We’ve had our caravan for one month now, so I thought it about time I gave my opinion of it now we’ve got used to most things in the caravan.
It being a twin axle and only previously having single, I was interested how it would tow. We’d had a few scares when towing. One particular instance we were going to the Brighton CAMC site. I usually drive with cruise control set at 60PMH on the motorway, one this occasion we were going downhill and I though I had cruise control one, but I hadn’t activated it. I was suddenly aware that the caravan was misbehaving, weird I thought and glanced down at my speedometer and I was approaching 80mph. Whoops. What do you now? I seemed to remember reading somewhere that if a caravan starts to take control of the car you should accelerate your way out of it. Fortunately I lived to tell the tale, what I’d read was to accelerate if you get a flat tyre. Anyway, I decided to speed up to try and correct the caravans misbehaving. All of sudden things corrected themselves despite my attempts to make things worse. The car (Audi A6) had decided I should go slower and everything was corrected without any input from me. I’m still not 100% sure when the car did, I assume it braked? So, from that day forward the better half was a rather more nervous passenger and it lead to us eventually replacing the car.
No such drama with the Cartagena. First impressions are very good indeed, although the caravan is heavier than our previous it’s absolutely rock solid towing with no noticeable twitching or that horrible swaying when overtaking (or being overtaken by) a lorry on the motorway. It must be partly down to ATC, but also our car has some kind of cross wind assist, so that too would help. FYI our current tow car is a Mercedes GLC 350D.
Some things, that after reading comments on forums I was concerned about. Firstly, the traverse fixed bed that I know some people suggest it’s the worst of both worlds, in that it isn’t a fixed bed as you need to lift a flap up at night. We actually like this, it gives you much more room during the day and it’s easy enough to pop up at night. TBH it’s still a squeeze to get past it at night, but it is manageable.
Another thing was the size of the washroom, which is a bit smaller than our previous caravan. Obviously we looked at it prior to purchase, but didn’t seem that much smaller. Having used it a couple of times is it noticeability smaller, but perfectly usable. The only windows in the washroom are two small roof lights. However, there is an enormous mirror, which does a great job of reflecting light around the room. The door is a sliding type, but has no lock. Is this an issue? I’m not sure, but I was expecting to see one.
We found the mattress too hard for our liking, so have just invested in a mattress topper, from Dunelm, it’s not cheap, but its comfortable. It’s a Dorma Tencel Blend Memory Foam Topper. I have no idea what Tencel Blend means or is. To be honest it was a bit of an impulse buy, we wanted a topper, but didn’t do any reading of reviews. It actually gets very good reviews and as I said earlier it’s really comfortable.
We weren’t too sure how the topper would work out with the bed in day mode. With our our previous caravan which had a “proper” fixed bed, one which had the corner cut out, we had to “modify” our previous mattress topper with a pair of scissors! However, even though the end of the mattress is semi circular when in place, it works very well. During the day the mattress topper just folds (flops?) down, or “hangs over the end” which is perfect. At night we lift the flap at the end, place the semi circular mattress in place, with the poppers and rest the mattress topper on top. There’s no way I was taking scissors to a 150 quid topper!
The bed opens in a particular way. Unlike a domestic ottoman bed which open at the end of the bed, like a car bonnet, or indeed, a normal fixed bed that open from the side, this one opens as a “V”. So it’s hinged in the middle of the bed and you can open it from both sides. It works really well. The spare wheel is unscrewed from under the bed. And the motor mover gubbings is in there as well.
The caravan has water onboard, so you fill up the internal tank from the Aquaroll, then you can fill up your Aquaroll again and you have basically two water supplies. It’s recommended that you empty it before travelling though. There’s a switch inside the caravan so you can switch between internal and external. I’ve yet to be convinced why you’d need to? Possible in the winter to have your water onboard, it will prevent it from freezing?
The lounge and kitchen are the main two reasons we swapped, the front lounge seating is massive, we can seat on a seat each and not have our feet dangling over the end. Also our 10 year old grandson slept on it without the need to make it up into a double bed and it was perfectly large enough and comfortable.
The one thing I don’t like about the lounge, now don’t get me wrong it’s great having longer lounge seats, this is achieved by not having a shelf on the front bulkhead, we don’t miss it, I’ve read some do. Because of this they’ve placed the two plug sockets on the side of the draw unit (that hold the slats for the front double bed. Not ideal, but it’s hard to see where else they’d put them.
The caravan comes with a lot of kit as standard, which means we didn’t need to get any opinions. Alarm, tracker, Also jack, two ALKO wheel locks. As it’s a twin axle you do need to jack the caravan up to get both wheel locks on, as you won’t get both wheels lined up. It even comes with a plastic waste container. Some might say at the price they charge it should come with bells and whistles!
The Alde heating system is great, we think it’s more effective then the Truma hot air system we had previously. The first night we used it we found it was a bit noisy, there was giggling and bubbling from the wardrobe where the expansion takes is located. The next morning after a quick internet search I read that during a caravan PDI they test the heating system and turn the circulation pump to the highest setting. This forces water around the system much faster than normal, to expel any air. As the water is moving quicker it causes a gurgling in the expansion tank. All I needed to do was locate the boiler (under on of the lounge seats) and turn the pump speed to number 2, which I did. The next night all with well and no noises were coming from the wardrobe.
The heating controls are easy enough to use, you can set different temperatures for day and night, so it will automatically change the temperature, I’ve not done this yet. I’ve been unable to find it the heating works when “off grid” i.e. just running on battery, I did test it and it doesn’t seem to? But I seem read some articles that suggest it should, or maybe that’s just in a motorhome, more research needed.
The kitchen is spacious and modern, using drawers instead of cupboards under the sink, which we love. We have this configuration in our house too, We fitted a new kitchen a couple of years ago and went big pan draws everywhere, so much better than cupboards in our opinion.
The fridge is simply huge with a freezer compartment that’s usable. We much prefer the Unicorn IV fridge as it’s black, rather than having a door that has some sort of veneer stuck to it. Why would you try to make a fridge look like it’s been made out of wood? Very odd.
The cooker is very practical, much like any other cooker in a caravan really. Three gas hobs and one electric one. A light come on to indicate when the electric ring is on, which is very helpful. We were at Brighton once and an Autotrail caught fire on site and within a mater of minutes is was just a burn out shell. We heard is was because they’d left the electric hob switched on. I don’t know if that was true, but still, it’s helpful having a light to tell you the electric hob is switched on.
The caravan is well lit, in fact, it may be a little too bright for me, however, the reading lights and the front of the lounge and in the bedroom are dimmable, so it is possible to watch get nice and cosy when watching TV, instead of watching it under the floodlights at Wembley.
There is acres of cupboard space both in the overheat ones as well as those lower down. At the moment we don’t have it even half full, but then there are only two of us most of the time.
We still haven’t removed the plastic covering on the carpets!
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