TESTED: HODGE RV COASTAL NAVIGATOR

By: Malcolm Street, Photography by: Malcolm Street


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This is definitely not your standard caravan. We take a closer look at the Navigator's many unusual features.

TESTED: HODGE RV COASTAL NAVIGATOR
Hodge RV Coastal Navigator

HODGE RV MIGHT not be a name totally familiar to readers of this fine publication but it’s a very well known manufacturer of fifth wheelers and more recently caravans across the "dutch" – that’s Kiwi speak for ditch, aka the Tasman.

In keeping with recent trends whereby Australian RV manufacturers send their products to NZ, so too are the Kiwis exporting to Australia.


Hodge RV has been based in Qld for several years now with its range of fifth wheelers but now also has a caravan available, the Coastal Navigator. It comes with the added attraction of a slide-out on the offside.

Hodge RV might not be a name totally familiar to readers of this fine publication but it’s a very well known manufacturer of fifth wheelers and more recently caravans across the "dutch" – that’s Kiwi speak for ditch, aka the Tasman.

In keeping with recent trends whereby Australian RV manufacturers send their products to NZ, so too are the Kiwis exporting to Australia.

Hodge RV has been based in Qld for several years now with its range of fifth wheelers but now also has a caravan available, the Coastal Navigator. It comes with the added attraction of a slide-out on the offside.


UNUSUAL
Built very much like the Hodge fifth wheelers, the caravan has an aluminium chassis – somewhat unusual for a van but it’s built with a considerable amount of manufacturing experience. For the tandem axles, the US-made Dexter torsion independent suspension is fitted, along with 15in alloy wheels.

While we’re under the chassis, it should be noted that the Navigator has both a fresh water tank (280L) and a grey water tank (210L) – the latter being unusual in Australian caravans.

Up front the drawbar looks a little different. It has the usual ball coupling and handbrake but the entire drawbar has an alloy checkerplate cover with provision for mounting two 9kg gas cylinders and two deep-cycle batteries in protective boxes. More common in camper trailers, the snap-up jockey wheel has two wheels, like the nose wheel of an airplane. There isn’t a conventional front boot; instead, a storage bin is fitted to the front nearside that gives access to the under-bed area.

Above the chassis is an aluminium frame but the walls are not the usual alloy cladding, instead being vacuum-bonded fibreglass. Above the roof is EPDM rubber, not common in caravans but used by several motorhome and fifth wheeler manufacturers.

The somewhat square looks of the van are negated to some extent at the rear by the fibreglass mouldings that have been fitted top and bottom. Insulation all-round is provided by 38mm fire-retardant polyurethane foam. Windows are glass and tinted but NZ-style, which means only the lower third of the window can be opened. The door has a separate, full-height insect screen but it’s in the Hehr style, so it’s not a lockable security item. There’s no stone shield on the front window, which is quite large and might be vulnerable to road damage.

This 7.8m (25ft 6in) van has a Tare of 2200kg and an ATM of 2900kg, giving an impressive load capacity of 700kg. If you travel lightly, that makes it a relatively light-weight van for its length.


LAYO
UT
The interior layout of the Coastal Navigator is a little different to the conventional Australian style. It consists of a rear, L-shaped kitchen bench, mid-nearside dining area and an offside lounge in the slide-out. Separating the front bedroom from the rest of the van is a bathroom that is split across the van.

The cabinetry is finished in the timber look but doesn’t dominate the beige and brown tones of the rest of the Coastal Navigator.

Quite a few van designs have a rear-wall kitchen but with the bathroom in the rear offside corner. This layout takes a different approach with a kitchen that is designed in an L shape – across the rear and part-way along the offside wall.

Right by the door is a 186L Dometic fridge with a space above it that will take a microwave very nicely. Adjoining the fridge is a stainless steel sink with drainer, and around the corner, so to speak, is a four-burner cooktop, grill and oven. The kitchen bench is a little deceptive because it looks like there is a great deal of storage but there are just two drawers and four overhead lockers. There is, however, a reasonable amount of benchtop area.

Mounted below the sink are a powerpoint, 12V socket, hot water switches and air-conditioning.

If there’s a slight shortage of storage space in the main kitchen bench, the cabinet on the other side of the entry door makes up for it. In addition to adding more shelf area, it also has six wire basket drawers that can be used as a pantry or for other uses.

A table with freestanding chairs fits into the space between that cabinet and the toilet wall. It seems to fit in better than a conventional dinette arrangement and is more flexible in its use, especially in conjunction with the two lounge chairs in the slide-out opposite. There’s no doubt that this is a very spacious lounge/dining area.

As mentioned, the bathroom is split across the van, with the toilet cubicle complete with Thetford cassette toilet, corner washbasin, shaving cabinet and concertina curtain on the nearside. Filling the opposite space is the shower cubicle with a fixed-height shower hose and translucent door. Both the toilet and shower are vented by a fan hatch.

In the forward bedroom area, things are again a little different to the norm. The bed sits east-west, with the bedhead against the nearside wall. There are bedside cabinets on either side but because of the van’s body shape, only one side of the bed has a side wardrobe and overhead locker.


THE BOTTOM LINE
It’s always good to see someone take up the challenge of an aluminium chassis to try to keep the overall weight of a caravan down. The Coastal Navigator isn’t a particularly small van to begin with, and with the slide-out open, it certainly offers plenty of space. There’s no doubt that the Coastal Navigator is a little different to the local products but that makes it an interesting option.

WORDS AND PICS Malcolm Street


HODGE RV COASTAL NAVIGATOR
Overall length: 9m (29ft 6in)
External body length: 7.8m (25ft 6in)
External width: 2.26m (7ft 8in)
Internal height: 2.16m (7ft)

Nameplate ATM: 2900kg
Nameplate Tare: 2200kg
Frame: Aluminium
Chassis: Aluminium
Suspension: Dexter Torsion Torflex

Gas: 2 x 9kg
Fresh water: 280L
Grey water: 210L

Price as shown $98,000 (on road, Qld)

Source: Caravan World Jan 2010

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