Naked RV Saturn
We put the latest Naked RV Saturn slide-on onto the back of a 2009 Mazda BT-50. As the Saturn is not weighty, the Mazda carried it easily, and that's because of the combination of the BT 50's ladder frame chassis – an overlapped cross-braced design that provides strength, rigidity, fine handling, good load-carrying and safety. Add in the factory-fitted strong suspension and the Mazda BT-50's a good choice to carry a slide-on.
Certainly, if the determination of the Naked RV owner Bob Chalkley is anything to go by, Naked RV should provide a high-quality product worthy of coupling with the Mazda.
Bob explained that his desire for excellence and quality has driven him over the 17 years he has spent in the fibreglass industry. He added that he custom builds his products "to deliver a more personal touch" and "to supply a superior product using the highest quality materials, modern techniques and the latest equipment".
With that in mind, I took a look at his latest Saturn slide-on. First impressions show the usual Naked RV smooth-walled styling looks good on the back of the Mazda and suggests this is something worth considering as a weekender.
While the weight of the Naked RV slide-on is not an issue, its height when loaded on the back of the Mazda and relative narrow width means a significantly higher centre of gravity.
Here's the rule of thumb: the lower your centre of gravity, the easier it is to keep your balance. You can keep your centre of gravity low by keeping your height down or increasing the size of your base. I've been doing the latter for years, and my base is very stable. Without being able to increase the base size, slide-on design should aim at keeping the height to a minimum.
Sitting on the Mazda, the Naked RV looked tall. More importantly, it tends to sway a little when tackling roundabouts. Although the sway isn't excessive, you would need to navigate carefully when driving over any serious off-road stuff or cornering at speed.
Looking around the outside, the Saturn's aluminium frame and fibreglass sandwich construction looks sturdy.
What's more, the growing use of fibreglass in the industry suggests manufacturers are increasingly more comfortable with the strength, durability and economics of the product. Nonetheless, I believe consumers are still wary of the use of this product for off-road vehicles.
By way of external specs, when we reviewed the slide-on Bob was still waiting for the water tanks and electric motors to raise and lower the support legs. As far as the water is concerned, Bob promised the slide-on would have two 80L tanks – plenty for a few days away at the beach or rummaging around the bush.
It was a pity the motors for the support legs were missing when I reviewed the van. While Bob said the missing motors were a supplier problem, had they been installed they would have turned a tedious 20-minute job into little more than a five-minute pushbutton step when setting up the slide-on for camping.
Further around the outside, the Naked RV boasts a good awning, plenty of gas stored behind a convenient exterior vented hatch, and an external shower. There is also a small storage hatch. Bob promises that the review slide-on will soon show off solar panels, which when installed will improve its off-road capacity for bush camping.
Concertina steps get you inside where a compact but liveable design settles you in for your short break.
Although the kitchen facilities are all good and the bench space adequate, there are two surprises. The first of these is the internal shower-toilet combination. Although set in a tiny cubicle, the shower-toilet combo is something that helps make this a home away from home. That's impressive considering the interior is limited to a total of around eight square metres.
The second surprise is the clever use of a drop-down table that turns a bench lounge running alongside the bed into a perfectly usable, albeit cosy, dinette for two campers. When lowered, the table reveals a smart magazine rack.
Storage-wise, from the kitchen to the bed the collection of cupboards, drawers, overhead lockers and under-bed storage means there is plenty of quality storage.
As for the bed, it is comfortable and large enough. Perhaps just one small gripe is the fact that you can access the bed from only one side. However, considering the size of the unit and the fact that this is an RV designed for short breaks, limited bed access is hardly an issue.
Although many will consider this an expensive unit, it's worth remembering the shower-toilet is standard. What's more, the cost of fitting it to your truck is also included. Beyond that, Saturn underscores Naked RV as a custom-build manufacturer worth considering.
Cost: $95,000 - 96,000 AUD (At time of review.)
WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID GILCHRIST