>> Spacious bathroom
>> Good internal storage
>> LED lighting throughout
>> Stable towing van
NOT SO MUCH:
>> little space between jockey wheel handle and gas cylinders
>> arrangement of insect screen and stable door
>> Non ‘timber’ walls
>> awnings and radios listed as options
One of the challenges for the caravan manufacturing industry in the next few years will be getting the weight out of caravans while retaining the essential structural strength of the van and the many features that purchasers want.
So with this in mind, I started with the tow vehicle, in this case a Ford Falcon G6, and contacted a few caravan dealers with the question: “What do you have available?”
The friendly team at the Penrith premises of A’van NSW made available an Owen van with ‘Adventure Pack, which is best described as a rough road kit.
It wasn’t really necessary with the Ford tow vehicle, but at least it didn’t create a weight problem.
HARD TO TOP
A’van builds a wide range of RVs – everything from the original folding A’van to full-sized family caravans, pop-tops, rear slide-outs and motorhomes.
The Owen is a full caravan – or ‘hardtop’ in A’van jargon – with a body length of 6.09m (20ft). It includes a bathroom and weighs in with a tare of 1905kg and an ATM of 2305kg so it was a good candidate for a Ford Falcon, which has a 2300kg tow capacity.
It's built on the A’van Centurion chassis which is a hot-dipped galvanized chassis with 150x50mm (6x2in) RHS main rails and pressed-hole cross members.
The latter keep the weight down while still providing the necessary strength. Shock absorbers are fitted to the tandem-axle load sharing suspension, while the Adventure Pack includes a chassis with higher ground clearance and 15in wheels and tyres.
Up front are the normal ball coupling, handbrake, centre-mounted jockey wheel and two 4kg gas cylinders. The cylinders were quite close to the jockey wheel and when it was clamped in the top position, winding it was a bit awkward.
There should have been a bumper bar and spare wheel on the rear of the van but there had been some factory delays, apparently.
Composite sandwich (insulation/ply/aluminium) panels are used for the walls while both back and front are made from moulded fibreglass.
The windows are Polyplastic, double glazed and tinted and there's a Hartal stable-style door towards the rear. Someone did their measuring well because the door and adjoining window can be open at the same time although the clearance could be measured with the flat side of a steel rule.
The clearance between the concertina-style insect screen door and the pocket in the lower half of the door is not quite as good. With the lower half closed, it’s difficult to open and close the insect screen.
In terms of external storage, there's only a front boot but that’s not too much of a problem because the boot is not used to store batteries and the like, so there's plenty of room for all your essentials.
An optional Prostor awning can provide both shade and shelter for evening al fresco activities.
BRIGHT AND BREEZY
I always like stepping into an A’van RV. The interior always feels bright and spacious, with a distinct European look.
In the Owen's case, I could probably live without the timber panelling on the walls but it's not too overpowering.
Curves are incorporated into various features, such as the overhead locker doors; the oval dining table; and the oval wardrobe mirrors, which is a nice change from the square look often found in caravans.
All the windows have integrated screens and blinds but the curtains are just for looks. The optional Air Command Ibis supplies cooling air from above.
The Owen's front bedroom, offside kitchen, nearside dinette and full--width rear bathroom are all quite well proportioned.
The bathroom has an offside shower cubicle with moulded shelves and a roller blind door, nearside Thetford cassette toilet and a waist-high vanity cabinet which fills the rear.
A’van has resisted the temptation to include a washing machine, so there's room for two shelved cupboards and three open shelves. Not everyone likes them in bathrooms, but the rear wall has a large window which not only aids ventilation but improves the perception of space.
Overhead lockers are fitted above the window and there's a good-sized mirror on the wall above the loo.
NOT SO SQUEEZY
The only area which has been squeezed a bit in this design is the kitchen.
The stainless steel sink and cooktop/grill take up most of the space, but there's still a good selection of cupboards and drawers.
A Thetford 184 litre two-door fridge adjoins the kitchen bench and is mounted off the floor which improves the general access.
Instead of fitting the microwave oven above the fridge, A’van has put it above the adjacent cupboard which is a user-friendly height for most people. A shelf above the microwave could be used for a flatscreen TV as there's both 12V and antenna sockets.
Opposite the kitchen, the L-shaped dinette comes with contoured seat cushions in an attractive fabric.
The oval shape of the single-pole mounted table makes the dinette easy to get in and out of, although a downside of the oval shape is that reduces the tabletop area.
There are two overhead lockers above the table, as well as two shelves in the corner by the door which are always handy for keys and other ready-use items.
Up front, the 1.8 x 1.47m (6ft 2in x 4ft 10in) mattress sits on a metal frame/wooden slat bed base, which lifts easily to provide access to the spacious storage area underneath.
Part of this area is occupied by the 95Ah deep-cycle battery and charger and the retractable power lead is stored here too.
The bedhead contains the usual overhead lockers, side wardrobes and bedside cabinets complete with inside drawers, and the bedside shelves, while not very large are complemented by a shelf along the back of the bed.
There's a reasonable amount of walking space around the bed and two diagonal cupboards at the foot of the bed. The nearside one has a good bit of shelf area above it.
On the road, the Ford handled the Owen without difficulty. The Falcon G6 was Ford’s Eco-LP model and the 198kW 4.0 litre motor showed no hesitation during towing.
A weight distribution hitch was fitted and if there was any nose-down attitude with the van, then it was more due to the height of the van rather than any problems with the tow vehicle.
Figuring out the attractions of the A’van Owen isn’t hard. It comes with just about everything that the contemporary caravanner desires, but at a reasonable price and with a weight that can be towed by something like a Ford Falcon.
That means not necessarily having to purchase a special tow vehicle as well as reasonably economical towing.
There might be a few compromises but the Owen certainly offers a caravan lifestyle that lacks for nothing in terms of features.
A’VAN OWEN (WITH ADVENTURE PACK)
Overall length: 7.69m (25ft 3in)
External length: 6.09m (20ft)
External width: 2.39m (7ft 10in)
External height: 2.82m (9ft 3in)
Interior height : 1.92m (6ft 4in)
Ball weight (advised): 120kg
Body: sandwich panel
Chassis: hot dipped galvanised
Suspension: leaf spring
Cooktop: Swift four-burner/grill
Fridge: Thetford 184 litre three-way
Shower: separate cubicle
Toilet: Thetford cassette
Gas: 2 x 4kg
Fresh water: 95 litre
Price as reviewed: $48,990 (on road, NSW)
A’van, Penrith, NSW