In the busy world of the Australian caravan industry, Victorian based Nova Caravans has managed to carve itself a bit of a niche — and it’s not a price based one, because Nova produces a wide range of caravans, including the top line Pride Platinum, which retails for over $120,000.
Naturally that price point isn’t going to be for everyone which is where something like the Bravo comes forward, in this case the 196-1C, priced at under $70,000. The observant might notice the caravan I took photos of has Signature Series across the front of the van, but I’m told that Nova will be shortening the name to just the Bravo this year. Sounds okay to me — much less typing!
Let’s look at a few statistics. The 196-1C Bravo has an external length of 6.53m (21ft 5in), a good compromise which gives room to move and yet results in a van that is relatively easy to manoeuvre on the road. With a tare of 2384kg, the Bravo has a payload of 600kg, which covers 190L of water and the 22kg gas capacity with ease while still leaving plenty of load space.
On the road, the Bravo has an ATM of 2984kg which made it an excellent match for my tow vehicle, a Jeep Grand Cherokee, which has maximum tow rating of 3500kg, thus meaning it’s operating well within its limits.
As a towing proposition, the Grand Cherokee with the Bravo hitched up behind made a smooth handling combination and a relaxing drive.
Getting down and dirty, reveals a G&S built DuraGal box section chassis with 150mm x 50mm (6in x 2in) rails and drawbar plus a 50mm (2in) raiser giving a good amount of ground clearance. Keeping things running smoothly on the road is the AL-KO load sharing leaf spring suspension with 16in alloy wheels that are fitted with 10in electric brakes.
Fitted either side of the suspension mounts are the two 95L water tanks, with the grey water tanks further to the rear. Just in case you have trouble distinguishing between the tanks, the fresh water tanks have gal sheet protection, while the grey water tanks feature the sportier looking black alloy checkerplate.
Most of the pipework and cabling appears to be well strapped up and out of the way, although I did think the electric brake connectors could have been a little better protected.
The more obvious clue for the grey tank from more normal viewing heights is the rear offside drain outlet. Both the battery boxes are fitted to the front offside chassis rails, making them reasonably accessible for testing and maintenance.
ProAl aluminium sandwich panel is used for the Bravo’s wall construction and fibreglass for the roof. All are one-piece items to minimize water ingress and, even though the Bravo is not an offroad caravan, black alloy checkerplate is used all round the lower edges. I have to say, I thought the grey, white and black colour scheme, together with the smooth walls made for a caravan with a very smart appearance — that might sound like a trivial comment, but it’s always handy to look a little different to your competitors.
Like many a van these days, the Bravo does not take long to set up. Unhitch, level the van, lower the quick-drop corner stabilisers, roll out the awning, hook up the power, turn the LP gas on and we’re away. Under the awning, the van is well set up for al fresco living with a picnic table, external power connections and an external gas bayonet fittings. For camping chairs, fishing rods and the like, the front tunnel storage is well sized, although part of the offside space is taken by the hot water heater.
In a van this length, having the entry door towards the front makes good sense, especially with a front bedroom/rear bathroom layout. It allows for enough space for the nearside dinette and offside kitchen without being cramped.
Not so long ago I discovered some caravan brochures dating back about 15 years, and there’s no doubt that the internal colour schemes defined the era. Undoubtedly the current era will be what might be defined as the monochrome look, with a considerable amount of white wall/ceiling areas contrasted by black or, in this case, dark grey upholstery and cabinetry, with a glossy finish in the latter case. In tandem with the LED lighting, this certainly makes the interior bright by day and by night.
Large windows are fitted on either side of the island bed, so there’s no shortage of natural light or ventilation. A large roof hatch and two roof mounted Sirocco vans aid general air circulation and when things get really warm, there’s always the Belaire roof mounted air conditioner.
Like any contemporary caravan the bedhead cabinetry comes with the full kit — side wardrobes, drawers and overhead lockers. The bedsides shelves aren’t particularly big but both bed occupants get a pillow cubby, as well as the usual bed reading light.
COOKING UP A STORM
Meal preparation is very much up to the individual RV traveller. Some keep things simple and hit the local cafes and pub when they want something more sophisticated. Some make maximum use of an external BBQ and enjoy under awning living. Others, like me, utilize the microwave oven to a considerable degree, which is more or less why the contemporary RV kitchen has evolved into one like that fitted into this Nova caravan. It has all the essentials — stainless steel sink and drainer, four burner cooker, grill and oven, NCE microwave oven and a Thetford 184L fridge. The oven (thermal) is often an option but standard in this case.
Of note with this kitchen layout is that there’s a fair bit of bench top space (not always the case) and more than the usual amount of general storage space, with a good selection of drawers, cupboard, overhead lockers and a wire basket pantry. Not really a kitchen item but the TV, often mounted on the end of the overhead locker is mounted at mid wall height, which in some ways is a better viewing angle from both the dinette and the bed.
Facing the kitchen, the L-shaped lounge will seat two people without too much trouble. The table is single pole mounted and can be swivelled around as needed. There’s a power point under the rear seat area and like most in that location, it’s a bit awkward in terms of access. Reading lights are fitted at either end of the overhead lockers.
Although there’s a floor locker under the rear seat, that’s mostly occupied by the battery management system, which does make it kind of awkward to get to the 12V fuses.
ROOM TO MOVE
Across the rear, the bathroom is quite spacious. It has all the usual fittings, like the shower cubicle, vanity cabinet and Thetford cassette toilet. One of the benefits of a large bathroom is generous storage. There are three cupboards, one in the rear offside corner, a full height one beside the shower cubicle and a third under the vanity cabinet, which also contains three drawers. Hiding in the corner cupboard is a top loading washing machine.
POWER TO GO
Like most contemporary caravans, the Bravo is well kitted out in the 240V and 12V department. Most mains power points are located where they should be and, when staying off-grid, the two 105Ah deep cycle batteries and pair of 170W solar panels will keep the 12V side of things ticking along nicely.
If I was being picky, then, although this is not an offroad van, I’d be looking for a couple of USB outlets for device charging since many of us these days have at least a phone and one other device.
Nova offers a three-year warranty on its part of the caravan manufacture, however as with many that does not apply to items like the fridge, hot water heater, awning and, even in this case, the chassis, all of which are subject to the original manufacturer’s warranty.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Bravo is in many ways a typical Nova built caravan — a cut above many of its competitors with quite a classy looking external appearance and interior. Inside the van, it has quite a spacious layout with room to move and not feel on top of each other. Quite a stylish way to travel I think.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Body length 6.53m (21ft 5in)
Overall length 8.32m (27ft 4in)
Width (incl awn) 2.44m (8ft)
Height 2.87m (9ft 5in)
Ball weight 192kg
Cladding Nova ProAl sandwich walls and one piece fibreglass roof
Chassis G&S Chassis DuraGal
Suspension AL-KO tandem axle leaf spring
Brakes 12in electric
Wheels 16in alloy
Water 2 x 95L
Battery 2 x 105Ah
Solar 2 x 170W
Air conditioner Belaire 3400
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control AL-KO ESC
Cooking Thetford Caprice MKIII 4 burner, grill & oven
Fridge Thetford 184L
Bathroom Thetford cassette and separate shower cubicle.
Hot water Swift 28L
PRICE AS SHOWN
Sydney RV Group
9–20 Lemko Place
Penrith, NSW 2750
Ph: 02 4722 3444