Clever design and easy-to-drive characteristics makes the KEA Discovery the perfect partner for extended road trips, writes Kirstie Bedford
Picking up the KEA Discovery, I admit to being a bit nervous. It was the first time I was driving solo, and I was covering 700km up the remote Mid West Coast of Western Australia. An adventure it was, but there was trepidation.
But once inside this brand new beauty, I needn’t have worried. One of the key concerns I had was visibility, but the KEA Discovery has been designed with large rear windows, great for sitting back and enjoying the vista on location, but also very practical for seeing what’s behind you. When you’re in a 21ft motorhome, it was the peace of mind I needed while on the road.
My trip started in Perth, and the road to my first stop at Jurien Bay, was a seamless one, but do make sure you locate petrol stations before you get too far, they are few and far between once you get further north.
Seasoned reviewer Malcolm Street inspects dozens of motorhomes a year and he knows about the practicalities. He says motorhomes built for the rental market are usually designed to accommodate the requirements of both hirers and users. For that reason, the larger ones come in four and six-berth configurations with the beds made up from dinettes and lounges, rather than being fixed. A fact that does impact re-sale on the retail market.
However, he says THL in New Zealand borrowed a developing feature from the retail market and adapted it nicely for both retail and rental operations. That being a bed which is normally stored in the ceiling by day, can be lowered by hand at night.
“Apart from anything else, this gives a shorter motorhome when compared to more conventional four berth designs a bit more living space to play with inside,” he says. “What KEA did with this motorhome design was to fit in the much loved club lounge in the rear with windows all round and a drop down bed above.”
He says the results mean by day it’s possible to sit in comfort and watch the world go, while at night, the area will comfortably sleep four people.
“The lower residents might have a slightly low ceiling height but it’s not a major gripe,” he adds. “For two people it’s a winner – no need to make up a bed every night or for those travelling with children, there’s plenty of bed space.”
He says the rear area arrangement then leaves space further forward for a nearside kitchen and offside bathroom complete with shower and toilet. Up front, there’s a two-person seat/ lounge behind the driver’s seat and a small cabinet between the entry door and the passenger seat. Both cab seats swivel around adding a bit of seating, especially if both beds are made up. Although there isn’t one fitted, it’s possible to get a freestanding table to fit between the seats.
Measuring 6.6m (21ft 8in), the Discovery is built very much in the THL style with fibreglass composite walls and roof, along with fibreglass mouldings for the curvy bits. It’s built in New Zealand, the giveaway being the windows, especially the larger rear ones with the opening lower halves.
A surprise on the Discovery, given its rental heritage, is the well-sized external storage capacity. There’s a tunnel boot across the rear which will be adequate for all the essentials – camping chairs, table, hoses, power leads and toolbox.
There are of course the usual external doors for the toilet cassette, suburban hot water heater, and 9kg gas cylinder. Not found on many rental motorhomes is an awning, in this case a Cvana, designed a little differently to most, but one designed for the rigours of rental use. Standard is a 100AH house battery and 140W solar panel capacity.
ON THE ROAD
At 2.34m (7ft 4in) wide, the Discovery is slightly narrower than the average motorhome which does reduce the internal space, but makes it easier for driving along narrow roads and maneuvering around carparks. Fitted with a 95kW/305Nm engine, the turbodiesel moves the Discovery along well enough with the seven-speed gearbox performing in the usual Benz smooth manner.
THE BOTTOM LINE
After spending a week in this motorhome, I found it very easy to drive, and park, in the varying low cost and freedom campsites we visited, many which meant driving up sandy banks by the beach. Equally, pulling into a carpark in the township of Dongara posed no problems.
The setup was easy, and there are good storage options. The drop-down bed means you don’t have to re-make the bed every night and instead simply lift it out of view.
But it’s the windows which are a deal breaker for me. Besides it being the perfect place to relax with a wine and book, there’s the practical element of making it much easier to drive than other motorhomes of a similar, or bigger size.
The bathroom is a good size with a swivelling toilet seat and good pressure in the shower. Besides the cabinetry proving a bit noisy at times, when driving offroad for short periods, the pros definitely far out way that minor con.
The kitchenette is small, but functional and provides enough space for cooking on the road, where you’d spend most time outdoors anyway. All in all, I was impressed by the use of space and design and am now itching to get back out in it! Road trip anyone?
Base vehicle Mercedes Benz Sprinter CDI 313CDI GVM 3550kg
Engine 2.2L turbodiesel
Power 95kW@3800rpm 315CDI
Gearbox Seven-speed auto
Brakes ABS Disc
Length 6.6m (21ft 8in)
Width (incl awning) 2.34m (7ft 4in)
Height 3.4m (11ft 2in)
Height 2.06m (6ft 9in)
Upper bed size 2.0m x 1.4m (6ft 7in x 4ft 7in)
Lower bed size 2.1m x 1.4m (6ft 11in x 4ft 7in)
Cooktop Dometic four-burner and grill
Fridge Isotherm 130L 12V compressor
Microwave oven Optional
Lighting 12V LED
Batteries 1 x 100Ah
Solar panels 8W
Reverse cycle air conditioner
Toilet Thetford cassette
Shower Combo with toilet
Hot water heater Suburban 23L gas/ electric
Heater Air Command Sparrow
Water tank 92L (grey) 92L (fresh)
Gas cylinders 1x9kg