· Tandem-axle tourer with all the trimmings
· Full-width rear bathroom
· Dazzling array of LEDs
With its classy curves, the Nova Pride cut a striking figure on the Great Ocean Road (GOR), a sensational testing ground for one of this country's truly luxurious caravans. Having towed variations of this blacktop tourer as far north as the Town of 1770, Qld, into Victoria's high country, and along the GOR, I say from experience that the Pride garners admiring glances wherever it goes.
The Pride took the prize in the same Legends Series category in 2011, and it was a deserving winner. This year, Nova put up a variation of the same model. No less impressive, this Pride, a 23ft 4in (7.1m) van with sleek lines and noble graces, sports numerous differences to its older brother, inside and out.
LIGHT OF MY LIFE
Stylish, modern and somehow understated, the Pride's interior has features and living space in spades. It is also one of the best-illuminated vans I've seen. Whether you want your site lit up like a Christmas tree, or prefer a soft ambience, the van offers plenty of lighting options. With 15 LED downlights in the main cabin and bedroom, not counting the various strip lights, reading lights and other fixtures, things can get a little dazzling. But when the lights are suitably isolated, they set off the décor. It's a modern, mood-setting setup. Some of the fixtures also offer three levels of brightness, as well as a blue night light, requiring only a gentle press of their centre to change it.
Up front, storage options are among the highlights of the bedroom. With three overhead lockers, each with partitions to prevent your gear from sliding about, and wardrobes that have about 960mm of hanging space, you've no excuse for an untidy bedroom. Oh, and both wardrobes feature a light that turns itself on each time you open the door. Not bad. The bed measures 1.9x1.55m (6ft 3in x 5ft 1in)
The flatscreen TV at the foot of the bed, on the nearside, can also be viewed from the dinette. The hatch above lends the room additional ventilation, and the Kenwood speakers are connected to a Kenwood DVD player/stereo above the dinette. No doubt the 12V point near the TV would come in handy for charging your 21st century gadgetry, and there's no shortage of 240V powerpoints, including one either side of the bed, so one partner doesn't have to do without when you're hooked up to mains power or a generator.
A large nearside pantry and offside cupboard provide a sense of separation between the living area and bedroom, without either space feeling confined or shut off. The pantry has a nifty feature: give it a nudge when it's open and it will shut itself.
The spacious, leather dinette lounge is nothing if not inviting, perfect for a quiet meal or entertaining your caravan park neighbours. There's a spread of lockers above and a drawer beneath the lounge, far preferable to the basic floor-level door to the under-seat cavity that most manufacturers provide.
Facing the dinette, the expansive nearside kitchen is fitted with everything the travelling chef could ever need. This van is a true entertainer. Features include a Swift 500 Series cooktop with griller and oven, a stainless steel rangehood with two cupboards above, as well as a couple of cupboards above the sink. The cooking options don't end there: the Pride gets an 800W Samsung microwave. There's a reasonable amount of bench space and a generous 175L three-way Dometic fridge-freezer with a huge storage locker above. Like in the bedroom, if you can't keep things tidy here, perhaps you've over-packed.
While the bathroom in general is nicely presented, with all the features you'd expect in a van of this calibre - cassette toilet, Lemair washing machine, separate shower cubicle - it's let down by the gobs of silastic used to seal the plumbing entry points beneath the vanity. Just about every manufacturer in the country uses the same unsightly method but, in a van as stunning as the Pride, I wanted a neater finish. True, the mess is hidden behind cupboard doors, but out of sight shouldn't mean out of mind.
That aside, I loved the access point to the bathroom door rollers, a hinged strip of lightweight timber that can be lifted in case you need to made adjustments. An excellent idea.
The Pride also gets sliding flyscreens/block-out blinds integrated with each window throughout, as well as Dometic's powerful B3000+ air-conditioner.
STEADY AND TRUE
With its 6in chassis, Al-Ko Rocker-Roller suspension, and generous fresh water capacity, the Pride is all set for long-term touring.
A large van with so many features will be unavoidably heavy, though in the case of the Pride its 3061kg ATM isn't unreasonable. You'll still need a fairly serious 4WD for the job, but rest assured that the Pride's size isn't difficult to manage - this van is surefooted, as we discovered when we hitched it to our Holden Colorado duel-cab ute, Range Rover Vogue and Toyota Lexus tow vehicles. Around the GOR's many twists and turns, the Pride kept to heel at all times.
I mentioned points of difference between this Pride and the one we tested in the latter half of 2011. Among them is Al-Ko's latest innovation for caravans, electronic stability control, now offered on the Pride. It's the sort of feature you hope you'll never need, but one day might be very glad you have. Essentially, the feature 'senses' lateral movement (sway) and immediately intervenes, applying a certain amount of braking force to the wheel(s) and stabilising the van - and your heartbeat.
Another difference is with the cladding. Where our 2011 Pride had traditional aluminium, this model comes with an aluminium composite Durabond cladding, a material that not only provides a smooth finish, but lends additional strength and UV resistance. The polycarbonate core - sandwiched between an inner and outer aluminium skin - provides additional insulation.
The electric awning is a nice touch, as is the electric Tecno step. Both operate on 12V and open at the push of a button just inside the door. I also liked the external TV mount and antenna, so you can watch the footy in the great outdoors, and the slide-out Swift barbecue at the front of the van. Just secure the gas line to the supplied bayonet and you're ready to get cooking.
On the 4in A-frame are two 9kg gas cylinders - a plentiful supply - while two 100Ah deep-cycle batteries are fitted in the front boot, along with the Breaksafe unit, charger and 12V fuses. The A-frame tap gets a checkerplate stoneguard - tick. At the back of the Pride is a reversing camera and, of course, the spare wheel.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Nova strikes me as a manufacturer that focused first on getting the fundamentals right. The team then built on that platform, that ethos, little by little, and the Pride is the result.
Launched in 2009, this model continues to set a high bar in the luxury-van stakes, not just in terms of the features, but in build quality and bang for buck, too.
THE JUDGES LIKED...
· LED lighting package
· Electronic stability control
· Electric awning
THE JUDGES WOULD'VE LIKED...
· Better finish for plumbing entry points - gobs of silastic are unbecoming of a van of this calibre
Originally published in Caravan World #510, January 2013.