Jayco Starcraft TL 18.55-3: Review

By: Michael Browning, Photography by: Michael Browning


Jayco have done it again, with the Starcraft TL 18.55-3 ticking all the right boxes for those looking for a well thought-out and nicely priced caravan.

When the global financial crisis in 2008 sent many smaller manufacturers to the wall, Jayco’s response was to increase production of its budget range of Starcraft pop-tops and caravans that soon accounted for more than half of all Jayco sales.

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To differentiate them from their smooth, composite-walled Expanda, Destiny and (later) Silverline brethren, Starcrafts retained their ribbed aluminium cladding over an aluminium wall frame but, in many cases, they matched the smooth-walled models in size, features and equipment.

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However, with the market picking up, Jayco saw a growing niche and, in January this year, announced a ‘TL’ (Tough Frame/Leatherette) option for all Starcraft caravans, with the option due to extend to Starcraft pop-tops later this year.

DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION

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In my opinion, paying an extra $1950 to have a smooth composite exterior and leatherette upholstery instead of cloth inside of your Starcraft is a no-brainer. No matter how much you like ribbed aluminium cladding for its traditional look, lighter weight and easy repair, the industry is moving to composite cladding – whether fibreglass or aluminium – because of its more modern appearance, greater resistance to hail damage and superior insulation properties.

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This means your Starcraft could be easier to sell and may command a higher price if and when you decide to replace it.

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Moreover, as Starcraft TL models are built in-house with pre-formed fibreglass sandwich walls similar to those employed on the range-topping Silverline models, Jayco has effectively blurred the line between its budget and premium ranges for buyers.

EXTERIOR

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There’s no checkerplate in sight, but the lower body areas along the sides and front feature a tough grey coating that’s applied in the production process and visually breaks up the van’s square look. Meanwhile, a fibreglass shield covers the Starcraft’s two A-frame-mounted 9kg gas cylinders – a point of difference and an effective way of protecting them.

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In order to maximise interior space, there is no front boot. The tunnel boot in the van’s nose partially makes up for this, although it is narrower on the right-hand side due to the inroads of the hot water service. There’s no other exterior storage and there isn’t much room on the A-frame to add a toolbox.

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Entry to the Starcraft 18.55-3 is via a rear-hinged front door, but it’s a jump up unless you use the supplied, portable plastic step. There are no handles, inside or out, to assist you – an omission that might be an issue for less mobile customers.

KITCHEN

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The centre of the van is occupied by the leatherette-upholstered cafe dinette with its large fixed table on one side and the compact, but functional, kitchen opposite.

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There’s not much preparation or serving space unless you employ the dinette table but, on the plus side, there’s good storage space below and above the stainless steel sink and drainage board. And Jayco hasn’t skimped on the kitchen appliances, fitting the Starcraft with a full cooking suite, including a four-burner cooktop, grill, oven and microwave.

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The adjacent black-fronted 174L three-way Thetford fridge-freezer is also commendably large, although the high positioning of the microwave above it is not ideal.

THE WRAP UP

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In summary, this is an honest, well thought-out, well made and nicely priced caravan that would make an ideal starting point for someone moving up from a camper trailer, or an acceptably comfortable tourer for travellers on a budget.

HITS AND MISSES

Pros…

  • Easy to tow
  • Roomy layout and spacious ensuite
  • Appealing, light interior
  • Good internal storage space

Cons…

  • No boot or box for hoses, etc.
  • Minimal stone protection
  • Vulnerable plumbing underneath

JAYCO STARCRAFT TL 18.55-3 SPECS

Weights and measures

  • Overall length 7.06m (23ft 2in)
  • External body length 5.64m (18ft 6in)
  • External body width 2.47m (8ft 1in)
  • Travel height 2.85m (9ft 4in)
  • Internal height 1.98m (6ft 6in)
  • Tare 1945kg
  • ATM 2345kg
  • Ball weight 200kg

External

  • Frame Aluminium tube
  • Cladding Fibreglass composite
  • Chassis Jayco Endurance hot-dipped galvanised steel
  • Suspension Al-Ko tandem-axle 
  • leaf spring
  • Brakes 10in Al-Ko electric
  • Wheels 14in with 185R14 tyres
  • Water 1x82L
  • Battery 1x100Ah deep-cycle
  • Solar No (120W and regulator optional)
  • Air-conditioner Coleman roof-mounted
  • Gas 2x9kg
  • Sway control Al-Ko ESC

Internal

  • Cooking Thetford Triplex Plus combo four-burner cooktop, grill and oven
  • Fridge Thetford 174L three-way
  • Microwave Sphere
  • Toilet Thetford cassette
  • Shower Separate fibreglass cubicle
  • Lighting LED throughout
  • Hot water Suburban 23L

Options fitted

  • TL (Tough Frame/Leatherette) Pack ($1950)

Price as shown

  • $52,413 (on-road, Vic)

The full test appears in Caravan World #554 October 2016. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!