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Manta Ray Pop Top review

Chris Fincham from Caravan Camping Sales reviews the Manta Ray Pop Top

What’s the New Age Manta Ray Pop Top all about?

Since taking full ownership of New Age almost two years ago, auto specialist Walkinshaw has put its stamp on the 11 year-old Melbourne caravan manufacturer, in more ways than one.

Apart from automotive-style modelling, engineering and bench testing of new models, Walkinshaw has lifted exterior styling including adding smoother sides, bolder graphics and a distinctive rear end mould with recessed spare wheel, first seen on the Wayfinder camper trailer.

16ft Manta Ray Pop Top is relatively easy to tow

The latest pop-top version of the Manta Ray full height caravan made its debut at this year’s Melbourne Supershow and joins the entry-level Gecko expander in New Age’s now two-model pop-top range.

Replacing the old Wallaby, the new Manta Ray Pop Top comes in four different body lengths -- 15ft, 16ft and two 18ft variants -- all with similar couple’s layouts incorporating front north-south double bed, mid-section dinette and kitchen, and a full width rear ensuite with separate shower and toilet.

Each variant comes with a similar list of standard features, with two extra-cost option packs available (Adventurer and Lifestyle), making it easier for buyers (or perhaps more profitable for dealers!) to add a number of desirable extras.

One-piece aluminium roof is easy to push up and down

How much does the New Age Manta Ray Pop Top cost?

Our review van, a 16ft Manta Ray Pop-Top picked up from New Age Melbourne, had a sticker price of $58,365 drive-away, which at first glance seems quite high for the entry-level package before options.

However, New Age has fitted a number of features as standard on the Manta Ray Pop Top that might be optional on some cheaper rivals, like a 110 litre grey water tank (to go with the 110 litre fresh tank), 164 litre fridge/freezer, front load washing machine, 24in Smart TV, under-bed air-conditioner, electronic stability control, and a 100Ah battery system with 35amp charger, 150W solar panel, and touchscreen display for keeping an eye on battery power and water levels.

Fresh and grey water tanks part of the standard package

Standard chassis set-up is a 50mm ball coupling and beam axle, leaf spring suspension with 15inch alloy wheels, all terrain tyres and 12in electric drum brakes.

Externally, the 16ft Manta Ray Pop-Top is well equipped with two 9kg gas bottles, a roll-out awning, drop-down picnic table, external lights, drawbar tap, gas bayonet, external speakers and various sockets in order to watch TV outside.

It's a shame you have to pay extra though, for the privilege of smooth Alucabond sides (old-school ribbed cladding fixed over the timber frame is standard), that's included in one of the option packs.

You have to pay extra for glossy smooth sides

Speaking of options, the $10,500 Adventurer Pack bundles 14 extra features including Cruisemaster coil suspension, DO-35 hitch, A-frame toolbox, 16in wheels, inline water filter, and a reversing camera.

While ticking the $14,000 Luxury Pack option gets all the Adventurer Pack items plus seven additional features including a 100Ah lithium battery and charger, Odyssey display unit, Diamond Stitch upholstery and smooth sidewall cladding.

However, even with the Adventurer pack most owners probably won't want to venture too far off road. While the front and rear poly tanks located underneath are gal protected, the battery box and some underbody piping hang quite low making them vulnerable to damage over bumpy terrain.

Why should you buy a New Age Manta Ray Pop Top?

According to New Age, the Manta Ray Pop-Top introduces an “all-new roof design system” that incorporates a domed composite roof panel with unique one-piece aluminium bodytop and specially designed roof surrounds.

Interior is compact but well equipped

Up close it certainly looks like it might handle a heavy shower with ease, although we didn’t get too test out the rain repelling capabilities. We did find it easy to operate though, after releasing the four easy-reach roof latches and pushing up the handles at either end from inside. Helping matters is the air-con unit located under the bed rather than the roof, making the roof lighter by at least 50kg.

Otherwise, the Manta Ray ticks the boxes for prospective pop-top buyers. At 2575m high, it’s designed to fit under the carport, and its relatively aerodynamic shape should help when towing in strong cross winds. Its 2380kg ATM also makes it relatively easy towing behind many popular tow vehicles, including our Mitsubishi Triton dual cab ute.

Air-conditioner is located under the bed

The Manta Ray Pop-Top is also backed by one of the biggest selling caravan manufacturers in the country, encompassing a large, mostly single franchise dealer network and industry-leading after-sales and support.package.

Who will the New Age Manta Ray Pop Top appeal to?

A relatively conservative caravanning couple who need a pop-top but want all the 'big van' basics along with a few luxuries, and plan to stick mostly to the bitumen, is the target buyer for the 16ft Manta Ray Pop-Top.

While externally there are eye-catching decals and distinctive front and rear blue panels, along with trendy ‘Walkinshaw’ cut-outs on the drawbar and rear bar, the interior is on the dour side with typical New Age neutral colour tones throughout. However, it all seems pretty well put together, user-friendly and functional, at least in the couple of hours we spent playing with the van.

Cafe dinette doubles as a lounge

The interior has a familiar couple’s layout including walk-around double bed with coil spring mattress, comfy cushioned cafe dinette, well-equipped kitchen, and good-size bathroom including toilet, separate shower and small wall mounted washing machine.

However, while there’s decent storage outside in the front tunnel boot, interior storage space is a premium, even by pop-top standards. While there's some handy storage options around the bed, under the dinette seats and in the ensuite, kitchen storage options are few and far between, while the Truma ducted air-con system takes up a big chunk of valuable under-bed storage space.

Full width rear bathroom includes small washing machine as standard

The Manta Ray could also do with more, or bigger zipped, screened windows in the pop-top roof vinyl, for increased flow-through ventilation when camping in hotter climates, to go with the narrow set of fixed windows in the lower body.

So, what do you we think of the New Age Manta Ray Pop Top?

Design and engineering wise, the Manta Ray Pop Top is a noticeable step up from the discontinued Wallaby pop-top, and comes relatively well equipped for the price, although you do pay a premium for the New Age (and Walkinshaw) nameplates.

While there's little of the ‘bling’ inside you see in many other Campbellfield caravan products, that's not such a bad thing when you decide to re-decorate. Plenty of top-shelf appliances and electronics and nicely finished furniture also bodes well for long-term ownership.

Four gas burner cooker, grille and microwave should cover off most recipes

The pop-top roof is easy to use for a manual lifting pop-top, although a hands-free electric version, as fitted to some rival pop-tops, would be even better.

Apart from the high starting price, probably the biggest deterrent to buyers is the lack of interior storage options in the 16ft model. And even with the off-road suspension, the Manta Ray's not something we'd be game to push too hard off the beaten track...

Manta Ray Pop Top is latest New Age van to get the Walkinshaw touch

How much does the 2020 New Age Manta Ray Pop Top 16ft cost?

Price (as reviewed): $58,365 drive away (Victoria)

Travel length: 7085mm

Body length: 4800mm

Overall width: 2500mm

Travel height: 2575mm

Interior height: 2030mm

Tare weight: 1980kg

ATM: 2380kg

Ball weight (Tare): 110kg

Body: Meranti timber frame, aluminium stucco and aluminium composite cladding

Chassis: Walkinshaw-design 150mm x 50mm galvanized steel

Suspension: Beam axle, leaf springs

Brakes: 12in electric drums

Stability control: BMPro SwayControl

Wheels: 15x6in alloys with MPC-24 235/75 AT tyres

Fresh water: 1 x 110 litres

Grey water: 1 x 110 litres

Battery: 1 x 100Ah AGM

Solar: 1 x 150W roof-top

Air-conditioner: Truma Saphir floor-mounted

Gas: 2 x 9kg

Hot water: Gas/electric 22L

Cooking: Thetford Minigrill 4 gas hob, grill, rangehood

Fridge: Thetford 164L three-way

Microwave: NCE 240V

Toilet: Thetford cassette

Shower: Separate cubicle

Washing machine: Daewoo Mini

Lighting: 12v LED

TV: 24in Smart LED/DVD

Audio: Clarion CD/radio with internal/external speakers

Supplied by: New Age Melbourne, Somerton, Victoria

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