A'van is synonymous with and named after the company's first RV product: the A-shaped folding caravan. It was very popular when it was first released and is still a force in the RV market today.
A'van has since diversified its product line-up to include full-size caravans, pop-tops, motorcampers and motorhomes. The Charlotte, a HT (Hard Top) full-size caravan, is the subject of our review. Being a family van, the design is a little different to the more popular couple-friendly layout. What's interesting about the Charlotte is its single-axle configuration and external body measurement of just over 17ft (5.25m), which means it's capable of being towed by a wide range of tow vehicles, including the family sedan.
Like the rest of the A'van range, the Charlotte is built on a hot dipped galvanised chassis, complete with shock absorber-fitted leaf-spring suspension and white sports wheels. For its Centurion chassis structure, A'van uses the standard box section arrangement. But to keep the weight down without compromising strength, it has pressed holes in the cross members. These holes also provide access for wiring and plumbing. In addition to the usual items, like ball coupling, jockey wheel and handbrake, the drawbar sports two 4kg gas cylinders.
Above the chassis, A'van uses fully insulated sandwich panels with aluminium skin for the walls and moulded fibreglass panels for the front and rear. Euro-style double glazed windows and a Hartal stable door are features. The latter is not a security item, but does have a top-half window, a moulded-in garbage bin and a concertina-style flyscreen. A Prostor awning adorns the nearside wall and just covers the door, due to the forward angled roofline.
Inside, the Charlotte is a short yet multifunctional family van fitted with the essential features. The lounge and dinette can be rearranged into bunk beds and a small double (or large single, depending on your needs) at the front of the van. There's a fixed double bed in the rear and the kitchen's in the middle.
Like most of the A'van range, the Charlotte has a Euro look about its interior. Curved timber doors, a light-stain timber look and large windows give it a spacious feel.
Starting at the front of the van, most of the front wall, except for the nearside corner where there is a small wardrobe, is taken up by a lounge. It has two back cushions rather than one which convert to form part of the top bunk. Once you know how it works, it takes about 30 seconds to set up.
This setup provides sleeping for four people, but if extra bedding is required then the dinette table, which adjoins the front lounge, can be folded down, thus forming another cot. We suspect long-term campers might opt for an annexe to accommodate extra guests instead.
Under all the seats is the usual general storage area, although part of the front seat is occupied by the battery, battery charger and power lead. Overhead lockers are fitted above the dinette along the offside wall.
Along the nearside wall, the kitchen bench has the essential items like a Smev four-burner cooktop, grill and oven, Dometic 90L fridge and stainless steel sink avec drainer. Storage space consists of three overhead lockers and three cupboards, one of which contains two drawers. The stove is angled out from the kitchen bench, thus making better use of the available space. The microwave is located in the overhead lockers, above the dinette, in a slightly awkward location.
It's a bit tricky to accommodate, given the space available, but I wonder whether a family would want a fridge larger than the standard 90L model.
In the rear of the Charlotte, the double bed sits in an east-west direction against the nearside wall. Measuring 6ft 1in x 4ft 6in (1.85m x 1.37m), the mattress sits on a ply timber base. It lifts up to give access to a storage area. Hiding under the bed is the Suburban gas/electric hot water heater. Additional bedroom storage is provided by overhead lockers, a small cabinet in the rear offside corner and a wardrobe that butts up against the dinette. I like the little cut-out in the side of the kitchen bench – it can be used as a small bedside shelf.
Light fittings throughout the Charlotte are mostly halogen downlights, either ceiling-fitted or under the kitchen bench's overhead lockers.
Two halogen reading lights supply night-time illumination for the double bed. Under the microwave is a mounting arm and antenna/powerpoint connections for a flat-screen TV.
Although the windows are quite large, when the going gets too hot the roof-mounted air-conditioner will deliver the necessary cooling.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Given that the Charlotte is both a family van and relatively short in length, there are going to be a few compromises in terms of general living space and having to make up a bed or two each night. However, on the positive side, and especially given the current climate in financial markets, it does not require an especially large tow vehicle.
Indeed, the Charlotte is bound to prove a winner for family holidays.
- The basic concept of this van, designed for a family without breaking the domestic budget
- The folding arrangement for the top bunk. It looks awkward but works well
- A relatively spacious interior, both perceived and actual
I WOULD HAVE LIKED
- As it's a family van, a larger fridge would be appreciated
- The microwave in a more accessible position
|A'VAN CHARLOTTE HT 525|
|Overall length: 21ft 5in (6.5m)|
|External body length: 17ft 3in (5.3m)|
|External width: 7ft 10in (2.4m)|
|Interior height: 6ft 3in (1.9m)|
|Nameplate ATM: 1635kg|
|Nameplate Tare: 1335kg|
|Chassis: Hot dipped galvanised|
|Cooktop: Smev four-burner with grill and oven|
|Fridge: Dometic RM2350 90L|
|Lighting: 12V halogen and LED|
|Gas: 2 x 4kg|
|Price: $36,990 plus on-road costs|
2142-2150 Castlereagh Road, Penrith, NSW 2750
(02) 4721 2222
For more information, including your nearest dealer, visit www.avan.com.au