Peter BaberSee other caravan reviews written by Peter Baber
With French company Trigano now in the driving seat at Adria, we wondered how the Altea range might be affected; so turned our microscope on this 5-berth.
It may have been a case of, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it", but there were very few changes to Adria's caravan models for 2019. There was one new Adora - the Sava, reviewed in our September 2018 issue - and one model axed from the Altea line-up.
The Alteas themselves also had a slight refresh inside with new fabrics on the bulkhead and a couple of additional goodies. But, otherwise, it was more or less the same as before.
Still, Adria itself has gone through a fairly big change in the past year, becoming part of the mighty French Trigano Group after more than 50 years of being probably the most famous brand out of Slovenia.
New ownership has not dented Adria's focus on caravans as well as motorhomes, however - something its UK offshoot has always had a great interest in. So how does an Adria caravan measure up at the start of this new chapter in the company's life? Just before Christmas we took a new 2019 Adria Altea 472 DS Eden away to find out.
Although they have been a strong presence in the UK market for many years - strong enough to feature in the mainstream section of Practical Caravan's Buyers' Guide, for example - Adria caravans still look more Continental than their British counterparts.
Perhaps it's the more-than-usually curved front-panel shape (which Adria claims is more fuel efficient) or the bare A-frame that gives this impression. No GRP moulding here. It may even be the single window at the front, even on upmarket models.
On the Altea, the latter is no bad thing. The large window is considerably bigger than you get on some roughly equivalent UK-based models, and, unlike them, even as standard the caravan is graced with a huge sunroof that you can also open (albeit only a little way).
The stable door is a new addition for this year, but the alloy wheels are part of the £399 Luxury Pack.
The rear panel is a bit more unusual. It's constructed in such a way that suggests a rear hatch or boot opening should be at the bottom in the middle, but it's just the way the ABS panels have been put together.
One slight disjoint in all this sleekness is the radio aerial that sticks out near the front on the offside. It is a very conventional aerial, and looks slightly retro compared with the van itself.
You can tell you are dealing with something of an entry-level van when you start towing the Adria. The Eden has an MTPLM of 1370kg, and the Volvo tow car that we tested it with has a kerbweight of 1735kg, so the match is comfortably within the 85% guideline - it's actually closer to 79%.
But Alteas only come with an AKS stabiliser - no shock absorbers, and certainly not Al-Ko's ATC trailer control system. Not at this price.
As a result, the ride, while perfectly tolerable, was a little more jerky than we're used to - at least around town. Things were fine on dual carriageways and motorways, though.
That A-frame may be bare, but it's also close to a metre-and-a-half in length, rather than the metre you could find on other brands. That makes for a longer outfit overall, but we suspect it also gives you more manoeuvrability when you are reversing or trying to back the van into a pitch.
Pitching and setting up
One is a large, single-gas-bottle locker at the front that has a door that stays up unaided once you open it. That's a blessing, because there is a corner-steady winder with its own storage hooks inside, but it is quite a reach to push it back into place, even for taller people. You'll be glad that the A-frame provides a solid space to sit on as you reach inside.
The other is the external access to the completely clear nearside underseat locker. That makes taking out water holders and such equipment a doddle.
The corner steadies themselves are perhaps less satisfactory, because they are all quite a reach underneath. Unless you're very supple, you'll probably have to kneel down.
But the hook-up connection is located in the same locker as the battery at the front on the offside. This means the external access to the loo is also on the offside, well away from where you might have an awning.
That stable door might not suit everyone, but it should make it easier to restrain any dogs you bring with you until you are fully set up.
The curtains are really ornamental because they only just cover the windows - but you do get a full set of blinds and fly screens. There isn't a hint of chintz anywhere, or any sign of a handle on the overhead lockers or drawers. Instead you get metal runners that house the invisible catches which, in the case of the lockers, also contain a row of LED lights that provide good ambient lighting the whole length of the caravan. This is an interior for people who like things modern - although, as you will see, we did have some issues when it came to actually using these storage areas.
There are two lounges in this caravan, but it's debatable which might be used by whom. The one in the front feels the largest, with room enough for at least five; although someone would have to lean up against the folded down occasional table at the front centre - an item introduced this season from the more upmarket Alpina range.
This area gets the full benefit of that huge roof light, too, while the main table, which can probably hold places for four, is easily accessible in its own cupboard at the edge of the central kitchen. It is a bit low to eat from , however - at least half a foot below the occasional table, so you wouldn't really be able to use the two together.
What you don't get up this end is much in the way of electrical connection. There are two individually switched and directional spotlights, and two small speakers fitted under the lockers. But there's no mains socket or even 12V socket up here at all; just the rather old-fashioned controls for the heater. The nearest 12V socket is in the central kitchen, but on the other side - quite a stretch if you need to charge a digital device while still using it.
Things get better in the smaller rear lounge, where there is a mains, 12V and a TV connection - the only one in the whole van - immediately above the small chest of drawers on the offside. This unit is included in the area that can be partitioned off with the plastic concertina screen, so, if you like to watch TV after the kids have gone to bed, you might want to have this as the adults' area at night and leave the front for the youngsters.
There is another mains socket right in front of the door as you come in, but it's at hip height and prominent, so we think you might accidentally knock into any plug you put in here.
The rear lounge comes with its own tables; it's the same size as the one in the front, so could provide a separate place for the kids to eat if that is an arrangement you prefer. It is a bit of a task getting it out, however, as it lives under the nearside rear settee - so you have to lift up the slats and remove the backrest. And it has its own catches to keep it securely stored which, like the clasps for the corner-steady winder in the gas-bottle locker at the front, are quite a stretch to reach.
As a bonus, you do get two more individually switched directional spotlights here. And centrally placed heating vents at either end of the caravan - in addition to the traditional heater under the central wardrobe - make both lounges very cosy.
This is a well-lit area, too, thanks to the window and the strip light. And all the light switches are easily accessible in a column on the left at the back of the kitchen. The mains socket - that same one that's nearest to the front lounge - is here, too. Unfortunately it's right at the bottom of the column, with the pin sockets still upright. That makes fitting a plug quite tricky, because there is only just enough room for the cable. It really needs to be turned 90 degrees to be genuinely practical.
Dry food and kitchenware storage is adequate, but only if you don't mind turning to make use of the drawer immediately behind you, between the wardrobe and the stove, that also includes a cutlery tray.
There are two overhead lockers, although the one on the right in our test model was completely taken up with the microwave (part of the Luxury Pack). We have seen microwaves more neatly fitted elsewhere. The other overhead locker includes a crockery rack and mug rack. There is a pan locker under the Thetford Duplex oven and grill. It is large, but access to it is a little bit limited by the metal runner that Adria uses in place of a handle.
The fridge is probably only just adequate for the food of a family of five. It has a salad drawer that helpfully tips forward, although that capability means it takes up a fair bit of space.
But the shower tray is really tiny, as it has to fight for space with the wheel arch. At least the curtain keeps the surrounding surfaces nice and dry.
The single bunk that folds out of the rear wall is more substantial than many we've seen. Because it comes supplied with a ladder you could leave the two settees below it as settees, although they also can be made into a bed on platforms.
You have to turn the cushions in the front lounge over to make the mattress, because there's quite a pronounced roll. For the back bed we found that just unfolding one of the settee cushions was sufficient. On Adria's promotional material these two cushions are kept folded and two narrow infills are added here, but we felt the resulting mattress was a bit more uneven - you can choose how you'd prefer it, though.
The nearside underseat area at the front and both underseat areas at the back are completely clear. You have to access them by lifting up the bed platforms, though. In theory this shouldn't be too tricky, because notches have been drilled into the frame to keep the sliding platform in place as you lift it up, but we found they didn't always work in practice every time.
The overhead lockers in both lounges are a good size, and look very neat. But the absence of handles doesn't mean that you can open them from any point: you have to feel for the hidden catch in the middle. And often we found the metal runner narrows the overall access space.
This is particularly noticeable on the small chest of drawers that comes with the rear lounge. As a result, these drawers are really only suitable for underwear and small items of clothing - although that's probably what you'd want them for anyway.
On our test model we also found that the doors of the overhead lockers in the corner rub up against each other when you open them. It meant we had to be very careful not to open them together.
Adria has long been known for offering good value - even if the style of its caravans has sometimes been a bit too avant garde for the average British caravanner's taste.
While the value perhaps isn't quite as exceptional as it once was, it is still impressive. You don't get a separate oven and grill in this caravan, and the microwave only comes as part of a pack - which goes some way to explaining why it isn't a totally snug fit in the overhead locker.
But then, a British caravan that does include these features would be a good couple of grand more expensive than the Altea.
You also get a Truma 3004 gas-only heater and a separate Ultrastore boiler. These take up more room overall than a Combi system, and have more rudimentary controls. Once again, you might be able to put up with this for the price.
The whole Altea range is a great choice for anyone looking for a caravan with truly innovative styling. Some of that styling might not work as well as you might like in practice, but it still looks great. Spec level (without the extra pack) is a little on the skimpy side, but to be expected given the price. All in all, a fair choice for a flexible family.
- Features not normally expected for this price that make setting up easier
- Good ambient lighting the length of the van
- Great styling inside and out
- Corner steadies quite a reach underneath
- Limited electrical sockets in the front lounge
- Tiny shower tray that is limited by the wheel arch