CARAVAN TEST: CORONET CARRINGTON 17-3
The classy Coronet Carrington 17-3 has all the ingredients for comfortable, long-term advaentures around Australia.
· Top-of-the-line Coronet pop-top
· Spacious and elegant interior
· Built for bitumen touring
Coronet is a name synonymous with Australian caravanning. It was established in 1959 by Ian Farren and is responsible for classic vans such as the Prince and Princess (each launched in the mid-'70s), and the Champion (early '70s), which, as the decade drew to a close, was replaced by the Nomad.
The brand survives today thanks to Andrew Phillips, who bought it in 1991 and has since revived at least one of the former Coronet's model names, the Prince.
It was the Prince that took the Legends Series prize last year but, this time around, we put the Carrington up against the Jayco Sterling and Goldstream RV Panther pop-tops. The Carrington is essentially a Prince but with additional features, such as a shower/toilet, air-conditioner, TV, Winegard antenna and gas-electric hot water service, as standard.
ON THE INSIDE
The Carrington's traditional aesthetic is undeniably elegant. The 3mm 'rezilience' cabinetry (glued and screwed to meranti timber framing) is good and solid, timeless in its appearance. Rezilience is a similar material to polyply, the main difference being its more textured surface. Overall, the Carrington's interior proves that even in a pop-top, long considered the littlies of the RV world, you don't have to do without. In fact, with a front bedroom, offside dinette, kitchen split along the nearside and rear, and bathroom tucked neatly into a corner, the Carrington's layout is entirely liveable. It's not packed with innovation, but nor are there many compromises.
There's very little that's out of place in the Carrington's kitchen. There are no unsightly gaps betraying a slap-dash approach to construction, no timber or plastic beading where the benchtops meet the splashbacks (sometimes used to hide all manner of mistakes), and the locker doors sit nice and square. Perhaps the only criticism that could be fairly levelled at the kitchen is in regards to the water pump switch: one wonders why it is in the bedroom rather than the kitchen.
A generous 121L Dometic three-way fridge-freezer is mounted off the floor, gas and water lines running through the cupboard beneath. Standing 1.27m (4ft 2in) from the floor, the shelf above the fridge is quite high, but we found it to be a handy addition to the already impressive amount of bench space on offer. With more than a metre on the nearside when the stove lid is down, not to mention the generous space next to the rear sink, you'll never be short of space to whip up dinner. And when the food is prepared, there's the excellent Swift 500 Series cooktop and grill (and stainless steel rangehood above), with which to get cooking. No oven was fitted to our test Carrington, but there was a Sharp microwave built into the cabinetry next to the air-conditioner.
Storage is the highlight of the part of the kitchen that's set along the rear wall. With a couple of overhead lockers, an array of cupboards and drawers below the bench, and a slide-out pantry near the entrance, it's unlikely that you'll ever run short of places to put things.
The offside L-shaped dinette is fine for two, though a little tight around the table, and the high-density cushioning provides decent leg and back support. Because of the wheel arch, under-seat storage is limited; however, a hatch provides access to a small space as well as the 12V Shurflo water pump and fuses. There are three lockers above the dinette, but with only one partition - a second in order to stop your gear from sliding around in there would be appreciated.
In addition to the TV, the Carrington comes with a Sony CD player that's mounted into the cabinetry near the entrance. Lighting throughout is all 12V, with a couple of flouros in the ceiling, and LED reading lights in classy fixtures at the dinette and bed.
I liked the ply false bottom in the wardrobes either side of the bed, even though the space beneath one of them is occupied by the Heron Q air-conditioner compressor. The other space would be good for storing spare blankets and pillows, etc. Beneath each wardrobe is a bedside drawer - handy, yes, but they could do with a stopper. While it's unlikely they'd slide out while you're underway, stranger things have happened.
There's yet more storage at the foot of the bed, as well as a flatscreen TV with integral DVD player mounted above the cupboard on the nearside.
Beneath the bed (which measures 1.9x1.53m or 6ft 3in x 5ft) is a cavernous storage compartment, where you'll find the house battery - the rest of the area is yours to fill.
With a Thetford bench-style toilet, small washbasin behind and cabinet above, a handheld shower and 12V fan hatch, everything is in order in the rear-offside corner bathroom.
There's a touch of old-world charm about the Carrington, its traditional lines accentuated by time-honoured aluminium cladding. But alloy rims and fibreglass flares at the wheels plant it firmly in the 21st century.
The bitumen-bound Carrington is particularly pleasing under tow, seemingly well balanced and with just the right amount of weight on the nose. The tandem-axle loadsharing suspension, 4in A-frame and 4in main chassis members are entirely sufficient for the blacktop touring for which this pop-top is designed.
Some additional, thoughtful touches are appreciated, too, such as the position of the grey water outlet, tucked high behind the offside wheel, behind the mudguard, so it's unlikely to be struck and shattered by stones flicked up by the wheels.
Underneath, you'll find two galvanised-sheet-protected water tanks, one of which is mounted at the axle line, the other slightly forward, adding to the stability on the ball.
Two 9kg gas cylinders are mounted on the A-frame, so the powder-coated aluminium front boot, where the Breaksafe unit is kept, is uncluttered, giving you the maximum amount of external storage available. A padded vinyl pebbleguard reaches halfway up the front, affording some protection from road debris, but it'd be great to see the tap given a little stoneguard - typically just a bit of folded checkerplate screwed to the A-frame.
A Dometic awning runs the entire length of the Carrington but I must admit to wondering about the exclusion of a fold-down picnic table. They're useful on any caravan, but life would go one with one… As a rule of thumb, Coronet doesn't fit them, though would do so on request.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Given this pop-top's price point, you'd expect a little glamour, and in this respect, the Carrington doesn't disappoint. It packs plenty of features into its 5.9m (19ft 4in) external body length, without impeding on living space.
Fit, finish and attention to detail are the highpoints of Coronet vans. And this reputation was done no harm by our test Carrington. It carried the marque's torch with distinction.
THE JUDGES LIKED
· The Carrington's performance under tow
· Overall attention to detail
THE JUDGES WOULD'VE LIKED
· More room at the dinette
· Stoppers for drawers throughout
· Stoneguard for A-frame tap
Coronet Caravans, 120 Canterbury Rd, Bayswater North, Vic 3153, (03) 9761 5286, www.coronetcaravans.com.au
Originally published in Caravan World #509, December 2013.