Review: Jurgens Sungazer
The new Jurgens Sungazer is a little caravan with a lot of heart.
CARAVANNING CAN BE as complicated or as fuss-free as you like. I'm a fuss-free vanner who likes to just hitch up and hit the road. This, of course, is to my wife's annoyance - she's a detail person who plans the minutia of an entire trip months in advance.
Our latest excursion was a few days on the Mornington Peninsula, Vic, with Jurgens' newest creation, the Sungazer J1901. I had a limited window in my office schedule, so this trip would be a last-minute affair. This suited me perfectly. As it turned out, it suited the Sungazer too, such is its versatility.
The Sungazer I tested was happiest on the bitumen. We set up on the foreshore camping ground in Rosebud, and access was via dirt tracks with numerous potholes. As you would with any van, we took it slowly and the Sungazer fared well.
It's a sporty looking caravan with the typical Jurgens look, and it attracted many admiring glances from fellow vanners. But it's the inside of the van that really impresses. With many manufacturers going for the popular layout of a front bedroom, full-width rear bathroom and everything else in between, the creativity of the Sungazer's design is refreshing.
The forward dining area is the unquestioned highlight. Two lounges either side double as 1.9x0.8m (6ft 3in x 2ft 7in) single beds, and the table is a very clever slide-and-flip-out design that provides plenty of table space when opened, and a spot for drinks and nibbles, etc., when closed. A couple of small locks on both sides secure the table from sliding out when you're on the move.
But the versatility doesn't end there. 'Retractable' bed slats pull out from the cabinet and rest on aluminium rails that run the length of the two lounges/beds. Slide one lounge base across, fill the resulting space against the wall with both back rests, and you've got a 2.2x1.3m (7ft 3in x 4ft 3in) east-west bed. The process takes less than a minute. Recognising that some people prefer their own bed, and considering the space that's saved overall, Jurgens gets top marks here. The cushions are high-density foam; I found them to be very firm.
Among the storage options are his and hers cabinets above the front window, and cavities beneath the lounges/beds, with the Truma hot water heater and 12V Shurflo water pump occupying the forward offside space. The storage on offer beneath these seats is very good; however, access is rather difficult. It requires you to completely remove the large lounge cushions and find a suitable spot for them while you rummage - we found this quite awkward. Hatches on the vertical face of each lounge base would make a substantial difference.
The offside kitchen, between the dining/sleeping area and the rear bathroom, ticks all the boxes: plenty of storage; a four-burner Spinflo Minigrill MkIII with griller and stainless steel rangehood; 93L three-way fridge/freezer; and 20L microwave. Beneath the sink, the holes where the plumbing exits the floor were neatly cut and sealed.
There's a small nearside bench cabinet with one drawer and cupboard below - this drawer is likely to be for cutlery as it's the only one on offer. A word on bench space: there's slim to none in the kitchen itself and a small amount on this nearside cabinet. If anything but the most basic of recipes is on the menu, the slide-and-flip-out dinette table will be the best bet for meal preparation. This is not a criticism. Compromise is the reality of caravan design - and in this case, it's worth the versatility afforded by the layout.
The nearside cabinet is home to the van's only wardrobe. It measures 0.43m (1ft 5in) in depth and 1.01m (3ft 4in - from the top of the hanging rail) in height.
At its widest point, the bathroom offers 0.62m (2ft) of standing space (measured between the inward curve of the vanity and the door jam). A Thetford cassette toilet is on the nearside and despite the bathroom's modest dimensions loo legroom is quite comfortable even for tall people.
The vanity comprises a stainless steel bowl, cup holder, flick-mixer tap, hand towel holder, and some cupboard storage (with neat and tidy plumbing inside).
Because there isn't a window in the bathroom, it gets quite dark; however, opening the 12V fan hatch in the offside shower brightens things up. Nonetheless, I'd prefer one of the two bathroom mirrors to be replaced with a window.
Outside of the bathroom, however, there's no shortage of natural light, with three large windows surrounding the dining/sleeping area, a window in the kitchen and one in the Camec triple-locker door, and a Seitz MidiHeki hatch. Each window (save for in the door) has fantastic retractable flyscreens and block-out blinds. They work very well. Artificial lighting consists of multidirectional halogen reading lights, fluorescent dome lights, and halogens in the bathroom.
A combination of materials is bonded together and vacuum pressed to create a sandwich panel for the walls. The materials include an aluminium skin, timber and polystyrene core, and plywood inner wall. This all rests atop Jurgens' own hot-dipped galvanised chassis, a computer laser-cut, bolt-together construction with pressed holes for lighter weight and greater strength.
A fibreglass nose cone covers the drawbar - so the single 9kg gas cylinder (with provision for a second) is fitted in the front boot along with the spare wheel. As a result, boot space is somewhat limited but you'll still fit the jockey wheel and some camp chairs, etc., in there.
The drawbar is also fitted with a sturdy Al-Ko stabiliser coupling, water tap (sans stone guard) and offset jockey wheel.
Front boot aside, lockable bins either side of the van comprise all of the external storage options and should be adequate for most needs.
Underneath, the 60L water tank sits forward of the axle, which is connected to Al-Ko independent suspension. There are no surprises - everything is neatly strapped up out of harm's way.
When it comes to outdoor entertaining, the Sungazer could do with a picnic table and a couple of speakers - but the fact it doesn't have them as standard is no deal breaker.
THE BOTTOM LINE
I became acquainted with the Sungazer at the 2010 Melbourne Leisurefest. Jurgens' managing director, Terry Steel, gave me a guided tour, making a particular point of showing me that versatile sleeping/dining area.
After living in the Sungazer for a few days, I remain as impressed with that setup as I was on Terry's tour and, overall, it's a good van for a couple on a coastal or hinterland adventure who will be mostly staying at caravan parks.
Compact dimensions and light weight (with a Tare of 1360kg as tested, including options such as an air-conditioner and Dometic awning) make the Sungazer eminently towable.
I liked it. In fact, if I could find another last-minute window in my office schedule, I'd take one out again. And again.