During the past decade or so, Mars Campers has introduced several ‘world-beaters’ in the camper trailer genre.
And now it has come up with an offroad pop-top hybrid series that is ‘out of this world’.
Yes, the planets have aligned, with Mars’ recent launching of the Saturn series.
Camper recently tested the Saturn 16 hybrid – a 4.8m (15ft 9in) pocket rocket – which gave every impression of being a real trooper in a true offroad environment.
To all intents and purposes the Saturn 16 is a clone of the previously released Saturn 13 (which we have reviewed previously). The primary difference is a double-bunk configuration in the S-16.
And in that respect, how Mars has managed to squeeze a queen sized bed, twin bunks and a shower/toilet combo – and still have room to move – into such a diminutive unit has me ‘spaced out’.
PAINTING A PICTURE
The imported S-16 arrives in a container without any gas appliances or 240V system. Walls and internal fixtures are partially built, and final touches are done in Australia.
Mars Campers mount the suspension, and install and certify the gas lines and electrical work; this is completed from its manufacturing plants in Melbourne and Brisbane to ensure high final quality and compliance with Australian Standards.
The S-16 oozes offroad-ability. It’s equipped with two spare tyres, rear recovery points, rock sliders and tough trailing arm independent suspension. The lower profile, when compared to something bigger, makes it ideal for tight tracks with low hanging branches.
Additionally, it’s ‘power to the people’ considering you receive three 100Ah AGM batteries hooked up to a 21A charger and Anderson plug to charge it up as you drive (in the case your tow-rig is equipped with an Anderson plug). Plug it in on a powered site and here your batteries get charged again.
You may say: “Where are my gigawatt solar panels on the roof? I love my solar!”
Well, Mars Campers don’t want you to unduly spend your hard-earned on a system that may invariably be parked under a tree during your adventures. The rationale is quite simple: the S-16 charges as you drive and when on a powered site.
When free camping most people look for shade, reducing the efficacy of most solar systems. But if you insist on solar, Mars will offer two options: a free 120W foldable panel or $1699 for a 300W panel mounted on the roof.
What floats my boat regarding the S-16 are the fold-out rear bed, easy set up and pack up, climate control, internal shower/toilet combo, storage, bunks/dinette adaptability, and structural warranty.
Please allow me to explain…
The queen-size rear bed, with high-density foam mattress (optional innersprings available), can be utilised in a north-south or east-west configuration. And the fold-out process is as easy as pie – in fact it unfolds like a charm (see the breakout on the last page).
You can also have your whole campsite set up in under five minutes. The pop-top roof is a cinch to deploy, and creates plenty of headroom.
Utilising the Dometic air-conditioning is as simple as setting the temperature and hitting the hay for a solid night’s sleep, in order to wake up ready for the adventures of the day ahead. (Now those hot, stinky summer nights have nothing on you!)
And who doesn’t like a refreshing shower at the end of a long day? The S-16 comes equipped with a fully plumbed-in 14L Truma Ultra Rapid gas hot water system to ensure you’ll always have a shower with the temperature to your liking.
Well, if you’re like me and have one or two things you don’t leave home without (and I don’t mean the American Express credit card), then the S-16 is for you. It has storage galore; you can bring your whole wardrobe and still have drawers and cabinets left empty.
The reviewed S-16 has internal bunk beds, but you can also acquire the hybrid with a spacious internal sitting area by leaving the overhead bunk out of your order.
And the S-16 comes with a five-year structural warranty (chassis and drawbar). There are more than 20 stores and 150-plus repair centres you can count on to assist with your Mars camper or hybrid should the need arise.
A CLOSER INVESTIGATION
Now let’s dissect the ‘anatomy’ of the S-16…
Purpose-built for off-grid exploration and al fresco living, the S-16 sports a robust aluminium composite sheathing (plus insulation) in a white finish and a sturdy galvanised steel offroad chassis that’s tried and tested.
It also rides on resilient independent trailing arm suspension and heavy-duty twin shock absorbers, with 16in alloy wheels and mud-terrain tyres.
Towed by a Toyota Prado press vehicle, the S-16 ‘lifted off’ for some ‘exploration’ around the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, and it’s safe to say the traversed surface posed no challenge for this hybrid capable of navigating the dark side of the moon.
And the free camping capacities are more than adequate – three 100Ah AGM batteries, dual 100L fresh water tanks and a 100L grey water tank. Albeit, no solar. (NB. Mars intends upgrading to Panasonic gel batteries.)
But the stars of this Saturn from an external perspective are the stainless steel slide-out kitchen, fridge slide-out, and copious storage provided by a full-width tunnel boot and two front storage lockers.
The nearside ‘fresh-air galley’ (with LED light above) comprises a four-burner cooktop protected by wind deflectors, hot/cold sink with flick mixer tap and a flexible light, preparation area and pull-out bench extension with stabiliser leg, slide-out cutlery drawer, and a built-in ‘kitchen control panel’ with water level gauges and switches for both water pumps.
And there are switches for external lights and 12V accessory sockets for small appliances, such as charging a mobile phone or plugging in more external lights. You can also run hot and cold water and choose your optimal temperature by adjusting the mixer on the tap. Adjacent is a small marine carpet-lined hatch (with LED light above) that’s ideal for storing condiments such as quick meals, sauces, spices and the like.
Towards the front of the S-16 is the capacious tunnel boot (with LED light above) that’s ideal for carrying fishing rods, tent poles etc. It sits atop the massive fridge slide-out capable of housing a portable fridge-freezer of gargantuan proportions. Mounted on the checkerplate door of the fridge slide-out is a fan-forced vent to keep the fridge compartment cool and another port where you can run an extension lead from your inverter.
Directly opposite the fridge slide are the 1800W Projecta Pro-Wave inverter, Breakaway system, batteries setup and a seven-stage 21A Projecta Pro-Charge battery charger.
Also on the nearside are a fold-down picnic table (located under the bunks/dinette window), rock sliders, flick-of-a-switch 12V awning, single entry step, and an illuminated entry grab handle.
The front of the S-16 is jam-packed, albeit neatly, with a McHitch 3.5t offroad coupling, Ark XO 750kg jockey wheel bolted to a side of the drawbar, stone shield, dual 9kg gas cylinder holders, twin 20L jerry can holders, and a couple of handy checkerplate storage lockers – all behind the stone shield. The front is also protected by high checkerplate, with convex-shaped cladding that’s both aesthetic and aerodynamic.
Meanwhile, the offside is home to an exterior shower (a godsend while free camping along coastal regions or in bush settings), two water fillers, and more rock sliders.
TAKE A SMALL STEP INSIDE
Obviously the interior is compact, but Mars has somehow been able to maximise space! As you enter, there’s a sink/tap cum washbasin with a built-in bench. And there’s yet another storage compartment above.
In close proximity is the ‘main control panel’ with LED readout for voltage level, Truma UltraRapid hot water controls, and analogue gauges for the water tanks. It also features an individual circuit breaker switch panel for lighting, pumping and 12V circuitry, plus a dual 240V outlet. The 240V system features a 15A inlet and full circuit breaker.
There’s also a shelved cupboard and two internal speakers within this section.
Midriff on the nearside wall is a cafe dinette that converts to a single berth, and there’s a single berth above which lifts up on gas struts when utilising the living zone. Each kids’ bed measures 1750x650mm.
The dining table clips off the side wall to form an infill for the converted berth. And on the side of one seat is a double powerpoint and USB ports.
Meanwhile, on the offside, opposite the entry door, is a spacious shower/toilet combo. Adjacent is a sizeable clothing wardrobe with benchtop space above, plus a slide-out drawer below. And further along the offside wall is a cabinet with two slide-out drawers and a 21in TV mounted on a swivel arm bracket.
The main bedroom at the rear comprises a fold-out queen sized bed, four reading lamps (one pair is flexible), good-sized windows on the offside and rear, and a smallish one on the nearside, two storage pockets, and a privacy curtain.
There are touch-activated LED lights and multiple 12V sockets throughout.
However, there’s no culinary amenities (including a microwave) inside – you’re restricted to coffee, toast and the like.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Whether it runs rings around its rivals is yet to be determined. But regardless, the Saturn 16 is primed to have any growing family intent on off-grid forays ‘over the moon’.
Mars Campers may humbly consider it ‘one small step’ for the company, but in reality it’s ‘one giant leap’ for the hybrid sector.
From my Galileo-like observation, it’s easily visible that the S-16 will become a point of light in the industry.
Tare 2250kg (Range: 1850-2250kg)
ATM 2700kg (Range: 2400-2700kg)
Payload 450kg (Range: 350-850kg)
Ball weight 200kg (Range: 180-220kg)
Suspension Independent trailing arms, heavy-duty twin shocks
Brakes 12in electric
Chassis Offroad - galvanised steel (150x4x50mm)
Cladding Aluminium composite
Wheels 16in alloys and mud-terrain tyres
Overall length 6.7m (22ft)
External body length 4.8m (15ft 9in)
External body width 2.18m (7ft 2in)
Travel height 2.49m (8ft 2in)
Internal height 1.96m (6ft 5in)
Gas 2x9kg holders
Water 2x100L (fresh); 1x100L (grey)
Hot water Truma UltraRapid 14L
Kitchen Slide-out cooktop and sink (external); no internal cooking
Battery 3x100Ah AGM
Sway control Optional
Bathroom Shower/toilet combo
Dometic reverse cycle air-conditioner; extra spare wheel; electric awning with walls and floors; rock sliders; 1800W Projecta inverter; 21A battery charger; 50A Anderson plug charging leads; 21in TV
$44,990 + on-road costs
- Gourmet external kitchen
- Quasi ensuite
- Comprehensive storage
- Utilisation of internal space
- Effortless set up
- Offroad agility for size
- Lacking internal culinary facilities
- No solar as standard
CAMPER STAR RATINGS
Fit for intended purpose — 8
Innovation — 7.5
Self-sufficiency — 7
Quality of finish — 8
Build quality — 8
Offroadability — 8
Comforts — 7.5
Ease of use — 8
Value for money — 8
X-Factor — 8
Phone 1300 667 868