It's hard to fault the Jayco Expanda. With pop-tops, caravans, four, six or eight berths, shower and toilet variants, plus on or off-road packages, you have an effective choice of 40 models. If there is something you don't like about one, there is a good chance Jayco has you covered with another.
With a break in the foul NSW weather, I hooked a pop-top to our Subaru Outback long-termer and headed out with the family to see how it stacked up.
Through the winding, hilly and tight roads around NSW's Kangaroo Valley, the Expanda followed without any undue fuss. We didn't notice any sway and the beam axle leaf suspension was well suited to the weight. There was very little of the harshness sometimes inherent in leaf spring applications. However, an audible hum did emanate from the electric brakes, most notably when sitting at traffic lights or intersections. Despite the noise, they worked a treat.
At only 1755kg fully laden, the 16.49-1B fell below the Outback's 1800kg towing limit. In fact, as most of the range falls into the mid-sized caravan segment, all but the largest can be towed behind the current model automatic Ford Falcon (2300kg limit) or 3.6l Commodore (2100kg limit). You don't need a big 4WD wagon to enjoy the generous amount of living space on offer.
Pulled up at camp, we had no troubles setting the van up. At each end, a bed folded out after opening the hatches, and a mixture of strut assistance and cleverly light loads made the job effortless. As a bonus, the hard lids over the canvas section will protect them from all but the worst weather, reducing some of the anxiety of sleeping under fabric.
Inside, a single pole on each bed tensioned the canvas and the roof popped up with ease thanks to the leverage provided by the push handles. Testament to Jayco's design is how well the canvas sections all pack away. There is no need to worry about the roof sleeve getting pinched between the seals while closing, as it folds itself underneath without assistance. The bed sections are just as accommodating – minimum rearrangement was needed.
In standard trim the kitchen is well appointed for a family holiday. You get a four burner SMEV stove, which includes one 240V hot plate and a gas grill. If you are happy to sacrifice the pot storage underneath, there is an oven option available. Our tester was fitted with the Dometic 150l three-way fridge, up 60l on the standard fitment, and the extra space was a welcome addition. As should be expected, the Expanda comes with a microwave, stainless steel sink, mains pressure tap, 12V rangehood and positively latched cupboards to fill every available crevice.
Underneath, there is an 82l water tank, which is more than adequate for a weekend away with the tribe. It was, however, a little disappointing to find that hot water is only available as an option on the shower model; so heating the kettle to do the dishes will have to suffice. The remaining living area is very well designed. In our layout, a café-style dinette comfortably seated three – one of us seven months pregnant – so space was no issue.
Mum, Dad and two kids would not be left wanting, and if you tick the box, the table drops and turns into a bed to sleep another two (although, unless they're small, seating them might be cosy). A modular-style dinette is also available.
The beds at each end come complete with inner sprung mattresses that fold up to fit in the hatches when closed. Set up, they were as comfortable as you'd expect, and the parent's bed in the rear was a generous 1470mm wide, somewhere between double and queen in width. Both beds came with modesty curtains and 'designer' pelmets, putting a name to an object I though had none. As storage goes, there are hatches beside each bed, under the dinette lounges, plus a large robe with full-height mirror. No space is wasted.
Our tester had been fitted with a Herron split-system air conditioner, which sat above the kitchen sink. These units claim 2.2kW of cooling and 1.5kW of heating, and add 36kg to your van's weight. Although technically an option, air-con is increasingly becoming mandatory, if only to help with your van's resale down the track.
Scattered around the interior is 12V lighting, with reading lights on both beds.
Jayco has a great grasp of modern design, so the Expanda doesn't look like an old caravan with cladded walls; something that sets it apart from competitors like the Coromal Transforma and Windsor Rapid.
Its list of external features is hardly exhaustive, but we didn't miss much. The corner stabilisers can be upgraded to AL-KO drop jacks if you want something sturdier, and there is room for a second gas bottle on the drawer bar. The front luggage boot can be accessed from both sides and the interior; something I found convenient. You'd be silly not to get the Carefree awning fitted, as it provides convenient shelter for outside living. Jayco is the biggest recreational vehicle manufacturer in Australia for a reason, and models like the Expanda are part of that.
The 16-footer we tested was easy on the tow vehicle, easy to set up and easy to live in. Sure it had a few niggling issues (the brakes and no hot water), but they don't detract too much from its family friendliness.
Originally published in Australian Caravan+RV April/May 2012.
|Country of manufacture||Australia|
T: 03 8792 2000
|Price||$34,540 inc GST, standard, and on roads|
|Price as tested||$34,540 inc GST, standard, and on-roads|
|Options||Oven, hot water, air-con, Carefree awning|
|Tare weight||1455 kg|
|Towball download||145 kg|