Patriotism. Duty. Pride. The very word ‘Kokoda’ evokes these feelings in almost every Australian. So when a caravan manufacturer with this special word in its name burst onto the scene about seven years ago, we all couldn’t help but take notice.
Kokoda Caravans is part of the Aussie Adventure Caravans Group, which also owns and builds the Dreamseeker and Grand Salute range of vans. It is a family-run business. Owner George Mamo’s son, Michael, is the manager of the new Kokoda factory in Craigieburn, Vic, while his daughter, Chloe, oversees the marketing, and his other daughter, Shenoa, manages customer service and warranty.
George is particularly proud that his vans bear the name Kokoda. But given the fact that the word is inextricably linked to Australia’s military history, he uses the word carefully, in good taste, and with the approval of the 39th Australian Infantry Battalion – its blessing, however, was given on the condition that all Kokoda vans were built completely in Australia.
In fact, the Force II X-Trail GT is so new that the one we hitched to a 200 Series was only the second ever built.
There are 10 models within the Force range, many with the same specs. However, GT models (there are four available) get a range of additional features, such as composite aluminium cladding, USB charging points, and a different overall shape. The ‘X-Trail’ in the model designation refers to the fact it’s an offroader.
Any offroad caravan worth its salt will have decent underbody protection. And the Force II X-Trail GT has acres of it – anything in harm’s way has been armour-plated, including the dual 95L water tanks. On the offside, the brass mains water inlet is mounted behind a chassis rail, well and truly out of the line of fire.
In terms of suspension, Kokoda offers five different 3500kg independent options, at no extra cost: Simplicity, Cruisemaster XT, Enduro Outback, Tuff Ride and Oztrekker.
The cutaway rear is a must for any offroader. In my experience, even a small cutaway can save expensive panel damage. Speaking of which, the van is sensibly fitted with a high waist of checkerplate all-round.
The checkerplate theme continues up front. On the nose of the van, you’ll find a checkerplate storage box (the lid lifts on gas struts), along with dual jerry can holders also fabricated out of this material. Two 9kg gas cylinders are protected by a mesh stoneguard. The coupling, meanwhile, is the venerable D035 – a good choice.
Yet more external storage is provided by way of a right-through tunnel boot with – you guessed it – a checkerplate floor. This means you can simply toss your gear inside with worrying about scratching or chipping the van.
Across the nearside are two picnic tables, two speakers, a roll-out awning, and a gas bayonet near the tunnel boot for a BYO barbecue. Of course, you might instead to choose to fit a barbecue on a slide-out tray in the tunnel boot itself – Kokoda has a long list of optional extras, a barbecue being just one of them.
How does the van perform under tow? Behind our Land Cruiser, it was excellent. On the open highway, at 100km/h, it remained perfectly stable behind, with no pitching or yawing to speak of. A particularly strong crosswind caused a small amount of sideways movement but much less than I expected. Overall, it’s a strong performer under tow.
Immediately upon entering the Force II X-Trail GT I could see why the layout shown here is Kokoda’s most popular. The van is separated into a couple of distinct living zones – dining and cooking, and the bedroom – by a split bathroom.
The dinette, complete with leather club lounge on a raised platform, is a very inviting spot. Surrounded by overhead lockers, LED downlight and multi-directional reading lights, it’s the heart of the van. The table can be easily raised and lowered, too.
On the offside, opposite the kitchen, is some bench space with a top-loader washing machine tucked away beneath. A fridge-freezer is fitted forward of the bench. Just as with the suspension, Kokoda offers a choice here: either a Thetford three-way absorption fridge, or a 12V NovaKool compressor fridge. If you’re planning of spending a lot of time in the tropics, then the compressor fridge might be the way to go.
The kitchen, with a slightly angled bench, four-burner cooktop, griller and oven, stainless steel rangehood and sink, full-height acrylic splashback, and a good spread of cupboards is very workable. There seemed plenty of space between the kitchen and offside furniture, so it shouldn’t be too much of a squeeze when trying to get through to the bedroom while your partner is using the kitchen.
I also appreciated the fact that the walkway to the split bathroom and bedroom can be closed off by a solid sliding door, rather than a curtain.
The walls and floor of the shower are a one-piece fibreglass unit, with a 12V fan hatch included in the roof. The offside vanity/toilet cubicle, meanwhile, has a ceramic basin, cassette toilet, his and hers hand-towel holders, as well as overhead lockers and cupboards below the sink. Did I mention that all locker doors are on piano hinges?
And that leaves the bedroom. The tunnel boot unavoidably erodes some of the under-bed storage space, but the wardrobes are quite deep and there are some cabinets at the foot of the bed too, where you’ll also find a mounting arm of a TV (there’s a TV mount in the dining area, too). It was great to see 240V powerpoints as well as 12V and USB charging points on either side of the bed.
Without a doubt, the Force II X-Trail GT has a certain relaxed ambience. I’m not sure if that’s the result of the soft furnishing, the decor – such matters are beyond me – but I felt right at home.
Given the asking price of $74,990 (plus on-roads), this van represents solid value for money. It has a lot of equipment fitted as standard, from the onboard shower and toilet to the raised dinette, washing machine, the offroad running gear and more.
The dual 150W solar panels and 100Ah deep-cycle batteries should be adequate for extended trips in remote areas, too, and the extra spare wheel (two are provided) makes sense.
Bang for buck, an attractive interior and appealing layout, and offroad ability. The Kokoda Force II X-Trail GT is an enticing package, indeed.
FIT AND FINISH –
HITS & MISSES
Overall length: 9m
External cabin length: 6.85m
External cabin width: 2.35m
Travel height: 3.1m
Internal height: 2m
Unladen ball weight: 260kg
Frame: Meranti timber
Cladding: Composite aluminium
Chassis: 6in DuraGal
Suspension: Five 3500kg independent options (Cruisemaster XT, Simplicity, Tuff Ride, Enduro Outback and Oztrekker)
Wheels: 16in alloy
Fresh water: 2x95L
Battery: 2x100Ah deep-cycle
Air-conditioner: Dometic Harrier
Gas cylinders: 2x9kg
Sway control: No
Cooking: Swift 500 Series cooktop with griller and oven
Refrigeration: Either a 185L Thetford three-way or a 193L 12V NovaKool
Toilet: Thetford cassette
Shower: Yes – separate cubicle
Washing machine: Top-loader
Lighting: 12V LED
Hot water: 22.6L gas-electric
$74,990 (plus on-road costs)