A bigger slide-out is not the only change to Avida’s top selling model range…
by Malcolm Street
In something of a surprise move (well to me at least) Avida recently announced the arrival of three new models in the Esperance, Birdsville and Eyre ranges. Since I really couldn’t test drive three motorhomes at once and the Sydney show was looming – hence availability was limited – I opted for the Esperance on what turned out to be a wet and misty day in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney.
The most interesting news here is that the Esperance is built on the updated Iveco Daily 50-170 cab-chassis, which comes with new mechanicals. Not only is there an up-powered 3.0 litre turbo-diesel, the best news is a fully automatic 8-speed gearbox replacing the hesitant 6-speed automated manual that really wasn't up to slick changes, particularly at low speeds. Well, sort of. I had part of the new Daily: the body part. As I drove up the hill towards Glenbrook it became clear the old six-speed AMT was still with me. I was only glad I had not opted for my usual test track, the windy Old Bathurst Road to Blaxland. If you want more of an explanation of this in-between model read Richard's Paradise Integrity review in the March 7 issue. Back with the new body style, sadly it doesn't seem that Iveco has done anything with the handbrake/ swivelling seat conflict.
Build wise, the Esperance has a fully welded metal frame for the walls, floor and roof. That frame has a foam sheet filler that Avida reckons both acts as an insulant and road noise reducer. For the walls, all are laminated with backing panels and an outer fibreglass skin. Slightly differently, the one-piece floor panel has a ply timber sheet above and metal sheeting below, for underfloor protection. Additionally, the Luton peak/cab surround, rear wall and roof are fully moulded fibreglass. In the door and window department, Avida has opted for its favourite items: a Hehr door and windows. I particularly like the latter, being glass, but also being narrow hoppers (louvers) they can be opened for good ventilation even in the rain and don't stick out too far. It would be nice though if a security screen door was a standard item.
Undoubtedly the major feature of interest with this Esperance is that the driver’s side slide-out is much longer than previous models and runs for over two thirds of the body. Being that long it not only includes the dinette but also the bedroom.
External bin space is quite good although there is the usual awkward problem of getting to those bins under the extended slide-out. Mostly it’s just a matter of remembering to keep less frequently used items there. Unfortunately, the gas cylinders are a bit of an issue if you like turning them off overnight.
On the Road
The only surprise here was having the previous model Iveco’s drivetrain, but otherwise it was quite a pleasant drive. There were a few squeaks and rattles from the rear but nothing unusual, except for something in the slide-out right behind the driver's seat. Since this was model #1 or 2, that wasn't a total surprise. Keen observers might notice the lack of any sort of radio in the driver's cab. That's not because Iveco forgot to put one in but rather because the multi-media units required by Avida had not yet arrived.
Inside and with the slide-out closed the Esperance appears to be almost usable. Almost, I say, due to the fact the east-west bed blocks access to the full-width rear bathroom. The bed lifts for storage, but not in a way that allows bathroom access. With the slide-out opened – the switch is nicely located under the kitchen sink – there is of course plenty of room to move around.
Avida has retained its look, although there seems to be more LED strip lighting around and the overhead lockers now have a two-tone look to the faux timber finish. Not too hard on the eye at all, I think.
Layout wise, the kitchen bench runs along the kerb-side wall, leaving space for the dinette opposite and the east-west bed further back. With the fridge and microwave in between, it's all fitted into the slide-out. Being a C-class motorhome there’s also a bed above the cab and it can be lifted out of the way if not needed, for easier cab access, or just used as a storage area.
Generally the electrics, both 240 and 12 volt, seem to be well sorted, with switches and controls in mostly logical places and the main control panel by the entry door. The under-sink location for some items might seem a bit odd, but everything is easily reachable and handy. Located well too are most of the LED light fittings, including the strip lighting.
In this layout you get a choice of seating. Both cab seats swivel around – after the usual Iveco wrestling match with the driver's seat, door and handbrake – and they are good for sitting back in. Alternatively, there are the seats of the cafe-style dinette. Given the location of the slide-out, the cab seats don't integrate with the dinette, neither is there provision for a small table between them. For the dinette seats, there's the very efficiently designed Zwaardvis multi-adjustable table mounting. Given the fixed location of the TV in the bedroom there isn't any provision for a TV further forward, which does make TV viewing a bit awkward from the front seats.
Both dinette seats have floor lockers for storage that is also accessible via external doors, and there are low height lockers above the dinette as well. Also fitted to the underside of the rear seat are a 240V power point, inverter power point and 12 V and 5 V USB sockets. These are definitely a good idea, but whilst the location is reasonably accessible I ponder their location, given power and charged leads can easily be knocked by legs/feet or worse, tripped over.
Time to Eat
At first glance the kitchen bench looks quite small, but that’s a little deceptive. It does have the usual features – four-burner cooktop/grill/oven and stainless steel sink/drainer – but with minimal bench top area. However, the wider-than-usual wire-basket pantry has a laminate top and at the other end of the bench there's a lift-up extension. It does close off the entry doorway, but I figure if you are doing serious cooking it's a small price to pay.
In the kitchen bench itself, general storage consists of three drawers, the aforementioned slide-out pantry, two overhead lockers and a wine bottle holder. Additionally, the narrow cupboard (connected by the hinged flap) behind the passenger seat does have a few useful shelves.
What having the bedhead in the slide-out has done is to provide more storage space in the bedroom. Measuring 1.9 m x 1.4 m (6 ft 3 in x 4 ft 7 in) the bed has not suffered any size reduction, but it now allows for a narrow cupboard fitted under the kerb-side window, while a small wardrobe is fitted into the driver’s-side corner. Large enough to contain hanging space, shelves and drawers, it's quite handy. Not quite so handy are the power point and 12 V and 5 V sockets, located under the bed near the fridge. They are easy to get at, but anything charging has to sit on the floor. A better position would be the shelf on the opposite side. For accessing the under-bed area, it's a matter of lifting the bed from the side. The upside is easy access, the down side is there's no way of lifting the bed base to get to the bathroom when the slide-out is closed.
A feature of this layout is a slightly larger sliding door giving access to the rear bathroom. It's not quite full width – given the wardrobe – but still very usable. The shower cubicle is on the driver’s side, the cassette toilet is in the middle and the wash basin cabinet is in the kerb-side corner. Two overhead lockers and the vanity cabinet provide storage. For ventilation the rear window doesn't open (except in emergencies) but there are two ceiling fans.
What I Think
Whilst some features look much like earlier Esperance designs, there's no doubt that the fuller length slide-out offers much potential and more room to move around. Having the kitchen bench that can be extended is certainly a good feature, as is the extra storage created in the bedroom.
Indeed when stepping inside when the slide-out’s open there is a very real feeling of spaciousness. Apart from the lack of opportunity to try out the new Iveco mechanicals, this new Esperance layout is looking like a good variant of the existing line up.
- Spacious interior
- External bin space
- Bedroom storage cupboards
- Lighting (both natural and 12 V)
- Kitchen bench top extensions
- No bathroom access with slide-out closed
- Location of under seat/under bed power sockets
- Limited TV viewing from the front seats
- Lack of Security door
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Click below to download a PDF of the full test, including specifications and contact details.
Avida Esperance C7922 SL - 2015 (1603 KB)