It’s odd’s-on Trakka’s new baby Trakkaway will be a sure winner....
by Richard Robertson
When Trakka releases a new model you know it’s going to be something special. Enter the Trakkaway 700: A compact 7-metre B-Class motorhome that sleeps 2, has seating for 4 and is built on Fiat’s popular Ducato cab-chassis. It also features a rear slide-out: a Trakka first.
The reason Trakka doesn’t release new models willy-nilly is because they take the time to do things properly. Building on lessons learned from the popular Trakkaway series, which already has models from 7.5 to 8.6 metres in length, the Trakkaway 700 reviewed here is a prototype. In an iMotorhome exclusive I travelled in it for eight days; driving from Sydney to the CMCA’s 27th National Rally in Boonah, Queensland and back, yet it felt as thoroughly engineered and carefully made as any ‘normal’ production motorhome: a reflection of Trakka’s renowned attention to detail.
The Trakkaway 700 ushers in a number of evolutionary design updates that will find their way across the 2013 Trakkaway range, including revised roof and lower-body profiles, plus the option of an aero nose-cone on larger Trakkaway models for customers not requiring the over-cab bed. For maximum versatility, however, the new 700 will also be available with a over-cab bed and a sideways-facing fifth passenger seat, transforming it into a compact C-Class motorhome that would be ideal for young families.
Coming in a gnat’s whisker under 7.0 metres long, the Trakkaway 700 is designed to provide the maximum living space with the minimum physical size in a coach-built motorhome. It’s actually shorter than some van conversions.
To this end the Fiat Ducato is the obvious choice, because as a purpose-designed motorhome base-vehicle incorporating AL-KO’s specialised aluminium motorhome chassis, it delivers a wide body with a low floor height. This provides a low entry-step that eliminates the need for an extendable step, yet doesn’t compromise interior headroom. And by eliminating large roof-mounted accessories, like the airconditioner, it reduces height, enhances streamlining and aids economy.
Trakka has chosen the top-level Ducato 180, with a recently up-rated 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine producing 132 kW and 400 Nm, driving through a six-speed automated manual transmission (AMT). The 2012 Fiat Ducato model line-up now comes standard with a Tom-Tom satnav system mounted atop the centre of the dash and Fiat’s proprietary Blue & Me integrated bluetooth system, plus MP3 connectivity and telephone controls on the leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The updated Ducato 2012 model range also features a new-look dash and instrument cluster that’s more car-like and inviting than its German rivals. Typically Italian, it does have its quirks and a thorough read of the owner’s manual and some time spent learning all the features is highly recommended.
On the road the Trakkaway 700 is smooth and refined. The dedicated motorhome chassis provides stable, predictable handling backed by the reassurance of electronic stability control plus disc brakes all-round and anti-lock brakes (ABS). Visibility is good, with excellent electrically adjustable side mirrors and a Waeco reversing camera that automatically switches between rear vision and reversing modes. This means you can watch the traffic behind you whilst travelling and look almost vertically downwards when reversing, all from the same camera. You can also select modes manually while you’re on the move, which I found useful to keep any eye on my bike on the towbar-mounted rack.
Speaking of selecting modes, the Ducato’s AMT gearbox is worth a mention. Essentially a six-speed manual with a computer operated clutch, it allows you to drive it in auto mode while it changes gears for you, pausing briefly between shifts. It also has a manual mode that lets you change up or down when you wish, although the computer will override you if you try to do something silly or forget which mode you’re in.
When using cruise control with the gearbox in auto mode you can drop it back a gear (or two) on hills without cruise disconnecting. It’s a great feature for maintaining speed without having to reset cruise every time and is especially welcome because the gearbox doesn’t downshift to maintain speed when using cruise control. Instead, when speed drops about 15 km/h below your target speed it simply drops out.
Trakka’s Dave Berry pointed out to me how well the new Ducato operates in manual mode and I tried it out quite a few times during my journey. It shifts seamlessly and provides an extra measure of control, and this proved especially useful in preventing auto-mode dropping back down a gear on long inclines when I knew it wan’t going to be able to hold top gear again for long.
As mentioned, the Trakkaway 700 is the shape of Trakkaways to come, in terms of roof and lower-panel profiles. The body itself is sleek and stylish and made from high-gloss finished vacuum moulded composite panels, like all other Trakkaways. Dometic’s Seitz double-glazed windows with in-built fly and privacy screens are used all-round and an electrical locker with a built-in power lead is a nice touch, too.
The test vehicle had Trakka’s new, optional Rainwater Retrieval System. This basically has a concealed gutter built into the body across the rear roofline, with slots in the roof above it for collection. Water then flows down a concealed down-pipe and into a 55-litre tank that supplements the main supply. Unfortunately, it didn’t rain during the test and I wasn’t able to see how effectively it worked.
Our course the real point of difference with the Trakkaway 700 and the feature that attracts all the attention is its rear slide-out bed. Note I said bed, not bedroom. Only half the depth of the rear wall, in operation it looks more like the vehicle is poking its tongue out rather than extending a slide-out.
Electrically operated by remote control, the gear-driven bed unit sits above the rear boot and includes a manual override in case of problems. Because it operates fore and aft, however, you could drive with the bed extended (unlike a sideways slide-out) although it isn’t recommended.
The Trakkaway 700’s streamlined nose cone is all-new, too. Designed following research into the aerodynamics affecting airflow over the vehicle’s nose, its jutting edge assists in generating an area of low pressure at the top of the windscreen that helps push the slipstream up-and-over the cab/body interface with minimal disruption.
Another significant feature is a large wind-up hatch/skylight above the cab. Providing abundant sunlight while driving and fresh air when camped, it can also be screened off from the heat and glare of the day. A sturdy and user-friendly electric awning is a welcome standard inclusion, while an external table is provided that mounts on a track towards the rear of the body, and stores in the boot at other times.
Speaking of the boot, external storage space is at a premium and the rear boot (incorporating an external hot/cold shower) is the only storage space available. Wide but quite shallow, the boot on production vehicles will have a small access hatch on the kerb side, I’m told. This will make reaching/storing hoses, etc, much easier – especially if you have a bike rack on the towbar as I did, which restricts access through the main door.
Step inside many motorhomes and you could be forgiven for thinking they all come from the same factory. Step inside a Trakka and you’re never in any doubt it’s a Trakka. From the signature grey cupboards and matching roller shutter doors to the subtle and contemporary tones of the soft furnishings and the curved, Scandinavian-looking panel work, Trakka has establish a style that is uniquely and unmistakably its own.
The Trakkaway 700 has a front lounge, mid kitchen/bathroom and rear bedroom layout, which is quite conventional. What’s unconventional is the feeling of space the designers have managed to imbue; especially when the bed’s extended.
The cab seats swivel easily and are very comfortable for after-hours use. The forward-facing dinette seat, which is on the driver’s side, is also very comfortable and incorporates lap/sash seat belts that don’t intrude when stowed. All seating in the test vehicle was finished in optional tan leather with grey accents that added to the overall sense of style.
A small flip-up table is wall-mounted between the dinette and driver’s seat and it’s especially useful for an on-the-move cuppa, casual drink or even a quick Facebook update on your iPad. The main table is removable and stores neatly out of the way in the bedroom. When installed, its multi-adjustable mechanism allows you to position it for any seating position, while its generous dimensions would allow (organised) dining for four.
The Euro-style entry door is positioned between the lounge/dinette (to the left) and the kitchen/bathroom. Immediately to your left as you enter is a low cupboard unit with a pole-mounted 60 cm flatscreen TV/DVD above, plus another cupboard on top. The TV adjusts easily for height and viewing angle and there’s a matching unit in the bedroom, so a couple could watch different shows if desired (aided by the bedroom’s concertina privacy door). Privacy is also provided by a set of REMI front blinds, which are built into frames around the windscreen and cab door windows, extending in moments to provide total seclusion. Stowing them is easy, once you have the hang of it and the key is not to rush (like so many things in life!).
Central to the Trakkaway 700’s design philosophy is independent living. To this end it comes with Trakka’s Remote Pack: diesel-fired cooking, water and room heating, plus two 135 watt solar panels.
House lighting is LED throughout, with just the halogen lights of the rangehood as the exception. Funky purple LED strip lights are used to great effect around the over-cab roof hatch and in the kitchen; at bench height and floor level. These can be operated independently and provide a relaxing and cool-looking alternative to the usual white house lighting or reading lights. Separate switching is provided for the dinette/kitchen house lights, the bedroom and exterior lights – all of which can be dimmed.
The Remote Pack means the Trakkaway 700 is gas-free, so there are no bottles to store, carry or fill and no gas inspection required at rego time. European-sourced, it’s largely automated and consumes minimal diesel fuel, which it takes directly from the fuel tank. It’s also designed so it can’t drain the tank dry and leave you stranded.
The Trakkaway 700’s main control system is mounted discreetly in an overhead cupboard in the kitchen, behind another roller-shutter door. It displays and controls the vehicle’s house electrics (2 x 100 AH house batteries), water system (165 L fresh and 135 L grey) and also displays things like interior and exterior temperature. The fridge/heating/stove controls are all grouped in the same location, while the 240 V ducted aircon is operated via a remote (like the televisions).
Surprisingly spacious, the kitchen sits between the dinette and bedroom, on the driver’s side. There’s reasonable bench space and this is enhanced by a little shelf that runs around the back of the bench, which is ideal for items you want to keep handy but let not get in the way.
On the far right of the bench-top the glass-lidded sink is flush-mounted and includes a lift-up flick-mixer tap. Between it and the Webasto glass ceramic cooktop is a filtered drinking-water tap, while six self-closing cupboards of varying depths are immediately below. The fridge, an under-bench 136-litre Waeco 12/240 V compressor unit, sits to the left of the drawers.
Above the sink, to the right of the electrical control panel, is a cupboard designed for a six-place Corelle dinnerware setting, including six mugs. The microwave is concealed in another cupboard, to the left of the control panel, but runs only on mains power.
Some people will lament the lack of a gas cooking option and this could cost Trakka sales. The Webasto diesel-fired cooking system, while innovative, is not without its compromises and its style of heat delivery probably won’t suit those who enjoy cooking and regularly entertain; at least not without a lot of practice.
The Trakkaway 700 features Trakka’s proven Switch Mode Bathroom, which has a remote controlled cassette toilet that tucks discreetly away beneath the vanity when not required. This frees up considerable space and the bathroom cubicle itself is deceptively spacious once you’re inside.
There are three mirrors above the hand basin (one concealing a medicine cabinet), a hand shower that operates independently of the hand-basin tap, good downlighting and an outlet for the ducted heating system that not only keeps you warm in winter but also helps dry wet clothing and towels.
Typical of Trakka’s attention to detail is a wrap-around shower curtain that follows the wall shape and press-studs into place at either end. It not only protects your towels, toilet roll and even the door, with the toilet tucked away it provides a spacious shower cubicle, while the whole bathroom setup is very livable.
Another nice feature is the wooden floor grate that keeps you standing above the water sump in the floor. Shower water is drained by a water-activated pump (from memory) that sucks water out and doesn’t just rely on gravity.
The same small remote control unit operates the bedroom slide-out and the retractable toilet. Pressing the big button at the top sends the bed outwards and you need to extend it at least a little to use the kitchen fully. Pressing the smaller button beneath it brings it back in.
Once extended, you can access the bed from either side via a series of small steps, as it sits quite high. The bed has rounded ends, but surprisingly this didn’t prove to be a problem despite my 183 cm height. Disappointingly, however, it’s only a double in width. There’s no massive under-bed storage, but a deep drawer slides out on either side, at the foot end and is ideal for shoes. There are also bedside wardrobes, overhead cupboards with reading lights, plus small shelves for your essential overnight nicknacks.
Big windows on both sides plus one at the bed head and a powered roof hatch provide plenty of fresh air and light. You can adjust the height and viewing angle of the second, pole-mounted TV, which is tucked away in the corner behind the bathroom. Opposite it, on a matching pole where the bedroom and kitchen meet, is a good-sized mirror that can be swivelled and viewed from the kitchen or bedroom.
I have no doubt Trakka’s new Trakkaway 700 is going to be a winner. Despite the test vehicle being a prototype it proved a complete and capable machine that’s fuel efficient, comfortable and fun to drive, plus highly practical and enjoyable to live in.
The design makes the most of the vehicle’s compact dimensions, although limited external storage is the compromise. It’s ability to live independently of power, gas and even water (to a small extent) is highly attractive and if you’re looking to a compact, quality motorhome that won’t disappoint, the Trakkaway 700 should be on your list.
- Water capacity
- Standard equipment
- Limited external storage
- Diesel cooker won’t suit everyone
- Bed could be wider
Living the Life
Motorhome tests rarely afford us the opportunity to so thoroughly put a vehicle through its paces. Over eight days I drove approximately 2100 kilometres, from Trakka’s headquarters on Sydney’s northern edge to Boonah in Queensland and return; basically via the New England Highway with a few diversions because I could.
Economy-wise, the Trakkaway 700 returned an average of 12.02 L/100 km (23.5 mpg), with a best of 11.29 (25 mpg) and a worst of 12.86 (21.97 mpg): Not bad for about four tonnes of motorhome in a hurry on a highway that reaches around 1400 metres altitude in places.
Of the seven nights away only the second was in a caravan park, where I connected to power and topped up the water tanks. I spent three nights free-camping along the way and three nights at the CMCA Rally site in Boonah; all without power or water.
On driving days and while the sun was strong at the rally I cranked the fridge up, turning it down lower overnight. The good Mrs iMotorhome packed six frozen home-cooked dinners (I know – I’m spoiled!) and the last one, which I had on my final night away, was still frozen solid.
The Trakkaway 700’s solar panels and dual house batteries easily coped with the load and at no stage did the power meter fall below three bars out of a possible five. Each night I also ran my iPad and/or laptop, cooked and washed-up, and showered. Television reception failed on the first night; victim of an aerial connection gremlin I believe, so that did reduce my potential power usage.
Being on my own certainly helped but I still had water upon my return, although I believe the tank level gauges readings of 80% and 100% remaining in the main and auxiliary tanks, respectively, to be somewhat, um, optimistic.
Showering was via the proven bird-bath method: A quick shower to wet down, having already filled the hand basin with hot water and lathered up the flannel. Wash, then a quick rinse off at the end. It’s amazing how far you can stretch your water supply this way without compromising personal hygiene.
Cooking on the Webasto diesel-fired glass ceramic cooktop is an acquired art more suited to re-heaters than cooks. Heat control is limited and takes a fair time to respond to thermostat changes, while in the mornings it took about 20 minutes to boil a small kettle. Also, in summer the amount of heat the cooktop generates and radiates into the vehicle is annoying, although it would be most welcome in winter. A gas cooking option would be a great idea.
The dinette/lounge also made a perfect mobile office (Issue 12 was produced there!) and the bed proved comfortable, although it’s a shame it’s only as wide as a standard double.
After my week on the road I was in the groove and could just have kept going. The Trakkaway 700 proved itself a capable and desirable travelling companion and even as a prototype the test vehicle felt sorted and composed. If only I’d packed my portable tabletop gas stove for a quick coffee...
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Click below to download a PDF of the full test, including specifications, photos and contact details.