Family cruising in a Cascade
Author: Malcolm Street Date Posted: 18 May 2018
One of Australasia's leading RV reviewers, Malcolm Street, hits the road in a KEA Cascade.
KEA's Cascade is slightly unusual in the motorhome world, mostly because it is not very often that you can get the same layout with two different cab chassis underneath. In this case, when this particular layout first appeared, it was called a Breeze and had a Chinese built LDV cab chassis underneath. That itself was something of a first. However, even though the overall layout was good, there was a bit of a limitation with the non-swivelling cab seats of the LDV, so KEA grafted the Breeze body onto a Mercedes Benz Sprinter, utilised the swivelling cab seats and called the motorhome a Cascade. That did mean a price increase, but it also gave it a new lease on life and you get what you pay for in terms of layout and features.
Based on a Sprinter 313 CDI cab chassis, the Cascade is designed to carry and sleep four people, yet it is only 6.7 m (22ft) long. Built very much in the THL style, it has fibreglass composite walls and roof, along with fibreglass mouldings for the curvy bits. The tinted glass windows, with lower half openings, give the clue that the motorhome is built in New Zealand,
A little surprise in the Cascade is the external bin space. It's not always the case with motorhomes that have a rental heritage, with some having very limited external storage bins, but this one has a large area across the rear, mostly created by the rear seating arrangement.
In many ways this motorhome design suggests lighter weight travel and the external storage capacity should be more than adequate for most people. Other essential items like the toilet cassette, Suburban hot water heater and gas cylinder bin are catered for. Although, the gas bin is only large enough for one 9.0 kg cylinder, not a more convenient pair of 4.5kg cylinders. The Cvana awning is more designed for the rigours of inexperienced rental use and therefore quite easy to use.
Turn back the clock a few decades and the most time honoured feature in New Zealand motorhome layout was a rear club lounge surrounded by windows. Usually the club lounge folded down into a double bed. More recently, the desire for a fixed bed that does not have to be made up every night has prevailed, meaning the rear club lounge became less common. However, a development of recent years, the hand or electrically operated drop down bed, has made several things possible.
That includes this Cascade layout, which has both a rear club lounge below and a bed above, one which does not have to be made up every night. A bonus is that with a bit of careful jockeying of the upper bed position, the lounge can still be used as a bed meaning the motorhome will sleep four people quite comfortably and without a luton peak. Making up the drop down bed does require a bit of patience and fitted sheets would certainly be an asset.
If not needed, the table can be stored in the adjoining wardrobe which offers a relatively generous amount of hanging space. Power and lighting are handled quite well in the rear area. A double power point is fitted under the offside seat and there are two LED strip lights upper and lower mounted on the bathroom cabinet wall. They double as individual reading lights for both beds and general lighting for the dining area - and there's a third light on the kitchen bench side, along with a power point.
Because of the full two person seatbelt fitted seat behind the driver's seat, as mentioned before, the Cascade can be used to transport four people around. Another little trick is that because the Mercedes seats swivel around, with a little bit of compromise the front seats can still be used for four people even if both the rear beds are made up.
Apart from the swivelling cab seats, one of the other little differences between the LDV based Breeze and the Cascade is that the Sprinter based Cascade does not have a step down in the front area, just one of those little things that can make a big difference.
Naturally in addition to the beds and seats, the Cascade comes with a few other essentials like a kitchen and bathroom, both with a little bit of compromise, but not much.
Combo bathrooms like this one are ideal for smaller motorhomes. You get the full kit of variable height shower, moulded wash basin and Thetford cassette toilet yet still with room to turn around. Other fittings include a wall mirror, LED lighting and fan hatch. It's all very easy to keep clean, being almost fully moulded and white.
Given the 6.4m (22ft) length and the features already mentioned there's going to be a bit of compromise somewhere and that's with the kitchen bench. It does have the expected four burner hob, stainless steel sink, under bench 130 litre Isotherm 12V compressor fridge and microwave oven. Bench top working area is marginal, but there is a reasonable amount of cupboard and drawer space. The drawers are fitted with cut outs for plates, cups and glasses and there's even that great alternative to a plastic bag hanging on a hook, a garbage bin fitted to the inside of the main cupboard door.
For four people, a benefit of the arrangement with the rear seat directly behind the driver's cab is that not only is it a safe position, but it's fairly easy for everyone to talk to each other. Being right by the window, the rear passengers as least get a reasonable view on the road. There is a surprising amount of space in and around the cab area.
The rear seat also seems to be the electrical centre of the motorhome. In the seat base are the 240V circuit breakers, 12V master switch and both 12V and 5V USB charger points. Whilst above, few more electrics are found in the overhead locker area - 12V circuit switches, water tank gauges and battery voltmeter.
Not to be outdone, on the opposite side of the motorhome a small cupboard fitted with multiple shelves is located directly behind the passenger seat.
Taking a drive
Although the Cascade has the lesser powered of the Sprinter turbo diesel engines, that is the 2.2 litre 95kW/360Nm model, it still powers the motorhome along well enough and the seven speed auto is quite smooth, even in city traffic. Being slightly narrower (2.21m/7'3") than a standard motorhome does of course help with manoeuvering around and in car parks.
The Bottom Line
The Cascade is not a particularly large motorhome, but it shows certain European design traits, that is a very effective use of space and because of that has certain flexibility in the way it is used. Certainly two people can travel in comfort, but equally a family of four could travel around without too much difficulty. Best of all, of course, is that you get that comfortable rear lounge with windows all round!
Drop down bed in rear is a great use of space
Rear club lounge
Driver and passenger seating
External storage space
Large number of keys for bins
Drop down bed is a bit awkward to make up
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
External length 6.4m (22ft)
External width 2.2m (7ft 3in)
Internal height 2.05m (6ft 9in)
Travel height 3.0m (6ft 9in)
GVM (kg) 3550kg
Base vehicle Mercedes Benz 313 CDI
Engine 2.2 litre turbo diesel
Gearbox 7 speed auto
Max power 95kW@3800rpm
Max torque 305Nm@1200-2400rpm
Brakes ABS disc
Fresh water 100 litre
Grey water 100 litre
Gas 1 x 9.0kg
Hob Dometic 4 burner & grill
Fridge Isotherm C130 12V compressor 130 litre
Microwave Sharp Carousel
Toilet Thetford carousel
Shower Flex hose, combo cubicle
Lighting 12V LED
Hot water Suburban 23 litre gas/240V
RV Super Centre
169 Bush Road
PH: 0800 52 00 55