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Rob McCabe steps up to test the new-generation Adria Altea Dart
Adria’s already sharply dressed Altea range has had quite the makeover since I last looked at it a couple of years ago – and the ever-popular Dart has the potential to become even more of a showroom hit. It’s well worth a closer look, so let’s do exactly that.
Adria uses glass reinforced polyester (GRP) for its caravan sidewalls, which goes a long way towards giving them their signature sleek, attractive appearance, not to mention the built-in impact resistance it offers.
The very obvious difference to this year’s Altea is the switch to a silver-coloured body, which partners beautifully with the bold blue highlighting on the sidewalls. The pleasing absence of over-fussy graphics also helps transform what was already a great-looking caravan into something even more stunning. It’s gorgeous.
The thickly spoked alloy wheels are a bold new addition (don’t go near any kerbs!) that get a thumbs-up, likewise the massive corner steadies that clearly eat up all their porridge every morning.
Indoors, all was well on our test example: uniformly neat panel gaps; nice presentation (especially the uncluttered, handle-free lockers); and precise opening and shutting of everything that needs to open and shut. The lounge walls now have a felt-effect covering of a reinforced thermoplastic material called ‘Symalite’, which provides an additional air of plushness.
It’s a sizeable, sturdily built vehicle, which is reflected when it stands on the scales – use all (or nearly all) of its 1,650kg MTPLM and you’re firmly into SUV towcar territory. The chassis is fitted with shock absorbers for a smoother ride, and the Adria extended A-frame increases the distance between axle and coupling, which is a formula for increased stability when towing. A built-in hitch stabiliser is standard, although Al-Ko ATC will have to be specified as a cost option.
Kudos to Adria’s designers for combining the pleasantly subtle upholstery with pastel-coloured scatter cushions to create a lounge area that looks sharply modern and welcoming; the aforementioned fabric-finished walls look great too. The lack of a front chest allows for a U-shape seating set-up that also looks more ‘together’ than parallel sofas. However, there’s no denying that the Altea’s little fold-up table is no match for a telescopic chest in terms of sheer practicality – especially when, as here, the freestanding table is considerably lower than the shelf when erected.
The vast, single-piece front window looks less fussy than the traditional three-section arrangement, the pay-off being that if you need to use a blind to shield from a bright sun, it’s all or nothing. The panoramic sunroof lets in masses of daylight, lending an airy ambience to the lounge even on a dull day.
Being an Adria, you get all manner of clever little stowage ideas, from fabric pockets to removable trays in the kitchen and a kind of pinboard in the bedroom, on which you can use elasticated straps to secure items. Storage for more substantial stuff is well provided for – there’s a plethora of deep lockers and cupboards (the overhead lockers in the bedroom are vast). There’s an exterior access hatch on the nearside, and the big, single-handle front gas locker accommodates the spare wheel – a blessing if you should ever need to get to it in anger.
There are mains sockets in all the right places, plus TV connectivity in both the lounge and bedroom. There’s no stereo fitted as standard, so you can fit a head unit and speakers of your choice. Another alternative – which I can recommend personally – is to bring along a top-quality DAB radio that doubles up as a Bluetooth speaker so you can play music from your phone. In such a small space, sound quality can be outstanding, and you have the flexibility to place it wherever you like, including in the bedroom.
Dual-fuel heating and hot water is courtesy of the reliable Truma blown air set-up – there's no Aldi wet central heating in the three model Altea range.
The island bed in here will do for me. It’s suitably huge and impressively comfortable, although the real selling point is the fact that the upper portion of the mattress/bed base is split so either occupant can raise the section on their half into one of several positions to facilitate sitting up to read or watch telly.
You each get a substantial bedside shelf and a wardrobe, and there are stowage pouches and USB sockets back here too. A sunroof lets daylight in when the two window blinds are down. It’s a bedroom that mixes luxury and practicality seamlessly well.
Overnighting guests benefit from another large, comfortable double bed by rearranging the seating in the lounge. Unusually, the runners that the slats pull out onto aren’t fixed in place – they live under the seat bases when not in use, and you slot them in when you need them. At first, I couldn’t see the point, but came to appreciate the fact that there is a slight cosmetic benefit from not having them there. And you can just leave them set up if you’re away on a trip where you’re using the bed every night.
And so to another Adria signature – the handsome L-shape, all-in-one stainless steel sink/hob. It’s not the sort of thing I would usually get excited about, but it is very pretty, even if three gas rings and no electric hotplate falls short of the cooking options you’d expect to find on a UK-made caravan at this price level. Similarly, the oven and grill are combined into one. For washing-up, a shaped plastic drainer covers the hob completely, which is good to see.
There is a microwave hidden inside an overhead locker, which is another aesthetically pleasing touch; so too is the sleek, black tower fridge/freezer. Less attractive to my eye is the new, attention-seeking patterned worktop.
The centrally situated washroom facilities consist of a spacious shower compartment on the nearside (complete with ever-useful removable hanging rail, opening sunroof and big shelf/footrest), with the loo/washbasin and storage options on the other side of the corridor. It’s smart in here too, with more handle-free lockers and a nicely elongated washbasin. The mirror above it is usefully long.
Good to see that the sliding door that shuts off the bedroom at the back does so with a gratifying, precise snick. If it’s just two of you on board (which will overwhelmingly be the case), you can configure how it all shuts off to please yourselves. If you have guests, just keep the sliding bedroom door closed at night. Then, if a guest pays a visit, they’ll simply use the door that shuts off the front of the caravan to shut off the loo instead, then swing it back round to close off the facilities when they’re done. For user-friendliness, it’s a set-up that can’t be beaten.
The lounge area is very well served by a trio of adjustable lamps on the plinth surrounding the sunroof. They also slide horizontally, giving you more freedom to illuminate particular areas. A reading lamp above each corner of the sofa (also horizontally adjustable) and a warm glow from over-locker ambient lighting finishes things off nicely.
There are no issues in the kitchen either, thanks to the piercing output of the LED strip that runs along its entire width. The shower cubicle and the loo room both benefit from a strong, ceiling-mounted square lamp. Two reading lights and pleasant ceiling-height ambient strips look after the bedroom’s needs very well.
No one makes more handsome bodyshells than Adria, and the well-built Altea in its latest silver/blue iteration is head-turningly good-looking. The interior is just as gorgeous, even if standard equipment levels are lower than on many £30k rivals.