Two caravans, same price, same (enormous!) size, same layout, with cappuccino cabinetry, one with pale woodwork, one called Compass Casita, one called Elddis Avanté, both eight feet wide, both with a sleep-six capability and long double beds. Both with very different looks. Which to choose? Whichever suits your taste!
The Elddis Avante 840 caravan is eight feet wide, it’s eight metres long – and it’s ideal for both couples and families.
One of five eight-feet-wide, six berth caravans introduced for 2017 by the Explorer Group, the 840 has a dining area for at least four, a lounge for more, a double bed, a roomy kitchen.
And a shower room as large as the one you’d expect to run the whole width of the caravan. But it isn’t across the rear. It’s in the offside corner, alongside the bed. Only in a caravan of this width (2.45m) would this layout be possible.
The result is an awesomely spacious caravan which has a foot in both family and couples’ market camps.
Think of the 840 layout this way: double bed for mum and dad, two singles in the lounge for offspring, plus beds for two more converted from the big dining area in the centre. A brilliant six-berth in so many ways.
Think of the 840 as a luxuriously large caravan for just two. You have more of an apartment than a caravan, with three distinct areas all with very precise definition functions: full-time lounge (no dining compromises), permanent dining room – and the bedroom, at the rear, cosily far enough away from the rest of the caravan to be a separate entity.
The 840 layout (and its 866 six-berth, bunk bed sibling) arrived for 2017 and took the caravan world by storm for its ingenuity. It’s not just in Avanté guise. It appears in the Explorer Group's Compass Casita range, too, at the same price, the same weight and with the same spec.
The only difference is fabrics. And it's a big difference. If you like soft greens and creams, you will go for the Avanté version. If you're attracted to cool greys with gold embossed patterns on cushions and curtains, the Casita will draw you in. Each has its strong character.
Which would we choose? It's a close call. Maybe the warm, rich gold. Maybe the subtle greeny-yellow which makes us think of spring both are simply lovely. And the grey accent trim on the locker lower edges matches the grey check in the cushions and the headboard. It’s all beautifully coordinated.
Whichever of the schemes draws you; you will be getting a large caravan that’s great value for £21,499. It’s a caravan for towing and touring as much as it’s ideal, also, for seasonal pitch use. A caravan of multi-spectrum appeal, then.
Heating is the Whale 4.3KW dual-fuel system. It gets on with the job of warming the vast 840 with alacrity, as our cold-day review demonstrated. And it has a quite, night-time fan setting.
Both the Avanté and the Casita have the Whale Expanse dual-fuel underslung eight-litre water heater. Elddis equip the Whale IC intelligent controller which turns the pump off when the water runs out – an excellent practical touch. All that’s unseen, of course.
It’s the layout that grabs attention when you walk into an 840, though, and in particular the shower room; how can a full-sized shower room exist alongside a bed? We're used to finding combined shower-toilet compartments here.
The shower is around 60x80cm; not the biggest in the business but fine for size. The floor space is 1.2m long and 90cm wide. From the outside, the little room's position and its the angled door would have you believe it was smaller than it is.
The word Tardis springs to mind. There are two cabinets, on the wall and under basin, plus five small shelves, just as you’d except in a shower room spanning the whole width of a caravan.
All you need is here, including a double hook plus a towel loop and two small shelf areas for soapy stuff in the shower.
The bed is a generous 1.9m long; bed length is vital, and this one will suit over-six-footers with ease. There’s little cut-off, so this bed is close to being a domestic-standard rectangular shape.
Its seclusion, in the corner, does mean you have to climb into it from the cut-off section, though, rather from a side, but we think it’s fine.
You’d have to get on the bed to fit three of the corners of a base sheet, though, but we decided the slight struggle is a small compromise for an excellent layout.
The bed which you can create from the dining areas is 1.9m long and 1.3m wide; supports slide out from each end of the U-shaped seating to create this width.
And the lounge? Twin beds 1.83m long or an enormous double – the choice is yours.
Storage, as you’d expect of a caravan this size, is generous in all areas. The biggest storage area, under the bed, though, isn’t as easy to access as under a bed where you can walk around more of it; reaching the far side would necessitate climbing into the space; an outer hatch would have made things easier.
But, again, the brilliance of this layout leads us to use the word compromise.And it’s worth knowing that the many dealer special versions have an exterior locker.
There are five top cabinets in the bedroom, three more above the dining "room" and four over the lounge, all with active, push-and-tilt catch mechanisms.
Front access leads into all three lower lockers in the lounge and those under the dining area too. There are two wide drawers and a drop-down –hatch cupboard beneath the 57cm-wide wardrobe. Storage, therefore, earns a big, fat tick in the column marked Exceptional.
And so does the dining arrangement in the 840. The central dining table is almost 70cm square (with rounded corners). That's big enough for three place settings and fine for four.
You store the larger table for the lounge on the rear wall of the wardrobe, which may present slight challenges if you cram the wardrobe rail with clothes (which it is likely to be with six aboard).
Again, the word compromise seems appropriate; having to reach through a curtain of clothing for the table is a minor foible considering the size and practicality of the 840's layout.
Any which way you think of lounging around in an 840 it’s pretty much the biggest space in any caravan.
Last autumn we borrowed a Casita 866 for a photo shoot close to our base in Lincolnshire and invited two families to join us. The 866 layout has the same lounge and dining areas as the 840.
A total of seven sprawled out with ease in the 840’s two ample seating areas. That’s another Exceptional, then.
With the 26cm-wide extension hinged up, there is a 1.11 stretch of surface space. That’s just about enough for making meals for six, especially when the cover for the huge (40cm in diameter) sink is in place.
The cover matches the slightly sparkly rock-effect surface; it co-ordinates beautifully with the matt cream top locker finish. Everything about the styling of this caravan is lovely.
Lower kitchen storage consists of three drawers and three cupboards, one under the oven, a second, 40cm wide and 49cm deep, under the drawers and the largest, 84cm tall and 38cm wide, on the fore end of the kitchen.
With 155 litres of capacity in the fridge-freezer aft of the kitchen, you can safely describe the total storage as generous. And the microwave? Most people will consider it’s at a convenient height, above the freezer. There’s yet another cupboard above it.
Our review model was Explorer’s show 840, so wasn’t available to tow. But when the Casita 866, the same dimensions and near enough the same weight (just 4kg heavier) as the 840 joined us later, we took it out on a route that sampled Lincolnshire’s narrow lanes and main A17.
Our SsangYong Rexton’s a perfect partner for these caravans, and it's important to mention that the extra width (17cm wider than an Elddis Avanté 636, for example), doesn’t present any towing challenges.
And, of course, we appreciated the enhanced stability factor of twin axles, plus the inclusion of ATC stability control in the standard spec. A caravan to pick for easy towing as well as easy living.
AL-KO Secure wheel lock, plus a jack to enable you to rotate the wheel to fit the second one; £560