WEIGHT IS THE prime consideration when purchasing a caravan, especially as far as the tow vehicle is concerned. Many European caravans are praised for lack of weight, but they’re not always suitable for the Australian market. Adria, however, has sold vans in Australia for a few years now, and isn’t afraid of modifying its products to suit local tastes and needs. The Slovenian manufacturer offers a 24-month warranty and five-year, factory-backed period for water ingress.
Like many of their Euro counterparts, the Adria vans are built on Al-Ko chassis in standard European form, with a few modifications for the local market. That means a galvanised chassis with Al-Ko’s Independent Rubber Suspension (IRS), AKS ball coupling and gas-strut-assisted handbrake. Both gas cylinder holders as well as the spare wheel are fitted into the front boot. A 50L water tank is hidden and a second is available as an option.
All the Adria vans have a distinctive shape above the chassis, with a rounded front. The walls and roof are a composite structure, with insulation between plywood, and aluminium as the outer skin – the only exception being the Adora model which has a polyester outer skin. Both front and rear lower halves are fibreglass mouldings. There are cross-frames in the floor, roof and walls and the floor is glued and bolted to the chassis.
There are four models in the current Adria line-up, varying between 4.8m (15ft 9in) and 7.1m (23ft 4in). Our review model is the Altea 512PU, which measures 5.6m (18ft 4in) with a Tare weight of 1082kg and an ATM of 1500kg. This tracks behind a wide range of vehicles, including our Toyota Aurion with its maximum towing capacity of 1600kg. The Aurion’s 3.5L, 200kW motor driving through a six-speed auto gearbox handled the Altea without strain.
Euro style, double-glazed, hopper windows are fitted all round, with the door being a half-and-half ‘stable door’ arrangement. Roller flyscreens and blinds are fitted to all the windows but not the door. A centrally-mounted wall light is fitted but an awning is optional.
The 512PU has large windows and roof hatches which give a very spacious feel – not bad for a 5.6m (18ft) van with a bathroom. It’s classed as a four-berth van with a double bed at the front and a dinette at the rear that easily converts to a second bed. Fitted between are a kitchen bench on the nearside and a bathroom cubicle alongside a wardrobe on the offside.
Up front, the island bed measures 1.9x1.4m (6ft 3in x 4ft 7in). It’s unusual because although it has a timber slatted base, it’s split (along with the mattress) and opens to copious storage area from the sides rather than the foot of the bed. The shape of the mattress is also different: it’s not straight, but angled at both ends. The result is a bed with a narrow head and foot but with good walk-around room and decent-sized bedside cabinets, though fitting sheets would pose a challenge.
There are no bedside wardrobes or overhead lockers on the front wall, but there is an open, built-in shelf. Given there’s a full wardrobe elsewhere, the storage loss is minimal and the air space gain is great. Overhead lockers are fitted along the sides of the bedroom, and on both sides in the corners at the foot of the bed are small shelves. The nearside one has a powerpoint, 12V socket and antenna connection for a flatscreen TV.
In a van this size, given the size of the bathroom (see below), there’s going to be a compromise somewhere, and in this model it’s the small kitchen. It does have a Smev three-burner cooktop (no grill), stainless steel sink (no drainer) and a Dometic 60L fridge. The latter is small for a family but necessary due to design constraints. There’s room for a microwave, but it’s an optional extra. General storage consists of two drawers, two floor lockers and two overhead lockers. An under-locker halogen gives light to the cooktop and sink, and a powerpoint fitted above the drawers supplies the 240V.
In the rear, the four-person dinette has lounge seats on each side and a free-standing table in between. The latter can be folded down to make up a 2.17x1.2m (7ft 1in x 3ft 11in) bed. Windows all round give both a good view and ventilation. Above are lockers plus open shelves in the corners.
The bathroom is surprisingly large and includes a Thetford swivelling toilet, a flexible hose shower, a generously sized moulded vanity cabinet with multiple shelves, a cupboard and mirrors on two walls. A smaller cabinet and towel rail are mounted on the wall above the loo.
The wardrobe between the dinette and bathroom has a large amount of hanging space above but the lower section is mostly taken by the hot water heater.
Lighting throughout the Altea is a mixture of 12V halogen and fluorescent with the powerpoints located in the appropriate places. There isn’t an air-conditioner or radio/CD player fitted but the van is wired to accept both easily and there are speakers fitted.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Quite simply, if you’re after a relatively lightweight van for mostly on-road travel, then the Altea 512PU is certainly worth considering. It looks different to many locally-built caravans but has quite a few features, and the weight factor is a major advantage that should cause considerable interest.
Overall length: 7.12m (23ft 4in)
External body length: 5.62m (18ft 5in)
External width: 2.3m (7ft 6in)
Interior height: 1.95m (6ft 5in)
Nameplate Tare: 1082kg
Nameplate ATM: 1500kg
Unladen ball weight: 52.5kg
Chassis: Al-Ko galvanised
Suspension: Al-Ko IRS (Independent Rubber Suspension)
Fresh water tank 50L
Price $44,725 (tow-away, Qld)
RV Asia Pacific, 1800 625 779, www.adriamobil.com.au.