Alastair Clements
Group editor

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Dive into the family-friendly Adria Altea 552DT Tamar with Practical Caravan's review, as this entry-level six-berth is updated for the 2017 season

Overview

Last year, the six-berth Adria Altea 552DT Tamar won the gong for best budget van at our Tourer of the Year Awards thanks to its blend of versatility, space and spec, at an unbelievably low price. For 2017, following the arrival of new competition in the form of Sprite’s Freedom line, Adria’s entry-level range has had a refresh; the headline-grabbing 4Four, with its brightly coloured sidewalls, has gone and the five-model range now focuses on family layouts, which were always the Altea’s strength, as you can read in our full preview of the 2017-season Adria line-up.

It’s also £1000 more expensive than last year’s model; so do the changes justify the price-tag? And to see other Adria caravans for sale, click here.

Pitching and setting up

It’s not hard to spot where the bulk of that money has been spent: up front, where the Altea previously looked rather bare, there is now a huge panoramic window. It opens a little for ventilation, but its key attribute is light – and it also adds a welcome dash of style to the iShape design. The polyester roof and sidewalls are complemented by pronounced ABS panels front and rear, with flat and heavily tinted side windows.

It’s great to see some mid-market additions to the outside of the caravan, too, such as heavy-duty steadies and a long external locker giving access to the nearside bed box. The Al-Ko chassis has an AKS stabiliser, as part of the standard UK pack.

But there are also a few downsides: the steel wheels wear cheap-looking hubcaps rather than the alloys of most rivals, and both the toilet cassette hatch and the fridge vents are on the awning side – with all other services on the offside.

Lounge

Through the stable door into the 2017 Adria Altea 552DT Tamar's main living area, you are immediately struck by the change that new sunroof has made to the lounge of this tourer. It’s almost like having a fully glazed roof, so large is the opening, and along with big front and side windows it keeps things light and bright, despite the darker tones of the new woodgrain and ‘Ares’ brown fabrics, which are lifted by attractive gold and bronze leaf-patterned curtains and four large scatter cushions.

Instead of a central chest there’s wraparound seating at the front, with a small fold-up coffee table in place of a backrest for the central seat. For dining, there’s a freestanding table stored in a slender cabinet just aft of the main lounge area on the offside. That’s also where you’ll find power and aerial connections for your TV, though it’s worth mentioning that the aerial itself is a dealer-fit option, along with a TV mount and a stereo (though the latter is pre-wired with speakers).

New LED lighting should make this a more special place to be at night, thanks to a blend of slimline ceiling units, an ambient glow beneath the overhead lockers and spotlights. And there’s plenty of space to entertain on the long sofas.

Up front is a deep shelf, but there are no plug points here – in fact, we could find only three 230V sockets in the caravan.

Kitchen

The second of those 230V sockets is in the Altea's kitchen, in a tower of switches including the mains and heating controls. As ever in an Adria caravan, galley storage is excellent: there are two huge aircraft-style lockers, plus two deep, wide drawers and a drop-down locker beneath that’s ideal for pans.

The ‘Smart’ kitchen is carried over, with three in-line gas burners as part of a stainless-steel unit that also includes the square sink, so cooking spills drain straight away, and there’s also a protective panel to avoid scorch-marks on the adjoining wall.

There’s not much in the way of worktop, but you can always drop the glass lid over the hob and the chopping board also makes a cover for the sink, to give you extra food preparation space.

To the left of the main unit there’s a black services tower, consisting of a 90-litre fridge/freezer, a combined oven and grill placed at a convenient height, plus a small cupboard above and below. A microwave is a dealer-fit option, with the overhead locker an obvious place for it to be sited, and above there’s a rooflight to evacuate cooking smells.

On the opposite side of the aisle you’ll find a two-seater dinette with a sturdy table, which could also be used as additional worktop, should you need it – or as a play space for kids during the day.

Washroom

Adria calls the nearside-corner washroom the ‘Ergo bathroom’, but we’d call it a wetroom. It’s compact, yet manages to pack in all you could need thanks to some thoughtful design, and the mirrored wall makes it feel roomier than it is. Behind that wall you’ll find a large cabinet and the fold-down sink, while beneath there’s a bench-style Thetford electric-flush toilet.

The separate shower doesn’t have a fully moulded liner, but there’s a built-in shelf, a mirror and a useful drying rail behind its bi-fold door. There’s also an outlet for the Trumavent blown-air ducting, one of five in the van.

Beds

At night, the Adria Altea 552DT Tamar's dinette turns into a couple of bunks, with a fold-out upper and the table forming the base of the lower berth. They are a good size, but there’s a weight limit of just 50kg on the upper bunk, so it’s for youngsters only, and it lacks a privacy curtain.

To the rear of the caravan there is a pair of fixed bunks, each with a window, and a proper screen rather than a curtain to separate them from the rest of the van. Sadly, there’s no longer a third bunk option at the back here.

Up front, the long sofas can be used as single beds, or with no central chest to get in the way, the lounge can be made up into a huge double bed, using the bases that slide out from each sofa. There are only two reading lights here, however, with another two in the dinette; those using the rear fixed bunks each get a nightlight-style reading light with a cute owl motif.

Storage

With plenty of storage options throughout the Adria Altea 552DT Tamar, you may find the standard 150kg payload a little limiting, but the MTPLM can be uprated to 1500kg to give a generous 230kg for your touring gear and camping accessories.

There are two large overhead lockers in the lounge, and another two in the dinette, but none are shelved and the curved area at the front of the van has been blanked off.

Space under the offside sofa is compromised by housing some of the services, and it’s a shame that there are no access flaps, which will mean removing the cushions and lifting the frames to get into them – though there’s also a trio of storage lockers along the front of the lounge with lightweight plywood lids. It’s the same story with the dinette seat bases and rear bunk: plenty of space, but none accessible without lifting the cushions or mattresses.

On the rear wall there’s a large wardrobe, whose capacity is only slightly restricted by heater ducting and the consumer unit. Beneath that you’ll find the Euro-look Truma S3004 heater.

Technical specs

Berth6
MiRO1270kg
Payload150kg
MTPLM1420kg
Interior length5.37m
Shipping length7.61m
Width2.3m
Awning size1009cm

Verdict

We’d like to have seen a few more sockets, and easier access to the many storage options. But make no mistake, the 2017 Adria Altea 552DT Tamar is still a fine-value family caravan, and one that offers plenty of space in a simple yet stylish package.

The new rooflight is a superb addition, too, and ideal for making the most of the summer sun. However, fans of a real bargain may lament its breaking through the £15,000 barrier, albeit without the hidden costs of ‘optional’ packs that in fact have to be specified from the factory.

Conclusion

Pros

  • New panoramic window transforms the looks and adds to the bright interior ambience
  • Still a good value caravan
  • Well-weighted
  • Spacious for a large family
  • There's plenty of storage

Cons

  • Only three sockets in a caravan of this size is not enough
  • Very large families will miss the option of a seventh berth
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