Coachman, known for its high-quality build and traditional styling, here maintains its policy of 'evolution without revolution'. The graphics have been freshened and an external barbecue point is among the new features for 2009. Inside, small improvements such as Italian-styled locker doors, a new control panel and new lighting looks sure to attract plenty of interest.

Overview

Coachman is a Hull-based British manufacturer renowned for building practical, stylish caravans. The entry range Amara 520/4 has Coachman's high build quality with practical extras for a modest price.

New features for the 2009 model have made it a good family van, with flexible dining and sleeping options and a full-height hanging rail. It also looks good, with the addition of Italian-styled locker doors and up-to-date upholstery.

Pitching and setting up

The thick gauge aluminium sidewalls make this Coachman resistant to dents, while the presence of the venerable Al-Ko chassis gives peace of mind. Hitch-head stabilisers, button-free handbrakes and 13-pin electrics are standard, too, as are alloy wheels, a nearside wet locker, a self-supporting front locker door and an external gas point.

The Amara's waste pipes, however, are at the rear of the van, which can make it awkward to position waste containers under them when you're on a sloping pitch, but access to the corner steadies is pretty painless.

Inside, the control panel, like much of the rest of the interior, is pretty conventional and is easily accessed, as is the fuse box, which is located under the offside front seat.

Lounge

Coachman has a reputation for traditional interiors but there’s nothing old-fashioned about the Amara’s lounge. Light upholstery and pine furniture give a traditional ambience, but it still feels up to date and is comfy. The framed locker doors look great, too.

Access to the dining area is a bit of a squeeze with the table in place, but there is a flip-over style extension to the centre chest, where two can dine in comfort.

There's a side dinette for eating if you don't want to use the main lounge, but the seats are very upright and the lighting isn't as effective as in some rivals. That's because the Amara makes do with just two directional spotlights at the front of the lounge to complement the main ceiling light and two corner lights.

Kitchen

It's always nice to have a microwave oven fitted as standard, and the digital-control one in the Amara is mounted at eye level above the main cooker.

It's nice, too, to have a large sink and a recessed drainer for washing up, but the flipside of this is that work surfaces are compromised. The hob and sink have glass lids to ease the problem, but you'll still need to be a tidy chef.

The Amara has an overhead locker with plate racks, but with only one drawer and a cupboard between the oven and fridge, it lacks storage options. Happily, it claws back some lost ground by including a roof-mounted extractor fan and a main ceiling light.

Washroom

Some caravanners feel that space devoted to big washrooms could be better used elsewhere, but a large end washroom is one of the more important factors for buyers of this layout.

That said, the Amara isn't the most spacious in this department, but it does boast a sturdy, domestic-style washroom door.

There are drop-in carpets, modern chrome fittings and illuminated mirrors over the basin, and a good deal of space has been given to the wardrobe, vanity unit and storage. That's all well and good, but it does mean you end up with a slightly claustrophobic shower.

The Coachman’s toilet has a manual-flush and it, too, is a little tight for space. There's a smart Venetian blind though, and a large wardrobe with plenty of lockers. There's also a sizeable counter surface for lotions and potions.

Beds

As is usual, the Amara's front lounge seating can be used either as two singles or as a double, and the offside dinette is easy to convert into a bunk.

The great thing about the two lounge seats is that they are of equal length, so you get a tidy bed conversion, even if the bed itself is not the longest in this class. The double is made by pulling wooden slats from the centre chest to support the extra cushions.

The bunks work well, although it's the lower bed that's the comfiest thanks to its extra width and thicker cushions.

Storage

The main message here is that there are ample cupboards and shelves in most areas. In addition, the large wardrobe has full-height hanging space as well as shelves for folded clothes.

Under-seat storage in the lounge is accessed via a front drop-down flap, and there's more stashing space under the side-dinette seat. Things look less generous in the kitchen though, where there's just one large locker and a lower cupboard. You might have to store your kitchen paraphernalia in the dinette lockers. The good news, at least for some, is that there's a cocktail cabinet.

Technical specs

Berth4
MiRO1314kg
Payload186kg
MTPLM1500kg
Interior length5.42m
Shipping length7.18m
Width2.26m
Height2.61m
Awning size965cm

Verdict

Here's a van that presents a traditional interior that will have huge market appeal. The kitchen area, however, is markedly compromised by limited storage options and a minimal work surface.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Coachman gives it reputable build quality
  • It has a low MTPLM
  • It's relatively affordable
  • Both lounge seats are of equal length

Cons

  • There's a shortage of storage space in the kitchen
  • The payload is small
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