Review: Crusader CRV Gladiator

The Crusader CRV Gladiator is the mid-spec van in Crusader Caravans’ new line-up. It’s offroad-ready and equipped for offroad touring. Let’s take it for a test…


The CRV range from Crusader Caravans is among the most interesting new caravan line-ups in Australia at the moment. Comprised of three individual vans, it offers something for all types touring – provided that touring is done by couples only. These aren’t family vans; rather, they’re compact, lightweight rigs built to sit behind a wide range of tow vehicles.

Crusader GladiatorAs detailed last issue, the Esperance is the ‘entry-level’ CRV made for blacktop touring and holiday park stays.

The Gladiator is built on the same platform as the Esperance; however, Crusader Caravans has up-specced the model to turn it into an offroad getaway machine. The Hurricane is the top-end CRV – it’s longer than its brothers and kitted out with more gear.

The CRV Gladiator, however, is proving to be the most popular in the range, which was only launched in late 2020.

With it hitched behind our MU-X, we headed north out of Melbourne to one of our favourite testing grounds in search of some offroad tracks.


En route to the dam shown in the pictures, I had to negotiate various gravel roads, some medium-sized undulations and one badly scalloped section of track that, had it been raining, I would not have attempted.

Crusader CRV GladiatorIn low range, I crawled through, expecting the Gladiator to bottom out or at least thump and scrape. The CRV Gladiator is fitted with a Cruisemaster DO35 hitch as standard, and even though the van doesn’t have a rear cutaway, the short rear overhang kept the back from smashing the ground as I descended and then climbed out of the ruts.

Where as the Esperance has a 4in chassis with independent torsion beam suspension, 15in wheels and 10in brakes, the Gladiator is built on a 6in Intelligent Engineering chassis with 6in drawbar, fitted with independent coil suspension, 16in wheels with all-terrain tyres, and 12in brakes. It gave us no issues as we pushed forward through that gnarly section of track.

Crusader CRV GladiatorLike the other vans in the CRV range, the Gladiator is built from composite fibreglass sandwich panels with a 30mm floor section that should proof tougher than the 12mm marine ply found on many vans.

Crusader CRV GladiatorThere’s very little underneath that looks vulnerable. While it’s conceivable the drop-down corner stabilisers could catch on something, that seems unlikely and I had no such issues. Crusader has even wrapped the PVC grey water plumbing in protective conduit. I noticed the dump valve on one of the water tanks protruded a little, but it is up quite high against a chassis rail.

There are two 95L water tanks fitted to this van (whereas the Esperance only has one 62L tank) as well as a grey water tank. A 120Ah lithium battery is mounted within a checkerplate box mounted to the offside chassis rail, and dual 190W sola panels are fitted to the roof. The Gladiator gets a Projecta PM200 battery management system, too.

Crusader CRV GladiatorWith decent water storage, an effective 12V system, and an appropriately strong build, the Crusader CRV Gladiator appears to have the fundamentals sorted for offgrid touring.

Storage-wise, there’s a large box on the A-frame built from black checkerplate, with a slide-out tray on the nearside that would suit a portable barbecue – a gas bayonet is nearby. However, the offside of this box is reserved for the van’s dual 9kg gas cylinders. A mesh stoneguard protects the setup.

Crusader CRV GladiatorA gal-lined tunnel boot is provided as the van’s main storage compartment, though.

On the nearside, Crusader Caravans has provided a 3m roll-out awning, an entertainment locker with the relevant fittings (12V and antenna points), a picnic table, and some speakers.

You’ll also find an LED light bar at the front and the rear – which are among the other pieces of equipment you won’t find fitted to the CRV Esperance.

Crusader CRV GladiatorOur review van was the prototype and as such, there were a couple of things that have been changed for production models. The key change is the relocation of the taillights and licence plate holder from the rear bumper and spare wheel to the body of the van itself – a good move.

As a general observation, I thought the Crusader CRV Gladiator struck a quite an impressive figure pose on the road. The decals look great and the overall shape of the van is aesthetically interesting.


The interior is much the same as what you’ll find in the Esperance. In fact, the layout is identical. However, we’ll touch on it again, in case you missed our recent Esperance review.

Crusader CRV GladiatorTwo single beds sit in the nose of the van. The interesting thing about this setup is that the twin singles double as seats for the swivel dinette table, which is mounted in between. This table can be removed to allow you to fit a piece of timber to serve as a base, which in turn allows you to bring the two mattresses together to form a double bed.

As with the Esperance, anyone over 6ft tall will feel a bit cramped in the single beds; however, you might find some more legroom with the mattresses zipped together.

Crusader CRV GladiatorThe key features of the Crusader CRV Gladiator layout include a 140L fridge (larger than the fridge in the Esperance), surprisingly generous storage compartments for food and clothes, a rear kitchen complete with a four-burner cooktop and griller, a stainless steel rangehood and sink, and plenty of cupboards and drawers. Bench space is minimal, as you’d expect given the size of the van, but it makes up for this with the inclusion of a corner combo bathroom.

The bathroom is comprised of a cassette toilet, small washbasin and a hand-held shower rose. 

Crusader CRV GladiatorWhile there are some trade-offs involved with the layout – the dinette being one of them – there are benefits that in my opinion make the trade-offs worthwhile. 

This van is fully-equipped for long-haul trips and by its design, it is not inordinately heavy. It’s relatively short length should make it a less difficult proposition to tow, too, especially for people new to towing caravans. Storing it should be easier, too.


The more I look at Crusader’s CRV range, the more I am intrigued. As much as I liked the entry-level Esperance, the Crusader CRV Gladiator appeals to me in particular, thanks to the offroad fitout and inclusion of features such as the front storage box, the light bars, and the larger fridge.

Crusader CRV GladiatorIf it’s just the two of you and you want something that’s compact, light and well put-together, I would recommend inspecting the CRV Gladiator.


FIT AND FINISH – 4.5 out of 5 stars

LAYOUT – 4 out of 5 stars

INNOVATION – 4 out of 5 stars


  • Lightweight and towable by many family vehicles
  • Protection for underbody components and general offroad fitout
  • Execution of the composite construction
  • Tall people might find the beds a little too short
  • Minimal kitchen bench space


Overall length: 5.95m

External body length: 3.95m

External width: 2.2m (including awning)

Travel height: 2.78m

Tare: 1650kg (average)

ATM: 2000kg – 2700kg to match your tow vehicle

Group axle rating: 2700kg

Unladen ball weight: 110kg (average)

Construction: Composite fibreglass sandwich panel

Coupling: DO35

Chassis: 6in Intelligent Engineering with 6in drawbar

Suspension: Independent coil

Brakes: 12in electric

Wheels: 16in alloy

Fresh water: 2x95L

Grey water: Yes

Awning: Roll-out

Battery: 1x120Ah lithium

Solar: 2x190W

Air-conditioner: Reverse-cycle

Gas: 2x9kg

Sway control: No

Cooking: Four-burner cooktop with griller

Refrigeration: 140L 12V compressor

Microwave: Yes

Bathroom: Fibreglass combo with shower and toilet

Washing machine: No

Lighting: 12V LED

Hot water: Gas/electric