Family caravans have an undeserved reputation in contemporary caravanning; the perception being they are either not available or a bit hard to come by. Back in the day, a family Viscount or Millard was about the only thing around but, these days, with the predominance of the grey nomad/silver gypsy fraternity, two-berth caravans are far more common and available.
However, there are family caravans, pop-tops and campers available in all kinds of layouts and all kinds of prices. You just have to hunt around a bit. Indeed, when I approached Nova to look over one of the latest models, I made a point of asking for a family van, and it turned out to be the Nova Family Escape.
LAYOUT & DESIGN
In the weights and measures department, this Family Escape has an ATM of 2769kg and a Tare weight of 2369kg, giving a load capacity of 400kg but I did wonder, given this is a family van, if the load capacity could have been increased slightly. Given those weights, the van appears to be in the mid-sized tow vehicle range. However, the (unladen) ball weight of 302kg certainly reduces the range of tow vehicles.
On the road, the van was well-behaved and my Holden Colorado coped without any problems, even on the wet roads. As you may note, I had a Space Cab model but a Crew Cab would be better for a family and it certainly has an adequate tow rating.
BEDROOM & STORAGE
In the rear of the van, the island bed measures 1.9x1.6m (6ft 2in x 5ft 3in). Its base is the usual posture slats with a metal frame which lifts easily to get to the storage space underneath. The bedhead comes with overhead lockers, side wardrobes and bedside cabinets, the latter being shelf area only as the normal cupboard space is taken by the water heater and the storage bin across the rear.
On the technology front, the van’s LED lighting is well-appointed and powerpoints are mostly located in useful places, except around the dinette, where I would have liked one. Given this is a family van, it might have been useful to include a few 5V USB charger points. Mounted as it is at the end of the kitchen bench, the flatscreen TV can easily be seen from the dinette or bed (but not from the junior bedroom).
All the essential 12V electrics, battery, charger and fuse panel are located in the front boot, and I was pleased to note the 12V fuses are clearly labelled.
For a kid, I reckon there is something very special about having your own bunk bed in a caravan. The triple bunks, each measuring 1.8x0.7m (5ft 11in x 2ft 4in), act as a sort of hideaway if you want to get away from everyone else in your own special place. Each bunk comes-equipped with a window, reading light and a powerpoint – just in case the iPod needs to be charged (although, I thought a USB outlet might be more appropriate). For the junior members of the family, it might be worth mentioning to mum and dad that if they are considering buying a Family Escape, then they might want to do something about the bed ladder – those narrow timber edges are really hard on the feet.
Catering for a family can be quite a challenge and, given the size of this kitchen bench, you will definitely need the table for laying out and preparing meals. Naturally, the kitchen stocks all the usual appliances and fittings – stainless steel sink/drainer, four-burner cooktop and grill, 184L Thetford fridge and microwave. General storage consists of overhead lockers, two cupboards, a wire basket pantry and two drawers – one for cutlery and the other for pots and pans. In some ways, the cupboard space might be better
utilised for drawers; however, the wheel arches do restrict that.
Across the way, the L-shaped dinette will not fit a family of four or five, so a couple of folding stools will be very useful. Otherwise, alfresco eating under the awning is a great option. The table has a single pole mounting but also has a swivel/side-to-side mounting which makes it easier to move the table around. Above the table, the overhead lockers, some with shelves, offer much-needed storage and, while much of the under-seat area is taken up by the wheel arch, the drawer is easy to get at.
Opposite the bunks is the bathroom with separate cubicles for the shower and toilet, the latter being up front. It not only comes with a cassette toilet but a wash basin as well. Ventilation is well-handled by a ceiling vent and a small window. An interesting effect not seen in many vans is the curved wall and ceiling caused by the front of the van.
A full-height mirror door for the adjoining shower cubicle leaves no excuses for not
having cleaned up properly under the flexible hose shower. And muddy clothing can be handled by the washing machine under the wardrobe in the front of the van between the bunks and the toilet cubicle
THE BOTTOM LINE
Having looked at a few family vans, I can confidently say this Family Escape is certainly well-appointed with just about all the caravan comforts a modern, travelling family would want. But there is a compromise, of course, to have all those features and that is space. Some areas, such as the kitchen and dinette, have been squeezed a bit. That said, the Family Escape is built to the Nova standard we have come to expect and should give many families some very happy holidays.
- Basic layout
- General storage facilities
- Light interior
- Easy towing van
- Labelled 12V fuses
I would have liked...
- More drawers in kitchen
- Better ‘ladder’ for bunks
The full test appears in Caravan World #538 June 2015.