MTPLM 1800kg •
This caravan for couples has a kitchen at the front and an L-shaped lounge in the centre. It's a Slovenian caravan unlike any other model available in Britain
|Review first appeared in Caravan Buyer, April 2012 issue
The difference between the Astella and everything else in this country isn’t just about layout. At £17,990, this is the cheapest caravan in Britain to have Alde heating. The Astella’s Alde system doesn’t only heat the caravan’s interior. There’s an exterior-access hatch that’s heated, too. And it’s the longest caravan on a single axle on the British market.
The kitchen spans the full width of the front. The living area extends from here towards the axle, with L-shaped seating on the offside and a settee on the nearside.
Just to the rear of the axle is the Astella’s bedroom, with twin beds and a shower room behind it.
The shower, on the nearside, is square and large, with a mirror at head height and a radiator that’s stunning; surrounded by strips of light. But here we find a difference between the Astella and all other caravans to which you’re likely to compare it in Britain: the shower isn’t plastic-lined, which is why there are only six marks here. Three of its walls are clad in wood-effect wallboard. The fourth comprises the folding plastic shower door and a short section of wall that extends from the back of the caravan forward to meet the door into the room. We think the majority of British caravanners would expect a caravan of this price to have a plastic-lined shower, so that there would be no risk of water damage to walls.
The design of the washbasin, though, is sheer brilliance. If we say it’s a tip-up sort (which it is), you might imagine those flimsy plastic space-saver basins of bygone caravan days. You literally had to tip these toward the wall to empty the water, often sending water down the sides instead of down the drain. Unlike these, the Astella’s basin has a plughole in the rear right hand corner, so there’s no need to tip it to empty it. During our test, when we poured two litres of water into the basin, it emptied smoothly and swiftly.
It’s made of robust plastic, and swings up and down easily. Above it, double doors open to reveal three shelves. And there’s something hidden here that will take you by surprise: the catches for the doors are metal barrels with a lever that depresses to open and close the doors. You gently raise the barrel, through a conveniently hand-sized cut-out in the shape of the mirror that forms the front of this cabinet. When the cabinet is closed and the basin in its vertical position, you have a mirror that’s deep enough for you to see yourself from head to feet.
A second cabinet, below the basin, provides two wide shelves.
The Astella’s washroom is beautifully designed and solidly engineered in all aspects except the lack of plastic lining for the shower.
Two single beds, each 85cm wide, are ideal for tall adults. One bed is 2m long, the other 1.96m. A third bed makes up in the lounge, by pulling a wooden slatted frame out from the offside settee base. At 1.19cm, it’s almost the width of a standard domestic double bed – and it’s 2m long, which will appeal to tall people.
The twin beds have a brilliant feature – adjustable headrests. The sections of slatted bed base under each pillow area rise on hinges, so that you can sit propped up in bed, for reading, perhaps.
The under-seating storage areas in the lounge are enormous – that’s because there’s a lot of seating. Access is via the top (there are no front drop-down doors). You lift up the wooden seat bases, which are on two plastic hinges – but there are no stays to hold them up while you delve inside.
The twin bed bases hold up on substantial metal spring hinges. There is outside access to the nearside under-bed space.
Kitchen storage is brilliant – of which more later. The wardrobe gives you 52cm of hanging width and two shelf areas beneath. Thirteen head-height lockers run above the beds and the lounge; in total we’d say the Astella’s storage capability is excellent, although we reduced marks for the lack of stays on the front seating lockers.
Apart from its unique layout, the Astella’s distinguishing feature is that it’s 2.48m wide, compared with most British-made caravans at around 2.29m. This model takes advantage of new legislation which allows caravans of up to 2.5m to be towed by conventional vehicles. In the Astella, the extra width is most noticeable in the lounge area. The L-shaped offside seating area extends 1.25m toward the centre of the caravan (forming a natural divider between kitchen and living space) – and still leaves a 50cm corridor between this area of seating and the nearside settee. It’s a big lounge that will easily seat seven.
Marks were lost from an otherwise superb lounge for its television bracket position. It’s mounted on the wall of the wardrobe that sits between the foot of the nearside bed and the settee. It’s designed to be swivelled to enable any angle of viewing from the lounge – and can be turned towards the bedroom to enable the occupant of the offside bed to watch TV. But even a small TV mounted to this bracket would stick out into the corridor, intruding on walk space. Had it been mounted on the offside, on the wall that divides the lounge region from the bedroom, there would have been no problem.
When it comes to dining, the freestanding table presents a little problem. It’s stored on the floor under one of the beds and clips hold it in place when you tow. But you’d have to lift anything that’s stored on top of it out to access it – which, in practice means you lose a table-sized chunk of storage space.
Three people can sit comfortably at the dining table; that’s two on the long length of the L-shaped and a third on the shorter seating area.
The kitchen is L-shaped, with the fridge on the offside. The three-burner hob, grill and oven are on the nearside of the kitchen. The microwave is in the centre, below the sink. Marks were lost here. Putting microwaves at a low level is usually a good move in terms of ease of use and safety – but getting items in and out of this one proved, during our test, to present a problem. That’s because there is only 60cm of corridor width between the microwave and the bulkhead that divides the kitchen from the dining area. When the microwave door is open you only have 25cm of corridor width, making it difficult to lift out hot dishes. Our advice: Take great care!
Total kitchen width is 1.84m. The surface area is 1.35m long and 63cm wide. There’s more space behind the hob and sink, making this one of the largest surface areas of any caravan we’ve seen.
To the left of the kitchen, alongside the door, a four-shelf cupboard, 66cm deep and 40cm wide, gives you more space than you’d ever need. There’s a deep drawer under the microwave, and three more drawers, each 13cm wide, to the left of the cooker. Racks for four mugs and seven plates are in a head-height cabinet above the fridge.
A shelf runs with width of the kitchen and curves around the corner to meet the tableware cabinet. It’s spacious – but we found we were constantly hitting our heads on the (fortunately very rounded) edge of it while using the sink and hob. Caravanners who are shorter than us wouldn’t have this problem, though.
So, only six marks, because of the microwave position and the head-bashing height of the shelf.
Everything about the interior of the Astella is rounded, refined and robust. Woodwork is finished to a high standard. The white, partial interior walls that divide the kitchen, lounge and bedroom are perfectly edged. Polyester sides are more dent-resistant than aluminium and the front is a high-grade glass reinforced plastic.
And that Alde-heated exterior cabinet? It’s beautifully lined in wood-effect panelling. Its door – and also that of the wide gas bottle locker, has a substantial lock. The gas bottle compartment door is robust, and made of thick ?glass-reinforced plastic; it doesn’t flex. Everything about the construction of the Astella gives ?you the impression that it’s made ?to last.
A caravan that’s 8.03m long on a single axle has to be assessed carefully for stability and ease of towing. We started by measuring its nose weight. Unladen, it was 55kg; with gas bottles aboard it could possibly be over 100kg, which is the maximum for most tow vehicles.
The Astella’s road characteristics were more straightforward than we had expected, given its length on one axle; all British-made caravans of this length and weight have two axles, so we had to judge this one against those, as that’s how buyers will judge them, too.
The Astella was flatter on cornering than the Adria Adora 642UP that we had towed earlier (Caravan Buyer February issue). And there was hardly any pitching, a factor we had noticed with the Adora. We put this down to more even distribution of furniture – and therefore weight – in the Astella. VC
|This caravan has a good price, especially considering it has Alde heating
|Weight (MTPLM): 1800kg
|To tow this caravan at 85% you need a car kerbweight of 2117kg
|To tow this caravan at 100% you need a car kerbweight of 1800kg
WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO NOW?
SEARCH CARAVAN BUYER'S GUIDE <click here>
CARAVANNING HOME PAGE <click here>
SIGN UP FOR NEWS UPDATES <click here>