Apex HT-17 Expander Review

Claire Smith takes a closer look at the new Apex HT-17 Expander caravan from Road Life.

Making the decision to buy a new caravan is not one that most Kiwis take lightly. Well, let me clarify – the decision to buy is relatively easy (why wouldn’t you?), but narrowing down the options to find the ‘one’… that’s the hard part. But as I looked through the caravans at this year’s Hamilton NZMCA Motorhome, Caravan & Leisure Show, some just tick all the boxes. Case in point, the 100 per cent New Zealand-owned Apex caravan range, distributed through Road Life RV in Tauranga. Marketed as ‘top end off-road caravan’, the Apex vehicle range has a reputation for quality, high specifications and excellent workmanship. All traits that I like when looking at a caravan. Designed by Atlas Direct, the Apex range offers 10 different layout options – most of which include a fully-enclosed annexe, a simple but brilliant feature that creates a second room off the front of the caravan.

The sturdy caravan measures 7.15 metres in length

Layout

At 7.15 metres in length, the HT-17 Expander is a three-berth caravan with a queen size island bed plus a dinette that converts into a single bed. As you step inside, to your immediate left is the 75L fridge freezer. Alongside the fridge is a storage unit that houses a 2.5kg washing machine, cupboards, drawers, and the microwave. The all-in-one bathroom and toilet is opposite the entry door. The dinette sits to the right of the entry with the kitchen unit opposite, and the queen bed is at the rear of the caravan.

There’s plenty of storage space

Construction

Road Life co-owner Rhys Hunter says the decision to take on the Apex Caravan brand was largely based on the fact that it is built to withstand New Zealand’s demanding road conditions. “We searched long and hard to find something really tough that would go the distance longterm,” he says. “These caravans are built to last – they’re ideal for Kiwi families who like to explore off grid”.

Rhys explains that one of the most important factors in making the Apex caravans suitable for Kiwi travel is the hot-dipped galvanised box section chassis. Because the chassis is coated inside and out – not just painted on the outside  – it’s resistant to stone chips, rust, and corrosion. In addition, the caravan floor is fibreglass sealed which makes it waterproof – eliminating any worries about rot. Not only that, but all the plumbing and wiring that goes through the base of the vehicle is sealed watertight. The suspension is independent – each wheel has its own spring and shock absorber. Anyone who has experienced the increasing number of potholes and road damage on New Zealand roads lately will appreciate the benefit of that!

You won’t find any wood in the walls of the HT-17 Expander. They’re all constructed using tig-welded aluminium in box sections. That means not only are they lightweight, but also extra strong, and there’s no chance of rot from water ingress – something no caravan owner ever wants to deal with! They’re also well insulated for warmth in winter and to help keep the interior cool in summer.

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Another big tick on the construction checklist is the aluminium framed doubleglazed polycarbonate windows. This makes them super strong and protects the seals from damage caused by constant movement. Each window has a flyscreen so you can let the fresh air in without the bugs, as well as blinds for privacy and to block out light for sleeping.

The HT-17 Expander offers three sleeping spots

Sleeping

As mentioned, the HT-17 Expander offers three sleeping spots. A dinette conversion into a single, plus a rather inviting queen bed at the rear. Inviting because it’s super comfy, but also because the rear of the caravan slides out by 1060mm to create extra space at the head of the bed. Not only that, but the almost full width window is top hinged so you can open it right up to let the fresh air in, enjoy some stargazing, and feel connected to the great outdoors. I also can’t think of a better spot for an afternoon nap! For those in need of an extra bed, the ‘sister’ model of this model, the 4-berth Apex HT-17 Bunk, includes a down-down single bunk bed over the dinette.

Bathroom

All-in-one bathrooms have the benefit of making economical use of space. The toilet, towel rail and overhead locker are to the left, the slide shower to the right. An overhead extractor fan and hatch provide good ventilation. An added ‘bathroom’ bonus on this model is an external shower tent complete with hot and cold water – a great way to wash off any muck before heading inside.

Dining And Cooking

The good-sized kitchen unit comes very well equipped, with a three-burner gas hob and oven, plus a rangehood and microwave – easy meals at your fingertips after a busy day out. Foodies will be keen to know that there is also plenty of space for storing all your must-have holiday cooking gear too, with a generous selection of drawers, cupboards and overhead lockers.


Power

Apex caravans feature a simple to use power board to monitor tank levels, and with a master on and off switch, you can easily turn everything off when the caravan is not in use. The HT-17 Expander includes three 100A/h batteries with Projecta charger (lithium battery optional as an upgrade), a 1000w Projecta inverter, and 300w of solar. It’s an impressive package that makes this an ideal freedom camping choice.

Heating And Cooling

For cosy warmth in winter, the HT-17 Expander includes a diesel heater. And to cool off in summer, internal ventilation fans keep the temperature down, with optional air conditioning available.

 

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Exterior

A checker plate finish on the lower half of the caravan not only looks handsome, but also helps protect against stone chips and other damage. The top half is built using an aluminium composite panel, which is bonded to the aluminium frame. Apex caravans do a great job of maximising external storage space. The HT-17 offers two decent sized lockers with strong aluminium framed doors and good seals – and as a bonus, they have internal lighting.

Extras On The Outside

Family caravan holidays are all about making the most of the great outdoors. Think barbecues, picnics and a fridge full of treats to keep the kids’ energy levels up so they can tear around in the fresh air. The HT-17 Expander is made for just such family holidays. Not only have you got the internal kitchen, you’ve got a pretty impressive outdoor one too. Sliding out from one of the exterior lockers is a unit with a three-burner gas hob, cutlery drawer, storage hatches, sizeable preparation bench – and even a kitchen sink! It’s incredibly simple to set up and store away again.

But wait, there’s more… at the opposite end is a slide-out Dometic battery and solar fridge freezer unit. Fill it with a few ice blocks for the kids, all the fridge essentials and some cold brews for the BBQ chef, and everyone is sorted for the afternoon.

And to bring it all together, an electric awning comes standard – just push the button and you’re set. Perfect for getting a bit of shade on a sunny summer day. And because no barbecue is complete without some great music to enjoy at the same time, the Apex HT-17 Expander includes a Bluetooth Kenwood stereo with both internal and external speakers.

 

Summary

Not only is the Apex HT-17 Expander caravan a good looking, modern and well-equipped vehicle, but it’s also built to take on the tough stuff. That means not having to worry about damage to the bodywork as you head off down one of New Zealand’s many bumpy, gravelled or pothole-ridden roads. The external slide-out kitchen and fridge mean you can really make the most of outdoor living – cooking and socialising in the fresh air just the way camping is supposed to be. And when you’re ready to call it a night, a quick clean up and everything slides back into its own tidy space.

For more information, visit atlasdirect.co.nz 

 

 

SPECIFICATIONS 
MAKE & MODELApex HT-17 Expander
AXLESDouble axle
BERTHS3
LENGTH/WIDTH/HEIGHT:7.15m/2.36m/3.04m
WATER: FRESH/GREYFresh 160L/Grey 80L
GAS TANKS2 x 9kg
GVW3500kg
TARE2890kg
PAYLOAD610kg
PRICE: $108,700 (stock unit)

 

For more information, visit https://www.atlasdirect.co.nz/

 

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