Twin test, November 2009

Pitching and setting up

Built on the BPW Swing V-Tech chassis, the better of the two BPW versions, the 362 has a stabiliser, 13-pin electrics and a buttonless handbrake. Setting up is easy with guide channels on the rear steadies, and a simple control panel placed just inside the main door.

The front locker lifts to a decent height and there's plenty of room inside, but the two gas struts are badly placed, restricting access from the sides. The waste pipes are offset to the right-hand side at the back of the van, which could be a problem on sloping pitches. Kit levels are good with coat hooks, door mat and concertina flyscreen.

Lounge

The main changes to the lounge in the new Avanté are cosmetic. The interior has been refreshed, with smart new sofa upholstery, the design of which is picked out on the scatter cushions. The curtains are tasteful and the dark drop-in carpets practical. The cabinetry is now a lighter wood than before and it has simple wooden trim replacing last year's silver plastic strip. The locker doors are also attractive and solidly built, with a sculpted front, new metallic handles and strong hinges.

The sofas are comfortable. Shaped bolsters curve into the corners at the front of the van and the bases have supportive knee rolls. There are two scatter cushions and two speakers for the stereo, but only two spotlights for reading. Natural light is good, with a Heki above the lounge.

An aerial and mains socket are fitted to the base of the centre chest. That means the TV has to go on the centre chest, unless you put it on the nearside work top and run the wires behind the sofa. The centre chest extension slides out, so you can keep the TV in place.

The seat bases have sprung slats, making them robust. The storage space is easy to reach thanks to drop down doors and hinged seat bases. Overall it is an attractive space that works well for two.

Kitchen

This end kitchen has all the kit that you'd expect in a bigger van, but crammed into a small space. There's an oven, grill, microwave, sink with recessed drainer and a three-burner hob, which is adequate for most cooks.

Because of the recessed drainer there's no work surface, unless you use the glass lids on the hob and sink, which isn't always practical.You can however use the work surface over the fridge, which is a good height and measures 67cm x 77cm. Some of this space will be taken up by appliances, as the two mains sockets are here. Confusingly, there is an unlabelled switch over the sockets.

Storage is good in the large cupboard below the sink, and easily big enough for groceries and pots for two. But the two overhead lockers have no crockery trays. The 115-litre digitally controlled fridge is big and looks modern. The main fault is not having an ignition switch for the hob, which makes lighting the hob, oven and grill risky and a pain.

Washroom

Many caravanners aren't keen on washrooms with bench toilets and flip up sinks. But in a van of this size, which such limited space, it makes a lot of sense. The bench toilet has a level indicator and a good amount of legroom. The only trouble is that you have to rest your feet in the shower tray when using the toilet. And the door feels flimsy but is lightweight.

The shower has a separate mixer tap and a soap dish, plus a bi-fold door that fits snugly against the wall. The tip-up sink saves space and has good storage above in the mirrored cabinet. The removable rail is nice touch and very useful for hanging towels.

Beds

Assembling the double bed is a cinch. Simply pull out the slats from under the centre chest and then slot in the snug-fitting cushions. For a couple the cushions make a large, comfortable mattress but there are only reading lights on one side. It is possible to sleep on the sofas as single beds too, as they measure six foot long.

Storage

The main storage space is in the wardrobe opposite the fridge. You can hang clothes along the length of the rail without any obstacles. The lockers in the lounge provide less usable space, as they are quite shallow and would fill up quickly, even with just a couple's clothes. The front two lockers are especially small.

Technical specs

Berth2
MiRO1010kg
Payload154kg
MTPLM1164kg
Interior length3.73m
Shipping length4.33m
Width4.33m
Height2.73m
Awning size798cm

Verdict

A comfortable compact with a warm interior. Let down by minor equipment oversights – 8/10

Conclusion

Pros

  • The cosy interior feels well crafted and is a big improvement on previous Avantés
  • The build quality is also impressive, with new cabinet work
  • The kitchen has all the kit you need
  • Super-stable Swing Vtec chassis
  • The tiny washroom holds a lot

Cons

  • No ignition switch on the kitchen equipment is poor at this price
  • The location of the waste pipes at the rear is not ideal
  • The gas struts on the front locker restrict loading from the side
  • Washroom door is flimsy, although this does save weight
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