Compact family van
When we think of holidaying in a caravan, our wishes are simple. All we want is to relax and enjoy the break because in contemporary society, time is precious and holidays are meant to make memories.
Our motto here at On the Road is “Enjoy the Journey”, but for many, the thought of towing a big van is more one of terror than enjoyment. Even for those with years of caravanning experience towing big vans all around the country, the idea of dragging their rig through traffic in a city they don’t know can be stressful.
Add into the mix the difficulty many have in getting a big van into a tight spot in a crowed caravan park as the residents grab a chair to watch the fun.
Big vans aren’t for everyone. Not only newbies to caravanning appreciate a smaller lightweight model because many long-term travellers embrace a simple towing option.
Iconic Melbourne manufacturer Avan understands the demand for ease of use and their building technique embraces engineering that is lightweight yet sturdy enough to last the years and miles.
And their Aspire 499 is designed to suit a young family on the move. While packing in the creature comforts we have come to expect, it offers beds for a couple and two children yet weighs in at a very slim tare weight of 1250kg.
Compared to a 16’ van of 30 years ago this modern 4.99m derivative has come a long way. Avan’s construction and design have evolved to allow the inclusion of an ensuite while still offering proper cooking, sleeping and relaxing spaces. I’m not trying to convince you it’s the Taj Mahal; I’m just saying that, for a compact van, it offers a lot inside.
A composite panel frame sits above a hot dipped galvanised chassis with pressed-hole cross members for minimum weight and better protection of plumbing and wiring. Suspension is a single beam axle with leaf springs running on stylish 14” alloy wheels with 185R light truck tyres.
The white aluminium flat panels of the composite body lend a modern, uncluttered look outside, even if the single window is somewhat unusual by today’s standard. Grey and black graphics keep the white from looking too stark, and a 3.5m Thule Ormister awning adds weather protection when relaxing outside.
Connection to the tow vehicle is through a 3500kg Al-Ko 50mm ball hitch. Twin 4kg gas bottles sit on the A-frame ahead of a reasonably sized front boot with storage slots for a jack and winders for the awning and drop down legs.
Entry is towards the front, through a snazzy looking fibreglass security door which was the only option listed on the test van. Because the 499 is quite low to the ground, a small plastic step is all that’s needed to get inside, and there’s a sturdy stainless steel handle to help.
Inside, I found an up-to-date, airy feel with natural light from Finch double glazed side windows and a large opening roof hatch. Warm timber cabinetry has a rich grain which is complemented on the curved cupboards by an off-white vinyl panel for an edge of luxury. Black faces of the fridge and microwave contrast against white walls and a light granite benchtop and kitchen table.
To the front is a café style dining area around a swivel table. Rather than a pair of twin seats, there’s a lounge that extends full width against the forward bulkhead and a smaller twin seat against the driver-side wall.
This arrangement converts to a set of bunks with the top bed folding out from the front wall. The top bunk sits securely on brackets fixed to the side wall and end cupboard. Most kids I know love them, so a couple of sleeping bags would do the trick to set the beds up quickly and to reconfigure the lounge for day use.
There are good storage options here with a small wardrobe tucked into the passenger side front corner and more space under the bottom bed.
The kitchen is in the centre of the van and has low and overhead cupboards as well as a floor to ceiling pantry. Both the stainless steel sink and three-burner gas cooktop have integrated covers to provide a food preparation area. Opposite the kitchen is a 185L three-way fridge that should satisfy the needs of a growing family and on top is a Sharp microwave for times when connected to 240v power.
At first glance the kitchen might seem rather cramped, but it suits the purpose and I would expect that most meal preparation is done outside on a BBQ or in a camp kitchen anyway. A lot of people only use the stove in their van for a morning cuppa, preferring to take in the fresh air whenever possible.
Avan has developed an innovative design at the rear of the living space to include a double bed and a combination shower/toilet with a separate alcove for a vanity and mirror. The layout leaves enough room to access the bed from only one side and the bed end, which might not be everyone’s preference, but in a van this size there needs to be compromises.
As well as being easy to tow, a lighter van only needs a medium size family sedan to get it to your destination. Even some of the smaller SUVs will handle the load. Behind my Landcruiser, the Aspire tracked smoothly, felt well balanced and manoeuvred into position for our photos with ease, giving the impression that drivers with little experience towing should quickly feel confident.
With a price starting at just over $40,000, the Aspire 499 is a good value entry-level van. It will be easy to store, and the size will appeal to those who like to keep things simple and in budget, yet It comes equipped with the essentials for family trips away.
- Compact. Easy to tow and stow.
- Smart design allows on board ensuite.
- Versatile bunk for day and night use of the dining space.
- Stylish interior.
- Exit from double bed is a bit tricky.
Provider dealer box
Model: Aspire 499 Bunk
Overall length: 6.36m
Travel height: 2.7m
Tare weight: 1250kg
Ball weight: 150kg
Payload less full fluids: 207kg
Price from: $40,490
Price as reviewed: $42,000 (options: security door)
Find Out More
11 Webster Way Pakenham Vic 3810
phone: 03 5945 4545
Avan has been building campers, caravans and motorhomes for over 20 years from their Melbourne factory. In that time they have delivered more than 25,000 models to customers and have become one of Australia’s biggest RV builders.
From modest beginnings making campers in a backyard, the family company has grown to a range that includes their innovative Aliner camper out to 22’ slide out vans and luxury motorhomes.
They use a smooth panel sandwich construction across the range that is said to offer durability, improved insulation, water resistance and weight saving.
Every Avan has a 24 month manufacturing warranty and models can be seen at a wide network of dealers across the country.