JUST SHORT OF TWO decades ago, Australian RV manufacturer A'van started building caravans in Pakenham, Vic, promising new and innovative designs.
These days, A'van is one of Australia's largest manufacturers, and it has a very firm grasp on the best way to come up with original and inventive designs, as anyone who has seen one of the company's distinctive Aliners will attest.
Continuing its successful efforts, A'van has designed the Aspire series, and we recently took a look at the Aspire 499.
When it came to towing the van, we decided to test it with two completely different vehicles: a 4L turbo Ford Falcon sedan, and a Toyota FJ Cruiser. We chose these disparate vehicles because we wanted to show that whether you have the torque of the Toyota or the highway-loving power of the family sedan, towing the Aspire is not a problem.
With a Tare of 1250kg and ATM of 1550kg, a large range of tow vehicles will comfortably tow this compact van, and indeed it towed very well on our trip.
Sandwich-panel construction puts the 499 in line with current construction trends, and the van also boasts a galvanised chassis that's sturdy enough for highway touring and caravan park stays.
Reinforcing the fact that this van is a blacktop tourer, A'van has equipped the 499 with slipper-spring suspension.
Looking around the exterior of the 499, you'll find a very tidy van that would comfortably make a nice little weekender. Two 4.5kg cylinders contain more than enough gas to keep the water hot, fridge cold and bacon sizzling. A small front boot provides limited space for bulky items, but there looks to be room enough for fold-down camp chairs and some fishing rods and tackle.
When on the road, every van is susceptible to copping a rock or two, so it was good to see the Aspire has padded vinyl protecting the front. Unfortunately, the water connection lacks protection from road debris. Its position, just forward of the offside wheel, makes it unlikely to collect damage, but it would have been nice to see a small shield of some sort looking after the inlet - you never know what could be flicked up by you or another driver.
In camp by the Albert River, the hot Qld sun was ready to fry all who were aboard, but an easy-to-use 3.5m awning provided some relief.
The bed could accurately be called comfortable rather than generous, and the lack of all-round access (the bed is tucked into the offside rear corner) might test the patience of anyone who wants to get out of bed without waking their fellow sleeper.
Given this is a relatively small van, the inclusion of a shower/toilet combo means the bathroom is necessarily compact so it doesn't impinge on the rest of the layout too much.
I am happy to report the kitchen is just about right. Fold-down covers for the cooktop and the sink make up for limited bench space.
The dinette table is a handy size and can double as some extra kitchen work space, and provides enough space for up to four to dine comfortably. The kitchen also has ample storage space and a good-sized pantry.
Speaking of storage, with plenty of overhead lockers and under-bed storage, you are not going to go begging for a place to stow your goodies in this van.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The name Aspire suggests something to desire, to wish for. This little van lives up to its name, with plenty of room to relax on a weekend away. Admittedly, I would like the bathroom to be a little bigger, but that's hardly a deal breaker.
The Aspire 499 has all of the caravanning essentials - bedroom, kitchen, dinette - comfortably covered, and the awning means you can spend some quality time outside - even in the blazing Qld sun!
With its lighter weight, not to mention a price tag of less than $35,000, the van is perfect for a couple on a budget who want to tow with their wagon or sedan.
The Aspire has all the beauty that simplicity can offer and the wherewithal to turn weekends away into some great memories.
Source: Caravan World Apr 2012.