Is Jayco’s entry-level Conquest R.19-1 the bargain it appears on paper?
This review is from the August 2020 issue of iMotorhome Magazine
It’s little wonder first time RVers get confused, given the industry itself can’t even decide what to call different styles of vehicles. Take the Jayco Conquest RM.19-1 for example, it’s what I call a van-conversion motorhome (motorhome because it has a bathroom), but Jayco calls it a campervan. Semantics aside, this style of vehicle is becoming increasingly popular as people find van conversions provide an excellent balance of size, features, economy and price. Incidentally, in the Conquest name, RM stands for Renault Master and 19 means length in feet. Well, approximately. Actually, the little Conquest is 6.2-metres (20’ 4”) long, 2.78-metres (9’ 2”) tall and 2.15-metres (7’) wide – not counting mirrors.
Speaking of price, Jayco set the cat amongst the RV pigeons last year with the RM.19-1 by pricing it at just $81,900 drive-away. The combination of Jayco’s enormous buying power and massive production facility means it can build motorhomes with economies of scale others can only envy, but price alone isn’t everything. Is it actually any good?
iMotorhome Magazine reader Mark sent this message through our Facebook page, “Hi all, I'm so glad I've come across your FB page and reviews. I really appreciate your down to earth and practical reviews. Is it possible to review the "cheap" Jayco RM.19-1 Campervan? So many of the vehicles reviewed are out of my price range and I'd love to know your thoughts.”
Well Mark, you piqued my interest and so here goes, even though getting hold of a vehicle in Covid times is difficult and the best we can do for now is bring you a ‘taste’ of it…
Back to Basics
The most obvious cost-saving feature of the Conquest RM.19-1 is the Renault Master; now a superseded model at that. There’s nothing wrong with the Master, it’s well proven as a delivery van in Australia, it’s just that Renault has never been able to crack the local RV market and must be offering them at bargain prices.
On paper the Master stacks up pretty well: Power is 110 kW and 350 Nm from a 2.3-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel that drives the front wheels through one of the best 6-speed automated manuals available. Anti-lock brakes, traction and stability controls, all-wheel disc brakes and dual front airbags are all standard, as are remote central locking, power steering, electric windows and mirrors, cab airconditioning, a multi-function steering wheel, cruise control and Bluetooth. It also comes with a generous 100-litre fuel tank, so a 1000 km range should be quite realistic, and a 2500-kg braked towing capacity. Tare weight is 2750 kg (approx) and gross vehicle mass (GVM) is 3510 kg, leaving an on-paper payload of around 760 kg. Not bad at all…
The Master’s cab is bland with acres of grey plastic and a spartan feel, but has no impact on drivability or practicality, only the aesthetic. Where Jayco has saved money and where it does impact liveability/practicality is in retaining the Master’s standard three-seat cab. While it provides the ability to carry a third person, it’s at the expense of walk-through cab access and would be especially inconvenient in bad weather and/or if a solo traveller wanted to depart a campsite without exiting the vehicle. Another saving has been made by omitting a reversing camera – an unfathomable oversight.
Having driven several Renault Masters over a couple of model iterations it remains an underrated favourite. The only real issue I can see is the sparse dealer network if genuine Renault service is desired or required. As a new vehicle it comes with a 3 year/200,000 km warranty and roadside assistance, while the motorhome conversion is backed by Jayco’s 2 year manufacturer’s and 5 year structural warranties, plus a national dealer network. That takes care of the Renault side of things, but what about the rest of the vehicle?
Despite its bargain basement price tag the Conquest RM.19-1 actually stacks up well in the standard equipment department. Roof-mounted air conditioning, 100 amp-hour house battery, 120-watts of solar, a 12/240-volt compressor fridge, Furrion AM/FM/CD/DVD entertainment system and 24-inch LED TV/DVD, Winegard aerial, LED strip lighting, microwave, external 240-volt power point, entry step (manual), 3.7-metre Fiamma wind-out awning and an LED exterior light are all included. By comparison, there are more expensive motorhomes I can think of that don't include air conditioning, solar or a separate entertainment system in their standard equipment list. The RM.19-1 also comes with proper, opening motorhome windows on the sides rather than fixed automotive glass, although the latter is used in the rear doors.
Where the Conquest RM.19-1 does show cost-cutting is in things like a foam mattress, refrigerator – 60-litres compared to 85-litres, which is the norm in this size vehicle – and fresh and grey water capacities, which are 60-litres and 45-litres, respectively. So while on the electrical front you should be able to freedom camp for days at a time, you're going to need to be very frugal with water usage to make it happen. I guess in reality a night or two between caravan park stays is the likely usage pattern for this vehicle. Finally, I can't find any reference to insulation, but would like to think there must be some in there somewhere….
Glitz and Glamour?
While you would hardly call the RM.19-1 glitzy or glamorous, Jayco’s designers have done a decent job on the interior for the price.
The layout is almost identical to Project Polly’s, with the exception of through-cab access. The bathroom is immediately behind the driver's seat, with the fridge and microwave in a unit behind it. The kitchen is immediately to the right of the sliding side-door, while down the back are a pair of single beds that double as the dinette, and thanks to a removable table can also be made into a large double bed. It's all basic van-conversion stuff and there are no surprises, including the extensive use of grey marine carpet for wall trim, plenty of bare metal around the doors and the ubiquitous light woodgrain cabinetry used throughout. While the three opening motorhome windows include integrated privacy and insect screens, the fixed glass windows at the rear make do with the most basic of curtains. There are no blinds on the windows in the cab, rather, just a curtain between the cab and living area – again, just like Project Polly.
At first glance the little Conquest’s interior is a pleasant surprise. However, the closer you look at it the more you realise the compromises that have been made to not only keep the sticker price low, but to accommodate everything in this relatively short van.
For example, there is no wardrobe or hanging space, although there is a decent amount of cupboard space above the beds and storage beneath them. The kitchen unit is tiny, with just enough space for the round stainless steel sink and two-burner cooker; the former with a clunky round cover made of benchtop material and the latter with the usual flush glass lid. It’s good to see a small flip-up bench extension, but there’s just a single drawer for cutlery and three cupboards to accommodate all your kitchen needs. That’s apart from a cupboard under the high-mounted fridge, opposite. The dining table mount is another indicator of price, it being of the cheaper chrome tube type rather than the more substantial Lagun system. Finally, I can't see any 12-volt or USB charging outlets and the 24” TV appears somewhat oversize and could get in the way, given its location at the end of the fridge cabinet.
The bathroom is an all-in-one wet design and although basic, it’s not as basic as Project Polly’s. That’s because it at least gets a small corner hand basin with its own mixer tap, separate to the height-adjustable, chrome flex-hose shower. There is also a fan hatch in the ceiling – another win over Polly!
Come bedtime you have the choice of a pair of singles or you can fill in the aisle with boards, move the back cushions across and make it up into quite a decent double, which is actually closer to king-size. Opening windows on either side would provide airflow, which is good because there is no roof hatch (only the air conditioning unit).
What I Think
In the RV world, like every other, you basically get what you pay for. If we were all super rich we’d be driving bespoke motorhomes crafted by artisans from the finest materials. However, when every dollar counts you have to spend them as wisely as possible. The Jayco Conquest RM.19-1 presents the budget conscious or financially constrained with a genuine alternative to buying used. For the money it has an extensive standard equipment list and delivers the security of buying new, knowing it’s backed by solid warranties.
Sure it's built to a price and that's reflected in various aspects of the design and finish. Nevertheless, aside from the glaring omission of a reversing camera and the considerable inconvenience of no walk-through cab access, it’s likely to fulfil its intended role well.
It will be interesting to see if the RM.19-1 soldiers on once stocks of superseded Renault Masters are exhausted. I suspect Jayco will keep a budget priced entry-level motorhome in its range (even if they call it a campervan!) to entice buyers into showrooms and, hopefully, bring them into the family. In the mean time, the littlest Conquest is worth investigating if you can live with its compromises, and isn’t that what most bargains are about?