LOW AND BEHOLD
A’van’s Ovation Lowline is a motorhome worth beholding...
by Malcolm Street
A’van is well known for its range of folding caravans, full caravans and, most importantly as far as this publication is concerned, its range of motorhomes: Everything from the 6 m (19 ft 8 in) van-based Applause to the 7.92 m (26 ft 3 in) coach-built Ovation.
All Ovation models come in both C-Class (with over-cab bed) and B-Class (sans over-cab bed) configurations. For this review I borrowed a 6.96 m (22 ft 10 in) M3 Ovation B-Class (known in A’van speak as a Lowline) from the Penrith dealership of A’van NSW.
A’van has been using the Fiat Ducato as a base vehicle for some years and they have learned to use the motorhome-friendly Ducato in a variety of ways, both in van and cab-chassis designs. In addition to the oft-mentioned features of cut-out cab-roof/back and swivelling seats, the Fiat chassis is purpose built and wider than the normal commercial chassis, giving greater living space and a more stable ride. For its largest motorhomes, A’van use an Al-Ko chassis that gives a greater load capacity.
For the Ovation M3 Lowline the standard Fiat chassis is used and has a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of 4000 kg, which given the stated tare weight of 3170 kg gives it a good load capacity. Not having an over-cab bed does give the M3 a very streamlined look from the front and the two curved windows above the cab add a very European look, as well as allowing more natural light inside.
Like several other motorhome manufacturers, A’van is a bit coy in its brochures about the body structure, but like a few others, its walls and roof are a fibreglass composite structure with fibreglass mouldings for the front and lower-rear bumper bar area. Polypropylene sheet is used for the sub floor, the main floor being raised to cab level and made of timber laminate that allows for storage compartments underneath.
Unlike most other motorhome manufacturers who use the Seitz-brand of windows, A’van opted for the slightly different shaped Polyplastic tinted, acrylic versions. They come with integrated blinds and insect screens but the internal framework does protrude slightly from the walls, which is not really a problem in this particular motorhome. Given the vehicle’s Euro style, the Hartal door has a top half window, but not a separate security screen. An optional extra on our review motorhome was the polished aluminium bull bar.
External bin space consist of the gas cylinder bin on the offside, behind the driver’s cab, and two bins on the nearside: the forward one giving access to the under-seat area and the rear one giving access to the under-bed area. Neither are particularly water proofed, so a plastic bin to store hoses and other items that are likely to be wet is definitely recommended. In the forward compartment, a small hatch gives access to the optional Webasto space heater.
Out of sight on the roof are the TV antenna, an Air Command Ibis air conditioner and an optional 80-watt solar system. Also out of sight is the 95 amp hour deep cycle battery and the 18 amp battery charger. A’van has fitted its standard electrical control panels, which are handily located by the entry door.
On the Road
It’s been mentioned before in these pages that motorhome manufacturers are the only ones who get the most powerful of the Ducato turbo diesels: the 3.0-litre, 132 kW/400 Nm version and that, I reckon, is a good thing. Having a good bit of grunt makes driving the Ovation a breeze and even the six-speed automated manual gearbox (AMT) is reasonably well behaved. Although the external rear vision mirrors are good, the extra security of the rear view camera is certainly appreciated. I always consider that most small and mid-sized motorhomes are quite manoeuvrable vehicles, but even I was impressed when A’van’s John Wright (an old hand) extracted this motorhome from a very tight spot in the sales yard.
The Ducato’s cab is quite well fitted out with all the expected items and above the driver’s cab, A’van has fitted handy little storage compartment on both sides. This Ovation can legally carry four people – the driver, passenger and two in the seat behind the driver – and being relatively close together, everybody can talk fairly easily.
With this Ovation layout, what A’van has achieved is a full lounge/dining area that incorporates the front swivelling seats, a smallish offside kitchen, mid-sized bathroom and a rear nearside corner bed. A light hued timber look has been used throughout, which isn’t too overpowering, while plenty of windows gives a good level of natural light. Optional leatherette upholstery was used on the test vehicle for all the seating, including the front cab. Light fittings are 12-volt LED and are fitted in mostly logical places. This might sound like common sense but I’ve seen one or two motorhomes where common sense did not seem to have prevailed. An interesting feature of the Ovation is that it comes with a mini home theatre sound system that works with the TV and DVD player. Unfortunately, only the driver’s cab has a radio/CD player. This is a slight annoyance because the unit turns itself off after about 20 minutes (with the engine off) and doesn’t have a 3.5 mm accessory input socket (have I mentioned that before, Mr Ed?)
In a relatively confined space, this particular layout works quite well. The driver’s seat swivels around to mate with the table and the two seater on the opposite side. For doing anything except travelling, the two seater it is definitely more comfortable for one person. That’s okay though because the driver’s seat swivels 180 degrees and the table slides back and forwards.
Behind the passenger seat the sideways-facing lounge also seats two (but is also much better for one) and for those who are not too tall, it’s possible to stretch out a bit. Both the seats have are flat, with nary a contour. A flat screen TV is mounted in the corner above the table and it does make viewing angles interesting; best for one person on each lounge, I would think.
There are overhead lockers on both sides and storage areas under both lounge seats, although the nearside is much easier to get at with access from both inside and out. A power point has been fitted below the seat at floor level, which is sort of conveniently located, but also where a plug is likely to get kicked out. A floor hatch under the table gives access to the area where the house batteries (second battery optional) are located.
Time to Eat
Designed in quite a compact arrangement, the kitchen bench comes with a Smev three-burner cooktop against the wall and a stainless steel sink at right angles to that, with a circular drainer in between. That doesn’t leave any room for benchtop area, but both the sink and cooktop have smoked glass lids that sit flush when not in use. I did wonder about a hinged flap at the bench-end to aid tasks like the washing up, though.
Located under the sink, facing the entry door, is a Smev grill oven. The remaining under-bench area is devoted to general storage, with a cupboard, cutlery drawer and floor locker. Two overhead lockers offer more kitchen storage. Those other kitchen essentials; a 3-way 190-litre Dometic fridge, with microwave oven above, are located opposite the kitchen bench, between the entry door and bed.
Fitting into the rear corner, the bed is 1.98 m (6 ft 6 in) long, but has a chamfered corner, so its width varies from 1.22 m (4 ft) at the head to 0.91 m (3 ft) at the foot. It’s a bed shape that isn’t going to suit everybody, but certainly people of average height and stature are going to be reasonably comfortable. It might sound odd but I’d be suggesting for first timers that stretching out on the bed for a while might give a reassurance of acceptability
More overhead lockers line the walls around the bed, whilst a few recessed slots cut into the bathroom wall offer the inner sleeper a bit of night-time shelf space. Lifting the posture slat bed base provides access to more storage, part of which is taken by the sound system base speaker, but it’s more easily accessed from the external bin door. Wardrobe hanging space is provided by a large cupboard that fits between the bathroom and kitchen.
A large roof hatch and medium sized window improve the bathroom’s space perception considerably. Standard fit-out includes a shower cubicle, Thetford cassette toilet, wash basin, storage cupboard and a shaving cabinet. Generally speaking the bathroom layout works quite well.
What we Think
Given the Ovation’s length of nearly 7 m (22 ft 10 in), this vehicle has all the features you might want in a fairly practical layout. It’s been designed with a relatively spacious lounge/dining area at the expense of a smallish kitchen and a corner bed, but there are always going to be compromises in a motorhome design.
Summing up, for a couple looking to spend time on the road, the A’van Ovation M3 Lowline layout is quite a happy compromise and I have to say I did enjoy driving it around.
- Light and bright interior
- Compact but usable bathroom
- Well set-up lounge/dining area
- Decent sound system
- Movable table
- Generally good interior storage
- House batteries and heater awkward to reach
- External storage bins have no “wet areas”
- Shapeless seat cushions
- Small kitchen
- Floor level power point awkwardly placed
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Click below to download a PDF of the full test, including specifications and contact details.
iMotorhome Roadtest - A'Van Ovation Lowline - 2013 (2606 KB)
Putting A'van's stylish Ovation Lowline tough its paces...