Birdsville on Track
Avida’s versatile Birdsville is on track to maintain its popularity…
by Malcolm Street
In the mid-size motorhome market one of the more successful designs has been the Avida Birdsville. Built on a Fiat Ducato cab-chassis the Birdsville is available in a variety of layouts, featuring single or double beds and a split or full-width rear bathroom. For this test, which was supped by Australian Motor Homes near Newcastle, NSW, I’m looking at the Birdsville C7334, with both a double bed and full-width rear bathroom.
The Birdsville is built on a Fiat Ducato Multijet 180 chassis, has an empty (tare) weight of 3354 kg and is 7.2 m (23 ft 7 in) long. Like most other Avida motorhomes the Birdsville is built using a fully welded metal frame for the walls, floor and roof. That frame has a foam sheet filler that Avida reckons acts as both thermal and road noise insulation. For the walls, all are laminated with backing panels and an outer fibreglass skin. Slightly differently, the one piece floor has a ply timber sheet above and metal sheeting below, for underfloor protection. Additionally, the front Luton peak/cab surround, rear wall and roof are fully-moulded fibreglass.
One of the features of this motorhome, especially given its length, is its generous external bin space. In addition to the gas cylinder bin there are two low level ones along the driver’s side. On the kerb side, one bin door accesses the under-bed area whilst a second at the rear corner offers a considerable amount of space and doesn't require any bending over. There are no surprises in the door and window departments, the latter being Seitz double-glazed hoppers whilst the former is Avida's favourite Hehr item, with separate (non-security) screen door. Doing the job of covering the nearside al fresco area is a Fiamma F45 wind-out awning.
On the Road
In so many ways the Ducato is well suited to this length motorhome. It's gross weight (GVM) of 4250 kg gives a good load capacity of nearly 900 kg and the 3.0-litre 132 kW turbo-diesel powers the rig along well, enabling the driver to maintain posted road speeds without difficulty. Behind the driver's cab were a few squeaks and rattles, most easily cured with a towel or cushion in the right place, while the loudest noise was wind – not surprising given the proximity of the entry door to the cab.
Being a motorhome with a forward entry door this Birdsville layout makes full use of the Ducato’s swivelling seats, which form up part of the front lounge/dining area. The zone immediately behind that is devoted to the kitchen, leaving the rear for an east-west bed and full-width bathroom. Being designed with a full Luton peak there's a second bed above the driver's cab that can be lifted up if not needed – something that assists greatly getting to and from the cab seats. In many ways, the Birdsville interior is typically Avida in style, but the red of the upholstery seating adds an attractive splash of colour.
Although the interior does not feel particularly cramped, one of the benefits of the Luton peak is that the rising roofline at the front does much for space perception. Another side benefit is that the top of the adjacent overhead lockers can be quite easily used as bedside storage. Just on the Luton bed, it would nice if the ladder could be stored somewhere secure rather than just being thrown up onto the bed, as you then need a ladder to get to the ladder!
Lounging and Dining
At the front the non-cab seats are set up with an inwards-facing seat on the kerb side and a forward facing seat on the driver’s side. It's quite a clever set-up because the latter is fitted with seat belts and can legally accommodate two travelling passengers. It did seem, however, that as the base cushion is quite deep it would not be particularly comfortable for those with shorter legs, like grandchildren, and a cushion or two for back support would be helpful.
Tables are often an issue in a layout like this because they need to be large enough to be practical, yet not in the way when moving around. A folding table is often the solution, which is what’s used here, along with a Zwaardvis table mount. That means the table can be moved across so as to be reached from all seats, but it's certainly most stable in front of the driver’s side seats. Neither of the cab seats has a reading light but both the rear seats do, although they are non-matching and do look slightly odd. Overhead lockers supply generous storage space, but both the under-seat areas are occupied: the kerb side by the water heater and the driver’s side by the house battery, charge and 240 V/12 V electrics. Although the fuse panel is quite easy to get at, it's not quite so easy to locate the correct fuse, especially if you wear multi-focal glasses!
Given what else has been fitted into this layout, something had to be squeezed a bit and that something is the kitchen. It comes with a three-burner cooktop adjacent to a stainless steel sink, and in a variation on normal design the grill sits under the sink, not the cooktop. All that leaves little room for bench top area and storage space, with just two cupboards, one cutlery-sized drawer and two overhead lockers. In typical Avida style the hot water service switch and two light switches are located just under the bench top edge, whilst two more – along with the electric step switch – are along the side.
Completing the catering essentials are a 190-litre Dometic fridge and a microwave, located opposite the kitchen bench. Above the microwave is what looks like a handy cupboard but is in fact the "garage" for the flat screen TV. It's mounted on one of those clever slide-out brackets that not only holds the TV securely, but when pulled out can be swivelled around so as to be easily seen from either the front cab seats or the bed.
East-west beds can be tricky little items as they sit across the motorhome and the walls, naturally, restrict the length. In this case the bed has a unextended length of 1.77 m (5 ft 10 in) and a width of 1.73 m (4 ft 6 in). The length can be increased to a generous 1.96 m (6 ft 5 in), but of course that does restrict bathroom access considerably. For day use it’s possible to lift the bed but this is quite awkward. Something else that took a few goes to remember is the slight step over the right wheel arch. I do wonder about a permanently raised floor area in the rear, so there is only one step.
Once in bed only one person gets a bedside cabinet, but they also get a magazine pouch. That same person has the convenience of being closest to the bathroom, but both have (matching) reading lights and both get an overhead locker. As noted, the bed can be lifted to get to the storage area underneath, while there’s a good sized wardrobe butting up against the fridge cabinet. Although the diagonal shape means hanging space isn't readily available it does have some good sized shelves. Something that is a feature of all Avida motorhome is the specification/compliance chart inside the wardrobe door. It's a pity more manufactures don't follow suit with that idea.
In a way the full-width rear bathroom’s layout is a bit unconventional. In the driver’s-side corner is a good sized vanity cabinet with wash basin, upper and lower cupboards and a wall mirror. Next across is a shower cubicle with flex-hose shower head and in the kerb-side corner is a bench-style Thetford cassette toilet. What makes this different is that in an effort to maximise space efficiency you have to walk through the shower cubicle to get to the loo. The shower cubicle has roller screens on both ends, to keep the floor and loo seat dry.
What I Think
As mentioned earlier, one of the assets of the Birdsville is that if you to like the design concept there are a number of layouts available. I mention that because if you are a taller person the bed length in this case might be an issue, but there are alternative layouts with either single beds or the bed right at the rear, which might suit you better.
Being just over 7.2 m (23 ft 7 in) long there were going to be few design compromises, but generally speaking this layout works well. Additionally, the Birdsville is built on the easy driving Fiat Ducato cab chassis that now comes with a factory-backed 5 year/100,000 km warranty. And like all Avida’s, the Birdsville is backed by a 2 year/1 million km warranty and a 5 year structural guarantee.
- Good level of external storage
- Driving the Ducato
- Eye catching interior colours
- Front lounge/dining set
- Rear bathroom arrangement
- Extendable table
- Smallish kitchen
- Bed length/walkway when extended
- Power point under table awkward to access
- 12 V/5 V charger sockets not fitted
Motorhome supplied by:
Australian Motor Homes
31 Pacific Highway
Bennetts Green NSW 2290
T: (02) 4948 0433
Click HERE to visit Avida's website.
Click below to download a PDF of the full test, including specifications and contact details.
Avida Birdsville 2014 (1244 KB)