Keep­ing your tucker cool, and health haz­ard-in­duc­ing bac­te­ria at bay, is top pri­or­ity in sum­mer. Matt Wood puts the Engel MT45 Fridge Freezer Combi to the test

Farms & Farm Machinery - - New Equipment Test -

The por­ta­ble fridge mar­ket is get­ting pretty crowded these days. For a long time, if you wanted a proper com­pres­sor-equipped fridge freezer, there were only a cou­ple of brands to re­ally con­sider: Engel or Waeco.

How­ever, in re­cent times, plenty of cheaper op­tions have swarmed onto the mar­ket, and you may find your­self won­der­ing why you would fork out your hard-earned for a big lump of Engel when you can pick up a no-name box at your lo­cal camp­ing-fish­ing-shoot­ing-off-road­ing and awe­some-all-round-bloke-sup­plies shop.

So I thought I’d put the new Engel MT45 Fridge Freezer Combi to the test to see if fork­ing out for a premium brand was worth the ex­tra coin.

I had a big trip planned that in­volved tak­ing a lit­tle Re­nault Kan­goo van places where a Re­nault Kan­goo should never go – namely, the out­back. I took the lit­tle Re­nault from By­ron Bay, NSW, to Shark Bay, WA, via as many out­back roads as I could. A two-week/8000km road trip.

With late spring tem­per­a­tures reach­ing the high 30s in western Queens­land, the North­ern Ter­ri­tory and parts of Western Aus­tralia, I fig­ured that this all should prove a chal­leng­ing enough test of the me­tal-clad chilly bin.

The main sell­ing point of any Engel is the de­light­fully named Sawa­fuji swing mo­tor, which sounds very much like the name of a jazz band I once saw in Tokyo club. Though that could have been the sake talk­ing.

Engel has built a name on re­li­a­bil­ity and dura­bil­ity, as well as per­for­mance.

The rea­son that the Sawa­fuji Swing is a thing comes down to the fact that it has only one mov­ing part. This rel­a­tively sim­ple mo­tor keeps the com­pres­sor crank­ing on an­gles up to 30 de­grees – and it ap­par­ently han­dles rough roads and vi­o­lent cor­ru­ga­tions as well, which sounds like this fridge was ex­actly what I needed.

I was plan­ning to be self-suf­fi­cient as much as pos­si­ble for this trip, so I pre­pared and then froze some pre-cooked meals. I also want to keep a beer or two cool for the end of the day once I’d pitched my swag.


The MT45 fea­tures a mov­able com­part­ment di­vider that gives you the choice of run­ning with 16-litre freezer and a 23-litre fridge com­part­ments or a 22-litre freezer and 17-litre fridge com­part­ments. Or you can pull out the di­vider com­pletely and use it as a 40-litre fridge.

This all makes for some handy ver­sa­til­ity.

A ther­mos-con­trolled fan unit blows cold air from the freezer com­part­ment into the fridge com­part­ment to keep things at a happy 0-5 de­grees. The freezer can be set as low as -15 de­grees.

An­other fea­ture that Engel is keen to point out is the low cur­rent draw. A 40-litre Engel has a max­i­mum cur­rent draw of

2.6 amps. As you’d ex­pect, the MT45 is also tri-volt, so it will run on 12-24 and 240 volts.

It also fea­tures a bat­tery mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem.

Engel prod­ucts, on the whole, tend to look de­cid­edly old-school with their steel fin­ish. It’s no light­weight, ei­ther, tip­ping the scales at 24 ki­los empty. The plethora of com­pet­ing fridge prod­ucts out there these days of­ten fea­ture moulded plas­tic fin­ishes that ap­pear more er­gonomic and less hard-edged.

Speak­ing for my­self, I quite like the pur­pose­ful no-non­sense fin­ish of the Engel; it feels built. How­ever, a travel bag would have been a good idea for keep­ing bumps and grazes away from the shiny sur­faces of this unit.


The Kan­goo wasn’t ex­actly set up as a long-dis­tance ex­pe­di­tion ve­hi­cle, so clearly there were no dual bat­tery sys­tems to keep con­stant power to the MT. As a re­sult, I took along a 12-volt jump pack that also had some power out­lets. This kept con­stant power to the fridge while both the Kan­goo and I were sleep­ing. Other times, when I was camp­ing at a pow­ered site, I in­tended to just plug the unit di­rectly into the mains sup­ply.

With my food sup­plies safe in­side and the van loaded for the two-week coast-to-coast epic, I hit the road.

To act as a pantry for the rest of my food sup­plies, I also had a 153-litre Engel cool box on board. When I first laid eyes on it I was think­ing that, size wise, it may have been a bit of overkill. How­ever, while it may have been a great place to stash a hitch­hiker, it ended up be­ing very handy in­deed.

In­stead of hav­ing mul­ti­ple plas­tic tubs float­ing around in the back of the van, I was able to put ev­ery­thing in­side the cool box.

From dry foods like ce­real to pots, pans and cut­lery, the big box swal­lowed ev­ery­thing. Ul­ti­mately it turned out to be quite a neat stor­age so­lu­tion.

On a big trip like this, the ad­van­tage of a us­ing the MT45 as a fridge freezer was that I could pull a frozen meal out of the freezer com­part­ment and into the fridge to de­frost safely.

Af­ter all, it wouldn’t do to end up with a dose of food poi­son­ing out in the bush!

The vast ma­jor­ity of the trip saw am­bi­ent tem­per­a­tures in the high 30s. Of course, the van was air-con­di­tioned, so the Engel wasn’t try­ing to main­tain tem­per­a­ture in that sort of heat. But it

The ad­van­tage of a us­ing the MT45 as a fridge freezer was that I could pull a frozen meal out of the freezer com­part­ment and into the fridge to de­frost safely

cer­tainly did what it said it was go­ing to do on the box.

I set the freezer temp dial to num­ber four, which gave me a freezer temp of about -8 de­grees. The fridge main­tained a pre-pro­grammed range of 0-5 de­grees.

The built-in LED light was also a nice touch when rum­mag­ing around for a feed in the dark.

The freezer han­dled the North­ern Ter­ri­tory hu­mid­ity quite well and didn’t need a de­frost for the en­tire trip. In fact, the freezer com­part­ment stayed re­mark­ably frost-free.


This sort of combo fridge freezer clearly has some lim­i­ta­tions in terms of space but, for those on the road and the work site, it makes for a ver­sa­tile and por­ta­ble unit.

Af­ter rat­tling around the out­back in the cargo area of a van, the MT45 cer­tainly lived up to the Engel’s for­mi­da­ble rep­u­ta­tion for dura­bil­ity. I’d have no qualms us­ing this fridge in a prime mover, strapped into the back of a ute or van on a work site.

This kind of fridge is a once-only buy. Chances are you’ll never need to buy an­other.

It may look a lit­tle old-school but the MT45 is a well-en­gi­neered fridge freezer op­tion

1 1. Okay, so I’d eaten most of my food at this point but at least I still had beer

4 4. Ba­sic yet ef­fec­tive con­trols and tem­per­a­ture read­out

2 2. The Engel coped ad­mirably with the lumps

and bumps of out­back travel

3 3. The 153 Engel cool box proved to be the per­fect stor­age so­lu­tion for this trip – not only for dry food but pots and pans and cut­lery as well

5 5. Engel has a rep­u­ta­tion for re­li­a­bil­ity and the MT45 didn’t dis­ap­point on this trip

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