A Class of its Own
Avida’s Esperance Premium has the locally manufactured A-class market all to itself…
by Malcolm Street
Editor’s Note: The model reviewed is listed on Avida’s website as both the Winnebago Premium and the Esperance Premium. To avoid confusion it is referred to here as the Esperance Premium.
In Australia, and to a lesser extent New Zealand, new A-class motorhomes are rare. Most are imported from the USA and Europe, although there are some local coach and bus conversions around. Since the GFC the number of local manufacturers building from scratch on a bare chassis has all but fallen to zero. Australia’s Avida, however, is still in the game and its sole A-class product is the subject of this review.
The Esperance Premium is based on an Iveco Daily 50C18 cab chassis and constructed in the European style, whereby the original dashboard and seats are retained but everything else is built around it. One of the downsides of this conversion is that neither driver or passenger air bags are available, even as an option. One of the features of this model is that is comes with a slide-out on the driver’s side. There is one other layout in the Esperance Premium range, but it doesn’t have a slide-out.
Despite being an A-class the Esperance Premium is built in much the same way as other Avida models. That means sandwich panel construction for the walls, roof and floor, riding on a welded metal floor frame. The floor is fully insulated and protected by metal sheeting underneath as well. The front of the motorhome is made from fully moulded fibreglass and in keeping with a typical A-class motorhome has a very large windscreen. I’m not exactly a motoring body designer but I did think a little more style could have been built into the grilles. At the rear, body mouldings alleviate what is an otherwise square look.
One of the features of the Esperance Premium is it uses Hehr multi-hopper (think louvered) windows, as seen on most Avida motorhomes. There’s nothing wrong with them – indeed they are glass rather than acrylic – which is more difficult to scratch and much more difficult to break-in through. My only issue is the window winder knobs are quite small and often difficult to use. Another feature of the Premium is that there are plenty of external storage bins of various sizes. In keeping with any slide-out fitted motorhome, the ones under the slide-out are the most awkward to get at when it’s open.
Getting behind the wheel of a smaller A-class motorhome converted from a European truck chassis is an interesting experience, as is the feel of the dashboard being further away. Once used to that, and I speak from the experience of having driven a number of A-class rigs in NZ, it’s quite an easy drive – especially looking through the large windscreen. In this case the Iveco Daily didn’t provide any surprises with its 3.0-litre turbo-diesel and 6-speed automated manual transmission (AMT). What was a little disconcerting was the creaky rattle in one of the side window areas, but I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. As noted earlier, neither passenger nor driver gets a door, but both have sliding windows
Unlike some of the European A-class motorhomes that have cab doors, the Esperance Premium only has one entry door; right behind the passenger’s seat. Stepping inside reveals a layout familiar to some Esperance owners, with the slide-out containing an L-shaped lounge, while opposite, the kitchen bench runs along the kerb-side wall. That leaves room in the rear for an east-west bed with its head against the driver’s-side wall, while across most of the rear wall is the bathroom. A point of note with this layout is that even with the slide-out retracted it’s still possible to move around the motorhome without a problem.
Undoubtedly the most impressive area is up front. Both cab seats swivel of course to integrate into the living area, but the view out of the front windscreen will always demand that some scenic view be found when parking up for the night! It’s easy to see where the original dashboard has been added to but it’s all done quite well; especially the side mouldings, which have all kinds of storage compartments. Indeed the cabinet right bedside the entry door has most of the electrical controls on it: Very handy. Another good feature in the cab is that the Iveco handbrake, normally on the left-hand side of the driver and a bit of a problem when swivelling the seat, has been relocated to the right-hand side. Also, above the cab seats small lockers have been fitted all round.
To help get in and out of the L-shaped dinette, as well as find the right position when seated, the table is fitted with a sturdy Zwaardvis mount that moves every which way. Under the rear, forward-facing seat are both a 240 V mains socket and an inverter-supplied power point. Two seat belts are fitted but a cushion has to be removed from the seat along the wall to provide leg room for the passenger seated against the window. TV viewing is a bit interesting; the swivel-arm TV being mounted at the rear end of the kitchen overhead lockers. It's easily seen from the bed, but given the angle of viewing it’s best seen when sitting sideways in the dinette, or from the swivelled cab seats.
Apart from the fridge (with microwave above) that sits between the dinette and the end of the slide-out, the rest of the kitchen bench is almost a little island by itself. It comes fully fitted out with a four -burner cooktop/grill/oven alongside a stainless steel sink/drainer. That leaves room for a bit of bench top working area at the aft end, while for storage there are three good-sized drawers, a wire basket style slide-out pantry and two overhead lockers, one of which has an extra shelf.
In the sleeping department getting out the tape measure reveals a bed size of 1.88 m x 1.37 m (6 ft 2 in x 4 ft 6 in). That still leaves a bit of walk-around space, while windows on both sides ensure a good cross flow of ventilation and plenty of natural light. For storage there are two good sized lockers above the bed head and, at the flick of a switch, the posture-slat bed-base lifts to provide access to the under-bed storage area. This can also be accessed though the driver’s side external bin door.
Across the rear the bathroom isn’t quite full width because of the kerb-side corner wardrobe – a very handy item – but that doesn’t seem to be any disadvantage. There’s still enough space for a driver’s-side corner shower cubicle, mid-area cassette toilet and a washbasin tucked into the corner by the wardrobe. A couple of overhead lockers and under-basin cupboards provide essential storage and it’s all a nice compromise between excessive space usage and practicality.
What I think
Frequently when looking over a motorhome, the value judgement is helped a bit by what other manufacturers are doing. That’s a bit hard in this case because others aren’t doing anything with A-class motorhomes. Indeed the only comparison, given the Euro-sourced chassis, comes from European built A-class motorhomes and that is possibly a bit unfair given the scale of things over there. The Esperance Premium is unique amongst Australian manufactured motorhomes and full marks to Avida for trying something ‘out-of-the-box’. It’s Iveco mechanicals are proven and durable, as are Avida’s construction materials and method. In a relatively small footprint it provides a generous living area with excellent viewing, both as you drive and once arrived at your destination, and many creature comforts. If you’re in the market for something a little different the Avida Esperance Premium is certainly worth checking out.
This is the other layout available in the Esperance Premium range, which comes without a slide-out. Instead, it makes use of an elevating bed right behind the cab. There is a lounge area underneath, with the kitchen, dinette, bathroom and entry door all towards the rear.
- Good external storage
- Great view from cab
- Reasonable sized kitchen
- Practical bathroom
- LED lighting throughout
- Hehr windows
- Spacious living area
- Cab window creaks
- Only one entry door
- Lack of air bags
- Rear passenger seat cushion fiddly
- TV awkward to see from dinette
Vehicle supplied by:
Australian Motor Homes
31 Pacific Highway
Bennetts Green NSW 2290
T: (02) 4948 0433