Taste of Freedom!
Malcolm Street spends time roaming New Zealand in this compact ex-rental Kea…
Frequently in my motorhome travels I spend a few days parked-up either on-location somewhere or at a rally site. In these cases it means setting up my travelling office (lap top, battery chargers, etc) and needing a bit of space to spread out; like in a C or B-class motorhome around 7 m (23 ft) in length.
Occasionally I do trips where a one or two night stay is all that’s necessary, in which case something like a large van conversion motorhome is more than sufficient – particularly when travelling on my own. Such was the case recently when I spent a few days around Auckland and Hamilton and Steve Lane at the RV Super Centre (Albany) was kind enough to organise an ex-rental Kea Freedom two berth motorhomes for my use.
Being a large van there were a few visual clues it was also a motorhome; like the light above the sliding door, the step below it, the gas cylinder and toilet cassette access doors and the power lead box. There weren't any decals because the motorhome was between coming off fleet and being readied for sale. But being a rental camper it didn't have an awning – and there’s no reason not to have something like a Fiamma F65 fitted.
On the Road
A problem Ford Transits suffer when compared to the European competition is they are often seen as the poor relation. One issue being that Transits are only available with a manual gearbox - and even with a new model about to be available that is still the case.
That said, for a vehicle with circa 100,000 km on the clock I reckon the 2.4-litre 101kW turbo-diesel powers the Kea along very well. Personally I am happy with a manual gearbox, so for me it works quite well. My fuel consumption came in about 10 L/100 km, but I certainly wasn't cruising along!
Being a motorhome with plenty of km on the clock you might expect a few rattles and creaks, which there were, but for an ex-rental that's probably seen some hard use there were fewer than I expected. One benefit the Transit does have is it's often easier to get the mechanicals serviced, being a Ford as opposed to its more ‘exotic’ contemporaries.
The Freedom’s layout seems to have stood the test of time for Kea. Two sideways facing lounges are situated in the rear, a shower/toilet cubicle is fitted behind the driver’s seat and the kitchen is in the remaining area, behind the passenger seat and partly into the sliding door opening, opposite the shower cubicle. Given the layout swivelling seats are not fitted, but being a flat floor van access to and from the driver’s cab is quite easy. Just remember to duck your head - experience is a hard teacher…
Décor is fairly plain, although the micro-hide fabric on the cushions is still pleasant looking and certainly serviceable as you might expect in a rental. All the windows (except the driver’s cab) are tinted and all have curtains.
Lighting throughout the Freedom is a mixture of fluorescent and halogen – all where they should be and certainly better located than some other rental units I’ve seen. Although the fluro/halogen combination is a bit dated compared with a full LED set-up they are still relatively energy efficient, and handy DIY types can certainly change fittings without much trouble. An AM/FM radio/DVD player supplies the entertainment, along with the flat screen TV mounted behind the microwave cabinet. It’s mounted flat to prevent theft, which makes it a tad funny to look at from the kerb-side lounge, and sitting right back in the corner works best.
Starting in the rear the two lounges are slightly different sizes – the driver’s side one being 2.0 m x 0.65 m (6 ft 5 in x 2 ft 2 in) and the kerb-side being 1.8 m x 0.8 m (5f t 9 in x 2 ft 7 in). The bed can be made up into a good sized double if desired, but has to be made up every night. If travelling by yourself, as I was, the larger single bed can be left permanently made up and the smaller one used easily as a seat/lounge in combination with the swivelling table.
Above the seats on both sides are lockers under which are both halogen reading lights and towel rails. The under-seat areas can be accessed by either lifting the ply hatches or opening the doors at the rear (when the van’s back doors are open). Hiding under the driver’s side seat is a small safe for valuables.
Between the two lounges is a Lagun-brand swivel table. It's fixed to the kerb-side bed and can be pushed to that side if not being used. Although the Lagun mount works quite well, if a more stable table is needed I sometimes think a folding, freestanding table might be better – something many a Euro RV manufacturer often provide. Of course that raises the problem of where to store the table, but I suspect a bit of creatively behind the cab seats could be the answer.
Time to Eat
The kitchen in the Freedom seems to be in bits and pieces, but being a relatively small space it works well. The cabinet in front of the nearside lounge contains a Vitrifrigo 90-litre fridge with a two-burner Smev cooktop above. There’s no rangehood as such, but a big ceiling hatch gets rid of most of the steam and cooking odours. The locker above the cooktop is quite small, but handy for ‘ready use’ items.
Behind the passenger seat is the second kitchen cabinet: sink and small drainer above, three drawers below and most containing cooking utensils. The minimal bench area can be extended by a hinged flap that sits across the gap between the sink cupboard and shower cubicle. If you are desperate to get into the driver’s cab you can still do so by ducking very low! Above the sink the small locker with the roller shutter door contains plates, cups and glasses, all neatly held in a custom built rack.
The rest of the kitchen sits on the offside between the shower cubicle and lounge. It consists of a cupboard, two drawers and a microwave oven and two drawers; one containing the cutlery tray. Other useful items are located there, one being an open shelf and the others being mounting points for the radio/CD player and a swivel-arm-fitted flat screen TV. A point of note here is that part of all of the above occupies the air space above the bed: a neat idea that effectively uses what otherwise might be non-usable space.
The shower and toilet cubicle is that – a cubicle – but it does have a Thetford bench-style cassette toilet, corner wash basin and variable height shower hose and nozzle (the latter is also used for the sink). It's not a particularly large bathroom, but in a small motorhome you wouldn't want it to be .
What we think
Although a motorhome the size of this Kea Freedom isn't going to be for everyone it does have specific advantages. In particular it’s a good unit for solo travellers, especially as setting up takes less than five minutes. It’s easy to drive and park, yet is totally self contained (i.e. there’s no need to get out during evening/night hours if you don’t want to) and it still has space for two to move around inside without feeling too cramped.
Regarding this test motorhome, I reckon it scrubs up very well for a second hand rig. Sure it shows signs of being used, but Kea has a reputation for building a good motorhome and that shows with this particular motorhome being in overall very good condition. All up, not a bad buy if you’re keen for the motorhome lifestyle but don't have the budget for a new vehicle.
- Strong performance
- Good economy
- Easy to service and find parts
- Designed as a rental, so durability built-in
- Electrical control panel – easy to find and accessible
- Lounge/bed can be set up in multiple of ways
- No real signs of abuse by users
- Manual gearbox an issue for some
- No griller – space an issue but maybe a combo microwave?
- Swivel table a bit rocky
- Double bed has to be made up nightly
About Pre-loved Motorhomes...
When reading through reviews on used motorhomes a few points need to be kept in mind. Although I had an extended test use of the test vehicle it should in no way be considered a thorough evaluation of the mechanical components. I can say, however, that during this review everything functioned as it should. However, testing items like battery capacity really cannot be done effectively. Given the time between review and publication it's quite possible this vehicle has been sold. Consequently, this review should be used as a guide, but being an ex-rental vehicle there are a usually a number of similar units available.
RV Super Centre
169 Bush Road
Albany, Auckland https://goo.gl/maps/A2dgn
T: 0800 520 055
Click HERE to visit KEA's website.
Click below to download a PDF of the full test, including specifications and contact details.
Kea Freedom (1310 KB)