It's certainly eye-catching, but read our Adria Altea 4four Go Signature review to find out if this tourer is style over substance, or something special
It’s rare for any caravan manufacturer to raise its head too far above the parapet when it comes to styling. ABI had a couple of goes with its novel and colourful rear-door Adventurer and even more outré Eivissa (essentially an export-model Marauder with lurid squiggles writ large down the sides) back in the late 1990s; neither broke any sales records.
Avondale’s porthole-windowed Bianco fared little better, with more than one cynical onlooker at the time heard to wonder why the company had nailed a lavatory seat to the side of one of its caravans. And let’s be honest: that same cynic could be forgiven for pointing to the inconvenient fact that neither company makes touring caravans any more.
Full marks for bravery to Adria, then, for choosing to celebrate its 50th birthday with what must surely rank as the most in-your-face production caravan ever sold in the UK. Based on the standard Altea Forth, the 4four Go Signature’s capacity for mix ’n’ match colours inside and out clearly takes its personalisation inspiration from the likes of the Mini and Vauxhall Adam.
It certainly looks striking, but does this distinctive van work?
You can make your Signature as discreet or as downright lurid as you like, and it’s probably fair to say that our test example falls firmly into the latter category.
At its most shy and retiring, the caravan can be specified with silver slimline vertical panels front and rear, and plain white sidewalls enlivened by subtle graphics.
For a dash of colour, opt for the full-width front/rear cladding finished in one of four main colour schemes: blue, yellow, green and silver. To really get traditionalists spluttering into their cocoa, you can choose one of six sidewall designs. Ours is the ‘Kaleidoscope’ option, but others include ‘Décor’ (a monotone print), ‘Style’ (a toned-down diamond pattern), ‘Casual’ (multi-coloured squares), ‘Dots’ and ‘Stripes’.
Beauty is obviously in the eye of the beholder, but we think that some of the 29 combinations work rather better than others. Fortunately, Adria seems to agree and has taken another leaf from car manufacturers’ books by providing an online ‘configurator’. This allows you to preview all the colour and print combinations on-screen before finally committing yourself and dazzling others on your caravan holidays.
Colours and cladding aside, the rest of the Signature is as per the standard model, and that’s actually very good news – the ice-white quad front running lights, panoramic rooflight and elegant overall styling combine to create a whole that’s surprisingly good-looking.
Our original plan was to tow the little Adria with our long-term Ford C-Max, to see whether a three-cylinder, sub-1000cc car can really tow a full-size caravan. Unfortunately, the weight tolerances were too tight, so we used another of our long-term test tugs instead: the Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TDI. With a kerbweight of 1678kg, 175bhp and four-wheel drive, the Tiguan barely noticed the unladen (1100kg) Adria, and probably wouldn’t have done so even at its MTPLM of 1300kg. It is an 85% match for cars with kerbweights of 1529kg, so a wide variety of cars can tow this tourer safely.
We found the 4four’s super-long A-frame instigated a little pitching at speed, especially on rough surfaces, but otherwise it proved to be a superbly stable caravan when towed.
Pitching and setting up
It’s light enough to position by hand, even on loose-surface hardstandings, and hooking up the services is straightforward. Better yet, everything is arranged sensibly along the offside wall, well away from the awning. The lid of the enormous front locker rises easily on a powerful gas strut and affords usefully low-set access to the cavernous space.
The awning light is located sensibly in the middle of the nearside wall, rather than over the door; this is much better for even light distribution and may help you avoid stepping blindly out the doorway into your own shadow.
If there is a problem, it concerns the corner steadies. The rear ones are set deep inside the body and are almost impossible to reach without kneeling. Those at the front are fitted with guide tubes to make marrying winder to winding bolts that much easier, but they’ll also bring it into contact with the surrounding bodywork if you’re not careful.
The seat cushions and backrests are a little flat and not as plump or supportive as you’d get in an equivalent British-made caravan, but they’re decently comfortable, and certainly looked the part in our test model’s smart grey-
The lighting is phenomenal for such a small caravan. Three spotlights in the panoramic rooflight surround are complemented by a pair of touch-operated swivel lights and ambient strip lighting concealed beneath the roof lockers. We’d have preferred a couple more adjustable lights towards the rear of the settees, but this is only a minor quibble.
By day, the lounge is filled with light thanks to the single-pane front window and colossal rooflight, while smart fitted net curtains diffuse the light and add a little privacy. The tint of the windows themselves is a little too dark for our taste, but they look great from outside.
The fitted folding table in this Adria caravan is quite small, but fine for holding coffee mugs and paperbacks. For more serious dining, you need to employ the main table but, unfortunately, setting it up is something of a faff in reality. For one thing, the freestanding table is extremely heavy; extracting it from its kitchen storage slot by the entrance door feels like a weight-lifting exercise. For another, it’s quite bulky, so manoeuvring it into place is not for the faint-hearted. Worse still, stowing it after use is even more difficult, because it will only fit in one specific way and the aperture is a bit too small and awkwardly arranged for the table to fit without jiggling and fiddling.
Our test model also came fitted with the optional Bose sound system that Adria had trumpeted at the NEC show. It sounds great (as it would with directional speakers and a separate sub-woofer inside one of the seat bases). Nevertheless, we found that the speakers blocked the light spread from the spotlamps next to them.
In truth, only serious audiophiles would notice the difference between the Bose and standard speakers. On the plus side, the Blaupunkt New York head unit is easy to use and has a fitted aux-in and USB socket for connecting an MP3 player to it.
Both drawers are huge (the upper one is for cutlery) and soft-closing. There’s a good-sized pan cupboard at floor level, too, together with three shelves below the slim wardrobe near the door and a partitioned roof locker, one side of which is fitted with crockery racks.
The sink in this caravan is a little on the shallow side, but the attendant monobloc mixer tap looks modern and has ample space around it for easy kettle filling. Impressively, the little Adria warrants the same backlit splashback as fitted to other, more expensive models, and the fitted power point is sensibly located beneath the roof lockers, away from where it could otherwise be splashed by water.
The three-way Thetford tower fridge’s only real drawback is its poor lighting. The three shelves, capacious salad crisper box and generous freezer all impress, as does the deep (if narrow-fronted) storage void above.
Its storage is excellent, starting with the mirror doors, which open to reveal three generously-sized shelves, and there’s plenty of room around the toilet, too. A fitted duckboard keeps your feet dry even if the shower tray is wet,
and the single light is sensibly switched on the outside wall.
We approve of the fitted towel rails and the fact that – clingy shower curtain or not – the resultant shower space is pretty decent. However, we’re at a loss to explain the lack of a blown-air heating vent. Where are you supposed to dry your towels, if not in the washroom?
Assuming that the occupants aren’t of basketball-player stature, the two settees should be perfectly usable as twin beds, while pulling the two bed bases together and flipping the cushions opens up a simply colossal double bed unimpeded by a central chest of drawers – something we’ll come back to in a moment.
Eagle-eyed readers will have spotted the presence of a cantilever folding bunk behind the nearside settee, which can be used for a visiting grandchild or an unexpected guest. It works best in conjunction with the ‘downstairs’ beds in single-bed mode, but – Adria says – can turn the 4four into a four-berth when needed, using two novel methods. The double is wide enough to accommodate three – if you don’t mind sleeping head-to-toe with two other occupants – or alternatively there’s a more family-friendly layout featuring a narrower double and a small gap to the nearside single, beneath the bunk.
The nearside dresser provides two small but handy knick-knack shelves; there are three more on the opposite side, where you’ll also find a large drawer and spacious worktop. The last is the obvious place for the TV, given the power and aerial sockets; it’s also home to an optional bracket.
The roof lockers up front would benefit from partitioning and removable shelving; as matters stand, you must stack clothes all together and hope nothing falls over in transit.
While the optional subwoofer takes up only a little space in the nearside seat box, the offside is mostly filled with the boiler and electrical equipment. However, the void at the far front is pretty much unimpeded, and getting at it from inside is surprisingly easy. As with the nearside bedding locker, the offside also benefits from a dedicated exterior access hatch.
So, is the new Adria Altea 4four Go Signature the future of caravanning, as some onlookers seem to think it is? That’s a bold assertion, and while we’re not entirely convinced by every aspect of the 4four Go Signature, there are elements that we think will – or, at the very least, should – become the norm over time.
On the negative side, the over-powerful sound system may look cool in a caravan show model, but we’re not sure it justifies the additional outlay when any dealer will fit a perfectly good MP3-compatible radio/CD player for around £100. Is there a market demand for this sort of thing in a caravan? We’re not wholly convinced.
Also, our test caravan costs a whopping £18,354, which is much more than any of its obvious British-built rivals. A standard Go Signature costs £17,490 (£16,840 without the sidewall treatment), while a standard 4four Go White is £16,190. The Altea Forth, on which the 4four is based, costs only £13,190.
We are, however, completely convinced by the mix ’n’ match exterior colour schemes. The standard Altea Forth looks fine, but the Signature’s bright and breezy colours and designs really liven up the exterior. The thicker body-colour treatments at the front and rear give it a tougher, less effeminate look.
Remarkably, everyone who stopped to chat with us on our pitch at Ferry Meadows Caravan Club Site – and there were a lot of them – was overwhelmingly positive about our test model’s lurid green paint and mind-boggling sidewalls. We lost count of the times people commented, “it really makes a pleasant change from the same old white and cream.”
Whether or not this frankly unprecedented enthusiasm will translate into actual, concrete sales remains to be seen, but this sort of encouraging early reaction must give Adria hope that this could well be a new way forward for tourers.
We’re also intrigued by the manner in which you can specify and order your Signature. Configure it online via a dedicated website, email it to your dealer, sign it off in person, then await delivery. In a world where some cars can already be specified, ordered and paid for online, it’s perhaps logical to imagine that this may eventually filter down into the caravan industry, too.
Either way, Adria deserves credit for trying something that is undeniably bold and new.
- Storage throughout is excellent
- You can spec this van as bright or as demure as you wish
- It's a smart caravan with good kit
- The end kitchen impresses
- There is no heating vent in the washroom
- The freestanding table is heavy and awkward to stow
- The top spec stereo is expensive and possibly unnecessary
- The corner steadies are a little fiddly