If you thought the interior of a caravan was just a Porta Potti, some kind of primitive stove and then two facing benches you pull together to make a bed for the night, you are well out of touch. Design of caravans has moved on by leaps and bounds in recent years. With the advent of things like fixed beds and Alde wet heating, they are much more homely.
And they are still evolving today. To show you just what we mean, we present our selection, in no particular order, of the ten most innovative caravans of the past four years.
Most innovative caravans
Coachman Acadia 860
- Price £27,360
- Berths 5
- Shipping length 7.90m
- Internal length 6.27m
- MTPLM 1870kg
The Acadia range, introduced this season, is Coachman’s amalgamation of its entry level Vision and mid-price Pastiche ranges to create one range which comes with Alde heating as standard – making Coachman the first UK manufacturer to build all its caravans with the Swedish wet heating system.
The 860 followed on a little after the rest, because it was the first in the range to be 8 feet wide. It is also graced with an L-shaped front lounge. This makes the front section of of the caravan look much more like a lounge you might be used to at home – one where you can really kick back and spread out – especially as you still have a large dinette by the kitchen to make an eating area and a corner bed and corner washroom at the back.
The jump up to Alde heating means the van isn’t exactly cheap for what is now Coachman’s most keenly priced range. But the space inside here should really tempt you.
Overall Coachman caravans have a slightly slightly sleeker external profile than some of the competition. We have also always liked the way the company makes overhead locker doors. They are weighted and cranked just enough to make sure they stay down without the need for any catch you have to struggle with.
Buy if… You like defined space, but also an area to spread out in.
Spacious lounge, surprisingly spacious washroom.
A little pricey perhaps.
Read our Coachman Acadia 860 review
Coachman Acadia 470
- Price £22,340 (for 2020 Coachman Acadia 470)
- Berths 2
- Shipping Length 6.33m
- Internal length 4.70m
- MTPLM 1343kg
This clever three-berth layout was reintroduced into the Pastiche range only for the 2019 season. That was the last season where the Pastiche was a separate range from the Vision range, before the two were merged to form the Alde-heated Acadia range in 2020. But unlike some of the other Pastiche layouts, the 470 has made it into the Acadia range largely unchanged.
It’s a clever layout because it’s so flexible. It has a front lounge with an L-shaped settee for extra sprawling room and which makes into a nice double, plus a side dinette conveniently located next to the kitchen. There’s also a very roomy rear washroom.
That means that, if it’s just the two of you, on a mizzly day you can kick back and relax in the lounge. But if you are going to be spending most of the day outside, you can probably leave the bed in position and just use the side dinette as an eating area. Whatever you choose to do, you still have easy access to a great washroom.
If you have an unexpected guest or small fellow traveller, there is nothing to stop you lowering the table in the side dinette to make a single bed, but there is no privacy curtain available if you do, and there is no possibility of having a bunk here – it’s not even available and an optional extra.
Buy if… You like to have space, but also like to be flexible in your daily arrangements.
Great flexible living space.
It’s really only a two-berth for the long-term.
Read our Coachman Acadia 470 review
Bailey Discovery D4-2
- Price £16,199
- Berths 2
- Shipping length 5.62m
- Internal length: 3.86m
- MTPLM 995kg
The Discovery range is included here just as much for the awning that comes with it, as for the caravan, possibly more so.
The D4-2 is a perfectly adequate end washroom two-berth. In fact the interior, with its charcoal grey upholstery offset with funky yellow piping, and its huge front window, is probably a notch above what you would expect to find in other manufacturers’ entry level ranges.
But what really sets it out is the awning that has been designed to go with it that comes as an optional extra, currently costing £1,199. It’s L-shaped, going around the front and the rear of the caravan – Bailey’s accessories division Prima claims it is the first inflatable awning in the world to be this shape.
That means that, provided you have enough space on your pitch, you can turn this relatively small caravan into a huge living space, and yet deflate it all back to a reasonable towing size afterwards. Altogether this outfit really can be slim and supple on the road, yet large and spacious when you need it to be.
It’s possibly also worth knowing that this awning is the same price whatever Discovery model you choose. So if, having viewed the D4-2, you really think you still need something bigger, as long as you stay within Bailey’s Discovery range the awning will stay the same price (and so will in fact be proportionally cheaper).
Buy if… You like to tow small, but stretch out on site.
Huge space, funky interior.
The awning only fits a Bailey Discovery caravan.
Read our Bailey Discovery D4-2 review
Adria Adora Sava
- Price £25,495
- Berths 5
- Shipping length 8.29m
- Internal length 6.19m
- MTPLM 1900kg
Adria is already known for its very modern interiors – think pared down furnishings with minimalist handles (if there are any handles at all).
The Sava brings this kind of trendy design into the world of mid-market family caravans. It also includes a twin axle, so you get a decent payload of 185kg that can be extended to 285kg – easily enough to account for most things a family needs. You shouldn’t have to worry about overloading the caravan here, although you will need a larger than average towcar.
The Sava has a family friendly layout with a large front lounge that makes into a double, and bunk beds towards the rear with a side dinette for the kids during the day that can be made into a fifth bed. The end washroom is close at hand too for those night-time visits to the loo – but then out of the way during the day.
Buy if: You need a family van with lots of space – but still want style.
Pros: Huge payload, twin axle, roomy interior.
Cons: ATC not fitted as standard.
Read our 2019 Adria Adora 623DT Sava review
- Price £23,865
- Berths 2
- Shipping length 4.0m
- Internal length 2.64m
- MTPLM 1000kg
A caravan that you don’t need towing mirrors for, and which is light enough to be towed by a Ford Fiesta? Yes indeed, the Dashaway is just that.
Until this was launched last year, Essex-based Wheelhome had carved a niche for itself in building one-berth campervan conversions. But keenly aware of increasing government legislation on emissions, it has now started doing roughly the same thing with a caravan that can be towed by a more fuel-efficient car.
Once on site, you raise the Dashaway’s roof and roll out an extendable section known as a Podrant (a term designer Stephen Wheeler has patented) to make more space.
There is a little kitchen of sorts, and there is a Porta Potti, but there is no heating, and only limited options for night-time lighting.
Buy if… You are eco-conscious, and can travel light.
No need for towing mirrors or a heavy towcar, expands well on site.
Read our 2019 Wheelhome Dashaway review
- Price £14,763
- Berths 4
- Shipping length 5.54m
- MTPLM 1043kg
Like the Coachman Acadia 470, the Xplore 304 packs a lot into small space – although its actually marginally shorter than that vehicle and considerably cheaper (although you don’t get Alde heating, there’s only a runner carpet and the kitchen isn’t as sophisticated).
It has an L-shaped front lounge, this time facing towards the offside away from the kitchen, which turns into a double bed. In recent seasons this lounge has been considerably brightened up by a very modern and optical curtain and cushion pattern. Then beyond the wardrobe a single dinette is tucked into the rear corner that converts into a double bunk. There’s also an end washroom.
So if there are just two of you, you can use the side dinette as a dining area, or for daytime sitting if you prefer to keep the bed up. But there is always room for little ones to come away with you if they want!
Buy if … You tend to tow as a twosome, and one of you likes to get up early in the morning.
Space for extra travellers to come along if they want, even in a van this size.
Dinette window is a bit small.
Rear our 2019 Xplore 304 SE review
- Price: £19,780
- Berths 3
- Shipping length 5.96m
- Internal length 4.21m
- MTPLM 1200kg
This teardrop caravan isn’t quite as niche as some you see on the market, as it comes with a little dinette in the rear that makes up into a small third bed. Just the thing for very young families.
Nor is it the work of some tiny fly-by-night outfit operating away in a shed: T@B is actually a subsidiary of the mighty Knaus Tabbert Group, one of the largest manufacturers of caravans and motorhomes in the world. So it’s all the more credit to it that it includes within its stable this immediately distinctive caravan that comes, as a cost option, in a range of seriously zany exteriors.
The fun continues inside too, with curved seats and slanting away tables that are a world away from the uniformity you see in so many mainstream caravans today.
Buy if… You really want to stand out on site.
Eyecatching design, funky interior
It’s surprisingly heavy
Read our 2018 T@B400 TD review
- Price £34,699
- Berths 4
- Shipping length 8.16m
- Internal length 6.39m
- MTPLM 1990kg
This model from Erwin Hymer UK’s most upmarket brand caused quite a stir when it came out a couple of seasons ago, as it includes an L-shaped lounge up front complete with a huge space for a huge TV. The rest of the caravan is nicely sectioned off too, with an L-shaped kitchen, a large washroom spread across the centre of the caravan, and a spacious rear bedroom complete with an in-line island bed. Although it is a four-berth, such an arrangement would make a perfect home from home for a couple, particularly if you are looking for a seasonal pitch.
This season the Barracuda has had a few minor tweaks. In particular, the coat hanging area that was next to the door for the first season has been dispensed with, to give the kitchen a more open aspect.
But you still get the added benefits of the 8ft-wide Buccaneer range. These include a self-levelling system fitted as standard.
Buy if… You really want a home from home (and have the money).
High spec level, levelling system included, spacious lounge.
Interior can feel a bit dark for some.
Read our 2018 Buccaneer Barracuda review
- Price £17,525
- Berths 2
- Shipping length 5.10m
- Internal length 3.42m
- MTPLM 1013kg
The Basecamp, first launched in 2016, is so innovative that Swift prefers not to call it a caravan, but rather a caravan crossover vehicle (CCV).
Designed very much for those who like outdoor sports, it includes a metal floor with special holds in the aisle you can strap a bicycle to. As the access door is on the rear panel, getting them on board is really easy. The whole interior is very utilitarian, with a sleek kitchen worktop and an ergonomic washroom. And of course there are loads of USB points where you can recharge your Garmin.
The front window opens out fully, and, as a cost option, you can get a specially designed awning from Vango that fits over the rear.
There are innovative minor details too, such as the overhead locker baskets you can take down to fill up.
More recently a Basecamp SE has been launched, with, among other things, a window in the door. Then this season has seen the launch of the first four-berth Basecamp, with a pair of small bunks in the rear nearside corner.
Buy if: You like to at least look as if the active outdoors is for you.
Pros: Sleek design, handy extras, great awning.
Cons It’s a touch more pricey than you might expect.
Read our 2017 Swift Basecamp Plus review
Knaus Sport & Fun
- Price £20,930
- Berths 4
- Shipping length 6.25m
- Internal length 4.80m
- MTPLM 1300kg
This is a caravan that certainly lives up to its name. The exterior graphics are unlike anything you might see elsewhere.
The “fun” continues inside. The front section, for example, isn’t a lounge, it’s a fixed transverse double bed, set above a large garage (big enough for bikes and kayaks) which you access from the side.
The only seating area is further back, directly opposite the kitchen, and converts into a second double bed which stretches slightly diagonally across the caravan.
All this leaves space for a straight aisle towards the door at the back of the caravan, where you can easily store another bike.
It’s certainly designed for active individuals. The downside is that the washroom is a little small – in standard fitting it doesn’t even include a shower – and the kitchen only seems to have a lot of storage space because there isn’t an oven fitted as standard.
It probably isn’t going to be everybody’s cup of tea, but we liked it. And although it still seems highly innovative, the Sport & Fun has actually been around in some shape and form for at least 20 years.
Buy if… You like quirky, sporty design
Loads of storage
No shower as standard
Read our 2016 Sport & Fun review
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Design of caravans has moved on by leaps and bounds in recent years. With the advent of things like fixed beds and Alde wet heating, they are much more homely