Trakka’s entry-level Trakkadu can do a lot more than just take you camping…
by Richard Robertson
The concept of a smaller multi-purpose vehicle that can take you away on short breaks, carry family or friends, lug a decent load home from the hardware store and still be your daily driver is appealing. It’s possible to spend a lot of money on a luxury 7-8 seat people mover, but if you don’t need to carry that many people and are looking for extra versatility, Trakka’s entry-level 2WD Trakkadu is worth a long hard look.
We borrowed one for a few days but rather than head bush, loaded up the in-laws and headed to the beach for fish and chips. Having a comfortable people mover with a fridge, cooker, crockery and cutlery, a dining table for four, stand-up headroom if required, an awning for shade or weather protection and storage room galore is very appealing. Throw in a bed for an afternoon snooze and the option of independent heating for winter adventures and you have what is, perhaps, the ultimate day touring vehicle.
Built on Volkswagen’s popular Transporter T5, you could be forgiven for thinking the combination of the smallest engine and two-wheel drive (front) would make for a dull and lacklustre package. But you’d be wrong.
All T5 VWs come with a 2.0 L turbo-diesel engine in one of two states of tune. In this instance it’s a single turbo unit that produces 103 kW @ 4000 rpm and 340 Nm @ 1750 rpm (the other is a twin-turbo with 132 kW/400 Nm). Drive, as stated, is through the front wheels and in this model Trakkadu is via a 7-speed DSG gearbox. The DSG, which stands for Direct Shift Gearbox, is marketed as an automatic and that’s how it drives. But as Wikipedia says, “In simple terms a DSG is two separate manual gearboxes (and clutches), contained within one housing, and working as one unit. It was designed by Borg Warner and was initially licensed to the Volkswagen Group. By using two independent clutches a DSG can achieve faster shift times and eliminates the torque converter of a conventional epicyclic automatic transmission”. In practice the DSG shifts in just a few hundredths of a second and delivers the fastest, crispest gear changes imaginable. The only down side is that on a light throttle at slow speeds it’s possible to catch it napping if/when you suddenly put your foot down to ‘go’. Like so many things it takes a short while to adapt to, but soon becomes second nature with regular use.
Standard equipment is good, with dual front airbags, anti-lock brakes (ABS), brake assist (BA) electronic stability control (ESC), anti-slip regulation (ASR) – think traction control – and hill holder looking after you on the safety front. Power steering, remote central locking, electric windows and mirrors, cab airconditioning, and cruise control with speed limiter are all included too. The test vehicle came with a Plus Pack, which Trakka says most buyers choose and adds $5000 to the drive-away price. To the vehicle it adds rain sensing wipers, auto headlights, an upgraded RCD310 radio/CD with streaming Bluetooth and hands-free ‘phone, leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, trip computer, front side and thorax airbags, sun visor vanity mirrors, A-pillar grab handles, extra cab soundproofing, a dimmable dash panel and a two-tone horn. To the camper conversion it adds rear speakers, a 38 L grey water tank, roof storage shelf and LED reading lights.
Take a look around the mainstream campervan market and you’ll quickly realise that while Trakka makes the most expensive vehicles, it also makes the best. From the flush-fitting rear-hinged elevating roof to the standard Webasto diesel-fired cooker and sliding bed-seat with integrated seat belts (and child-seat anchor points), it’s simply clever and impressive.
All furniture and amenities run down the driver’s side in one long unit, from behind the drivers seat to the tailgate. There’s the flush-fitting Webasto ceramic cooktop and a round sink at the forward end of the long bench top, with the 80 L Waeco 12 V fridge/freezer below. A sideways-sliding roller shutter aft of the fridge conceals two good-sized drawers, while aft of that is an under-bench drawer and another roller shutter, this one opening to reveal a deep shelf. At the end of the benchtop is a panel that forms the front side of a full-height wardrobe, with roller shutters again employed to keep weight down and take up as little space when open as possible. An optional rear shower takes hot water from the Webasto unit, as does the sink, keeping the Trakkadu LPG-free. There’s also an optional tailgate tent/annexe available that mounts quickly and easily to provide privacy and a surprising amount of extra living room, plus space to shower and use a porta-potty, if carried.
The removable dining table mounts to a track on the kitchen facia that allows it to be moved fore-and-aft in concert with the rear seat; from well forward so four people can dine in comfort when the cab seats are swivelled, to well aft so as not to interrupt the cook too much. A matching track on the exterior of the sliding side-door allows the table to easily be used outside, while LED awning lights provide excellent outdoor illumination. The optional shower is fitted in the driver’s-side rear corner and is ideal for hosing off beach sand or cleaning muddy shoes, while the lift-up tailgate provides a surprising degree of weather protection.
Technically, Trakka fits a single 100 amp-hour AGM house battery with a 15-amp automatic charging system, a mains power connector, a touch-operated control panel for battery and water tank levels, temp, time, 12 V, lights, etc, and a 55 L fresh water tank. The Trakkadu TDI 340 is 5.29 m long, 1.90 m wide and 2.06 m tall, while its gross and tare weights of 3000 kg and 2360 kg (approx), respectively, provide more than 600 kg of load capacity. It rides on 215/65 R16 tyres on 6.5J x 16 rims, uses independent torsion bar front suspension and independent coil springs at the rear, and has 180 mm of ground clearance. It can also tow a braked load of 2000 kg.
Plans of Attract!
The traditional Trakkadu floorplan incorporates swivelling cab seats and a sliding rear seat that folds flat and mates up to a fixed rear cushion to make up the bed. The only down side is the sleeping area isn’t overly wide and Trakka refers to it as a 3/4 bed (it measures 1.95 m x 1.25 m). A 1.8 m x 1.2 m roof bed is optionally available, which would make for two reasonable sized beds for those who like a bit of sleeping space, provided the person ‘up top’ isn’t too long.
Interestingly, Trakka now offers two alternative floor plans that seem to have slipped in almost unnoticed. One is the Twin Bed, with two permanent single beds at the rear, while the other is the Full Width Bed, with a permanent full-width rear bed. Both would suit owners with no need/desire to carry more than two people, but the downside is the rear wardrobe is sacrificed, as is some kitchen bench space.
The base Trakkadu gets grey plastic bumpers that don’t look as sexy as colour coded items but are far more practical. It also has basic steel wheels; again not as appealing as stylish alloy units, but simple and durable. There’s a simple honesty to this vehicle that belies its high-tech design, features and construction: It’s robust and invites daily use in the battlegrounds of shopping centre carparks and the commuter crush, while still always being available for excellent adventures when opportunities arise.
On the road the Trakkadu TDI 340 drives like a car, but has a high driving position that provides a more commanding view. Volkswagen has refined the Transporter to the point where it looks, feels and drives like an upmarket European car, and it’s certainly a very enjoyable drive. That is, apart from restricted legroom for taller drivers. The dining table stores between the driver’s seat and kitchen end panel, but I had to remove it and store it loosely down the back to have a chance to drive comfortably. The good news is that from next month (Feb ’15) new-build Trakkadus will have the option of a modified kitchen unit to provide good legroom for drivers up to 2 m (6 ft 6 in) tall.
The ‘baby’ turbo diesel does a stirling job of moving the Trakkadu along, while the seven-speed DSG allows the engine to turn at very lazy revs – something like 1700 rpm at 110 km/h from (possibly flawed) memory – proving excellent fuel economy. Engine and wind noise are negligible, while seat comfort is good, aided by fold-down armrests on both front seats. Visibility is good and the side windows are a big aid when manoeuvring in tight situations, but rear parking sensors and/or a reversing camera would be a worthwhile investment.
I’d long suspected the Trakkadu would make an excellent touring vehicle for those not necessarily interested in overnight camping. For two to four people it’s an excellent travelling machine capable of comfortably eating up the miles, but with the added bonus of all the facilities for a quick roadside cuppa or a full sit-down meal. It also provides comfortable shelter should the weather turn bad and makes a great base from which to explore walking or biking trails. We popped down to the coast for a day, bought fish and chips and enjoyed them by the water – or as close as we could get, discovering the Local Council installed a car park at our favourite ‘unspoiled’ spot – later stopping for a cuppa on the way home at a local lookout. The Trakkadu performed as expected – perfectly – proving my touring vehicle theory.
My In Laws are getting on and my father-in-law has mobility issues, especially with steps. Even so he was quite readily able to climb in and out of the Trakkadu, with the aid of a portable step. I found that with the rear seat moved even fully-forward there was still ample legroom for them – they said they felt they we're flying first class – while conversations were easily held at normal levels. The rear seat backrest is adjustable and with it set more upright they found it most comfortable, while the seat width proved more than sufficient for them.
Despite the weight of four adults and a full kit of camping equipment (sans bedding), the ‘Littlest’ Trakkadu managed to negotiate the serious inclines of Kangaroo Valley and surrounds on the way from/to the Southern Highlands without complaint or feeling like it was struggling. Overall fuel consumption was around 8.2 L/100 km (34 mpg) for the whole test period, which was nothing short of excellent.
Despite its entry level status there’s nothing bargain basement about Trakka’s Trakkadu TDI 340. It’s still expensive by industry standards, but like many things in life you get what you pay for. The Trakkadu TDI 340 can be your only car, a compact people mover, grand touring vehicle, help you move house, provide shelter at sporting events, host picnics and also double as extra guest accommodation. You can even use it as a campervan – who would have thought?
- VW quality
- Standard equipment
- Trakka design and quality
- Easy set-up
- Not cheap but you get what you pay for!
Click below to download a PDF of the full test, including specifications, photos and contact details.
Trakka Trakkadu TDI 340 2015 (1977 KB)