Is the Windsor Daintree a house-on-wheels fit for bargain conscious royalty?
This review is from the June 2020 issue of iMotorhome Magazine
Windsor Caravans is a name many will be familiar with. The company, which was part of the troubled Fleetwood Corporation in Perth and also makers of Coromal Caravans, sold both brands to Brisbane’s Apollo RV for $1M in 2019.
Apollo is primarily a motorhome and campervan manufacturer at February’s 2020 Victorian Caravan Camping and Touring Supershow I came across a curios sight: a Windsor Daintree motorhome sitting alone is a sea of Windsor caravans. Clearly, investigation was required…
Talking to the Man from Windsor, it transpired that Apollo has spied a market niche not filled by its near-invisible locally-made Winnebagos nor its under-rated and under-marketed Adria range, imported from Slovenia. Enter the first motorhome in the Windsor brand’s history.
Cheap and Cheery?
Let’s cut to the chase: The Daintree is a shot across the bow of Jayco’s Conquest; a torpedo at Sunliner’s Pinto and a broadside – well, you get the picture. So the question is, is it okay?
Firstly, let's define what the Daintree is: an entry-level 6.58 m (21’7”) 2-berth B-class motorhome. Featuring an electric roof bed, generous lounge/dinette, decent kitchen and a full-width rear bathroom, it packs a lot into its compact dimensions. And priced at the Melbourne show at $103,990 drive away – it now lists for $105,990 on the Windsor website – it also appears to be a compelling value proposition. So what’s the catch?
When you look at the brands of chassis that motorhome manufacturers in Australia build on, you usually see Fiat, Iveco and Mercedes-Benz. In the past you also saw Ford, but the Transit fell from favour and despite the current Transit being very good manufacturers haven’t embraced it, which is a great disappointment. Then occasionally you come across Renault – the Master to be specific – and it's always at the budget end of the market. Despite being reasonably popular in Europe, the Renault Master has never made real inroads in Australia, and that's despite it having a smoother and more driver-friendly automated manual transmission (AMT) than the Fiat Ducato.
That the Daintree rides on a Renault Master is no surprise – and no bad thing. Masters sold in Australia to date have been the run-out model now superseded in Europe and are definitely last-generation in terms of interior style and design. However, the engine is strong, the transmission proven and there are a surprising number of Master delivery vehicles running around suburban Australia that prove the model’s durability. Its biggest limitation is a limited dealer and service network, but if you’re buying new you’re covered by a three year warranty and if something goes wrong, getting you to a service centre is their problem.
While the Master’s interior is grey and plasticky, the ergonomics are okay and the driving experience entirely reasonable. Power comes from a 2.3-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel that produces an unremarkable 110 kW and 350 Nm, but it feels stronger than that. As mentioned it drives through an AMT, which has six speeds and sends power to the front wheels. Fuel capacity is a generous 100-litres and with a tare weight of 3085 kg and a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of just 3800 kg, it not only provides a decent payload but should have a 1000-km or thereabouts driving range at touring speeds.
Standard equipment includes remote central locking, electric windows and mirrors, cab air-conditioning, dual front airbags, cruise control, anti-lock brakes, traction control, stability control, reversing camera, sound system, internally adjustable headlights and decent storage.
When Renault finally exhausts its stocks of right-hand drive Master cab-chassis and the much improved new version lands here, it will be interesting to see if it retains its price advantage and entry-level status in the motorhome world.
I have to say I think Apollo has done a good job packaging the Daintree. Whilst thoroughly conventional, it's a good-looking little motorhome and the perfect size for a solo traveller or well organised couple. It's also worth remembering Apollo cut its teeth building campervans and motorhomes for the rental market, which means they know how to build things to last (our Project Polly is an example).
Body construction is of single-piece structural composite-panel walls, roof and floor, with gel coated interior and exterior panelling. Euro-style double glazed acrylic windows are used all ‘round and the designers have managed to incorporate a couple of external storage lockers for things like chairs, table, hoses, etc.
Standard equipment is impressive and includes a 3.2 kW reverse-cycle rooftop air-conditioner, 20-litre gas/electric hot water system, 188-litre three-way 2-door fridge-freezer, 25-litre microwave, cooker with 3 gas/1 electric burners, range hood,150-watt solar panel, 100 amp-hour deep-cycle house battery, LED lighting, Bluetooth sound system, 4-metre wind-out awning, barbecue gas bayonet fitting, security screen door, 110-litres of fresh water and 55-litres of grey, an external hot and cold shower, town water connection, 60-cm (24”) LED TV/DVD and more. There are manufacturers of much more expensive vehicles who could learn a thing or two from this equipment list about how to provide buyer value – at any price point…
Stepping inside through the mid-positioned entry door reveals a pleasing story: You turn left to walk past the pair of inwards-facing lounges and dinette table, and into the cab with its swivelling seats, or right, to pass through the kitchen and into the full-width rear bathroom. There’s storage above the cab, while the electric drop-down bed runs east-west, above the lounges, and headroom when retracted is quite reasonable.
Decor is plain but simple, with a combination of cream/white walls and cabinetry plus dark grey upholstery and drawer fronts. The floor has a light woodgrain finish and overall the Daintree looks and feels modern. There’s also a surprising amount of space in the lounge/dinette, which I think could probably accommodate six people plus another couple in the swivelled cab seats.
The kitchen is a real surprise, with excellent bench space that includes a hinged lid over the cooker that's actually a part of the benchtop. The main kitchen unit starts opposite the entry door and runs along the driver’s-side wall to the bathroom. The two-door fridge-freezer sits across the aisle in a tall cabinet, with storage above, in the corner against the bathroom wall. Between it and the entry door is another tall unit, with a hanging wardrobe up-top and three drawers below. The TV is nestled high up on the wardrobe end panel and easily viewable from the lounge seats, cab or when in bed.
The bathroom is another surprise in such a small vehicle. Being full width it has room for a separate shower plus plenty of bench and storage space, a big mirror and an easily accessible cassette toilet. There’s also room and privacy enough to do what you need to do…
Drop-down beds are always a compromise, lacking as they do the niceties of privacy, bedside tables, drawers and reading lights. However, as they go the Daintree’s is pretty reasonable and lowers considerably for easy access. It’s key operated via a switch by the entry door and can be left made-up when raised if desired (and you don’t have a million pillows – I know, it’s a girl thing). There’s good ventilation thanks to windows at both ends, but you’d need to be careful sitting up for a cuppa or when reading that you don’t lean on the one behind you. Like I said, it’s a compromise…
What I Think
If you get the impression I was impressed by the Windsor Daintree, you're right. In a 6.5 m motorhome it provides almost Tardis-like living space, a high level of equipment and a truly practical floor plan at a price that is near unbeatable. It also looks good inside and out, so really, what isn't there to like?
I can hear some howling at the fact it's on a relatively unknown cab-chassis that you wouldn't touch with a barge pole, but this is the 21st century and there is no such thing as a bad motorhome base vehicle. The Renault Master is backed by a 3-year/200,000 km warranty and comes with 3 years roadside assistance. Windsor/Apollo backs the Daintree with a five-year structural warranty and three-year interior warranty, and has sixteen hundred-plus service centres Australia-wide.
Anyone looking at a new compact motorhome should check out the Daintree – especially those looking at a van conversion motorhome. It appears to be well built, comes from one of the most experienced manufacturers in the country and I think provides almost outrageous value. Indeed in these economically challenging post-Covid days it could be just the thing for value conscious royalty – or you…
Excellent standard equipment
Spacious living area
Renault dealer network
That's about it!
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