A French revolution?
France’s best-selling brand is back in the UK after a gap of nearly a decade. Back with a bang, too, because it’s now part of the Auto-Sleepers group empire. That means it has an instant dealer network of some 11 branches, offering an initial proposition of six rather modern tourers at the keenest of prices and lightest of weights.
That’s just the start. The 455, sister model to the Antarès 420 featured here, has already scooped a Caravan Club Design Award (Best Caravan under £17,000) – although its club sites might not be so pleased. Which way to pitch such units rather stretches the stricter placings that some sites insist on.
To explain, as imports Caravelair doors remain on the UK offside – and some of the floorplans are very continental in their thinking, with permanent beds at the front. The Antarès 420, also offers something refreshingly different as a four-berth that puts its main double in the front nearside, with a washroom adjacent.
A key feature of the French bed is the extra bit of floorspace at its foot end , which means you can get out of bed (typically, in the middle of the night) without waking your partner.
The washroom features a bench toilet (they’re much easier to clean around than the swivel-bowl variety) and a somewhat flimsy and shallow flip-down white plastic basin. A curtain extends around for showering, but there’s just the one plughole and it’s a small-diameter. There’s a window, plus a vent in the ceiling, with lighting from an LED strip. Storage is limited to a small shelf over the basin, but there are towel and toilet roll holders, plus a chrome wall basket.
Dining is in the U-shaped dinette at the back. The table has a unique suction action, so you can move it around to suit. It also lowers to make berths three and four, with seat extension. Ply base boards are not ideal, especially as the main bed has an altogether more comforting slatted base.
The kitchen is all one unit, housing a three-ring hob and sink combination, plus a Thetford Duplex oven/grill. There’s also an own-brand fridge (Thetford-style) 87-litre fridge.
Worktop is somewhat limited, but storage fares a bit better, with two deep lockers overhead, cutlery drawer (where isolators for the gas appliances are also easy to access) and a small locker under the oven, with spice rack. Also, the floor-to-ceiling shelved locker to the left of the kitchen could easily make for a great food store.
It’s a challenge to your perceptions, but it’s stunning value for a brand new tourer. There are some downsides, of course. The water heater is mains only. Heating is gas only (although, thanks to its twin adjustable vents and blown air facility, it achieves the highest, Grade Three, rating). There’s a slightly strange TV mast set-up, but no actual aerial – maybe something got lost in translation… There are no factory-fit options, either, but this keeps the pricing right down. Ask your dealer about racks, awnings, TV and stereo, dealer-fit extras. As the Antarès only has basic security features you could also consider fitting additional caravan security devices to lower your insurance costs.
There’s no stinting on certain critical aspects, though. The GRP-clad bodywork (ABS front locker) is backed by a five-year water ingress warranty. And alloy wheels are standard.
As for rivals, nobody else offers this exact floorplan, and only UK peers Xplore and Venus – sub-brands of Elddis and Lunar, respectively – get anywhere near close on price. If you’re after something a bit different that’s light on weight as well as your wallet, it looks like Caravelair is on to something.
Verdict: Highly competitively priced, but springs plenty of surprises
Plus: Light weight, light price
Minus: Door is UK offside
In-a-nutshell: A great welcome to family caravanning
There’s more information on the Antarès range on the dealer website. To find out more about insuring this or your current caravan visit our caravan insurance discounts page.
Alternatives: Adria Altea 532 UP Trent, Weinsberg CaraOne 550 XU
Caravelair Antarès 420 factfile
|Model||Caravelair Antarès 420|
|Dimensions||5.90m L, 2.30m W, 2.58m H|
|MTPLM||1,100kg (kg upgrade)|
|RRP||from £12,995 on the road|
|Safety & security||AL-KO 3004 stabiliser, shock absorbers, smoke alarm, carbon monoxide detector|
Note: All details correct at time of publication but may be subject to change.
*Caravan insurance cost based on Caravelair Antares 420 caravan retailing at £12,995 fitted with hitchlock and wheel clamp. Kept on drive at HX4 0BE. Caravanners over 30 years old, claim free for 3 years and a member of a caravanning club. £100 excess. 180 days European cover and up to £75 per day for up to 15 days emergency accommodation cover included. Legal expenses cover, extended European cover and other emergency accommodation expenses cover options are available at extra cost. Quote includes 10% online discount and 10% Insurance Premium Tax and is correct as of 8.12.16.