New Age Road Owl RO21BE Review

By: Malcolm Street, Photography by: IMAGES SUPPLIED


MCD's Malcolm Street reviews the New Age Road Owl RO21BE caravan and finds it ticks the boxes for families with young children

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A family van – what’s the clue?

Aussie-based New Age caravans have something of a reputation for building caravans that stand out from the mass herd that is the Australian caravan market. That didn’t change one iota in 2019 when New Age was purchased by the Walkinshaw Automotive Group.

For the motoring enthusiasts, that is the same Tom Walkinshaw that made motor racing history when he appeared with his Jaguar XJS at the Australian Bathurst 1000 race in 1984. Even non-racing types like me remember that. Since then Walkinshaw has done much with GMH’s Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) group. Some of that thinking is now happening at New Age – a clay modelling studio, factory durability testing, and robotic chassis welding, for example.

More locally, my review model, a New Age Road Owl caravan, came from Auckland’s Nationwide RV and was a tandem axle with an external travel length of 8440mm and an ATM of 2900kg. It’s a mid-size caravan with a fair bit of room inside for a designer to play with.

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The front island bed has a couple of extras like upper shelves and charger points

Family layout

The Road Owl has a family bunk bed layout. Stepping in through the forward entry door reveals an island bed to the left, an L-shaped lounge/diner to the right, and a kitchen bench along the offside wall. That leaves the entire rear area for a set of triple bunks along the offside wall and a bathroom on the opposite side.

One of the benefits of this arrangement is that the rear area can be closed off for early bedtimes for the littlies. Another benefit of this layout is that all the big cabinetry items are down the back, leaving the middle and front areas quite open.

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The hinged table can be expanded when needed

Interior look

A trademark of New Age caravans in the past has been almost all white interiors. That’s not quite the case here; the white walls and ceiling are offset nicely by the blue grey of the cabinetry and the kitchen splashback. The windows are mostly quite small, compared to some caravans I’ve seen and it will be interesting to see what the local market thinks about that.

Master bedroom 

Up front, the island bed measures 1950mm x 1530mm and has tall wardrobes and small bedside cabinets on both sides. Above the bedhead the overhead lockers are smaller than usual, but what you get instead are two corner shelves, complete with 12-volt hubs – great for charging personal devices overnight. There are 240-volt power points above each bedside cabinet.

Given the forward entry door, the walk-around space is quite good. Lifting the bed base reveals a good storage area, although a small part of the space is taken by the Webasto air heater.

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The kitchen bench includes cupboard and drawer space

Kitchen 

Fitted into the kitchen bench are the essentials of catering life – a Thetford four-burner hob with grill and separate oven, alongside a stainless-steel sink/ drainer. Fortunately, the hob has a flush hinged lid because there is limited benchtop space.

Fitted into the overhead locker space is a microwave oven, but it has been mounted lower than usual, making it good for those who are short of stature.

There is a plentiful supply of cupboard and drawer space, although the Swift water heater occupies a lower cupboard area, and the BMPRO battery management system can be found in one of the overhead lockers.

That’s certainly a handy location if any circuit testing has to be done.

Fitted alongside the kitchen bench is a Dometic 186-litre fridge, big enough to hold everything a family needs for a decent holiday, with cupboard above.

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The microwave oven is set at a user-friendly height

Dining

Like many a family van I have seen, the dinette seating capacity really doesn’t match the bed numbers, so an extra seat may be necessary at mealtimes. Reading lights are fitted at either end of the seat and there’s a power point in the rear corner.

Under-seat storage is readily available, although the wall seat area is partly taken up by the wheel arch. Along the wall above the seat are three overhead lockers and towards the forward end, a radio/CD player. Handily at the end of the overhead lockers by the entry door is the BMPRO touch control panel and a bank of light switches.

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Under bed space handy for storage
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The triple bunks

Bunking

I can remember a time when the caravan bed that most younger family members were used to was a folded down dinette table and a seat cushion to fill the gap. Not so today of course, like in this Road Owl van where the triple bunks measure 1900mm x 680mm and come with their own window, reading light and 12-volt socket. Even the aluminium stepped ladder is better than the usual plywood cut-out so often supplied.

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The bathroom is large enough for a separate shower cubicle

Bathroom

It’s not quite a full-size bathroom, but the shower cubicle and Thetford cassette toilet fit in neatly, as does the vanity cabinet. That comes complete with a washbasin, good sized wall mirror, cupboard, and a couple of decent sized shelves. There’s not quite enough room to swing a cat but turning round and accomplishing the desirable functions can be done without too much trouble.

Exterior

The Road Owl has a hot dipped galvanised chassis. It’s built in a box section style with 150mm x 50mm main rails and drawbar and punched hole C-section cross members.

Roller rocker leaf spring suspension is used for the tandem axles, which are fitted with 16-inch alloy wheels. On the drawbar are the expected items – 50mm ball coupling, handbrake, jockey wheel and two 9.0kg gas cylinders. A spare wheel is mounted at the rear of the van.

Hiding under the aluminium-clad bodywork is an insulated meranti timber frame. A security mesh door is fitted as a standard feature and the windows are all double-glazed acrylics.

For external use, a front tunnel storage area runs across the van and has doors on both sides.
Under the carefree awning, the hinged picnic table is the centre of a small entertainment unit that comprises external speakers, 230-volt/12-volt connections and an antenna socket.

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Summary

Given the GVM of 2900kg, towing will require a mid- to large-sized vehicle, but a ute with seating for four or five people should suffice quite well.

For a family looking for a mid-sized caravan, New Age’s Road Owl scores quite well. It has a layout with all the necessary comforts for everyone.

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FLOOR PLAN: NEW AGE ROAD OWL RO21BE

New Age Road Owl RO21BE specifications

Year

2020

Axles

Tandem 

Berths

5

External travel length

8440mm

External width

2500mm

Tanks

220L fresh, 110L grey

12V power

1 x 100Ah battery, 1 x 150W solar

GVM

2900kg (with a 600kg payload)

Price as reviewed: from $85,000 (includes GST and on-roads)

Pros

  • Family bunk van
  • Open layout
  • Front tunnel storage
  • Well equipped kitchen
  • Easy-to-grab door latches

Cons

  • Limited kitchen benchtop space
  • Extra seats needed for dining area
  • Small window area

To find out more head to nationwiderv.co.nz

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