One of the little oddities in the Australian RV market is that a substantial number of the smaller caravans currently available tend to come from the British or European manufacturers. That’s not a deliberate ploy by the local importers; it’s just a fact of RV life that British and European caravans are smaller and lighter overall than their Australian counterparts.
Some buyers see smallness as a disadvantage but I’m somewhat less convinced of that. Indeed, at a time when, from an environmentally responsible point of view, it’s helpful to cut down on weight that’s being lugged around, there are certainly more than a few positives for lighter caravans.
A good example comes from the Adria range of caravans. Slovenian-built, Adria’s Altea 402PH fits the small and lightweight specification very well indeed. Having an external length of just 4.77m (15ft 8in) and a Tare mass of just 1280kg makes it an ideal candidate for the ‘less is more’ category.
Anyone familiar with European-built caravans will know that the relatively light weight of the 402PH is related to the overall structure. Both the chassis and body are built in a monocoque-type structure.
Underneath the van, the AL-KO chassis is bolted together rather than welded but is a little different to the standard European product in having a few extra pieces of galvanised steel, mostly in the form of outriggers.
AL-KO’s Independent Rubber Suspension (IRS) is used for the 16in wheels and comes complete with shock absorbers.
Part of the chassis design includes the 120L water tank, which is fitted right behind the axle. Most caravans these days come with the ‘quick drop’ form of corner stabiliser, but the 402PH comes with the older, fully wind-down style, complete with a ‘big foot’. No need for wooden blocks on soft ground here.
Up front the drawbar area has quite simple looks, just having the AL-KO AKS3004 friction coupling, jockey wheel and handbrake. A moulded cover over the drawbar keeps it all looking neat and tidy. Both the spare wheel and two 4kg gas cylinders are stored in the front boot, out of the way.
In keeping with the European way of doing things, there’s no frame, and structural sandwich panel is used for the side walls, roof and floor of the van. Fibre Reinforced Plastic (FRP), AKA fibreglass, clads the exterior of the side walls and roof. The low waist of alloy checkerplate is the Australian addition, with XPS styrofoam and EPS styropor employed all round for insulation. The front and rear wall mouldings use an ABS plastic that’s designed to be impact resistant. Inside the van, lightweight kiln-dried plywood is used for the interior fit-out and the floor.
Polyplastic, double glazed, acrylic, awning-style windows are used all round and the habitation door is a Euro-style stable door arrangement with a concertina insect screen inside the doorframe. Although it’s fairly short, due to the curved roofline, the Omnistor awning does cover the doorway area quite easily. Even though this van has a budget price, it does have a few extras like an external mains power point, 12V and 5V USB hub connections, and a TV antenna socket.
Given the front boot has space taken up by several large items, there’s a bit more external storage offered by the offside front bin door that gives easy access to the space under the front bed.
Stepping in through the rear-door-entry 402PH might give the impression of a slightly confined interior but that is a little deceptive. In many ways it’s a typical European design — a place for everything and everything in its place. To fit it all in, Adria has opted for a bed and bathroom combination in the front half of the van, consisting of a combo bathroom on the nearside and an offside French corner bed. A cafe dinette fills the rear offside corner, leaving the rest of the space for the kitchen facilities and doorway entry.
When Adria caravans first appeared in Australia, the décor and general fit/finish were a bit basic, but all that has improved greatly since those times and Adria appears to be a manufacturer which listens to their local importers. Even though the 402PH’s interior doesn’t have much ‘empty’ space, the generally light interior colours and window area result in a bright and breezy interior which helps any perception of confined space.
Except for the kitchen and bathroom windows, all windows have simple net curtains. I’m not a fan of these but I do appreciate that they add a touch of class to the otherwise plain-looking insect screen/blind set-up on the windows and do of course give a bit of privacy for those who want that. Definitely a personal selection item that one.
They are not everyone’s first choice but to get a double bed into this layout, it’s the corner bed or nothing. With a length of 1.98m (6ft 6in) and a width of 1.4m (4ft 7in), the bed is quite well sized but just has access from the one side. Windows in both walls assure a good airflow.
Overhead lockers are fitted above the pillow area and, most usefully, the wall air space above the foot of bed is filled by a small wardrobe — a neat adaption of a hanging cupboard. Lifting the bed base, which is hinged in the middle, does give easy access to the under-bed area which is part occupied by the Truma Saphir air conditioner unit.
For something fitted into a relatively small space, this bathroom does have a stylish look about it. It comes with a bench-style cassette toilet, above which is both a fold-out wash basin and shaving cabinet. Space perception is all done with mirrors (literally) and a good sized window — nothing like a loo with a view! There is, of course, a variable height, flexible hose shower area as well, which has curtains on both sides to minimise water splash. Outside the bathroom, the wall space is taken up by shelved cupboards. Narrow at the rear and wider towards the front, it's an effective use of the available space.
There isn’t a great deal of kitchen bench space given the adjacent cafe dinette but the kitchen is still a fairly practical design. Adria use a combo sink and three-burner hob arrangement that’s designed in an L-shape with the cooktop being set along the rear of the bench and thus allowing for a moderate amount of front benchtop space.
Under the benchtop are a couple of large drawers, the top one having a cutlery tray. That together with the overhead lockers and wire basket pantry beside the 190L fridge on the other side of the doorway does give a good, usable amount of storage space. Above the fridge, the microwave oven offers the usual second source of cooking.
There isn’t a power point behind the kitchen bench but there is one in the panel below the rear seat. It looks like an Australian addition and in a bit of a compromise position, but it’s better than nothing. Indeed, I have seen many a European RV come with single power points, but all of those fitted to this van are doubles.
REAR DINETTE BED
A little surprisingly the 402PH is actually classed as a four-berth caravan — the cafe dinette can be folded down into a 1.89m x 1.05m (6ft 2in x 3ft 3in) bed! I’m thinking suitable for young children/grandchildren rather than adults.
At the dining table four would be squeezy but two can sit in comfort without too much trouble. The wall window gives a great outside view and both seats come with a reading light. In addition to the under-seat storage areas, overhead lockers are fitted above the seats. Beside the doorway, the air space between the cabinet and the shelves above is used as mounting point for the TV and also for a double power point, TV antenna connection and light switches.
ON THE ROAD
Be in no doubt that this van is a breeze to tow. Fully loaded it weighs a maximum of just 1600kg and these days that is a very light towing load. I realise that the Jeep Cherokee tow vehicle I was using was a bit overkill but the 402PH is good for a wide range of tow vehicles.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Adria’s Altea 402Ph is a little different to the average Australian van and that is one of its attractions. Sure, it’s a small van with a limited interior space, but it has all the essentials of a contemporary touring caravan and does not require a large towing vehicle. It’s an ideal buy for two travellers who don’t have big towing ideas.
Adria Altea 402PH
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Body length 4.77m (15ft 8in)
Overall length 6.08m (19ft 11in)
Width 2.36m (7ft 9in)
Height 2.65m (8ft 8in)
Ball weight 100kg
Cladding Fibreglass composite
Chassis AL-KO hot dipped galvanised
Suspension AL-KO IRS
Coupling AL-KO anti-sway
Brakes AL-KO overrun
Wheels 16in alloy
Air conditioner Truma Saphir
Gas 2 x 4kg
Sway control AL-KO friction ball coupling
Cooking Dometic three-burner
Fridge Dometic 190L three-way
Bathroom Thetford cassette toilet plus flex hose shower
Hot water Truma 14L 240V/LP gas
PRICE AS SHOWN
$38,990 (2019 model)
Address 9–20 Lemko Place, Penrith NSW 2750
Phone (02) 4722 3444