New Age Caravans has always been well known for its contemporary design, stunning interiors and good value vans. The company has undergone a significant amount of change over the last 12 months, though, which includes significant investment from the Walkinshaw Automotive Group. WAG is well known for its performance vehicle work and it’s also part owner of the RAM Trucks remanufacturing plant in Australia. It brings a lot of expertise to the caravan manufacturing process.
That shines through in the Manta Ray, 20-foot bunk caravan. For starters, it is nice and stable under tow. Well balanced with 130kg of weight on the ball when the van is empty, there’s room for that to increase once the two water tanks are filled and all your gear goes in the van. With a weight distribution hitch and another hundred kilos on the hitch, stability only increases.
The suspension and chassis underneath are both solid and dependable designs, tested over decades, in reality. Built by Victorian chassis builder Prestons, it’s strong, neat and not overly bulky, and employs cut-out sections in the cross-beams to save a bit of weight. The suspension is a very traditional roller-rocker leaf spring system that’s serviceable and reliable, and will easily handle the gravel roads this van is capable of traversing.
If you’re carting a family around, this is a good floorplan for a 20-footer. The triple bunks run east-west across the back wall, with a combination ensuite in front of that. There’s a lot of great thought behind the layout back there, but I’ll get into more detail further on. Moving forward, the van continues in a very predictable design – there’s a large, café-style dinette, long kitchen and full queen island bed to the front. It’s comfortable, simple and well built.
The island bed leaves a lot of space around it, which makes getting in and out easy. Its base is set well inside the dimensions of the mattress, which frees up the foot space around it, too. Mum and Dad both have plenty of storage options, with hanging space, two drawers each and a pair of overheads. I like the handy little shelves above the reading lights and near the 12-volt outlets for charging phones. The bed base lifts up and there’s a large section of undivided storage which is easy enough to get to. Because the hot-water unit is under the sink, the battery is under the dinette and the air conditioner is on the roof, this is the largest storage space in the van.
Considering this is a five-berth family caravan, the dinette is a little cosy, especially if the extra three are starting to resemble real-life humans. It’s comfortable, though, and the sacrifice in space here is a direct result of conveniences elsewhere, so it’s hard to be too critical – you can’t have your large dinette and toilet, too.
The cushioning is soft, the backrests a nice height and the upholstery is good. The table even has a small fold-down section to give a bit more access around it. There are more reading lights here, too, and all of the power points feature USB sockets which will work if the van is plugged into power. It would be better if they worked off the 12-volt system, though.
The kitchen is impressive. There’s a large, long bench which has a four-burner stove (three gas, one electric) and a grill, plus a deep, proper kitchen sink – the sort that could actually fit a pot in it to wash it. As a bonus, there’s even space left over to actually prepare food on without having to fold down the lid of something.
There’s plenty of storage around the kitchen and even if there’s nothing as fancy as a slide-out pantry, there’s still heaps of room for a family to open every cupboard looking for something to eat, only to find there’s exactly the same things there were ten minutes earlier. With a range hood, hot water, microwave and automatic energy selecting fridge, the kitchen is very well featured.
Although the toilet and shower are combined into the one cubicle, it’s the best way to bring these comforts into a van this size without wasting space Cleverly, the washbasin and toiletries cabinet has been brought outside, nearly into the main living area. It’s created an easily accessible place for kids to wash hands at or brush teeth over, without all having to crowd into a small space to do so, or waiting for someone to finish to allow it.
There’s also, opposite the ensuite door, a wall-mounted front loading washing machine. It’s not huge, but good enough to keep a few clothes clean in emergencies, or when you’re a long way from a laundry. The large linen press underneath is also handy.
The three bunks (or there can only be two, if that’s all you need), are 1.9m long, so are suitable even for most teenagers or adults (until they weigh 80kg, at least). If you choose two, you get a bit more storage underneath, and more headroom above, but because they hide around the corner of the ensuite, there’s a modicum of private space for each occupant, which is important. All bunks have book holders, reading lights and an opening window with screen and blind.
What I feel is missing from the kids’ area is personalised storage. Although there’s a good amount throughout the van, there’s nothing, apart from the linen press, anywhere near the back of the van. This is partly because two external boots encroach on the bed-heads of each bunk, but I think this space would be far better used as pigeon holes for kids’ personal items, books and toys. There’s already a large front tool-box, full-width tunnel boot and the back of the 4WD for anything that might possibly go in that external space, so it’s an odd choice.
Electrically, the New Age Caravans Manta Ray has a sophisticated charging and monitoring system. The caravan’s house battery is under the dinette, while all the van’s 12-volt circuits run through a BMPro BatteryPlus35 management system, which is solar-ready and hooked to a digital control panel at the door. The panel monitors battery level, turns on the water, keeps a check on water levels and lets you know when anything is low.
The Manta Ray I tested did have a few rough edges – quite literally. In a number of places the decorative edging of furniture was coming away, which is unusual for a company that prides itself on presentation. It’s a minor complaint, though, in a van that is very well featured and of excellent design for a family of travellers.
The Manta Ray range also offers vans ranging from 16 to 22 feet, all of which have island beds, ensuites and similarly workable floorplans. It’s a good option if your priorities are value for money and simple, comfortable travel.
Manta Ray Bunk
Style – Family bunk van
Chassis – Prestons Chassis, 4in galvanised
Suspension – Roller rocker leaf springs
Coupling – 50mm ball
Dimensions and Weights
Length – 8438mm
Width – 2500mm
Towing Height – 2940mm
Tare Weight – 2350kg
ATM – 2800kg
Tow Ball weight – 130kg
Water – 140 litres (160-litres as tested)
Grey Water – NA
Gas – 2 x 9kg
Fridge – Thetford 164-litre, three-way AES (184-litres as tested)
Battery – 100ah
Solar – Optional
From $62,990 tow away, registered in NSW. $67,647 as tested
New Age Caravans Sydney
02 9623 1120
- Shows Cancelled amid COVID-19 Fears - 14 March 2020
- Windsor Caravans Now Does Motorhomes - 11 February 2020
- First Look – Frontline HiAce 6th Generation - 10 February 2020
- ACC Heading to Charters Towers - 5 February 2020
- New HiAce Frontline Camper Unveiled - 4 February 2020
- Should You Travel To Bushfire Affected Communities? - 12 January 2020
- Can Your Caravan Help After The Bushfires - 11 January 2020
- Why We Use Camplify And You Should Too - 29 October 2019
- Trakka Akuna Campervan – First Look - 24 October 2019
- Car and Caravan Weight Calculator - 11 October 2019