Snowy River SRC-18

Review: Snowy River SRC-18

If you’re in the market for a well-crafted Australian-branded caravan, then the versatile SRC-18 from Snowy River ticks all the boxes, says Paul Owen

Ever wondered which caravan brand has market leaders looking into their rear-view mirror to see who’s catching up in Tasman markets? In eight years, Snowy River has gone from a start-up to Australia’s second-best-selling caravan brand.

During those eight orbits of our planet around the sun, the Snowy River range has expanded exponentially and now has a line-up that matches the market leaders in terms of the variety of sizes, layouts, and configurations available.

Take this newly minted SRC-18 single-axle model; it slots in perfectly between the popular SRC-17 ($85,490) and the well-established SRC-19 ($92,490). Delivering the convenience of more living space than the SRC-17 and similar cabin space for a (slightly) cheaper price than the SRC-19, it looks set to be a popular choice for a variety of users.

Given the ongoing expansion of the model line-up, you should be able to find the single-axle two-berth caravan that best suits your needs when browsing the Snowy River range. Cabin lengths for the five single-axle SRC models range from 4.31 metres for the SRC-14 to 5.76 metres for the SRC-19.

State-of-the-art show space

Snowy River SRC-18
A full-size sink and microwave are kitchen highlights

Located in the South Island, the huge showroom at CMG Campers in Sockburn, Christchurch, is the best place to peruse the Snowy River range. The wide-ranging Cockram Motor Group has invested in a new multi-million-dollar facility to showcase its range of new Snowy River, Regent, Swift, and Bailey caravans.

Well-engineered glass folding doors open so RVs can be displayed inside; if proof is needed of the group’s commitment to move beyond the automotive mainstream and into niche sectors, such as motorcycles and RVs, this custom-designed facility confirms it.

The displayed caravans are surrounded by comfortable seating areas where potential buyers can discuss their aspirations with the sales staff. When it comes to the Snowy River range, there’s a lot to consider.

Do you want the optional drop-down double bed that will add two extra berths? The side entry door to be ahead of the wheels or behind it? Choices of exterior graphics, cupboard configurations, and interior décor also need to be made. There’s also the availability of extra tank storage, more sophisticated solar systems, high-rise suspension, a tow hitch upgrade from 50mm ball to the renowned DO35, and leather-clad seats instead of fabric.

You can secure a Snowy River at CMG, but sales manager, Steve Piper, says “any stock we have doesn’t sit around for long.” For those who wish to fully tailor a Snowy River for themselves, there’s a lead time of around five to six months between placing an order and towing the delivered caravan away. The reward for the wait is that you’ll have a caravan that has been virtually custom-made, especially for you.

Steve says that CMG chose to take on the Snowy River franchise because “we like the refinement, we like the two-year manufacturing warranty where everything is covered and backed up by a five-year structural warranty, and we like the process.”

Multinational manufacturing

Snowy River SRC-18
The spacious island bed gets plenty of light from large windows and skylight

That process is driven by China’s New Gonow Group, which acquired Australia’s well-regarded Regent caravan brand in 2015 and set about creating a more recognisably Australian brand to add to it.

The Regent brand, already well-known in Australia for the 10,000 luxury caravans that were built in Melbourne from 1991 onwards under the two previous management regimes, is retained and reserved for use on a more urbane and traditional range of caravans. This enabled the new brand, Snowy River, to present a more modern, more adventurous image. The group has a subsidiary, Zhejiang Daide Longcui Automobile Co., Ltd., which is the builder of the Foton trucks and utes sold here, and other branches of the corporation make furniture while others produce thousands
of motorhomes and caravans.

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So, this was already a skilled practitioner of the art of building RVs when it acquired the Regent name eight years ago and had already established a global reputation for its build quality. That quality was soon recognised once Snowy River made its debut on the Australian market.

According to the Snowy River website: “Initially, there was a bit of a stigma associated with the ‘built in china’ label, but once buyers began to see and understand the improvements in build quality, that the caravans were built to Australian standards and heard favourable feedback from existing owners demand picked up rapidly.

“By 2018, we had moved from four vans a week, to six to eight and into a new factory to keep up with demand. By 2021, our Melbourne factory employed over 130 people, making it one of the largest caravan factories in Campbellfield – the home of Australian caravan manufacturing!

“In 2022, again we outgrew our factory and opened a second factory in Somerton.”

Ditching the wood

Snowy River SRC-18
Marble-effect bathroom bench is a classy bit of detailing

Helping Snowy River gain market acceptance among caravan buyers was the move in 2021 from problematic wooden frame construction to new full composite sandwich technology. It’s a shift that only larger volume caravan makers can make, and most other Australian caravan makers still rely on using wooden structures.

The composite panels and box-section aluminium tube body frames are key to a Snowy River’s precise and consistent build integrity, and having access to the more technical build process required is one of the best benefits of having the structural construction of the caravans take place in China.

The travel widths of the model range are all identical at 2390mm, a dimension chosen for its compatibility with a shipping container. When the caravans are 70% finished, they get shipped to Melbourne for final assembly and finishing.

The caravans arrive already mounted on a SuperGal-treated steel chassis featuring a heavy-duty drawbar made of 150 x 50mm (6 x 2”) rails and 100 x 50mm (4 x 2”) main chassis rails. The SuperGal process ensures that the chassis members are galvanised both internally and externally to the Australian and New Zealand standard 2312.

This galvanising is done before the chassis is welded together, and the welds are then cleaned and coated with zinc after final chassis assembly to complete the protection process. Rust might never sleep, but there’s virtually zero opportunity for it to find a suitable site to go to work on with a Snowy River or a Regent.

The complete cabin is bolted to the torsion beam-suspended chassis and consists of composite sandwich walls and roof that are 32mm thick and a composite sandwich floor that’s 45mm thick. The filling in the sandwich between the 2mm-thick outer and inner fibreglass panels is XPS (expanded polystyrene) – a closed-cell foam insulation board that’s both waterproof and thermally retentive.

Riding on an axle that’s rated to carry 2500kg, the SRC-18 weighs 1973kg when unladen and so potentially has a payload of 527kg. Given that there’s a skirt of protective black checker plate all round the outside of the cabin, two 9kg gas bottles, the huge 13-feet Dometic awning, two 95-litre water tanks, two 180W solar panels, a 20-litre microwave, and a 100Ah domestic battery included in the unladen weight figure, there’s plenty of carrying capacity left over if you wish to add that optional drop-down double bed and make this caravan a four-berth. The tow hitch weight is an easily absorbed 181kg, and arresting power is handled by electrically activated 12-inch brakes with optional trailer sway control.

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Light is right

Snowy River SRC-18
The front storage locker is accessible from either side of the SRC-18

Stepping up into the SRC-18 via the pull-out step, the first impression is how light and spacious the cabin is. There are larger windows than those of equivalent European caravans, and the glasshouse includes that rare find on an Australian-branded caravan: a portal at the front of the cabin.

The Aussies usually don’t like these because of all the unsealed roads they traverse over there and the risk of the towing vehicle slinging a stone through the leading caravan window. Snowy River has cleverly made caravan buyers on both sides of the Tasman happy by protecting that window with a top-hinged shutter located on gas struts.

The generous skylights will also keep any potential claustrophobes entering the cabin of the SRC-18 calm. However, it’s the décor and the design that gives the cabin such an uplifting ambience. The profile of the overhead cupboards curves inwards towards the floor, tricking the eye into thinking that there’s more space than there is, and their lids are finished in an appealing gloss grey, making a nice contrast with the matt-white walls and the gloss-black of the kitchen appliances.

Speaking of the galley, there you’ll find one of the best reasons to spend the extra on the SRC-18 instead of the 17. The extra cabin length enables the provision of a roomier kitchen with extra bench space and a larger 175-litre compressor fridge. Facing this is a café-style seating area, with two seats separated by a fold-out three-piece table. An L-shaped seating area is also available.
With windows on three sides, there’ll be plenty of air flowing in the main bed area at the front of the cabin on a hot summer’s night. Each side of the bed is served by a wardrobe and two overhead compartments located above. Further storage can be found beneath the hinged slatted base of the bed, which lifts to reveal a surprising amount of space. Below that there’s the tunnel-shaped exterior storage compartment located under the floor, which can be accessed from either side of the caravan.

Bringing up the rear

The personal grooming and comfort facilities of the SRC-18 are in the bathroom located across the rear of the caravan, with a shower cubicle at one end and the head (marine term for toilet) at the other.

There are two shelves next to the ceramic bowl equipped toilet that offer plenty of storage for towels and paper rolls, and the squared-off wash basin located in the middle of the bathroom has two large cupboards below it and a decent-sized mirror above it on the rear wall. The marble-effect finish of the wash basin bench gives the bathroom a bit of pizzazz along with the gloss-grey finishes of the storage areas.

It all adds up to an impressive caravan, so much so that the quality of the SRC-18 presents a convincing argument for the benefits of multinational manufacturing. The Snowy River combines appealing Australian design and finishing using a durable well-engineered caravan that just happens to be constructed in Asia as its foundation. It could be said to represent the best of both worlds.

Snowy River SRC-18
Snowy River SRC-18 floor plan
Make and modelSnowy River SRC-18
ChassisSuperGal-treated steel chassis with 150mm drawbar rails and 100mm main rails
Overall length/height/width7370mm/2390mm/3070mm
Cabin length5460mm
Fresh/grey waterFresh 95L/Grey 95L
GVM2500kg (unladen mass: 1973kg)
PriceFrom $91,490
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