In Australia, there’s a perception that British and European-built caravans are not suitable for ‘our’ road conditions – whatever they might be.
But this isn’t necessarily the case, because Australian road conditions vary hugely – from the smooth blacktop of the Hume Highway to the rough and tumble of the Gibb River Road. A better approach to determining the suitability of a van is to consider how you plan on using it and where you want to take it.
To counter this perception, manufacturers like Adria, in conjunction with their Australian distributors, have developed ‘Australianised’ versions of some of their van models. Our Adria Altea 552PK review van fits into this category and also comes with the interestingly-named ‘Sport Upgrade’.
LAYOUT AND DESIGN
There are no modifications to the chassis because all Adria vans in Australia had their chassis ‘Australianised’ some years ago, but something to keep in mind is that all of the above inclusions add weight. The design changes add about 40kg and filling the water tank will add another 30kg. It also adds $2000 to the base price of $49,290.
On the road, the van is well behaved on both freeways and minor country roads. I even found a few quiet bush tracks – not so much to test out the van’s ability but rather to see the difference made by the improved ground clearance. And for what I imagine this van will be used for, it passed that test.
The Altea 552PK offers no surprises in the construction department and is a classic example of a European build. The walls and roof are a sandwich panel construction with a plywood interior and a fibreglass exterior, while the front and rear is moulded ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) which has the essential properties of impact resistance and toughness.
Like everything else, the floor is a sandwich panel with a combination of XPS styrofoam and EPS styropor. The Europeans think about effective insulation for a cold climate and that, of course, has the benefit of working equally well for a hot one.
BEDROOM AND STORAGE
Up front, the main bed measures 2.0x1.4m (6ft 7in x 4ft 7in) and while it misses out on a bit of width with the chamfered corner, it will certainly accommodate taller people without difficulty, which isn’t always the case with caravan beds. Both bed occupants have reading lights and although there aren’t any bedside cabinets, there’s a full length shelf under the window and overhead lockers all-round.
Beside the entry door at the foot of the bed is a small flatscreen TV, which swivels around and can be seen from either the bed or the dinette.
Four people can sit at the dinette without too much trouble and while the seat cushions and backs are comfortable, they are a bit on the square side! This is, in part, due to the fact that the dinette can be made up into a 2.03x0.97m (6ft 8in x 3ft 2in) bed. Along with the front fixed bed and the two bunks, this brings the bed count up to five – or six at a pinch – a surprising amount of sleeping accommodation for a van of this size.
While on the subject of berths, the final two are in the rear of this Adria. Measuring 1.96x0.76m (6ft 5in x 2ft 6in), they offer the expected comforts in a van like this – a wall-mounted reading light and a good-sized window each.
Between the bunks and the ensuite at the rear is a large two-door wardrobe with hanging space up top which, given the lack of robes up the front, will probably need to be shared by the family. The bottom of the lower half contains the 240V mains circuit breakers with a fair bit of empty space above, which I think would be better utilised with the inclusion of a drawer or two.
The bathroom is a typical European compromise – just enough space for fitting everything in without taking up too much space overall. There’s a separate shower cubicle and a cleverly-moulded unit that includes a cassette toilet, fold-down wash basin and a shaving cabinet. Both the shaving cabinet doors and the base of the wash basin have a mirrored finish and it’s tall enough to do the job. A large frosted window supplies plenty of fresh air.
THE BOTTOM LINE
There’s much to be said for this layout. With its front fixed bed, it’s not going to be appreciated by all purchasers but it’s a workable layout for a family in a van that does not require a huge tow vehicle.
Even with the Sport Upgrade, the Altea 552PK, at $49,290 as reviewed, represents good value for a family on a budget.
- Relatively light weight with good load capacity
- The length of the main bed
- Easy towing
- Practical bathroom size
- Light and bright interior
- Wind-down corner stabilisers
- Small kitchen
- Limited external storage
- Awkward TV viewing angle from front dinette seat
- No security door
The full test appears in Caravan World #554 October 2016. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!