Toolbox
words - Max Taylor
photos - Stuart Grant
Popular pop-top van gains a bathroom and now also comes with one of the easiest bed-end setups on the market



WE LIKED
>> Bathroom fitment and integration
>> Improved process for setting up the bed-ends
>> Energy-efficient LED lighting throughout

NOT SO MUCH
>> No stoneguard for A-frame tap
>> Awkward positioning of 12V fusebox


There are plenty of manufacturers building vans with fold-out bed-ends. And why not? This style of van is a practical alternative, especially if you need lots of living space but prefer a compact, relatively light towing package.

Among the numerous builders putting this style of van together, few do it better than Concept. The Icon range is solid and refined in design, and elegant and stylish in appearance.

As a blacktop tourer, it’s like a faithful dog: always keeping to heel and doing what it’s asked.

But the Concept team don’t sit around the campfire drinking beer after they’ve hit on a winning formula.

The 2012 update model, called the 16ft x 7ft 6in Shower van, is the first in the Icon pop-top stable to feature a bathroom. And they’ve even applied some thought to the setup of the bed-ends.

The result will ensure you spend more time relaxing on your site, and less time fiddling with canvas-tensioning poles. More on that later.

ATTENTION TO DETAIL

The Icon’s interior is typical Concept: light timber finish and no flimsy bits just waiting to break.

With the beds at each end, dinette and bathroom on the offside, and kitchen opposite, there’s an obvious consideration to liveability, too.

The rear and front bed measure 1.5 x 1.95m. Each of the canvas walls each have a zippered window, as well as a vinyl lower skirt to prevent the canvas from ‘sweating’ against the mattress. The privacy curtains are a welcome touch, too.

Though there’s internal access to the entire tunnel storage area (both front and rear) from under the mattress, the floor-level doors are the easier bet.

On the storage subject, one wardrobe is fitted to this van, with just over 700mm of hanging space, along with a drawer and cupboard beneath.

Kitchen features include an LG microwave and stainless steel Spinflo MiniGrill MkIII cooktop and griller. No oven has been fitted, though naturally you could option one in; however, that would mean doing away with the convenient storage beneath the griller.

There is also a slide-out pantry and a 90-litre three-way Dometic fridge (which can be optioned up to a 120-litre unit).

The 480mm of bench space in the ‘main’ part of the kitchen is augmented by a whopping 930mm bench forward of the entry door. This is where Concept has mounted a 19in flatscreen TV – fitted as part of the “Technic Pack”, which also includes a DVD player, 25A CTEK battery charger, AGM battery and wind-up antenna.

At an additional cost of $1250, the Technic Pack represents very good value.

The attention to the little things in this Icon is appreciated. Beneath the sink, the plumbing is particularly neat, especially where the grey water pipe and hot/cold lines run through the shelf before ‘disappearing’ through the floor – Concept has fitted a plastic collar to the hole in the shelf for a tidy finish.

The offside dinette should comfortably seat four. It’s a fairly versatile space, with the table lowering to become the base of an additional bed.

Storage is adequate, too, with four overhead lockers (sensibly divided to prevent gear sliding about when you’re underway) that open on spring struts.

The cavity beneath both seats, however, is taken up by some essential items: Truma 14L gas-electric HWS and jack beneath the rear lounge; battery pack and 12V fuses beneath the forward lounge (the fuses, it must be said, are positioned in a way that would make them somewhat awkward to inspect).

Concept opts for the Truma unit for a couple of reasons: its stainless steel tank means a sacrificial anode is not necessary, and the 14L capacity allows for quicker “recovery” of hot water.

Behind the dinette, Concept has designed cabinetry around the air-conditioner and condenser. Because you’re looking at an internal length of around 23ft (7m) with both beds folded out, an Aircommand Heron 3Q air-con has been fitted, rather than the less-powerful 2Q used in smaller vans. But a larger air-con requires a larger condenser, and this one sits around 700mm high, hence the split-level bench and ‘shallow’ cupboard space.

The bathroom is made of fully moulded fibreglass, ensuring that water goes down the drain, not into the wall cavity. With a bench-style Thetford cassette loo and variable-height shower, as well as a vinyl gusset and privacy curtain, the essentials are covered.

To improve the overall strength and rigidity of the pop-top, Concept has fitted an aluminium extrusion – a fully welded lower roof frame – that slots into the top of the walls. To this are screwed the roof-raising scissor struts, as well as the 340mm vinyl gusset (screwed from the inside).

Overall, the interior is a bright and airy place. At night, the cabin lights up with 10 LED downlights and a spread of reading lights in all the right places (each and every light on this Icon is LED – a new feature).

THIRTY-SECOND SETUP

The revised setup of the bed-ends comes almost as a revelation. Gone are the internal canvas-tensioning arms and associated fiddling (though Concept’s previous system was actually one of the better ones on the market).

Enter, a simple system involving hard plastic catches on each fibreglass ‘lid’, and loops of elastic rope fixed to the canvas.

With the bed base lowered and the rear frame raised, creating the basic shape of the bed walls, you just have to secure the elastic loops to the catches. If it takes you more than 30 seconds to set up each bed, you’re doing it wrong.

I also liked the fibreglass gutter for catching water that might’ve collected on the canvas overnight. Because it’s a completely moulded unit with no joins, it won’t leak.

The Icon rides on a SupaGal chassis with 6in main members and a 4in drawbar that runs back to the spring hangers of the Al-Ko leaf-spring suspension – a proven chassis setup. The 15in alloy wheels are fitted with 12in electric brakes.

The van wears a 400mm skirt of 3mm-thick aluminium composite that’s claimed to be at least as tough as the 1.6mm-thick checkerplate so often fitted to other vans.

At the pointy end, two 4.5kg gas cylinders sit on the drawbar. Sensibly, Concept has opted for tunnel storage (front and rear, as mentioned) in lieu of a conventional front boot – an impractical design for vans with forward fold-out beds.

VERDICT

There’s a lot that I like about this Icon, and not much that I don’t. The bathroom is a winner in my book, and the simplified bed-end setup works a treat.

Then there’s the weight factor: with an ATM of less than 2000kg, there’s no need to go shopping for a Prado – the Icon will sit happily behind a Commodore or Falcon wagon.

It is not a rough-road or ‘offroad’ van, but if you’re planning extended hinterland touring, weekend getaways to the coast, or even a Highway 1 circumnavigation, the Icon shouldn’t let you down.


CONCEPT ICON
External body length: 5.24m (17ft 3in)
Overall body length: 7.04m (23ft 1in)
External width: 2.37m (7ft 9in)
Internal height: 1.98 (6ft 6in)
Travel height: 2.42m (7ft 11in)
Tare: 1682kg
ATM: 1982kg
Ball: 110kg
Frame: Meranti timber
Chassis: SupaGal
Suspension: Al-Ko leaf-spring
Cooktop: Spinflo MiniGrill MkIII with griller
Fridge: 90 litre Dometic three-way
Microwave: LG
Shower: Fully-moulded fibreglass cubicle
Toilet: Thetford cassette
Lighting: 12V LED
Gas: 2x4.5kg
Fresh water: 1 x 60 litre, 1x80 litre
Hot water: Truma 14 litre gas-electric
Price $48,990 (Australia-wide, plus dealer delivery and government charges; $1250 extra for the Technic Pack as shown)
Supplied by: Concept Caravans



 

To comment on this article click here Published : Monday, 19 March 2012
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