We might be the nation known for number-eight-wire ingenuity, but people in the RV industry know that Kiwis can also be conservative about embracing new brands; we tend to stick to the tried and true. This may be one reason that Jayco has become a household name.

Jayco is a brand that has lasted the distance – in more ways than one. The Australian manufacturer prides itself on putting product through the paces, during ‘endurance’ tests undertaken in extreme conditions over thousands of kilometres, on some of Australia’s toughest roads. Ask anyone who has driven the corrugated red dirt roads of the Australian outback and they will tell you it’s not for the fainthearted. In these conditions you want to be sure that your RV will withstand whatever nature throws at it.

Interior floor space is good, the kitchen offers multiple under-bench drawers and cupboards, as well as overhead cupboards for storage. The bathroom area is mid-ship with bedroom behind in the rear

A few years ago, Jayco Australia celebrated 40 years of manufacturing. This was quite a milestone for a company that started out in a cowshed, where the daily routine for the small team began with shovelling dung out of the way before work started. The company’s founder Gerry Ryan is still involved in the business he began in 1975.

At the time, Gerry had recently returned from a fact-finding mission to the Jayco plant in Indiana, USA, where he had worked closely with Jayco founder Lloyd Jay Bontrager, and seen first hand the company’s innovations in pop-top camper technology. He successfully negotiated with the American company to use its patented technology, and began to build his camping trailer company from scratch, with just five employees.

There are two models to choose from – 6.5m and 7.2m. This is the 6.5. I like the rear finish sloping up at the back, the reversing camera is standard, and there are outdoor speakers as well

Jayco Australia now has more than 1200 employees working across six enormous buildings spread across 50 acres in South Dandenong, outside of Melbourne. There, a new caravan, motorhome or camper is built every 11 minutes. Production this year is expected to exceed more than 11,000 vehicles. Gerry says he still gets a kick out of seeing a Jayco-branded RV on the road.

Given that the Jayco name is splashed across the side of almost half of all recreational vehicles across the ditch, you’ll likely have confidence the brand has stood the test of time.

Not surprising therefore that the brand had quite a presence at the recent Covi Supershow. Anyone keen to get a grip on the latest offerings could visit the Jayco Pavilion – and visit they did, in droves. Pride of place in the pavilion was given to the Jayco Toy hauler, which is the kind of departure vehicle that really sparks the imagination and envy of the average RVer who might dream of owning a vehicle like this. (We’ll review that big bad boy in a future issue).

Keeping with the theme of compact, go-anywhere-with-everything motorhomes, the Jayco Freedom is perfectly suited to a couple, but equally offers comfort and privacy for up to four people.

Lots of storage pockets, cupboards and shelves in the ensuite area, swivel electric cassette toilet, lots of LED lightiing and a window

And the wide range of choice does not stop there. Jayco prides itself on matching every chassis type to the correct vehicle for maximum efficiency. Hence, in the larger vehicles like the Jayco Optimum you’ll receive an Iveco base, while buyers of the Freedom range can opt for Fiat or Renault as the base vehicle. Inside you can upgrade to leather upholstery as opposed to fabric.

Elsewhere, the build of a Jayco benefits from lessons learned during the manufacture of more than 200,000 vehicles. Positive-locking doors and drawers are screwed as opposed to glued, and upholstery is treated to be mould resistant.

For the purpose of this review, I’ve stuck with the smaller models, the RM-20-5 and the RM 23-4, both of which are built on the Renault base. These are less than 7.2 metres in length and don’t have slide-outs, unlike their longer stable mates, but from first appearances, no creature comfort is lost in the compact vehicles.

Externally, the main difference between the Renault-base RM-20-5 and the RM-23-4 is the height of the roof: the 20-5 has a low-peak Luton roof, and the RM-23-4 has a high-roof Luton to incorporate the second double bed.

Two long lounge seats with fully adjustable table in the middle, storage hatches on the floor, and in the Luton overcab area even more storage. You don’t notice the ceiling is the hidden second bed

With just one two-person bed to incorporate in its floor plan, the RM-20-5 offers a spacious rear bathroom which extends right across the back of the vehicle. The other small difference between the two vehicles is in the galley where the smaller vehicle has a two-burner cooktop – as opposed to the four-burner in the slightly larger vehicle.

The Freedom models are built to ‘Downunder’ requirements, providing a larger-than-European standard galley complete with three-way fridge, cooktop with rangehood, microwave, and deep drawers and cupboards with soft-close fittings. All have HD TVs with premium DVD players. Air conditioning, Dometic roof hatches, LED lighting, a solar power system, deep-cushioned seating and innersprung bedding are all standard.

Plus, you’ll enjoy the benefit of more than 40 years’ construction experience, and the backing of Australasia’s largest RV manufacturer.

The drop-down ceiling bed is made up, just take the pillows up and up she goes. This is over the dining area behind the front cab

Jayco Freedom Models:

RM-20-5; RM-23-4
Vehicle: Renault Master – Seatbelts 2–4
Length: 6.5–7.2m – Width including awning: 2.3–2.39m – Height with AC: 3.15–3.2m
Gross vehicle mass: 3510–4495kg
Fresh water: 80L – Grey Water: 45–75L
Battery management system: 1 or 2 Solar panel: 120W
TV: 19.5˝ – External power points
For a full range of specifications across both models contact your Jayco dealership, South Auckland Caravans and Motorhomes Ltd: www.caravancentre.co.nz