KEA Beach: Review

By: Malcolm Street, Photography by: Jack Murphy, Video by: Anna Pastukhova


As relaxing as its name suggests, the KEA Beach offers a chance for motorhomers on a budget to get on the road, and add their own personal flair to this RV.

THE VEHICLE

The Beach, a 2010 model, has as its base vehicle, a Volkswagen Crafter 100. If you think it looks like a Mercedes Benz Sprinter of a similar vintage then you’d be correct because in those days VW had an arrangement with Benz to use a very similar bodywork.

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VW supplied the engine, a 2.5L turbo diesel that delivered a maximum power rating of 100kW and a torque of 300Nm. Whether those figures are still obtainable now is open to conjecture but recently my own diesel powered vehicle, a few years old, had something of a major (read expensive) service and that improved things very noticeably.

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Part of the Benz/VW deal was that VW also was able to use the Mercedes six speed Shiftmatic automated manual gearbox. The downside of these was that in the lower ranges, gear changes were often hesitant and that little feature remains.

DRIVING

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The particular Beach motorhome that I looked over had about 300,000km on the clock and I was keen to see how it performed on the road. Certainly the turbo diesel and gearbox ran as expected but the most noticeable feature was a few rattles, mostly from cupboards and overhead lockers. However, these were mostly easily identified and if you encounter these, you’ll find they can usually be fixed easily.

FEATURES

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The Beach has a somewhat distinctive rental motorhome look about it with its fibreglass composite walls, moulded fibreglass luton peak, Hehr style habitation door with separate insect screen and tinted glass sliding windows. Rental motorhomes often don’t have much of an external storage but this one does with a tunnel book across the rear offering enough storage for all the essential camping essentials. I had a good look round inside the motorhome but there were no signs of water leaks – something to pay attention to in any secondhand motorhome purchase.

The Wanderer editor Kirstie Bedford was impressed with the flexibility the motorhome offers.

"The KEA is adaptable, with varying configurations, durable, affordable, and you can try it before you buy-it which is a unique aspect of this motorhome," she said.

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"It means you can ensure it’s adapted specifically to your needs before you make the investment."

CMCA CEO Richard Barwick said, "if you are getting into the market for the first time, this is the vehicle for you. It has a compact but spacey design, having all the features you need and different bedding configurations."

He also remarked on how easy the KEA Beach makes RV travel.

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"Many consumers don’t have the big budgets, and it’s very comfortable travelling in a vehicle like this. One of the highlights is the Tare weight of the vehicle which allows anyone with a Class C licence to drive. It is easy to drive and park, making life simpler for all age groups."

INTERIOR

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It’s surprising what a difference changing the rear bed arrangement makes. Although there are definitely other clues as to the Beach rental heritage, having a 1.88m x 1.53m (6ft 1in x 5ft) island bed in the rear changes the layout perception entirely. Some of the essentials are the same, like the kitchen bench along the nearside and a combo bathroom opposite.

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However, the Beach has been retained as a four berth motorhome, so there’s a two person forward facing seat on the right behind the driver and a 2.13m x 1.53m (7ft x 5ft) luton bed above the driver’s cab. Both cab seats swivel around, a feature not found in all rental motorhomes and there’s a small round table that can be used between the seats. Small is the operative word though and there’s room for improvement there.

Generally speaking internal storage isn’t too bad for a motorhome this size and there’s plenty of overhead locker storage plus a small wardrobe behind the passenger seat.

A problem with the island bed installation is that access around the foot of the bed is tight, particularly around the half height cabinet on the offside.  There isn’t an obvious solution to that, apart from downsizing the cabinet and shifting the microwave oven (undoubtedly the biggest problem) so it might be a compromise that has to be accepted.

But really, it doesn’t want for much. In Kirstie’s words, "it might be entry level (as far as motorhomes go), but it still has everything you need for a family.

"It’s under $80K and while it’s compact, nothing has been overlooked," she said.

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"There’s a cab bed for the kids (with a television!), kitchenette, shower over the toilet, and of course a double bed, and you don’t need a special licence to drive it."

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Richard Barwick, CMCA CEO, agreed with the

KEA Beach’s value for money.

"If you are getting into the market for the first time, this is the vehicle for you. Many members and consumers don’t have big budgets, however it is very comfortable travelling in a vehicle like this.

"It is easy to drive and park, making life easier for all age groups."

ELECTRICS

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I’d have to say the Beach is well setup with 220AH of battery capacity and 80W of solar power. Mains power points are in mostly logical places but the TV set above the front wardrobe is only really viewable from the rear forward facing seats. Given the 85L of fresh water capacity and solar panel capacity, the Beach is going to be good for a night or three of bush camping.

THE BOTTOM LINE

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For travellers whose budgets don’t extend far, the Beach should get their attention. For people who are prepared to do a bit of work, the Beach offers potential. Much of the hard work is done, so the rest is up to you.

HITS AND MISSES

Pros...

  • Good for those on a tight budget
  • Retro island bed fitting
  • Opportunities for those who like to add personal touches
  • Relatively small size, makes it an easy motorhome to drive
  • Has four forward facing seatbelt fitted seats

Cons

  • Definitely more than a few rattles
  • Tight fit around island bed
  • Shelves needed in front cupboard
  • High kilometres on the odometer

Weights and measures

  • External length 7.21m (23ft 8in)
  • External width 2.34m (7ft 8in)
  • Internal height 2.15m (7ft)
  • Travel height 3.2m (10ft 6in)
  • Tare 3740kg
  • GVM 4490kg

Price as shown

$80,000