Carado T135 review

Review: Carado T135

Buying an ex-rental motorhome is a budget-saving strategy that’s even more effective if the motorhome in question is of a compact design intentionally aimed at couples. Paul Owen checks out the Carado T135 from the Wilderness fleet.

Way back in 2002, Consumer Magazine stirred controversy by advising readers that buying a second-hand car was more fiscally sensible than purchasing a new one. They argued that a well-maintained used car, having already depreciated significantly, offered better value for money. The new car advocacy group, the Motor Industry Association (MIA), was quick to issue a rebuttal, emphasising the “excellent value” of purchasing a new car.

So, who’s right when it comes to finding the best value for money? The motor industry autocrat or the long-serving defender of the ordinary household budget? This ex-rental Carado T135 motorhome proves that both points are valid.

New tech versus saving dollars

Carado T135 review
Sliding lounge table can be stowed away for safer travel

Purchasing a more budget-friendly ex-rental motorhome must be balanced against the possibility of missing out on the latest technology from the newest releases. This T135 is based on the seventh-generation Fiat Ducato cab chassis whereas the latest version of the compact six-metre-long Carado two-berth gets the new eighth-generation, which sports a much-revised powertrain, including a 2.2-litre engine and a state-of-art nine-speed automatic gearbox.

With its clever compact design, the T135 model represents a mobile offering perfectly poised between the motorhome and campervan sectors with a semi-integrated cabin mounted atop a complete van cab/chassis.

You can also be confident that an ex-rental gets ushered into the private sector while still in the peak of condition. The rental motorhomes of Wilderness are thoroughly checked and serviced between each hire and are then completely refurbished before their final exit from the rental fleet. So be assured that in addition to cost savings, this ex-rental T135 comes with little compromise to serviceability and reliability.

A compact icon

Carado T135 review
Front cab is screened by curtains instead of cab window blinds

While the van cab/chassis it’s based on has undergone a mechanical and electronic upgrade recently, the domestic part of the new T135 is relatively unchanged from what you see here. That’s probably because Carado knows that it hit a sweet spot with this model for couples seeking an owner-friendly motorhome that’s ridiculously easy to drive and park. Why change a winning formula?

Carado, as the affordable brand of the Erwin Hymer Group (EHG) portfolio, uses the T135 to reinforce the budget-friendly nature of its range. As the shortest model in Carado’s semi-integrated motorhome line-up – at 5.95 metres long – consider the T135 to be the foot soldier leading the charge towards greater cost-effectiveness.

Any signs of cost-cutting are hard to spot with the T135. The only sign is the retention of the van chassis that ensures that the cabin of the Carado rides higher than other models in the range.

However, there are a couple of pluses with this. The floor of the cabin is the same height as that of the cab, meaning there’s no opportunity to acquire that commonly felt pain of multi-level motorhomes – the Ducato Stubbed Toe. Also, that extra ride height sure comes in handy when confronted with an obstacle like, for example, the concrete ford leading to the popular White Horse Hill Campground at the foot of the Hooker Valley near Aoraki-Mount Cook. With its shorter overhangs and extra ride height, the T135 is the ‘rough roader’ of the Carado line-up, as scrapes with terra firma will be far fewer. A set of All-Terrain tyres would further enhance its potential for wild camping.

A guide to buying your first motorhome

But what about accessing that higher floor? Fortunately, a powered Thule two-step access ladder folds out and away at the push of a button, making cabin access and egress no sweat. The ceiling-to-floor measurement is a generous 1.95 metres.

The clever stuff

Carado T135 review
The slatted double bed is comfy and cosy

Personally, I consider the retention of the van chassis and the high-riding floor to be desirable features. Also, there’s lots of other clever stuff found in the T135. Here’s the list:

The fixed French bed: This maximises space within a comparatively short motorhome footprint. By putting the slat-based bed on one side at the rear of the T135, the shortest Carado feels more spacious upon initial encounter with the cabin than many of its larger 7.4-metre siblings. There’s no cramped aisle between the living area and the rest of the motorhome to impede the longitudinal view allowing natural light from the windows and skylights to reach every little nook and cranny of the cabin. The bed is of a generous length at two metres long and the rearmost width of 1.35 metres allows room for shoulders and breathing space between partners. However, it tapers down to 1.15 metres wide at the most forward part, so foot space may be slightly compromised. Another nice design feature is the location of the control for the Truma Combi 6E gas cabin-water heater within reach of the bed. There’s no need to get up to turn down the cabin heat setting on a winter’s night.

The convertible wash/shower room: Adjacent to the bed is perhaps the cleverest bathroom ever fitted to a motorhome of modest length. An internal wall and a hinged washbasin allow this area to be tailored to the needs of the moment. The washbasin swings out of the way of the toilet when not required, then can be swung back again should the internal folding wall of the shower cubicle need to be deployed to splashproof the rest of the bathroom. If you loathe having to wipe down entire motorhome bathrooms after a shower, this Carado limits the task to just the
shower cubicle.

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Carado T135 review
Clever TV mount allows viewing from either the back or the front of the T135

A TV that swings both ways: A sliding slatted screen nestled between the overhead lockers of the passenger side of the T135 can be slid back to reveal a TV mount that can then be pulled into the middle of the motorhome cabin. This features a hinged mount that can be rotated 180 degrees so the television can be viewed either from the French bed or the rotated Captain’s chairs of the cab.

Multi-access garage: Naturally, Carado didn’t have the opportunity to provide the humungous garage of a 7.4-metre motorhome for the T135, but the exterior storage at the rear is still quite cavernous and useful. There’s room for outdoor furniture and at least one bicycle; two rows of adjustable tie-down points help secure the load. The French bed is hinged and can be raised with the help of a pair of gas struts to access the garage during times of inclement weather. Lifting the bed also accesses a couple of hidden extra storage compartments handy for stashing valuables away in.

Decent water and gas storage: As mentioned, Carado designed the T135 to be a semi-integrated motorhome alternative to a campervan that offers a less cramped living room than the more restrictive steel body of a converted commercial van. This is reinforced by the size of the water tanks and the gas bottle locker. There’s a 122-litre freshwater tank on board the T135 and a 92-litre reservoir collects the drain water from the sinks and the shower. The gas locker is designed to house two of the 11kg bottles that are popular in Europe. It easily accommodates two of the 9kg bottles most commonly used here.

Carado T135 review
Three-burner hob and sink are sized for larger motorhomes

A genuine EHG product

Carado may be the entry-level brand in a prestigious group but the quality of this T135 is still there to be savoured even after 120,000km of rental fleet use. It’s apparent in the flush-fit windows, the aluminium sheet metal cladding on the side walls, the smooth slide of the top of the adjustable lounge table, and the cosy comfort of the main bed. Given the instant access that buying an ex-rental motorhome provides, and the often-long lead time between placing an order for a new one and finally receiving the keys, investing in this compact and clever Carado is well worth consideration.

Carado T135 review
Carado T135 floorplan
Make and modelCarado T135 (ex-rental)
ChassisFiat Ducato-based cab/chassis, front wheel drive
Engine2.3L turbodiesel, 130hp
GearboxSix-speed comfort matic
Fresh/hot/grey water122L/10L/92L
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