Reviews

HAS JURGENS’ SOLARIS Broken the grey mould?

For many folks who love to escape the cold months down south, this all-new Jurgens van could be the perfect way to catch the sun’s rays!

Words, Images and Video ANTHONY KILNER

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It’s not that often that a caravan manufacturer radically changes its model line-up, but Jurgens has taken a risk and crafted the all-new Solaris in an attempt to grow the brand with a different audience. While the look is more contemporary, there’s enough pedigree for people to realise it’s a Jurgens van.

Outside

ABS panels front and back complement the composite walls and one-piece floor and roof to successfully achieve the contemporary look Jurgens sought.

Up on the roof is a 125kW solar panel, TV aerial, two large hatches, two smaller hatches for the ensuite and a Belaire reverse-cycle aircon unit. Around the body, double-glazed windows are fitted throughout to increase light and ventilation.

There’s a picnic table and slide-out barbecue with optional Ziggy barbecue inside a boot space. On the back wall is an optional bike rack for tourers who love to park and ride. A Carefree awning offers protection from the elements while a drop-step allows for easy access into the van. Twin speakers and twin LEDs provide sound and light under the awning.

A front boot complete with gas struts houses twin 4.5kg gas bottles, one being an optional extra. There’s some storage next to that in another compartment. Jurgens tend to mount their spare tyres under the body which I am not enamoured of, however I can see it allows for extra boot storage. An external shower is connected to the Swift gas/240V hot water service which provides hot water to the kitchen and ensuite.

Exterior storage is not massive, although there is some extra external access to under the dinette seat where the battery is stored.

Chassis-wise the Solaris is built on an engineered package around a GT Vehicle Components independent suspension system. Electric 10-inch drum brakes are standard along with AL-KO ESC. Alloy rims shod with 16-inch AT tyres keep the van on the road safely.

The exterior package works nicely on the road, and the suspension worked well through the wash-aways we had to cross. The overall look is neat and still very much a Jurgens, despite the styling departure. A stone guard is one standard feature that wasn’t on our van for this review.

Inside

The first thing I noticed when the interior lights were switched on was the amazing mood lighting that flooded the van, illuminating some very sweet-looking curved timber work above and below the cupboards. Perhaps I’m just like an emu that gets attracted to shiny things but this lighting, the curved timber that frames it and the overall colour scheme of red, black, white and timber vinyl flooring all worked a treat for the photos. They are not colours I’d choose for touring, however, but in design terms it all gels.

Let’s start with the ensuite, which runs across the back wall of the van. There’s a Thetford swivel toilet on the passenger side and opposite is a good-size shower complete with a mirrored door for grooming. This door also adds to the light feel of the space. The shower room is typical of Jurgens, featuring a seat and storage shelves built into the cubicle.

There is storage under the bench, including a tilt down clothes hamper; a great idea and a clever use of space. A ceramic basin dominates the benchtop and features a flick mixer for easy use. Above the basin is a mirror and to its right is a Mini Daewoo washing machine that is really only suited, as the name suggests, to mini-loads.

Moving from the ensuite into the main body of the van, the club lounge is on the driver’s side, opposite the kitchen. The club lounge features slide-out panels that have removable cushions for foot rests, allowing for a clear walk space.

There’s a trifold table and some storage shelves on the wall for books and the like. Overhead cupboards allow for plenty of storage too. The large window in this space is perfect for letting in fresh air and sunshine (not possums, Ant? – Ed).

The kitchen runs from the door through to the bedroom area. There’s satisfactory bench space near the door and a Thetford 3&1 oven sits in the middle of the bench with a Finch rangehood above it, while the decent-size sink is next in line, closer to the bedroom.

There is plenty of cupboard space above and below the benchtop and I liked the fact that a Camec microwave is placed above the bench near the door, leaving space underneath to place hot bowls or plates straight onto the bench. Overall, the kitchen space is very practical.

Between the café dinette and the bedroom is the Thetford 185-litre two-door fridge, dressed in black of course to add to the contrasting look and feel of the interior.

At the front of the van a double bed is used due to the smaller overall space of the van, however it’s easy to walk around the bed and access the cupboards. There’s storage under the bed and a great linen press is mounted against the fridge wall on the driver’s side of the van.

An RV Media stereo is mounted in the overhead cupboards along with twin speakers. The Finch TV swivels out from the wall next to the kitchen so you can watch it while in bed or at the dinette.

The list of interior features continues with plenty of downlights and plenty of windows. There’s no shortage of powerpoints and USB points. Speaking of power, a dealer-fitted deep-cycle battery under the café seat is monitored via a BM Pro unit that keeps an eye on the battery power, as well as monitoring the water levels of the two protected 80-litre water tanks.

Overall the colour scheme and the interior look were very neat. Yes, a few cupboards needed some adjustment and I think the washing machine is only big enough for some socks and jocks but those are only minor negatives.

The upside is the 500kg payload, the storage space and I really liked the cloths hamper that tilts out from under the ensuite benchtop as a clever bit of design. The other bonus is the extra ground clearance over Jurgens’ other models.

I can see this Solaris becoming a popular van for Jurgens and a sign of things to come…

TOURING

Sometimes I get to tow a van in very crappy conditions and so it was when we headed out to the coast with the Solaris. It bucketed rain and the wind was horrendous, yet this van sat beautifully behind my Cruiser up to the speed limits on the highway.

Whether passing or being passed, bitumen or dirt, the balance of the van was excellent. Getting in and out of our destination to take pics meant we had to tackle some steep gutters, and again I was impressed by the added ground clearance that allowed the van to get through without scraping.

This is an on-road van and Jurgens is very specific about that, however, it’s able to handle dirt roads and wash-aways really well and with care it will allow owners to get in and out of some rougher stuff on their special holidays.

 

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