Real sports cars aficionados might find this odd, but I’ve always regarded the Fiat Ducato van, used for many a motorhome conversion, as the sports car of the motorhome world.
Okay, so I have odd tastes on the sports car front but here’s my reasoning…
Firstly, the Ducato is of course Italian designed and built – Italy being the home of a myriad of classy sports cars. Secondly, in Australia at least, most of the Ducato vans to date have been fitted with the 3L, 132kW/400Nm turbodiesel, making it a very willing performer. Thirdly, as long as a spacious motorhome isn’t on your essential list, the Ducato van conversions have almost everything needed for motorhome travel yet are a very versatile vehicle on a number of counts.
Avan’s Applause 500, a converted Ducato van, has been around for a few years now but I have not looked at one recently and thought it was time for a spin – especially as there happened to be one parked ready to go at the front of Kratzmann Caravans at Burpengary in Queensland.
Based on a Ducato LWB van – which, at 6m, is shorter than the XLWB variant and therefore is going to have a few compromises than its longer sibling – it does carry the distinct advantage of fitting easily into car-length parking spots.
The 500 also uses a Multijet 150 van; that is, it has the smaller 2.3L turbodiesel that still pushes out 109kW and 360Nm of torque. Being an Australian conversion it does of course come with the six-speed AMT gearbox and two large water bottle holders in the centre console, as well as all the usual expected driver features.
Most of the essential motorhome features that require hole cutting are fitted to the offside of the van – water filler, power outlet, cassette toilet, water heater and external shower.
Not visible is the gas cylinder bin. Because of the way the gas standard is interpreted in Victoria, when the Applause is built the gas cylinder bin is fitted inside the rear doors and thus not accessible if they happen to be locked. Keeping said doors unlocked if the gas cylinder is being used is certainly recommended.
There aren’t any external storage bins as such but also accessible though the rear doors are a very large drawer and a smaller bin that is good for water hoses and the like.
LAYOUT & DESIGN
Surprisingly, the Applause 500 is designed to carry four people. It won’t sleep them but they can be all driven around without any difficulty. To achieve this little trick, a few things have been slightly compressed.
Both cab seats swivel around and there’s a table and two-seat lounge behind the driver’s cab. An east-west bed sits across the rear of the van, leaving enough space in the middle for an offside bathroom and a kitchen bench across the rear wall. Inside the van, it does feel a little cramped in the mid-van area but that really is something that comes with the territory.
Cooling in the Applause 500 is achieved by an Aircommand Ibis 3 – given this unit is often used in much larger recreational vehicles, it shouldn’t have a problem at all in this little motorhome.
Across the rear, the bed measures 1.86x1.22m (6ft 1in x 4ft) and sits at a height that achieves the double aim of not being too difficult to clamber into, yet sits high enough for practical storage facilities underneath. A floor level door gives access to the under-bed storage from the inside and the air space above the bed is filled with overhead lockers. Windows on either side of the bed will give a good cross flow of fresh air, with the caveat on the sliding door issue. Ceiling lights are fitted but there are no reading lights on either side.
KITCHEN & BATHROOM
As you might expect in a van conversion like this, the kitchen facilities are going to be fairly basic but there is virtually everything you need – two-burner cooktop, round stainless steel sink, under-bench microwave oven and under-bench 85L Vitrifrigo fridge. A little surprise is the benchtop area which is larger than some I have seen in larger motorhomes. All under-bench area not already taken up is occupied by drawers and cupboards.
Space isn’t to be wasted in a motorhome this size, which is why the end of the overhead lockers is used as a mounting point for the basic electrical controls and water tank monitoring. Additionally, the end of the kitchen bench by the doorway has a set of small shelves.
Many bathrooms in van conversions are often combo units; that is, shower and toilet in the one cubicle. However, in this case a Euro-style circular shower cubicle has been squeezed into one end of the bathroom and a Thetford cassette toilet at the other. In addition, a small washbasin with a shelf above has been fitted above the toilet. A decent-sized wall mirror adorns the rear wall, and a double powerpoint and the Truma hot water switch are fitted underneath the washbasin. Can’t say I thought the faux timber finish worked in the bathroom – white might be a starker look, but in a confined space it’s a better look.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Unless you happen to travel very lightly Avan’s Applause might well seem to be on the small side for a sojourn around Australia. However, that’s not the only way a motorhome can be used and it definitely ticks quite a few other boxes. It’s a great weekend escape machine and equally certainly going to be good for a couple who prefer short-term trips over long hauls. In addition, it’s going to be more than ideal for a single person with its easy handling capabilities and no nonsense set-up and pack-up. Above all, it’s relatively small size means it is easy to park-up when not being used.
HITS AND MISSES
- Relatively small length for easy manoeuvrability
- Four-seater transporter
- Greater for solo travellers
- Easy driving, especially around towns
- Internal storage capacity
- Tight around rear seat/table
- No bed reading lights
- Limited interior space
- Bed length not ideal for tall people
Weights and measures
- Overall length 6m (19ft 8in)
- External body length 2.03m (6ft 8in)
- External body width 1.91m (6ft 3in)
- Travel height 2.7m (8ft 10in)
- Internal height 2490kg
- Tare 2264kg
- GVM 4005kg
Price as shown
$106,290 (on-road, Qld)
The full feature appeared in Caravan World #560. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!