REVIEWED: MDC CRUIZER HIGHSIDE FORWARD FOLD
I tried to break it… but couldn’t
It’s amazing what $20K can get you in a camper. It sounded too good to be true so I tried to break it over a couple of weekends. One at the beach and one in the mountains with some rough 4WD tracks. Yep, it’s made in China; which is why I wanted to put it through its paces.
I first saw a forward fold only a few of years ago and thought, “What a great idea.” After trying one out, I’m happy to say I still think it’s a great idea. If there are only two of you, then you have a nice place to sit in the lounge area out of the weather. If you have a few small kids, the sitting area turns into a bed.
On first impressions, the black and silver looks great. The inclusions are too numerous to list here and I found the finish to be very good. Instead of fitting LED lights to the tent area, three 12V LED strips are provided. At first I thought this a little odd – but it gives you the flexibility of locating them where they suit you.
There are multiple 12V sockets all around the camper which is nice, and one outlet suited to USBs can be found under the table. There are three 100A deep-cycle batteries to power these. There is also a 600W 240V inverter, which is modified sine wave. I would have preferred a pure sine wave for my computer.
There are large windows on every wall which makes the camper light and airy when all are open. Although the heavy canvas on the walls is dark in colour, the ceilings are a lighter colour continuing that feeling of spaciousness. If the weather was inclement outside, staying inside would be rather pleasant.
The main bed is an inner-spring queen-size which is very comfortable; and the main sleeping area can be sectioned off with a drop-down canvas door (useful if you do have kids). There is a well-placed carpeted step to assist getting onto the bed. This also doubles as a place where you could lock valuables when you are out and about.
The sitting area is comfortable, with the table used as the bed base when travelling. Although the table is sturdy, I would like to see it have different legs as the current legs get in the way. Perhaps a central single pillar would be better.
The stereo and speakers are located on the seat base as you enter the camper. This is a little awkward to access and see the controls. One of the 12V outlets is also on the seat base below the table (where plugs could be easily knocked out). All in all though, the forward fold camper is very comfortable to hang out in.
Setting up the camper was pretty easy and quick to get to a point where you could sleep in it on a quick overnight stop. It only took about 10 minutes. Setting up the awning takes a little longer of course – particularly the first time. There are loads of poles of different sizes but they are numbered to make life easier. The instruction diagram was fairly straightforward, in an ‘Ikea’ kind of way. After the first set-up, I left the awning roof zipped to the tent… which made setting up the awning easier next time. There are three ridge poles that support the awning and connect to the inner frame of the main tent. The ridge pole connections are hook-shaped – but if you bend these to be right angles, set-up will be much easier.
The tent has a tropical roof as standard to keep it cool in summer. The annex has a full set of walls and floor which would be great to set up for a week or two; but I chose only to erect the awning roof which provided a lot of cover.
At a tare of 1,510kg it is not a light trailer, and it has a GTM of 2,000kg. The independent suspension works well, as do the 12-inch electric brakes. I was keen to take it on some 4WD tracks with large holes and over some steep dirt piles in a 4WD play area (see the video). The trailer performed very well as I deliberately drove it through deep ruts and over slippery rocky hills. I managed to scrape some dirt with the base of the hitch on the FJ, but there were no other touch points on the trailer.
On the outside, there are plenty of storage hatches – many with slide-outs. Each one of these has its own LED light inside. The kitchen is large and easy to set up. The electric control panel is on the outside of the trailer, giving you info on battery charge, amps being used and water tank levels. All the external hatches are key lockable.
I am still surprised by how much is included on this camper for the price. I was looking for evidence of shoddy workmanship but couldn’t find any. I tried to break it on some rough tracks, but didn’t. There are some minor niggles but for the family who wants a value-packed camper for some great holidays, the Cruizer Highside is worth looking at.
Lots of inclusions for the cost
Ease of set-up and packing down
Spacious living area
Plenty of ventilation
On the heavy side
Internal table legs get in the way
Location of some 12V points and stereo
Utility rack difficult for one person operation