Avida’s single-bed Esperance should prove a popular choice for comfort as well as extra space...
By Malcolm Street
If your name used to be Winnebago (Australia) and you are Australia’s largest motorhome manufacturer, then there is no doubt that 2012 was not a good year. When Winnebago US won their court case over the use of the Winnebago name in Australia, the former Winnebago (Australia) had to take the necessary decision to adopt a new name and market a whole new identity.
All that is some sort of challenge in anyone’s language, particularly as the term “Winnebago” is often taken as generic for “motorhome.” So to cut a long story short, the Avida name came into being and has been applied to anything coming out of the Emu Plains (NSW) factory since the beginning of 2013.
It wasn’t only a name change either. Although no new models have been produced, the existing line up has received new colour schemes inside and out, along with some upgrades and changes to existing layouts.
One of our little challenges over the last few months has been getting our hands on a new Avida – and not just one with a decal change. It’s been complicated by the major capital city RV show circuit, which has been in full swing. The big day finally arrived when a new Avida Esperance with single beds came our way and it was time to check it out.
In the Avida range the Esperance is the model with the largest number of standard layouts. With the exception of a single non-slide-out model (with or without over-cab bed) all the rest have the same kitchen and dinette setup, but with a considerable variation in the bedroom and bathroom arrangements. Just for reference, this model is a C7964SL and is coded as follows: C for C-class (with over-cab bed); 79 for a length of 7.9 m; SL for slide out and 64 designates this model.
Single beds are increasing popular for travellers looking to enjoy a good night’s sleep as many motorhome double/queen sized beds are really too narrow – especially for our ‘growing’ population. The layout also provides more floor space: something you can never have too much of in a motorhome.
The cab chassis of the Esperance is an Iveco 50C17 Daily that comes with a 3.0-litre 125 kW/400 Nm turbo-diesel. Although difficult to tell, it’s actually an updated model, but like most light commercial vehicles there are only a few obvious clues. One is the six-speed Agile (Iveco-speak for automated manual) gearbox, which compared to previous models can be a little more precise, especially in the lower ranges, but more about that later. In the ‘yay team’ department, the radio/CD player is not the usual basic standard unit but a better class usually found in most sedan vehicles.
The Esperance is built using a fully welded metal frame for the walls, floor and roof. That frame has a foam sheet filler that Avida claims will both act as insulation and road noise reducer. For the wall construction, they’re laminated with backing panels and an outer fibreglass skin.
Part of the frame has to include the slide-out, which is built into the offside wall behind the driver’s cab. It’s in the same position on all Esperance models, which has the advantage of keeping the body engineering similar for all models, not to mention making less work for Second Stage Compliance.
Down below, the floor panel has a ply timber sheet above and metal sheeting below, for underfloor protection. Additionally, the front over-cab area, the cab surround and rear wall is fully moulded fibreglass. EPDM rubber is used as the outer covering for the roof.
For the external colour scheme Avida has opted for various pastel shades for the decals – this Esperance being in a brown/beige/grey scheme. In quite a contrast, the model name is white lettering on a red background, which looks a bit like an afterthought but does stand out! For windows and door, Avida has stayed with the usual Hehr items. The windows being of the glass multi-louvre variety, except for the bathroom and over-cab bed, which are sliders. Although the multi-louvres look a bit dated I quite like them for several reasons: they give plenty of ventilation; they can be left open in the rain and they are glass, which scratches less easily than acrylic. Also, they don’t stick out as far as full size hopper windows when open.
There are a variety of external bins around the Esperance, none particularly large but in many ways smaller bins tend to keep stored items more secure. There’s the usual battery compartment by the entry door – the batteries are bolted in rather than on a slide-out tray – and directly on the opposite side, the gas bin with two 4.0 kg cylinders. Being under the slide-out, it along with the adjoining bin can be slightly awkward to get at. Behind the slide-out, the generator-sized bin has a slide-out tray for easy access to an optional generator. Not for storage but entertainment, the shallow compartment by the door contains a flat screen TV, speakers and power point, as well as acting as a picnic table.
Being a motorhome, setting up the Esperance takes minimal time. Once level it’s just a matter of opening the slide-out and swivelling the driver’s cab seats. A slightly annoying feature of the Iveco cab is that the pedestal-mounted handbrake restricts the driver’s seat from being fully swivelled, while making the motion awkward too. It would be good if Iveco and the motorhome manufacturers were able to sort that one out.
In the weight department, the 50C17 Daily has a GVM of 4495 kg, which given the tare weight of 3796 kg provides a load capacity of well over 700 kg. However, if anything greater is needed then the chassis can be upgraded to a GVM of 5200 kg, although a Light Rigid truck licence would be needed.
ON THE ROAD
On the road the Daily-powered Esperance rolled along readily enough without any dramas, except for the Automated Manual Transmission (AMT). Certainly the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel delivers the goods – once having remembered to put your foot on the brake and the gear leaver in the right position to get the engine started!
This was a very new engine and therefore not run in. But on the Old Bathurst Road from Emu Plains up to Blaxland in the Blue Mountains the gearbox was showing more than the usual hesitations on the uphill hairpin bends, when trying to kick down through the gears. That’s somewhat in contrast to other Iveco Dailys I’ve driven recently, so perhaps I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.
With the entry door being right behind the cab the internal layout is quite simple. In the rear, the bedroom has two single beds. Forward of the nearside bed is a mid-sized bathroom, leaving the rest of the nearside to be filled with a kitchen bench. Opposite the entry door, the slide-out contains both an L-shaped dinette and a 150-litre fridge, with microwave oven above. Above the driver’s cab the bed can be lifted up out of the way if not required and it does make getting in and out of the cab seats much easier.
Mocha Mousse was the name of the colour scheme in our review Esperance. There are a variety of other colour schemes available, mostly named after drinks and they can be viewed on the Avida website. The cabinetry design might best be described as curved European meets square American, which is not necessarily a derogatory comment, it’s just an interesting combo.
For keeping cool a Truma Aventa remote-controlled air conditioner is centrally fitted in the ceiling. Both 240 and 12 volt electrics are reasonably well set up and the two house batteries are rated at 100 AH each and are charged by either the mains unit or the vehicle charger. Solar panels are an option and are something to consider if planning remote camping. Whilst mostly LED lights are used – and some very neatly concealed – there are fluorescent and halogen fittings as well.
With the slide-out open and the cab seats swivelled around, there is plenty of space in the front area. In some ways the cab seats are more relaxing to sit in than the L-shaped lounge. Although the latter does look okay to use, it is a tad awkward to sit at for two people, especially given the position of the table leg. What saves the day is that the table has a Zwaardvis multi-position fitting that makes it very easy to move the table around.
I do ponder if just a sideways facing lounge might be better. The compromise there of course is that the forward facing seats with their seat belts are lost. On that note, although there are two seat belts fitted to the rear seat back, given the layout, the inner person is going to have their feet up – that might not be a problem of course – or else it might be good for a baby seat.
Under the rear seat are both a 240-volt mains outlet and an inverter 240-volt outlet. They are easy enough to get at but their position means legs getting easily entangle in power cords.
Locating a TV is sometimes a compromise in a motorhome. This one was mounted on the bathroom wall on a swivel arm, which meant bed time TV viewing was quite easy. It did swing out to be seen from the front of the motorhome, but only one person can really sit on the sideways lounge, probably facing backwards with their feet up. Any other viewers are going to be sitting in the swivelled cab seats.
TIME TO EAT
Along the nearside wall, the kitchen bench looks surprisingly small – there’s just enough room for a full cooktop/grill/oven and a stainless steel sink with drainer, but no real bench top working area. I wonder here about the benefits of an L-shaped kitchen using a bit of the space created by the slide-out? Under the sink are three decent size drawers with a fourth being at floor level. Under the bench top the front panel mounts various control switches for the Webasto space heater, Truma hot water heater, slide-out and light switches, with large rocker switches that are easy to find.
As noted earlier this model Esperance has single beds in the rear, with one on each sides. Measuring 1.83 m x 0.86 m (6 ft x 2 ft 10 in), they have a window and overhead lockers each and a good sized shared wardrobe in between. I did like the little cut outs in the lower area of the wardrobes that double as bed side cabinets. A little surprisingly, the beds are only 1.83 m/6 ft long and there’s no way of easily extending them.
The bathroom is split in a slightly unusual but not impractical way. Both the shower (in a separate cubicle) and the Dometic cassette toilet share the main bathroom area on the nearside, whilst a wash basin and accompanying vanity cabinet are located opposite. The vanity is well fitted out, with the cabinet below, mirror in between and overhead locker above.
WHAT WE THINK
One of the benefits of the Avida Esperance is that as long as you are happy with the front area layout then there are a multiple of choices for the rear area in both single and double bed layouts. Slide-outs are often perceived as a benefit, but occasionally they do bring a problem and I wonder whether the space created by the slide-out has been used effectively. An asset of this design is that the motorhome can be used quite easily with the slide-out closed, which is good for short stops. One thing is for sure though, there are plenty of features packed into this 7.9 m/26 ft motorhome, which offers a very spacious interior.
- New look inside and out
- Decent external storage
- Improved interior lighting on previous years
- Split bathroom layout
- Cab access from inside
- Decent Iveco cab radio
- Iveco gearbox and handbrake position
- Lounge layout
- Single bed length
- Seat power points location
- Smallish kitchen
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