Cameron Officer from New Zealand Motorhome & Caravan Destinations checks out the Avida Esperance motorhome at Auto Leisure & Marine (ALM) and declares it a trans-Tasman triumph.
Te Rapa-headquartered ALM has been importing the popular Avida range of motorhomes from across the Tasman since 2009. And as you’d guess, a local manufacturer pinning an external international brand to the company flag is no simple consideration. Managing director Andrew Fink tells me that the symmetries had to be just right.
“As a New Zealand manufacturer we’ll admit to being pretty parochial. And we love being able to craft machines specifically for New Zealand. But ultimately we’re in a prime position with Avida.
“They have decades of experience in manufacturing and they understand the ever-changing road and climate conditions that motorhomers face in all seasons in New Zealand,” he says.
Avida has been manufacturing motorhomes in Australia since 1965 and most models in its extended range are familiar sights on the roads of the continent. In fact the Esperance, which I’m taking a closer look at this month, is one of the single largest selling private motorhomes in Australia.
Andrew says that, with ALM positioning themselves as slide-out specialists, it was important to him that the Avida models his company distributes in New Zealand adhere by-and-large to the same format. In terms of sales staff experience, along with manufacturing and servicing, having a familiarly laid-out model line was vital.
“Avida uses the same Schwintek mechanical hardware that we trust for use in our own Allisee range, so once again there is a seamless fit for us that also benefits our customers.”
THE KIWI EQUATION
In New Zealand ALM customers can choose between several Avida models. In addition to the Esperance, the two-berth Leura, entry-level slide-out Birdsville (two- to four-berth) and Menindee LKS (two-berth) are also available.
A common theme with all, says Andrew, is that they are as perfectly kitted out for the New Zealand environment as they are for Australia.
“These machines tick a lot of Kiwi boxes; they’re exceptionally well-balanced weight-wise and possess good tow ratings too. The mid-range Esperance in particular has definitely struck a chord among our clients.”
The attention to detail doesn’t end once the Avida-sourced motorhome arrives. ALM ensures the stock standard Avida gets some special treatment after it arrives, including up-spec’ing exterior paint and fitting optional extras such as automatic satellite dishes, solar panels and draw bars where required.
“We certainly don’t land them and leave them,” continues Andrew. “Because we have a manufacturing facility at our disposal, we have the ability to take a production vehicle and adapt it to suit any particular customer requirement.”
LIGHT, AIRY AND OPTIONS APLENTY
The test Esperance on these pages features the above extras, as well as additional long-range water tanks, fitted carpet sections for the driver’s cab and an electric awning (around $7000 worth in total), but ALM customers can drive away in a very well specified standard motorhome for $210,000; a very strong value-for-money proposition.
Big updates to the new Esperance include a changeover to the latest Iveco chassis and powerplant (three-litre turbo diesel matched with the new eight-speed ZF automatic transmission), an extended slide-out that now also incorporates the island bed, as well as modern updates to curved overhead cabinets and other fittings.
With windows on every wall – including in the rear-sited bathroom – and a generous skylight above, the Esperance feels especially light and airy. Louvers rather than top-hinged windows are the order of the day and are very effective in generating airflow. As Andrew points out, the triple-opening louvers actually increase the amount of ventilation area significantly over standard fold-out windows. On an intensely warm day – such as the day I spent assessing the Esperance – the interior remained cool and breezy.
“If there is a manufacturer that understands the ‘chilly bin principle’ – that is, you can keep items hot just as well as you can keep them cold – then it is an Australian manufacturer like Avida,” continues Andrew.
“The Aussies look to keep the heat out, not in. They’re very good at insulating walls, roof and floor, but they’re also brilliant at ensuring through-breezes are easily achieved and the interior remains cool when the sun is up.”
Moving to the centre of the motorhome, there is plenty of storage in the kitchen above and to the sides of the standard recessed three-burner stove and electric oven, with deep drawers for cookware and extended stainless steel bench space.
There’s even a dedicated wine rack cubby, as well as a clever ‘drawbridge’ bench-top arrangement that folds down across the main door, allowing the chef extra prep space for dinner, or a restaurant-style ‘pass’ to ensure meat for the barbeque or the next round of drinks make it outside in timely fashion.
Across the other side of the living area is the 190-litre Dometic ’fridge/freezer, which adjoins the dinette. The dinette itself features a fully adjustable table, allowing place settings for four, or easily twisting out of the way against the wall for less formal usage. Naturally there is carefully recessed mood lighting throughout the interior, adding further to the Esperance’s spacious, premium-feel cabin.
Andrew reckons Avida has the formula right in the Esperance; customer support providing the proof in the proverbial.
“The previous Esperance was a big success for us, but this updated model really does take things to the next level.
“Examples of the new Esperance we’ve sold thus far have been to existing Esperance customers. I think that’s a great vote of confidence in what the model offers as a whole, as well as recognition that the updates in the latest generation are significant enough to make it worth our customers’ reinvestment.”
So while they might be inconsistent at cricket, it would appear the Australians certainly know a thing or two about what makes a good motorhome great.
- Value for money proposition.
- Superior cooling and heating abilities.
- With the slide-out extended, available living space is excellent.
- None that we can think of.
See the original review as posted on New Zealand Motorhome & Caravan Destinations