It’s not often we’re given an extended period to test out a caravan. This time, however, our roving journalists Richard and Dominique spent 12 days assessing the Jurgens Fleetline. This is what they discovered.
It seems quite a long drive out of Pretoria to the Jurgens caravan factory in Ga-Rankuwa in the North West Province, although the GPS shows it’s only some 40- odd kilometres from the city of jacarandas. When you get to the huge facility, though, it’s a wanderer’s dream come true, with caravans, campers and offroad caravans stretching as far as the eye can see. But my wife, Dominique, and I were here for a specific mission: to pick up a Jurgens Fleetline caravan for our trip to explore the magnificent waterfalls of Mpumalanga.
We towed the caravan for 12 days with a Chevrolet Captiva, an all-wheel-drive 2.4-litre turbo-diesel with a six-speed automatic transmission. I thought I would begin this review from a more technical (typically male) perspective. Later Dominique will add her take on the caravan.
Let me kick off with the important specs of Jurgens Fleetline. The caravan, which is 5975 mm long and 2300 mm wide, is easy to hitch behind your tow vehicle and to manoeuvre at caravan stands. It has a licence mass (tare) of 1108 kg, a GVM of 1300 kg, and a resulting payload of 192 kg – which means you can load the caravan with clobber, grub and drink totalling 192 kg. (You’ll find more of the numbers at the end of this article.)
The Fleetline comes with a pop-up roof. Once I’d raised it, which was quite easy, I enjoyed the feeling of openness it gave. I also liked being able to unzip the side and back windows in the fabric surround and drink in the view of our campsite setting: it really gave a sense of space and let a lot of fresh air in. These zip-open windows all have insect-proof gauze. The roof height is 2600 mm when raised – even a Springbok lock would feel at home with this sort of headroom – and comes down to 2320 mm when the roof is lowered for travelling. Untidiness is one of my traits, so I have to admit I love the amount of hiding – er, I mean packing – space in this well-organised caravan. But before I try to describe things beyond my capabilities, let me hand over to a more practical and organised member of this team, Dominique.
The interior of the Fleetline is well designed, on the whole, with tastefully decorated areas. The dinette, kitchen space and sleeping area feature various shades of brown, white and cream – new colours in the Jurgens range. For me personally, thedark-brown trim is slightly oppressive; aesthetically speaking, I believe a lighter colour is always better in a small space. However, the really comfortable island bed with surrounding cupboards does give the illusion of more space in this area. The Jurgens designers have certainly gone to town when it comes to the storage and cupboard facilities. This is a big bonus for untidy folk like us – my motto is: ‘Try to keep surfaces clear, sweetie’ – and there was more than enough storage for clothing, books and, of course, the cases of photographic equipment we always travel with!
There are two schools of thought on the pop-top roof, those who love them and those who don’t. I have to say that I fall into the former category: I love the sense of extra space and the fresh air circulation when all the zips are undone. In the hot and humid Lowveld, the heat build-up in the caravan without this facility would’ve been uncomfortable for me.
Although we were rained on much of the time during our travels, and didn’t get a chance to put up the side tent, I know that this feature would’ve added to the roominess of the living areas, especially for longer stays at a caravan park. We are seriously considering becoming ‘caravaning swallows’ when we’re old and grey, and having seen for ourselves how some people kit out their caravan’s tented area, we’re now convinced that a decent side tent is essential. The kitchen area is slightly cramped, and there’s not much space for food preparation. The little dinette fold-up table was really useful for the prep and getting meals on the go, but it was a bit unsteady on its one leg! Besides these few minor quibbles, we both enjoyed the freedom our home on the road afforded.
Part of what makes the Fleetline a home on the road is the central kitchen area with a two-burner gas hob, which has a fold-down glass top that serves as an extra work surface when cooking isn’t actually in progress. The sink also has a removable solid top offering extra work space. The kitchen sink and the small handbasin next to the island bed are fed with a 12 V pump from a 20-litre water container stored in the nose cone.
Another must-have in a caravan is a fridge-freezer to keep the beers and boerie cold, and our Fleetline had a 210- litre 220 V unit. I really liked the fact that the freezer wasn’t one of those feeble jobs just big enough for an ice tray. I also enjoyed the convenience of a microwave – a very useful piece of equipment when you’re on the road.
Like all brand new pieces of equipment, the caravan had a few teething problems. Although the front door locking assembly was imported from Europe, we experienced some difficulty with it. I’m sure this only needed a minor adjustment, but it was a bit annoying at times. The cupboard below the handbasin also had a defective press button closing mechanism, but again this was something that could be fixed in five minutes, I’m sure.
Well, Dominique and I had more than five minutes to test the Jurgens Fleetline on our trip to Mpumulanga. It’s one of eight caravan models in the Jurgens range. The smallest is the Expo, at 5520 mm, followed by our Fleetline, and the biggest in the range is the Elegance. I have to say that overall the Jurgens Fleetline was an excellent caravan, both in the camp and on the road, hitched behind our Captiva. Oh, and I’ve promised Dominique that next time I’ll try not to store pieces of camera equipment in every cupboard!