Big, Tough Pioneer

This full size caravan by Coromal is ready to take on the outback

For a builder based in Western Australia, there are a lot of Coromal Caravans on the roads and in campsites in the eastern states. However, when you consider the company is one of Australia’s largest and has been building vans since 1977 with thousands on the road, it makes sense that they are a common sight. What does surprise me though, is the number of almost vintage vans still around. Lots of Superlites, from the mid 80s and early model Pioneers are common and probably obvious because of the family resemblance, particularly in the pop-top versions.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that so many Coromals had weathered the years because their sturdy construction was developed to withstand the rough outback roads of West Australia’s north in days when tar was a rarity up there. And these days there are dealerships across the eastern seaboard and a nationwide network of over 70 service centres.

The Pioneer XC name on our test van continues a model run that dates back many years and reminds us that Coromal were among the pioneers in off road vanning in Australia.

Even though the 612 looks big, it sits in the middle of a seven model Pioneer range that extends out to the 696 version with an overall length of nearly 9m. Coromal aren’t afraid to push the boundaries of size as can be seen in some of the monsters from the 80s.

The 2017 model is a far cry from the compact earlier versions. Towering high on duel independent suspension and 16″ black steel wheels with all terrain tyres, its 8.2m length overall is imposing and impressive. A couple of understated ochre swirls adorn the raised aluminium silver sides, avoiding the garish offroad logos some brands include. Even so, the black checkerplate around the lower edges, and black jerry can holders and storage racks at the back add to a very robust impression.

Missing, though, are the spare tyres that dominate the back of many off road vans. They are up front, but I will come to that in a minute. By locating the spares elsewhere, it leaves Coromal with easy options for placing lights and number plate at a legal level, something that is sometimes overlooked.

The rig connects to the tow vehicle by a 3.5ton rated DO35 hitch for a broad range of articulation over steep creek crossings and such, and power transfers through 12-pin and Anderson plugs. The extended 150x 50mm A-frame has a heavy-duty AL-KO jack, a tap with a stone guard as well as electronics for AL-KO Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and the brake-away system.

A large black aluminium toolbox houses two 9kg gas bottles on the passenger side with a slide-out for a generator opposite. Now to the spares, and I make a point of praising this storage system because I think it’s smart design. They are stored behind the toolbox in two alloy cages that unfold to make a ramp each side for each wheel, which is then quickly rolled to the ground. Anyone who has battled with a massive spare mounted high on its carrier will appreciate the simplicity. Such a system is a balancing act because the van needs to be built so that excess weight isn’t transferred to the ball. Of course, you still need to be careful about loading the van to maintain this balance.

Both A-frame and chassis are hot dipped galvanised and built from 150mm x 50mm box section steel, and the suspension is AL-KO’s premium off-road Enduro trailing arm suspension with twin shock absorbers each side. Two 80L water tanks and an 80L grey water tank have galvanised covers protection and plumbing is set high to avoid stone damage.

The passenger side of the van has been set up for outdoor entertainment and can be covered by a Carefree awning. Starting at the front is a roll-out kitchen complete with a marine grade gas cooker, sink with cold water, storage drawers and preparation bench. It slides on heavy-duty runners and has a sturdy locking mechanism. Further back are two picnic tables with TV point and two 12v power outlets.

Rock sliders front and rear protect the nether regions of the van, which the young lads from Harbour City Caravans put to the test over some rocky outcrops later in the day. The driver side features storage at the other side of the kitchen and an outside shower.

Many will find the fold down step and grab handle necessary for access because it’s a fair height up into the van. The interior is a contemporary take on van decor with Vega Mega White over most surfaces, offset by Ruby-toned doors on the overhead cupboards with Slate grey leather upholstery and Charcoal curtains and pelmets. It’s a clean look but if it’s a little too clinical for your taste, there is a full palette of colours from which to mix and match.

Just forward of the entry, is a narrow cupboard built into the back of the dinette, which will be handy for often-used items in a space that is often under-utilised. The ensuite is at the rear, adjacent to the entry, and its full width and 6’4” ceiling height, mean there is plenty of room to move. The vanity has a floating bowl and a giant mirror and there are numerous high and low storage cupboards.

The moulded shower has a chic tile imprint on the walls, a built-in soap holder and a non-skid floor. The shower has a hatch and extractor fan and there’s a window in the central section but a fan is an optional extra. In the offside corner is a 2.5kg Camec washing machine with a shelf that slides out over the toilet for a washing basket. That’s another neat idea.

The living area has a well laid out kitchen with a decent amount of bench space on the driver side with a café dinette opposite and the bed up the front. From the rear, a Camec microwave sits atop a 190L three-way fridge/freezer then, heading forward, we have a three plus one cooktop and grill. It has a deep pot drawer below, and a folding cover for food preparation. Further forward, we have a stainless steel sink with mixer tap and then more benchtop over one of the widest and most useful cutlery drawers I have seen in a van.

All the cupboards are neatly finished inside and out and I noticed cut-outs in the dividers to save weight in non-stress areas. Padding on the leather seats at the dinette is comfortable and has the look and feel of a quality covering. Drawers under the lounges are a handy place to store provisions and footrests extend for sitting lengthways to watch TV or read.

A Seitz Midi hatch in the roof over the fridge and large Camec windows at the dinette, the kitchen and around the bed emit abundant light and air. Windows have screens and blockouts as well as curtains with neat leather pelmets for a cosy touch, but I found the screens required a gentle hand to operate smoothly.

Two drawers are built into the bed base for easy access and the lifting struts are stronger than most to get to the two 100Ah AGM batteries and 30amp solar regulator stored in their own recess. They are fed from two 150w panels on the roof as well as from the tow vehicle when travelling. A comprehensive electrical board is located in one of the overhead cupboards and includes the master power switch, main fuse box, Brake Safe monitor and gauges for the water tanks and battery condition.

Our review of the Pioneer through Harbour City Caravans in Coffs Harbour gave us a good impression of how versatile and robust it is. The company 79 Series Landcruiser had no trouble pulling the van through some soft sand at the entrance to Boambee Beach and over those rocky outcrops. Clearance is high but the ride is smooth on the highway and the van followed predictably without lurching or wandering.

Tare weight is 2712kg with an ATM of 3212kg, giving 500kg of capacity, or about 320kg when full fresh water and gas tanks are considered.

Pricing as tested with the optional leather seating, the roof hatch and the slide out-kitchen is $81,900 from a base of $76,900. That’s good value for a well-equipped and sturdily built van of its size and will suit those with a higher end four wheel drive who want to venture into more remote places for extended periods.


Manufacturer: Fleetwood RV

Model: Coromal Pioneer XC 612

Overall length: 8.22m

Width: 2.48m

Travel height: 3.05m

Tare weight: 2712kg

ATM weight: 3212kg

Ball weight: 263kg

Price from: $76,900

Options fitted: slide out kitchen, leather upholstery, roof hatch, more.

Price as reviewed: $81,900

Find Out More

Harbour City Caravans

380 Pacific Hwy Coffs Harbour NSW 2450

Ph. 02 66521515

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