With its flashy interior and long options list, the 2013 Billabong Grove 186 Moda is a terrific catch.
Victorian-based Billabong Caravans isn’t the largest caravan manufacturer by any means but it does produce a healthy range of caravan sizes and layouts, with a large number of rear-bathroom models. This particular Billabong Grove 186 Moda was a finalist in Caravan World’s Best Aussie Vans quest back in 2013.
The name is derived from the van’s internal length but the 2013 Grove is a tandem-axle van with an external body length of 6.1m (20ft). That’s a good length for towing and for giving the designer room to work with, but the challenge is getting the space proportions right.
The Billabong is constructed quite conventionally and is built on a 100x50mm-railed box section Supagal chassis. A 50mm riser sits above the leaf-spring suspension mounts while the 150x50mm drawbar runs back to the suspension mounts. Both 95L water tanks are fitted forward of the axles. Up front are the usual items: ball coupling, handbrake, dual gas cylinders and jockey wheel, plus an optional mesh rack.
Above the chassis, there are no unwelcome surprises. The frame is meranti, the cladding is aluminium. There’s also a security screen door, Seitz windows, LED strip lights and a Dometic awning.
The windows and the lower waist of black checkerplate were optional items. I did feel, however, that the roof/wall sealant along the external J-moulds was a little more obvious than it could have been.
The front boot has plenty of storage space, despite also housing the 110Ah battery and electrical control panel. In addition to that is a front tunnel boot, although it’s only accessible from the nearside as the offside houses the Suburban hot water heater.
Given its ATM of 2570kg and Tare of 2170kg, the van can be towed by a wide range of tow vehicles and its
unladen ball weight of 120kg means some European tow vehicles with low maximum ball weights will pull it as well. On the road, the Billabong 186 was quite well behaved.
LADY IN RED
A peek through the interior cupboards and overhead lockers revealed everything fitting together well. All the cabinetry doors have strong piano hinges but while the overhead lockers were nice and deep I thought some of them could have done with a shelf.
The red, charcoal and white interior colours of our review Grove 186 Moda certainly catch the eye. The red comes from the leather upholstery and acrylic splashbacks in the kitchen and bathroom. The charcoal colour adorns the cupboard doors and the drawer fronts. While it might sound a bit stark, it really isn’t.
The Grove 186 Moda has a full-width rear bathroom, along with a nearside dinette, offside kitchen and front bedroom. All downlights and reading fittings are LED.
At first glance, the bed looks like it offers good walk-around space, especially on the dinette side. But it’s slightly deceptive because that’s in its un-extended form at 1.73m (5ft 9in), which might be a bit short for most people. Once extended, it tops out at 1.9m (6ft 3in), which is a much better length but it cuts down on the walk-around space.
A standard arrangement of side wardrobes, bedside cabinets, overhead lockers and a decent-sized shelf under the front window are fitted around the bed. Small diagonal cupboards are fitted into each corner at the foot of the bed and, just in case all of that’s not enough, you can lift the posture-slat bed base to reveal a large under-bed storage space.
The two leather-upholstered seats of the dinette look very inviting to relax into, especially with the fixed wall cushions and tri-fold table that can be hinged back out of the way when not needed.
Overhead lockers and under-seat floor lockers supply storage and the 240V powerpoint is not under the table in an awkward position like some, but on the wall above!
The kitchen is an interesting study in space utilisation. Starting from the forward end, the 150L fridge is set off the floor with cupboards above and below. That leaves space for a stainless steel sink and drainer and a four-burner cooktop with grill. The
Billabong Grove 186 Off Road 27ft 2014 • $58,990 • QLD • (07) 3073 8253 Billabong Grove 176 25ft 2010 • $45,000 • QLD • 0417 601 955 Billabong Budgee 17ft 2009 • $24,000 • nsw • (02) 8315 0059