Forget the Normans, Jayco’s Conquest is one you won’t want to run away from…
By Richard Robertson
In the battle for Australian RV market supremacy, Jayco is the undoubted victor. Something like half of all new caravans sold in Australia bear the familiar blue logo; and while the company is a smaller player in the motorhome market, ‘smaller’ is a relative term. Spend a few hours on the highway and you’ll see plenty of blue jay-crested motorhomes zip past.
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Jayco’s motorhome range is split between the Conquest and Optimum; the former with six models and the latter with just two. In this review we’re taking a look at the rather blandly named Conquest FA.25-1. That’s F for Fiat, A for AL-KO (the chassis maker, which I’ll explain shortly), 25 for approximate length in feet, and -1, um, because it’s the first in the FA series (okay, I’m guessing a little with that last bit). The FA.25-1 is a four-berth, four-seat motorhome that falls into the C-class category, denoted by the slight bulge over the cab (known as a Luton peak) which houses a double bed.
As Jayco is Australia’s biggest RV manufacturer, so Fiat’s Ducato is our most popular motorhome base vehicle. Why? Engineering-wise it’s designed to be a motorhome and so it includes things like factory-fitted swivelling cab seats (the best in the business), wiring specially routed for ease of body building and, on the larger models, a massive 120-litre fuel tank for extended touring.
Power comes from a 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel producing a class-leading 132kW and 400Nm. Drive is via a six-speed Comfortmatic gearbox to the front wheels; ably assisted by traction control, ABS braking and a raft of other safety features. Comfortmatic is Fiat-speak for an automated manual transmission, which essentially is a manual gearbox controlled by a computer. There’s no clutch and you can drive it like a normal auto; only it pauses a bit between gears as the computer shifts them. It’s something you soon get used to and you can always flick between ratios in manual mode if desired.
Ducatos normally ship from the Fiat factory as a complete cab-chassis unit. However, German specialist engineering firm AL-KO has devised a unique aftermarket motorhome chassis – and better Ducato-based motorhomes, like this one, use it. German designed and built but assembled like a big Meccano set at its Melbourne factory, the AL-KO Motorhome Chassis (AMC) is a terrific unit. Lower, wider and with unique independent rear suspension, each chassis is designed in co-operation with the motorhome manufacturer specifically to accommodate the under-floor tanks, plumbing and weight distribution unique to that model. Impressive stuff!
AL-KO also makes a front suspension kit for the Ducato called AL-KO Comfort Suspension (ACS). It raises the front end by 40mm to eliminate the Fiat’s slight nose-down stance and dramatically improves ride quality, handling and comfort. To my knowledge only a handful of Australian motorhomes come with this feature as standard – and this Conquest is one of them.
The most apparent design feature of this motorhome is the bedroom slide-out on the driver’s side. It’s a good size because it’s large enough to significantly increase living space when extended, but small enough to limit increased weight and mechanical complexity.
About the only downside to the AMC is its lower floor height, which reduces space for external storage lockers. A compensating upside, however, is increased headroom inside (without raising the overall roof height).
Jayco motorhomes use five-layer vacuum-bonded walls built around an aluminium frame, with high-density polystyrene foam insulation. The outer finish is high-gloss fibreglass, while the use of two layers of special Azdel board – a composite 50% lighter than plywood that resists rot, mould and water damage – adds to strength and durability. Quality European-style double-glazed acrylic windows are used all ’round and these come with built-in insect and privacy screens.
Standard equipment is impressive and includes motorhome air-conditioning (aside from the cab), an electric awning and electric entry step, 120W solar power system, a slide-out tray for the 2 x 4kg gas cylinders, illuminated grab handle and an external gas bayonet point. LED lighting is used throughout, while inside there’s even a 3kg top-loading washing machine in the bathroom.
Living the Life!
Step inside and the floorplan feels open and spacious. There’s excellent headroom and plenty of natural light, although Jayco’s woodgrain decor is a little dark. It’s saved from being overpowering by the judicious use of lighter-coloured cabinet fronts in the kitchen.
The floorplan has a dinette up front that incorporates the swivelling cab seats; a central kitchen with the working space on the kerb side and the fridge opposite (behind the dinette); the main bedroom further aft; and across the rear a full-width bathroom. That just leaves the secondary bed in the Luton above the cab, as mentioned earlier.
Overall this is a highly liveable layout that provides clearly defined zones for dining and relaxation, cooking, sleeping and ‘bathing’. There’s also a wealth of storage including masses of kitchen cupboards and drawers, oodles of bedroom wardrobe, shelf and cupboard space, and even plenty of knick-knack room in the bathroom. A by-product of having so much headroom is that some of the overhead cupboards can be a real stretch for the vertically challenged. Ditto the microwave.
The bathroom deserves special mention as it’s truly spacious (well, for a motorhome)! The domestic-sized shower cubicle takes pride of place and is a beauty, while the hand basin and tap wouldn’t look unseemly in a designer home.
Jayco’s Conquest FA.25-1 is far from ordinary. With its specially engineered chassis, uprated front suspension and impressive level of standard equipment, plus its spacious and easy-living layout, it’s definitely a surprise package. It’s also backed by a huge company with dealers and service centres just about everywhere. All up I think it’s bound to conquer more than just a few buyers’ hearts.
- AL-KO chassis and suspension
- Modern, easy-driving Fiat Ducato
- Standard equipment
- Limited size external storage
- Reaching overhead cupboards and microwave
- 1 x 12V and no USB charging points
- Low dinette seat height
Exterior length: 7.99m
Exterior width: 2.39m
Internal height: 2.10m (6’ 11”)
Gross Vehicle Mass: 4490kg
Engine: 3.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel
Gearbox: Six-speed Comfortmatic automated manual
Power: 132kW @ 3500rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 2500rpm
Price as tested: $160, 655