For long established family firms, it can sometimes be challenging to keep up with the times. Innovation is never easy when you have to contend with the argument of, ‘This is how we’ve always done things”.
By CHRIS ASHTON
In the caravan business however you simply don’t survive if you don’t stay ahead of the game and Melbourne-based manufacturer Royal Flair is an example of one of the family-owned businesses pushing the boundaries.
Started by the Deralis family as New Home Caravans in 1975, Bill Deralis is now the second generation owner. The company took on its Royal Flair title with a rebrand in 1993.
It’s a big title to live up to and the Royal Flair Designer Series leaves no room at all for puns about “aging Royals.” This is one of the freshest fit outs we’ve seen in some time.
The overall quality and attention to detail is impressive. Little things, like the way LED lights are fitted in a lowered laminate base attached to the ceiling above the kitchen area and lounge adds a stylish touch. It shows a lot of thought has gone into the detail. The result is a feeling that this is more like a modern room, rather than “here I am sitting in a caravan”.
Customisation is king at Royal Flair; there are more than 100 interior design options, from laminates to the upholstery.
The 198-2 model as reviewed has what is probably the most popular caravan floor plan today with kitchen opposite as you enter the door, a leather lounge (not standard) with tri-foldout table to your left, rear bathroom to the right and a double bed up front, with the head centred against the front wall of the van.
The colour scheme is slick, with black, white and grey colours used in our test model, matched with glossy cabinets and stone effect black Laminex bench tops.
Pale timber-effect floors contrasted nicely, while the lengthways timber panel lines on the floor made the compact space feel much larger.
The floor felt solid under foot too. Royal Flair uses a 15mm one piece flooring system as a standard throughout their entire range.
The kitchen had a cover for the round stainless steel sink and a fold down cover for the four-plate stove, creating a smooth working space or a very tidy looking “buffet” if you’re just entertaining and not cooking at all.
A Thetford Minigrill stove, Thetford 184L fridge, and microwave all come standard, with a 12-volt rangehood tucked discreetly into the overhead cabinet.
Gadget wise, the Designer Series comes fully loaded.
The entertainment system includes an Axis CD/Radio/MP3 player with Bluetooth and USB port, along with internal and external speakers. The unit is well placed above the lounge, just inside the van door – very handy if you’re listening outside and need to make a change.
Energy saving LED lights and a 130-Watt solar system add to the vehicle’s off road camping ability. Power points are numerous and conveniently located.
With an ensuite caravan measuring under 20-foot there always has to be some compromises in terms of fitting in all the features buyers expect. In this case, the bed is of the extendable variety and once it is pulled out to full length, you can’t easily get in and out at the sides.
For anyone contemplating long-term travel, you’d have to ask yourself whether it’s worth investing in a caravan say an extra foot longer to avoid having to scramble over the end of the bed at night.
Another compromise in this compact van is that the ensuite is screened off from the rest of the van by a lightweight pull-out screen rather than something more solid.
While this is probably not ideal for some, the bathroom in no ways detracts from the look and feel of the interior when the screen is left open.
The same colours and laminates carry through, while there’s a smart porcelain vanity top basin and flick mixer tap. A washing machine, neatly tucked away is standard. It’s all very neat and tidy.
Stepping outside, the styling is equally impressive with a smart paint job and checker plate panel protection up front. For outdoor living there’s a full-length awning, speakers and fold out table.
The tandem axle fitted with 195 x 15’ alloy wheels provides greater stability and, if I’m completely honest, looks pretty impressive too.
When choosing a caravan, you want a vehicle that best suits your lifestyle. You want comfort, convenience, and, above all, quality at an affordable price. A bit of “wow factor” is good too.
The Royal Flair Designer Series ticks all of these boxes and more. It’s relatively low in weight, easy to tow and offers great value for money with its long list of standard inclusions.
Royal Flair Designer Series 198-2
$61,990 (ex NSW)