Updated: Aug 5, 2020
Trakka’s new Akuna is no Disney fantasy, but it might mean “No worries, for the rest of your days…”
This review is from the July 2020 issue of iMotorhome Magazine
There are so many choices in the motorhome market it can keep you awake at night. Buying cheap saves money at first, but the experience can lead to years of regret. The key is to look for quality, because long after you’ve forgotten the price you’ll still enjoy the right machine. You could do worse than adopt the mantra “Hakuna Matata", which featured in Disney’s The Lion King: “It means no worries, for the rest of your days”, but you still need to choose carefully.
Vehicle choices aside, there’s been a subtle shift in buyer preferences in the motorhome market over the past decade. Without fanfare, the popularity of van-conversion motorhomes has increased significantly and with good cause: Van-conversions have a strong steel body that provides structural rigidity, rollover protection and ease of repair, while minimising the opportunities for water leaks. They’re also narrower and have a lower roof height than conventional coach-built motorhomes, which makes them easier to manoeuvre and park, and reduces fuel consumption.
Evidence of this shift can be seen in the model range from Trakka. A decade ago the company had an extensive list of coach-built motorhomes on its books and just a couple of van-conversions. These days, the Torino and Jabiru van-conversions are Trakka's most in-demand models, with the coach-built range reduced to essentially two variations of a single Trakkaway model.
Into the mix, Trakka has added the Akuna range. Based on the new Volkswagen Crafter, Akuna sits between the Fiat Duacto-based Torino and Mercedes-Benz-based Sprinter and comes in both medium and long-wheelbases. For the back story on the new Crafter and which models are best for motorhome conversion, read this separate story..
With features and floor plans that essentially mirror the fractionally longer Jabiru, new Akuna starts at a $25,000 lower price point, which instantly makes it an attractive proposition. But there’s far more than price to the new Akuna’s appeal….
The subject of this review is an Akuna A2M – the A denotes Akuna, 2 means two-seat and M stands for medium wheelbase. Priced at $150,000 driveaway, Trakka sees the shorter Akuna as bridging the gap between its smaller campervans and longer motorhomes. Measuring 5.99 m (19’ 8”) long, 2.05 m (6’ 8”) wide and 2.77 m (9’ 1”) high (with optional aircon), the A2M can legally fit in a standard car space and at a pinch could double as a daily driver. Lacking nothing except interior space, it’s fully featured and ideal for a solo traveller or couple; the latter with one provision that I’ll get to a later.
Down to Business
Power across the Akuna range comes from Volkswagen’s 2.0-litre bi-turbo diesel that produces 130 kW and 410 Nm. Drive is via an eight-speed fully automatic transmission, with power delivered to the front wheels. Along with an automatic stop/start system for saving fuel when stopped, it also comes with regenerative braking that converts frictional energy during braking into electricity via a generator. That power is not only stored in the Crafter’s battery, it can also be used to assist acceleration.
The Akuna A2M has a Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) of 3550 kg and a Tare weight of 2941 kg, leaving a maximum payload of 609 kg. It also has a maximum braked towing capacity of 2500 kg.
Like Akunas across the model range, freshwater capacity is 140-litres, grey water 80-litres (with electronic dump valve), hot water 10-litres, the toilet cassette 16-litres and fuel, a relatively small 75-litres (offset by excellent economy). Also across the range is a 200-amp-hour lithium house battery, 200-watts of solar and the very latest charging systems to manage vehicle, solar and mains power inputs. The A2M gains 5-mm of ground clearance compared with long wheelbase Akunas, for a total of 190-mm.
As you'd expect, new Crafter comes with an impressive range of standard safety, comfort and convenience features. These include Front Assist with City Emergency Braking, Driver Fatigue Detection, Multi-Collision Brake, Hill Hold Assist, Crosswind Assist, Front and Rear Park Distance Control, reversing camera, cruise control, and an eight-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system including Apple Car play, Android Auto, Bluetooth and Voice Control. To that standard specification Trakka adds LED headlights with automatic on/off, Rain Sensing Wipers and Front Fog Lights across the Akuna range. Unfortunately, Volkswagen only offers dual front airbags on the high-roof Crafters used in the Akuna range, although up to six are available on other models. While disappointing, in a vehicle of this size frontal impact protection is the most important.
The test Akuna came with the optional Volkswagen Plus Pack ($6500), adding Lane Assist, Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Traffic Alert, Side Park Distance Control, Park Assist (self parking!) Adaptive Cruise Control and Trendline Styling (additional 12 V cab socket, entry step illumination and various chrome trim elements). Given the Akuna’s attractive starting price and the range of cutting-edge technologies in this pack, it's little wonder most customers are including it.
Additionally, it came with Trakka’s popular Alfresco Pack ($3000), which includes an externally/internally accessible drinks fridge, a total of 440-watts of solar (200-watts already on-roof plus a 240-watt portable panel), an outdoor workbench with removable sink and an external shower that also provides hot and cold running water at washing-up time. Add to that a 2000-watt inverter system and induction cooktop ($1910) plus Saturn Black alloy wheels ($2190) and the driveaway price moves up to $163,600. That’s still $11,400 below entry-level for the Jabiru – $175,000 driveway – which admittedly is for a long wheelbase two seater (Jabiru medium wheelbase is AWD-only). Add the same options to the entry-level Jabiru LWB, however, and as far as I can work out the drive-away price rises to $187,210, meaning the price difference rises to $23,610. Even allowing $5000 extra for an Akuna A2 long wheelbase model, it still has an $18,610 driveway price advantage.
It’s also before considering Volkswagen’s new five year/unlimited kilometre warranty – by comparison, Mercedes-Benz’s offers a three years/two hundred thousand kilometre warranty on the Sprinter (Jabiru). Additionally, VW has a $2300, 5-year Care Plan that covers scheduled servicing at 12 month/20,000 km intervals. Although it must be bought prior to the first service, it’s a lot of budgetary peace of mind for an average of $460 per year for the entire warranty period…
Specifications and price aside, the Crafter’s interior and driving experience are well worth reporting. Cab entry is easy thanks to wide opening doors and a deep step on each side, plus there's good clearance between the seats and dashboard. The dash itself is quite plain and flat across its full width, but features handy storage nooks and crannies, and a large, deep glovebox. Visibility is excellent and the seats comfortable, if a bit flat, although they do have electrically adjustable lumbar support.
The multifunction steering wheel is small and sporty, with a flat bottom à la Formula One. I'm pleased to report that, although plastic on the test vehicle, production Akunas will have a leather steering wheel, as befits a quality European vehicle. The instrument panel is a model of ergonomic efficiency and instantly familiar to any Volkswagen owner. It's dominated by a large circular tachometer and speedometer, the latter being on the right-hand side and therefore in the correct position when glancing down from the road (European vehicles often retain the speedo on the left).
To the left of the instrument cluster is an eight-inch infotainment system. It incorporates the reversing camera, which includes an overhead image of the vehicle that flashes in conjunction with warnings from the front, rear and side sensors, when detecting obstacles at slow speeds. The infotainment screen also provides access to a wide range of vehicle and entertainment systems and information, plus provides connectivity to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – just plug your smartphone into the dash-top USB port.
Disappointingly, there’s no climate control; occupants having to make-do with old-fashioned air conditioning with rotary knobs for guessing the temperature and setting fan speed and airflow direction. Completing this section, the gear selector sits below the air-con controls and is perfectly positioned, just to the left of the steering wheel. Conventional in operation, it has also been adapted for right-hand drive and flicks across to the right to operate in sports mode. That's a nice touch…
On the road the new Crafter is a delight. Mrs iMotorhome spent some time behind the wheel and fell in love with the light steering, visibility, big side mirrors and ease of driving. In particular she said she found the engine response and gearbox very car like, and appreciated the shorter overall length.
The gearbox is worth singling out for its crisp, precise up-shifts and seamless operation in normal or spots modes. Combined with more than 400 Nm of torque, a relatively wide body and squat stance, the medium wheelbase Crafter is enormous fun to punt along a winding back road; it doing an excellent impersonation of a big kid’s go-kart. Of course, it's equally at home on the freeway and open roads, where it will happily cruise all day at around 1500 rpm in 8th gear.
Finally, special mention must go to the Adaptive Cruise Control. Its primary function of maintaining speed is exemplary: You can adjust desired speed to the kilometre-per-hour via the steering wheel control and it will hold it uphill and down dale, thus avoiding speeding over crests and when heading downhill. The Adaptive aspect, however, takes that further. Not only does it use radar to adjust speed and maintain distance from the vehicle in front, it slows you as traffic slows and will even bring you to a stop, before accelerating again when the vehicle in front moves off. Combined with Lane Assist, which keeps you safely between lane markings, it's almost like autonomous driving. Obviously, you must remain alert and ready to take over, but these features really take a lot of stress and fatigue out of many common driving situations.
The Akuna A2M’s medium wheelbase gives a pleasing, stocky appearance, with one passerby commenting, “The thing appears to be smiling – and ready to pounce!”.
The body looks good and in my few days with the vehicle it attracted a lot of positive attention. Volkswagen's designers have done an excellent job with the front end and arguably it's the best looking light commercial vehicle currently available. Trakka capitalises on that and accentuates the style with subtle decals, plus blackouts around the dark tinted, flush-fitting windows.
Like all Trakka campervans and motorhomes now, the Akuna A2M is LPG-free. Cooking, hot water and ducted interior heating are all diesel-fired, drawing a very small amount of fuel from the vehicle’s tank (with a cut-out to prevent you becoming stranded).
An electric awning with LED outdoor lighting is standard, as is a portable entry step, with electric as an option. The rear barn doors open to reveal a sizeable boot beneath the bed. Home to the house battery, optional inverter and Alfresco Pack outdoor table, the boot also has enough room for camping chairs, hoses, power cable, toolbox, wheel chocks and more. A nice touch is the pull-down insect screen that closes off the bedroom, meaning you can leave the barn doors open and enjoy an insect-free breeze. It's matched by another screen discreetly concealed between the Crafter’s sliding side-door and kitchen. The side door itself has an external mounting rail for the Alfresco Pack table, which conveniently sits at waist height. The table has a cut-out for a removable, collapsible silicon washtub that’s positioned towards the rear of the vehicle. This allows the Akuna’s outdoor shower to also provide hot and cold washing-up water, thanks to a magnetic shower-head holder that can be positioned where required.
Finally, it's worth noting that while a conventional TV aerial and internal connections are available, the standard fitting is a GSM cellular antenna with adjustable/movable iPad holder. Combined with a data sim card and suitable plan, it turns the Akuna into a mobile wireless hotspot so you can stream Netflix, chat on FaceTime, check your email or trade the markets as you travel!
Inside the Box
The Akuna A2M’s floorplan is compact and straightforward. It utilises swivelling cab seats for after hours relaxation and dining; has a small but comprehensive kitchen unit by the sliding side door, the Switch Mode bathroom opposite and an east-west bed at the rear.