Trying to pigeonhole the Roadstar Retreat into a certain market segment is virtually impossible. Is it a family caravan? Sure. What about a caravan for a retired couple? No worries. Well, what about a caravan for someone who wants a rig with plenty of room, but has limited space to park it? Um, yes again. And all of those 'yesses' come down to the fact that this is surely one of the most flexible 'vans on the market.
I don't think anyone would argue that small caravans are easier to tow, and that's where this new generation of 'expandable' caravans come into its own. The Retreat we tested measures 14ft 6in internal end-to-end but, when folded out, it measures a whopping 18ft 6in external - a big difference in anyone's books.
And unlike a lot of these expandable styles of caravan, the expanding section of the Roadstar Retreat features solid walls and a solid roof.
In fact, the roof section has a generous overhang that acts like an awning, shielding the bed area from the sun.
People moving up from camper-trailers and tents might be a little wary about a van that you have to 'construct' when you get to the van site - but don't be. With just one lesson, I managed to set up the bed area of the Retreat in less than 30 seconds. It really is dead easy.
The Retreat's chassis and A-frame should last for years, being heavy-duty boxed steel SupaGal, with the wheel arches also fully galvanised. The suspension is about as sophisticated as a medieval cart, being made up of a beam axle and leaf springs which means its rock solid. There's also the option of a simplicity independent suspension set-up which, put simply, is like an independent beam axle, so it will be nothing if not reliable.
Unladen at least, the Retreat seemed well balanced on the road test, tracking well behind the turbo-diesel Kia Sorento. The meranti timber frame is bolted and glued to the chassis, and the ply used has been treated for water resistance.
The interior of the Roadstar has all of the things you would expect of a van of this calibre. There's a microwave oven, a Dometic 2350 three-way fridge, and a four-burner cooker complete with rangehood.
Two reading lights sit over the double bed, each with their own switch. The upholstery on the test model was a rich maroon colour, supported by five-inch high-density foam. This was plenty comfortable but the sheer terylene curtains with a cord rail top and bottom, designed to ensure privacy, weren't to my taste and can be a bit fiddly to operate. There's a thoughtful roll cushion over the door which softens the blow if you misjudge the low door entry profile, but it was only stapled in place.
Okay, back to that fold-out bed section. To set it up you simply unlock two clasps, fold the back wall up (with the assistance of gas struts), flip the bed down, and then lock in the walls and the new back wall. The system locks together with a couple of clasps, and the whole construction is really quite solid. The bed you create measures well over six foot in length.
Like any bed that's not an island design though, there might have to be some careful manoeuvring during the night if the off-side partner needs to get up at night. Still, that's a small price to pay for having a big interior that's not eaten up by a bed. Incidentally, the bed itself boasts a full inner-spring mattress, which was extremely comfortable for my 100-kilo frame.
So is there really that much space in the caravan? You bet. The interior has a light and airy feel, thanks largely to the spring-maple plywood panelling.
Ingeniously located in the front corner of this Retreat was a shower, toilet and basin. It's a moulded plastic shell, meaning there's little chance of leaks. The roof above the shower even features a little exhaust fan to extract the steam and smells northwards. It's not massively roomy, but it is enough to wash down in after a day's bushwalking. The shower is fed by an additional 60-litre tank, meaning it carries twice as much water as the non-ensuite model.
But what if a shower 'van isn't to your liking? You can select from another two layouts: a double bunk that can be fitted right across the front wall of the van (now you can really start to see the flexibility of the Retreat); or the original café dinette seating layout. It's just gone from being a perfect couple's caravan to a family unit. Yet the flexibility doesn't stop there.
Like to go for a squirt up a dirt road for a little more adventure? Then you should consider grabbing the dirt-road model. It comes with bigger axles, bigger bearings, all-terrain tyres and a heavy-duty chassis. And for a price of around $45,000, it will no doubt see plenty of interest from those looking at the top-end of the camper-trailer market.
Yet what about a couple with no kids who don't want a shower? They can simply choose the standard layout, which leaves out the ensuite and replaces it with more lounge space. So with three pre-planned layouts to choose from, there should be something to satisfy just about everyone.
The Retreat is easily one of the most flexible caravans on the market. It represents definite value for money and has a flexibility and solidity which some other expanding caravans just won't be able to match.
Easy to tow.
Some personal taste issues, but not much besides.