Motorhomes Caravans & Destinations
AFFORDABLE FUN FOR TWO
When every dollar counts, it’s hard to go past this entry-level campervan. Bill Savidan reports.
The Jayco RM19-1 campervan makes a great entry-level RV
In their 2021 range of panel van conversions Jayco offer three different base vehicles: Renault Master, Fiat Ducato and Mercedes Sprinter. The Renault Master reviewed here is not so well known in New Zealand, but it’s highly respected in the European and UK markets. Over the past 10 years the Renault Master van has been a ‘top five best-seller’ in the UK.
Similar in dimensions to its nearest rival, the Fiat Ducato, the Master’s length is 6198mm (Fiat: 5998mm), and overall height is 2496mm (Fiat: 2522mm), but the Master has a significantly longer wheelbase at 4332mm (Fiat: 4035mm) and less rear overhang. As the rear wheels are close to the back corners of the van, it looks quite different. The interior headroom is pretty much the same in both brands, at around 1900mm. Otherwise the Master is quite simple in appearance, with just two horizontal intertwining decal stripes down each side.
The Master is powered by a 2.3L, 110Kw, four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine driving the front wheels through a six-speed automated manual transmission (ATM). It’s a balanced, responsive combination that performs well on the motorway and in city traffic. Standard fit-out includes anti-lock brakes, traction and stability controls, as well as remote central locking, power steering, electric mirrors, cab air-conditioning, cruise control and Bluetooth. Sitting in the driver’s seat, all the instrumentation is easy to read and reach, with the handbrake floormounted to the left of the driver’s seat and the gearshift dash also on the left. Coffee cup holders are on each side of the dashboard, and there are bottle holders in the door pockets. Beside each sun visor is a small shelf, and above the cab is a shallow full-width shelf.
Unusually, there is cab seating for three in the RM19 reviewed: a separate driver’s seat and a double passenger seat. All three have seat belts. The centre seat-back folds forward to lie flat on the seat cushion, for use as a worktop or a picnic tray. This middle seat is not readily removable, so access from the cab to the habitation space is limited to those who are slim and agile enough to climb through the gap when the middle seat-back is pushed down. I did it and would do it again if the need arose.
Four factors determine the ease of passage through the sliding doorway. First is the slide-out step; second is the low interior floor level (200mm lower than the cab floor); third is the 1775mm height clearance through the entrance way; and fourth is the 650mm wide access-way past the end of the kitchen bench. They all contribute to a feeling of spaciousness in what is a small motorhome.
The upholstery is serviceable in style and colour: a grey/brown woven fabric on the seat cushions with an abstract pattern in grey, brown and off-white on the backrest cushions. The side walls are covered with a grey fleece fabric. The vinyl flooring simulates wooden floorboards in a herringbone pattern. Altogether practical and inoffensive. Note: there are no curtains or blinds on the backdoor windows. Apparently they are victims of ‘Covid-19 short supply’. When they will become available is uncertain.
With three centre-line downlights and two more over the kitchen bench, a reading light each side and a centre light in the washroom, night-time lighting is well catered for. There’s a ceiling smoke detector over the kitchen bench.
LOUNGE AND DINING
In settee mode, for relaxing or entertaining, the 140mm thick seat and back cushions are comfortable enough, but some folk may find that the cushion height, 550mm off the floor, leaves their legs dangling in midair. At bedtime the settees can be made up as two single beds (640 x 1730/1900mm) or a large double with a back cushion filling the gap between the settees. And at mealtime the tabletop with its single cranked leg comes into play, handling two diners comfortably and four at a pinch.
“The standard fit-out includes anti-lock brakes, traction and stability controls, as well as remote central locking, power steering, electric mirrors, cab air-conditioning, cruise control and Bluetooth.”
The cranked table leg allows you to move the tabletop to one side, making it easier to get past. Interior headroom of 1880mm (6ft 2in) should be adequate for most buyers.
A swinging arm mount for the TV is fixed to the cabinet wall beside the fridge. This allows you to view the TV from both the front and back of the van. TV aerial connections and a 12V power plug are also located here. Alongside is the control panel for the Eberspacher heater. In the cupboard under the fridge is service access to the back of the Nautilus water heater. Above the microwave are monitors for the water heater, the Jcontrol monitor board and Furrion entertainment centre. Under the settee below the TV is the J35 battery management system and pre-wiring for the Tire Linc tyre pressure monitor system.
The kitchen cabinet is a compact unit with a two-burner cooktop alongside a circular sink set into the benchtop, with a cutlery drawer and three cupboards below. A separate filtered water faucet is mounted beside the sink faucet. To the right is a foldaway, 360mm long, benchtop extension. Not a lot of work space but enough for preparing simpler meals. Opposite, at eye level is a 60L, 12/230V compressor fridge with a small freezer. Above this is a microwave that can be useful storage space when camping off-grid. Once the fridge and cupboards are full of goodies, you can use more space under the twin settees.
A Thetford swivel bowl toilet to the right, a corner-mounted handbasin with faucet to the left, and the shower control wall is in the middle of an otherwise pristine white shower stall. Compact, functional and perfectly adequate.
WINDOWS AND VENTILATION
There are just three windows in the RM19 sidewalls, one in the sliding door and one each side towards the back corners. Each is awning-hung and has a cassette on the inside, housing a blind and an insect screen. A roof vent in the washroom ceiling is the only roof hatch. There’s a wall vent above the hob, and another at floor level in the sliding door. These ensure the interior has adequate ventilation when all the doors, the bathroom vent and the windows are closed.
The settees have good storage underneath. Kerbside there are three compartments plus the LPG bottle cabinet: two for storing bedding, and a third with the 2Kw Eberspacher diesel heater mounted on the floor, with plenty of storage above. Driver’s side has storage space the full length of the settee, accessible from the top or through a hatch at the end of the settee. Note there is some storage room in the cupboard under the fridge. And there is good space for clothes and personal items in the six overhead lockers above the settees.
On the driver’s side you’ll find the radio aerial, freshwater inlet, 230V inlet plug with a circuit-breaker switch alongside, gas hot water exhaust, toilet cassette hatch and two fridge vents. Across the front, set low at bumper height is a tubular aluminium bull-bar, and there’s a cab radio aerial above the windscreen. Kerbside has the diesel fill point beside the cab door and a three-metre Fiamma awning above the whizz-bang sliding door. This door has a very easy action, doesn’t feel heavy and it fastens into place when fully open. And as the interior floor level is just 500mm above ground level, the single slide-out electric step makes entry/exit a breeze. A 230V outlet plug is near the rear corner. At the back a pair of full-height rear doors provide excellent access to the interior. For day-to-day operations these doors swing open 90°, but when released from their brackets they swing through 270° to fold down the sides of the van.
Careful management of water (fresh 60L and grey 45L), LPG (1 x 4kg) and battery power will be needed for freedom camping for more than three or four days. The 120W solar panel and a 100amp/hr battery combination may not be sufficient to keep driving the 12V compressor fridge if cloudy weather sets in.
Affordability is the real strength of the Jayco RM19. In the current market it has the ‘starting at $99,990’ price point all to itself. And although buyers have an unusual cab seating configuration to deal with, many will find work-arounds that are acceptable. ■