This van is light on with a French accent

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ByRV DailyJune 11, 2019
This van is light on with a French accent
A small, lightweight shower/toilet caravan with a certain je ne sais quoi has arrived from France

We are quick to forget that Aussie vans were once light and simple vans, not the 2000kg-plus lardy things many are now. Meanwhile, the European vans have kept up the exercise and good diet and the latest Euro lightweights to arrive come from French brand Caravelair.

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Caravelair was founded in 1962 and currently builds about 5000 caravans a year in a 200,000 square-metre factory in the Rhone Valley in south-east France. Caravelair, like Polish brand Adria, is owned by the French conglomerate Trigano. The Aussie importer for Caravelair is Carlight, who also bring in the super-small Euro Caravans from Poland. The Caravelair comes with a 12-month warranty plus a two-year water ingress warranty.

The Antares 455 is the mid-range model of six sold here that starts at $39,990 for the two-berth 335. The four-berth Antares 455 reviewed here is $43,990 drive-away.

INSIDE
Step aboard via the removable folding step (a fixed step is optional) and you’re met with a bright interior in brown and beige hues. It’s very conservative and is much the same as you’ve seen in Euro vans over the last five years or so. The quality of materials and fit and finish are very good.

Simple yet practical, with enough space for comfortable living

Windows are double-glazed Seitz with pleated blinds and meshed flyscreens. A large, opening Heki panoramic skylight (with concertina blind and meshed flyscreen) draws a heap of daylight into the front and centre of the van.

The Caravelair has the typical European van dinette: that is, it’s a U-shaped lounge that has seating for five adults (just) at the front of the layout. There are a few options here: you can use it as a lounge, or grab the fold-out table (which is stored in the wardrobe on the nearside when not in use) for a dining table or slide out the centre timber slats and throw down a couple of (supplied) cushions and make a double bed.

There is a small coffee table that folds out below the front hopper window for a quick tea break on the road. As for lighting, there’s 12V LED reading lights at the front lounge, a large light over the entry area, a strip light over the kitchen and reading lights over the rear bed. The shower/toilet has a neat backlit shower panel plus a down light and the vanity unit is also well lit.

Keeping the insects at bay when the Hartal door is open is a sliding flyscreen. It is a very versatile, easy way of keeping insects out – although you’d wonder how easy it would be to damage the screen. The dinette converts to a 1580mm x 2000mm double bed simply and quickly. The base slides from the front and then you fit the two cushions that constitute the bed base.

A two-pole 240V outlet is below the offside bench, which also houses two USB ports. Storage up front includes two large overhead lockers at the front and shelves adjacent on the nearside and offside walls. Just back from the dinette on the nearside is a large wardrobe storage (which also houses the TV pole antenna) and for local vans a Dometic 90-litre three-way fridge/freezer will be fitted in place of the unit you see here.

Under the offside lounge is the Truma Combi 4 gas 10-litre water and space heating system. The space heater (which has a control panel above the access door) has ducts at the front lounge, bedroom and bathroom. The van is pre-wired for air conditioning and for solar (both options).

The kitchen, which is on the offside opposite the entry door, provides a reasonable amount of storage with lockers above the kitchen and two cupboards and a drawer under the bench. The bench has a small fold-out extension and a single-bowl mixer tap sink and a two hob/one hotplate cooktop. Australian vans will have a cupboard in place of the oven pictured. Up the back of the layout is the bedroom, with a double bed that hinges to reveal storage space, also accessed externally via an offside hatch.

The bathroom is split between an open vanity unit on the nearside wall adjacent to the bed and an enclosed shower/toilet in the layout’s nearside rear corner. The bathroom is compact but doesn’t feel too cramped standing in there. There’s quite a bit of storage in the vanity unit area with a cupboard below the unit plus three open shelves alongside and one above.

OUTSIDE
Up front there’s a locking front boot that doesn’t really offer much storage space once you account for the two 9kg gas cylinders, the spare wheel and the 30-litre grey water tank. Australian law dictates that a gas cylinder enclosure should be fitted – as this is the first example to arrive in Australia, it didn’t have the enclosure fitted as yet. A 70-litre water tank is also fitted locally.

The Caravelair uses an AL-KO friction coupling and park brake and a side-mounted jockey wheel. Underneath, there’s the Al-KO torsion suspension with shock absorbers and wheels are 5.5 x 14-inch alloys shod with 185R14C tyres.

The van’s compact, small size makes for easy towing

On the nearside front there’s an external shower fitting, a 240V power outlet and a gas barbecue outlet. The 100Ah deep-cycle battery and 240V power inlet are in a locker on the offside front. Up the back the 455 has mounting points already fitted for the optional bike rack and a high-level brake light.

VERDICT
The Caravelair Antares 455’s positives are that it’s lightweight (although at 280kg, payload could be better) allowing it to be towed by most vehicles, and very good fit and finish plus some unusual standard features such as the ducted heating. However, it is on the expensive side for a van that doesn’t include air conditioning, a microwave, TV or even a radio.

PROS:
Doorway flyscreen
Fit and finish
Lightweight

CONS:
Lacks features for price
No fold-down steps as standard
Lack of storage space

SPECS
Overall length: 6.41m (21ft)
External body length: 5.35m (17ft 7in)
External body width: 2.30m (7ft 7in)
Travel height: 2.58m (8tf 6in)
Internal height: 1.95m (6ft 6in)
Tare: 1050kg
ATM: 1300kg
Payload: 250kg
Ball weight: 70kg
Price as tested: $43,990 (drive-away)

For more information: Caravelair

The van hitches up to your vehicle via an AL-KO friction coupling