A Van for the family
As one of the leading van builders in the country, Avan has evolved over the years from making quirky campers to producing an extensive range of RV products including hard and poptop caravans and motorhomes.
Their vans are aimed squarely at blacktop wanderers who may occasionally venture off the beaten track, and the extensive array of models spreads across all demographics. Some appeal to a demanding grey nomad lifestyle, while others, like the Aspire 617 on review, are perfect for young families.
An emphasis on value has been the mainstay of the brand since day one, and many first-time Avan owners I have met were also convinced to purchase by the level of quality and efficiencies of space. This is especially evident in the Aspire Range, which is the budget end of Avan’s catalogue. So while they may be cheaper, there is nothing cheap looking about the 617; in fact, it impresses from first sight as a travelling home of which you would be proud.
Glossy white walls and cheerful splashes of aqua and black combine with black checkerplate skirts for a sharp and modern appearance, that blends well with the flat pofile side panels. My Landcruiser is amongst the largest of the common tow vehicles, but the 617 strapped behind still looked all of its nearly 8m overall length. It’s a decent size. Saying that, it’s well proportioned and streamlined so perhaps the lower dark sections hide the size somewhat.
The sidewalls are constructed from bonded sandwich panels with an insulating foam centre between reinforcing ply panels and an outer layer of pre-painted aluminium, which is claimed to be stronger and lighter than fibreglass.
Like all Avans, the Aspire sits on a patented Centurion chassis with 6” chassis rails and A-frame, hot-dip galvanised for maximum corrosion resistance. Pressed hole cross members allow for lower weight, and safer location of electrical wiring. The chassis is engineered to strengthen stress areas and control flex as the van moves over varying surfaces.
A simple 50mm Al-Ko ball connection attests the van’s mainly blacktop intent, while other features up front include Al-Ko stability control, a breakaway system, twin 9kg gas bottles, a tap and an Anderson plug to power the three-way fridge when travelling.
Under the van, I found a pair of 95 litre water tanks protected by galvanised sheets sitting astride tandem axles on Al-Ko roller-rocker leaf spring suspension with shock absorbers, while 15” alloy wheels run 235×75 Goodyear Wranglers. The suspension and more substantial than standard wheels and tyres are part of the optional Adventure Pack designed to give the van a dirt road capability for visits to national parks and some out of the way destinations. The pack also adds a solar panel and battery management system for spending time off the grid, even if it’s only choosing a cheaper non-powered site in a caravan park.
A Thule Ormister awning covers the full length of the passenger side and towards the front is a through boot with a difference. Rather than a simple tunnel arrangement, the compartment is open to the storage area under the bed to create an ample open space. It makes access to items in the boot a lot easier.
A fold-out galvanised step eases access to a set of versatile Hartal barn doors with a separate insect screen. Again, this is a different approach to most builders, and I like the idea of having a lockable lower section to keep children and pets safely inside while leaving the top part open to the breeze and view.
Layout inside places the double bed at the front, an open living space central and a shared section for the bunkroom and ensuite at the rear. It seems like an ideal design for families because it gives the youngsters a dedicated area down the back while maximising room in the social space to allow a larger than average L-shaped lounge.
In the Avan design world, having a similar theme across the range keeps costs down. The classy looking retro cupboard doors with cream coloured inserts found in the test model are also seen in the brand’s motorhomes and other vans. This signature look remains contemporary and yet, at the same time has a homely feel I find reassuringly timeless.
And while there’s enough morado timber throughout to impart a classic caravan impression, it’s not overdone to the point of looking dated and it’s complemented by neat and up-to-date CNC full-cover finish of all doors and drawers.
Equipment in the kitchen includes a Swift 500 mini grill and cooktop with both gas and electric burners, a family friendly 185L Thetford fridge in stylish black, a Sharp microwave, a big slide-out pantry and a pot drawer. But while there are extra drawers in the cupboard under the sink, I didn’t find a dedicated cutlery rack close to the action. All openings are soft-close with positive latches, and the runners seemed strong enough for a ravenous kiddy onslaught.
An extended lounge wraps around a light grey, marble-finish table. It’s long enough for the family to spread out and there’s room for more chairs in the walkway for added guests. Overhead cupboards and easily accessed storage under the lounge mean room for plenty of groceries on extended trips.
The lengthways ensuite in the near-side rear quarter of the van is compact but very usable. It comprises a moulded shower with shelves, a small vanity and a Thetford plastic toilet where ventilation includes window and a roof hatch and fan.
Our test van had two bunks with a built-in ladder to the top, but there’s also an option for three beds each with its own window and side storage nook with two USB ports. A central wardrobe at the back has five drawers and two large hanging spaces.
At the front, the extended queen size bed is surrounded by the usual array of side and overhead cupboards but also includes storage hatches each side with USB ports and space for phones and other personal items.
The 617 has a tare weight of 2135kg, and a carrying capacity of 400 KG’s taking it to a total of 2535kg, so it’s within the towing capacity of many medium vehicles. It tracked steadily behind as we drove out through traffic to our destination with no bangs or jerking over some rougher tracks.
The drive away price of $52,000 including the adventure pack or $47,990 as standard seems remarkable value for a well set up family van with a level of off-grid and dirt road capability.
- Family layout with room to move.
- Modern design and finish.
- Good value.
- No cutlery drawer.
- Microwave is set high over the fridge.
“For over 20 years, Avan has revolutionised the RV industry, along the way many thousands of holiday makers, travellers and adventure seekers have happily experienced new heights in style, comfort and value. Avan Caravans & Campers continues to set new benchmarks in RV design and innovation. Our revolutionary construction techniques and sophisticated designs deliver a quality range of campers, caravans and motorhomes. The remarkable popularity of the Avan continues to grow as many more Australians discover the unique appeal of our products.”
Find Out More
Model: Aspire 617
Overall length: 7.7m
Interior length: 5.83m
Travel height: 2.89m
Tare weight: 2135kg
Payload with full water and gas: 202kg
Ball weight: 140kg
Price from: $47,990
Options: Adventure Pack including 15” wheels, Wrangler tyres, solar panel and battery monitor.
Price as reviewed: $52,000
11 Webster Way, Pakenham Vic 3810
Phone: 03 5945 4545