A TOUCH OF INSPIRATION
KEA raises the bar in NZ motorhome design....
by Malcolm Street
Kea are well known in the New Zealand, Australian and South African motorhome worlds, not only for their rental motorhomes but for their sales to the private market as well. For many years, the latter were the same as the former, just in a different décor. It was something of a credit to the original designs that Kea was able to achieve motorhome designs that were able to hold their heads up in both markets. Coachcraft were a well known NZ manufacturer who built solely for the private market and were bought out by Kea a few years ago.
Since that time Kea has used the original Coachcraft designs to build up a whole new range of motorhomes which are only available to private buyers. Known as the Craft range, there are currently three models – the four berth Ford Transit powered Origin, the three berth Mercedes Benz Sprinter powered Legend and the subject of this review, a four berth Inspiration.
Built on a Mercedes Sprinter CDI 516 cab chassis, the Inspiration is motorised by a 120 kW/360 Nm turbo diesel motor that drives through a six speed full auto transmission. Measuring 7.35 m (24ft) long, the motorhome comes in with a tare weight of 3860 kg. Given the GVM of 4490kg, that gives a very generous load capacity of 630 kg which is going to be good for most people. Built very much in the traditional style of a C class motorhome with vacuum moulded composite panel construction being used for just about all the bodywork, the Inspiration has a moulded luton peak over the driver’s cab, straight walls and a somewhat squarish looking back, offset nicely by the side and tail light mouldings. Dometic Seitz double glazed acrylic windows are used all round, including the luton whilst the door is a Hartal model which does not have an opening window, but does have a moulded-in garbage bin.
For those who love the outdoor lifestyle both the Fiamma awning and the mid wall slide-out BBQ are going to create interest. Two wall lights are fitted for evening al fresco activities. There are a surprising number of external bin doors fitted around the Inspiration. Some are for dedicated items like the Thetford toilet cassette, twin 75AH batteries and single 9.0 kg gas cylinder but the two level storage around the rear offers plenty of room for just about everything needed when motorhoming. It’s quite a good arrangement because the upper level has bin doors on both sides and at the rear, whereas the lower level just has bin doors on either side but can also be accessed via a hatch from the upper rear door. One additional feature is that the upper nearside door has also been designed to be used as a picnic table.
On the Road
What can I say about a Mercedes Benz Sprinter powered motorhome? On my brief travels north of Auckland through Waiwera, Wenderholm Park and the historic town of Puhoi, the 120 kW turbo diesel pushed the Inspiration along very nicely. Naturally a 7.35 m motorhome isn’t going to be a sports car in either handling or performance but the Inspiration is a well balanced motorhome without too much rock and roll.
Undoubtedly the standout feature of the Inspiration is that it has a “New Zealand back”, that is a club lounge at the rear with windows all round. It can of course be converted into the bed. An additional smaller lounge/dining area has been created at the front with both cab seats swivelling around and a small removable table fitting in between. There is of course a luton peak bed above which does lift out of the way if not needed. Mid motorhome are the nearside kitchen bench and offside bathroom.
On either side directly behind the driver’s cab, wall cabinets have been fitted on both sides. They utilise the space quite effectively, with a small cupboard and shelves above on the nearside and a cabinet and shelf area on the opposite side. This also acts as a mounting point for a flat screen TV that can be seen from the swivelled cab seats. Conveniently located in the overhead lockers above is a centrally mounted panel with 12-volt switching, Webasto heater and satellite TV controls.
Given the large window area and two large roof hatches, there is no shortage of natural light. In addition to the integrated blinds and screens, all the windows except those in the luton have Roman blinds as well.
As noted above, there are two lounge areas with the one in the rear certainly being more comfortably to stretch out on with the feet up or to seat four people quite easily. Very conveniently the table has a Zwaardvis mount which means a multi directional table.
An asset of this arrangement, more readily appreciated by NZers than Aussies, is that it’s much easier to enjoy the view outside without going out into cold or wet weather. Downside is that there isn’t a fixed double bed. However, if the rear bed, which is permanently made up, then there is still somewhere else to sit and eat. It is possible with this layout to have the rear bed made up as a double and still have seats at the end of the lounge but no table. One of the original Coachcraft layouts had a similar setup with a table mounting slightly further forward.
Above the lounge seats there are overhead lockers all round, the side ones having conventional top hinged doors, the rear one being sideways operated roller shutters. Facing to the rear and mounted on the bathroom wall are both a flat screen TV and a small hinged shelf – ideal for books, drinks and nibbles. Lighting in the rear is quite generous with a ceiling light, two strip lights under the offside/rear overhead lockers and reading lights under the nearside lockers.
Time to Eat
In some ways, given the size of the motorhome, the kitchen is relatively small. Located between the entry door and rear lounge, it comes with a four burner cooktop/grill/oven plus a stainless steel sink and drainer. Both have hinged glass tops which improve the smallish bench top area. At first glance the under-bench area looks like it has three cupboards but opening the double doors reveals a multi shelved area and a slide-out garbage bin under the sink area whilst behind the third door is a set of wire basket drawers and a handy cutlery drawer. Making up the rest of the kitchen features are the necessary 175 litre three way fridge with microwave oven above which adjoin the bathroom on the opposite side. With the fridge floor mounted, the microwave oven is relatively user friendly, i.e. not too high.
As noted above there are several choices on sleeping arrangements. If the rear bed is made up as an east west double by drawing out the slatted wooden base it measures 2.17 m x 1.38 m (7 ft 1 in x 4 ft 5 in) or if a single bed setup is needed, then they measure 1.99 m x 0.7 m (6 ft 6 in x 2 ft 4 in). Above the driver’s cab the luton bed comes in at 2.15 m x 1.3 m (7 ft 1 in x 4 ft 3 in). The latter is quite a sophisticated arrangement. As well as the usual mattress and reading lights, the offside has a couple of recessed shelves around the window and both 240 V and 12 V power sockets. It all looks a very good space usage arrangement. Although the ladder access is okay, Kea have not used one I have seen previously in their motorhomes which had nice wide steps (thereby not being uncomfortable on the feet) and folded relatively flat.
In the keeping clean department, Kea has opted for a space saving combo bathroom which comes with a Thetford bench style cassette toilet, variable height flexible hose shower and wash basin. Additional features include shaving cabinet and extendable towel rail. Ventilation is handled by both a roof hatch and moderately sized window
What we Think
This writer was very familiar with the original Coachcraft range which were well built motorhomes and I was pleased to hear that Kea took up the intellectual property, plans and some of the mouldings from the closed company. Looking through the new Inspiration it is quite easy for me to see some of the Coachcraft heritage but to that Kea have added a considerable number of improvements and updates of their own. It doesn’t have an island bed which might disappoint a few but it does have a very flexible layout and one that I could certainly live with without too much trouble, as well as that time honoured “NZ Back”. At the risk of typing a line that Mr iM Publisher might well use, it’s a very Inspirational design.... as well as being a well put together motorhome.
- Very liveable layout
- Flexible rear lounge/double/single bed setup
- Good interior lighting (both natural and otherwise)
- Luton “bed head”
- Good exterior bin area
- Luton ladder could be better
- Table mounting in rear could be better positioned
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Click below to download a PDF of the full test, including specifications and contact details.
iMotorhome Roadtest - KEA Inspiration (NZ) - 2012 (2301 KB)
Kea raises the bar in NZ Motorhome design