Alastair ClementsSee other caravan reviews written by Alastair Clements
Be wowed by the spacious, flexible and family-friendly 2017 Elddis Avanté 866, a twin-axle caravan that's good to tow and weighs less than you might think
Luxury means different things to different people. For some, it means a fixed bed – or these days, more likely an ‘island’ bed – while for others it might mean a top-notch specification. For families, it means space ... space so that you aren’t tripping over each other; space so that you can banish the kids to the other end of the caravan when they are playing up; space to be flexible, and accommodate the occasional guest when the children make new friends.
And space is where the new Elddis Avanté 866 excels. It’s one of two additions to the 2017 Avanté range to feature an 8ft-wide bodyshell – an innovation introduced by parent company Explorer Group two years ago in its flagship Buccaneer brand. To accommodate the extra width, there’s an all-new, slightly blunt front panel, with a wide silver-grey locker door that meets the new chrome grabhandles at its corners. Even the large panoramic front window looks slightly lost in that wide prow, but the smart new graphics and raked side windows give a modern look to this twin-axle caravan. And to see other Elddis caravans for sale, click here.
Pitching and setting up
With that in mind, we can forgive it the standard lightweight steadies, which are all easy to access, and it’s good to see that the services are all on the offside, bar the fridge vents.
High-level perimeter lighting should keep things bright at night, when the whole family can gather on the huge sofas. There are bolsters up front to help you recline, though the main seatbacks do feel a little shallow. If you’ve still not enough room, you can replace the central chest with wraparound seating for £210 (and you keep the chest, in case you change your mind later!).
But of course there isn’t just one lounging area in this caravan. There’s a central dinette (which we’ll come back to shortly), then at the rear of the 866 you’ll find the kids’ zone; behind a fabric screen there are the fixed bunks and, alongside, a small two/three-seater dinette – just the place for a game of cards or a sulk, out of the way of mum and dad!
There’s a second TV point (to join the one in the lounge) and a socket back here, too, and it’s easy to imagine the children using the large, rather blank expanse of wall alongside for posters and pin-boards.
The kitchen opposite has a new splashback design and plenty of task lighting. To the left there is a conventional fridge/freezer with a microwave sited at a sensible level above – and a locker above that, plus three more in the main kitchen area. Beneath the long worktop you’ll find two cupboards and a couple of drawers, and if you need further food-preparation space there’s a solid cover for the large sink and an extension flap. There’s a dual-fuel hob, plus a separate oven and grill.
There’s a proper, fully lined shower, a pair of small cabinets and shelf space, too, although the room could be lighter – at night there are just two spotlights, and during the day only a rooflight; a window would have been a boon here, because it would break up a large block of exterior wall.
New to the Elddis Avanté for 2017 is a smart bowl sink with pop-up plug – so no more searching for the missing plug after a particularly bumpy tow.
Drop the dinette table (easily done by pulling a lever then leaning on the top), flip up the flaps on the sides, rearrange the cushions and add in a couple of infills and you get a second large double, at a very adult-friendly 6ft 3in by 4ft 5in, with a privacy curtain that can be pulled around to close it off from the rest of the van.
And then there are those bunks at the back – or rather, the ‘sleeping pods’. These funky spaces look cosy and inviting, giving seclusion without feeling claustrophobic; and, at 6ft 4in, they are amazingly long for fixed bunks, albeit not enormously wide at just under 2ft. Each one gets a window, a reading light and a thick privacy curtain, plus there’s a rooflight overhead.
There is acres of space to be found in the bases beneath the front sofas (where the only intrusion is from the electrics), both dinettes and the rear bunks; what’s more, there are drop-down flaps for them all, so you don’t have to keep removing base cushions or mattresses to access your gear. The Whale water heater and blown-air space heater are underslung, to avoid taking up any valuable storage space. Overhead there are seven lockers – not including those in the kitchen.
The only real complaint concerns the lack of any external access to these areas, though there is the front gas locker (which is admittedly a whopper) and an external front hatch is only a £66 option, bringing with it an external 230V socket.
The 2017 Elddis Avanté 866 might just be the answer to families’ prayers, and it’s been put together with phenomenal attention to detail.
Its layout is hugely flexible, and the bunks are large enough that you won’t need to upgrade as your tots turn into teens. It’s also brilliantly priced – even at a little over £21k it seems decent value, bearing in mind just how much real estate is packed in – and it’s not as heavy as you might expect, though you’re still going to need a large SUV to tow it.
- The children's area is brilliant
- It has a fantastic kitchen/diner
- This is a flexible layout for families of all sizes
- Considering what you're getting, it is surprisingly light
- You'll need a big tow car – and driveway!
- There are no externally accessible lockers