Best Aussie Vans: 2016 Kokoda Veteran XLi Platinum Review
For an all-roads touring van, Kokoda’s Veteran XLi is pure gold.
It was a competitive field in the $50-$65K segment at this year’s Best Aussie Vans (BAV), with Kokoda’s Veteran XLi Platinum — just squeaking in at $64,990 — serving up a fine balance of luxury and bush capability.
While Kokoda describes the Veteran as a ‘semi-offroad’ van, the truth is that any caravan of this size and weight is not going to be a natural on steep, slippery bush tracks or in soft sand. The most a van like this will handle is rough outback roads and, for this scenario, the Kokoda appears well-equipped.
The 3300kg-rated Tuffride trailing arm suspension has coil springs and a shock absorber per wheel and will offer a better ride over the rough stuff than leaf-spring beam axles. An interesting feature here is the chains securing each trailing arm; these restrict travel so that there’s no risk of popping a coil spring out of its seat.
At first glance, the chassis appears quite conventional – galvanised 6in RHS longitudinal rails with 2in risers. Yet there’s also a 1in box-section lattice reinforcement and laser-cut bracing plates at the join between the A-frame and chassis rails. It looks like an extremely solid chassis setup.
The underside is well-protected against stone damage, too. There are sheet-steel guards over the two fresh water tanks (fitted just ahead of the axles) and the grey water tank (just aft of the axles) while checkerplate shields the underside from the grey water tank back. Plumbing and wiring is set up high and where necessary is routed through the chassis rails rather than around them – which greatly reduces the likelihood of damage.
Up front on the A-frame, there’s a Hitchmaster D035 coupling, a combined gas cylinder and jerry can holder rack, a firewood/hose tray and a (checkerplate-shielded) tap. The jockey wheel is centre-mounted, which allows enough space for a weight distribution hitch to be used easily if required. The only thing missing is a stoneguard, which would be handy as there’s nothing protecting the jerries and gas cylinders.
The batteries are mounted on the offside chassis rail, not a favourite location of mine because they are hard to get to and on a (admittedly, unlikely) ramp-over situation the front battery box is exposed to damage.
Crucial for any outback foray is strong tyres, and to that end the Kokoda’s LT-construction all-terrains do the trick.
The body is traditional Australian caravan fare: an insulated Meranti timber frame wrapped in aluminium cladding.
There’s a large front boot, a three-quarter tunnel boot and rear offside storage locker, giving plenty of external storage options, while a nearside picnic table and rear-mounted external shower complete the exterior features.
BRIGHT AND FAMILIAR
The Kokoda’s internal layout is a familiar one — a front island bed, centre kitchen and dinette and rear bathroom. The decor is a bright gloss white with contrasting grey benchtops and seating material. It is a modern, airy design helped by the large windows that allow in plenty of natural light.
Starting up the back, the bathroom has a generous vanity unit, which folds up to reveal the 2.5kg washing machine. The shower recess is also unusually large for a caravan bathroom, so you have plenty of elbow room. With four drawers, a cupboard and two lockers above the vanity, the Kokoda has more bathroom storage than many of us have at home.
The kitchen bench is on the offside wall extending from the bathroom to the bedroom. Kitchen layout can come down to personal preference, but I think this layout is ideal because everything you need is on the same wall. There’s no turning around to get to the fridge or microwave, it’s all in front of you.
Speaking of the microwave, Kokoda gets a big tick for mounting its Sphere microwave at about chest height. It’s an old complaint we get tired of making, but most caravan microwaves are fitted up high, making it difficult to not splash hot liquids on yourself when retrieving a hot item out of the unit.
The large Dometic fridge is mounted just below the microwave, and being adjacent to the door makes it convenient for when you’re enjoying a spot of recreation outside and are in need of refreshment.
It’s all good and well having a kitchen in a caravan, but when you have no food preparation space, cooking inside one can become tedious very quickly. Thankfully the Veteran XLi Platinum has a reasonable amount of space, especially if you prepare food before using the cooker — with the cooker’s benchtop cover down, there’s ample room. The benchtop on an offside triangular corner cupboard in the adjacent bedroom can also serve as a spot to store items when cooking. There’s plenty of storage space in the kitchen too, with lockers above and cupboards and drawers below.
The cafe dinette is the typical design you find in a layout like this, with a tri-fold table and cupboards underneath on the nearside wall. Open, lipped shelves would work better here really, as it’s an awkward reach to open the cupboard door before being able to retrieve items. A handy two-port USB charging station and a two-pole 240V socket sit above the table on the nearside wall.
The bedroom has the typical storage solutions you find in an island bed layout, with lockers above the bed, hanging space each side, triangular corner cupboards and under-bed storage. The walk around the bed is not as tight as in many vans with this layout, and a stand-out feature here is the recessed cubbies at each side of the bed, ideal for reading material and night time requirements.
The Veteran XLi Platinum is well-furnished with power and water capacities for shorter-stay bush camping. The 240W solar capacity is pretty good but, for long stays, especially with a few cloudy days thrown in, the two 100Ah batteries might not keep up with your voltage needs.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Kokoda has not oversold its Veteran XLi Platinum’s abilities by calling it a semi-offroad van, but I think it is as good as most that are pushed as tougher alternatives. The generous 800kg payload, tough underpinnings and clever touches such as the bedroom storage options make this a promising rough-road tourer.