—for towels or whatever—in the shower cubicle.

Lounge

Alt TEXT HERE
The colour scheme is cool yet bold

TrailLite motorhomes are four-berth, so the lounge sofas convert to a double bed. While the lounge might not be the largest going around, it’s neatly designed with bench seating so you and your companion will be sitting opposite each other rather than crammed around the edges.

When visitors call, both seats in the driving cabin swivel to make room for a party, and large, well-placed skylights make the living area feel even more spacious.

Verdict

Alt TEXT HERE
It’s simply their best motorhome yet

Outside the van, we bumped into Pete, who has owned the company since the 1980s. He served his apprenticeship in the cabinetmaking trade and started work at the firm, founded in 1954, in the 70s. Son Shaun is the general manager.

TrailLite is understandably upbeat about the 300+. Says Ashlee, "You’ve got big water, big solar, big batteries; everything you’re going to need to self-contain freedom-camp for five or six days in New Zealand, all packaged into a really nice-looking motorhome."

So, who would it appeal to—first-timer, family, experienced motorhomers who want to upgrade? Ashlee looks around the van we’re checking out.

"This one is sold to a lady who plans to live in it full-time; she’s leaving the bricks and mortar life behind. And there are plenty of people who just like to holiday and see this as the best of the best. That’s why we say it’s simply our best motorhome yet."

For more details, call 0800 872 455 or visit traillite.co.nz.

TrailLite 300+ Specifications

Vehicle make and model

TrailLite 300+
Engine  1968cc, 4-cylinder diesel, 130kW/410Nm 
Transmission  8-speed auto, 6-speed manual as option
Fuel consumption  8L/100km (claimed)
Berths  4
Approx. overall length 

8000mm (Karapiro, Oakura), 7600mm (Matakana)

Approx. overall height  3200mm
Tanks

220L grey 275L fresh

Gas 2 x 9kg
GVM 5000kg

Price (as reviewed): $214,000

Keep up to date with news by signing up to nzmcd.co.nz's free newsletter or by liking us on Facebook