Avida Emerald: Review

By: Malcolm Street, Photography by: Malcolm Street


Compact and comfortable, the Avida Emerald can be towed by a mid-size 4WD.

There’s no doubt that some caravan and motorhome dealers have it better than others in terms of location. Take Australian Motor Homes, where I picked up an Avida Emerald caravan just recently. Out of towners might not think much about the Bennetts Green location south of Newcastle (NSW) but locals will tell you there are fine coastal beaches about 15min to the east and the very picturesque Lake Macquarie to the west. Always a handy location for photographs.

So with that I collected and hitched up the Emerald and headed out to Lake Macquarie. Along the way, I passed through Swansea, where the mouth of the Swansea Channel meets the ocean. Here, a drawbridge allows boats to pass and although I have driven over it many times, I had not seen it open until this occasion. Of course, being holiday time in a holiday region, a long queue formed giving me time to ponder the Emerald CV5432QB in my rear view mirror.

A GOOD FIT

Breaking down the jargon in its name, the Emerald is 5.4m (17ft 5in) with QB referring to the queen bed – the Emerald is available with single beds as well. At this length, it only has a single axle and on flat ground, this makes it easier to push around.

Under the Emerald is a hot-dipped galvanised chassis with 150x50mm (6in x 2in) RHS rails and 150x50mm (5in x 2in) RHS drawbar rails. This seems like overkill for the size and weight of the van but it has less cross members than larger vans and they're made from punched hole C section, for strength and less weight. It all rides on the AL-KO leaf spring suspension with a beam axle and 15in alloy wheels.

Avida Emeraldundercarriage

Above the chassis, a one-piece 49mm sandwich panel floor with protective aluminium lining on the underside gives more rigidity. Similar to the floor, the walls (35mm) and roof (45mm) are one-piece fibreglass composite sandwich panels, all with no frame. Slightly odd but nothing to worry about is how the van looks taller than its 2.97m (9ft 9in) height due to the way it’s made.

From the rear end, the Emerald has a somewhat square look, offset a bit by the fibreglass mouldings on the rear wall; the raked front looks smart and improves the towing aerodynamics. A simple bumper bar across the rear supports the spare wheel mount. Dometic acrylic windows are fitted all round and the door is the standard Camec security item. There isn’t a conventional front boot but instead a good sized tunnel boot for all those camping essentials. The Dometic awning is, of course, a standard item.

ROOM TO MOVE

In a van of this length, there’s really only way to fit a front island bed and full-width rear bathroom and that’s having a forward-entry door. Yes, that does step more or less straight into the bedroom but it’s a space saver, too.

In addition to the bed and bathroom, there are other essentials, like the L-shaped lounge along the nearside wall and kitchen bench opposite. Overall, it does not feel too cramped, helped by a light colour scheme and large windows, especially on either side of the bed.

A benefit of the forward-entry door is that the bed walkway is less cramped than it might otherwise be, even on the kitchen bench side. Sleepwalkers may stumble down the entry step in the middle of the night but for frequent walkers, a small sheet of ply might help.

Extended, the bed measures 1880x1530mm (6ft 2in x 5ft) and comes with wardrobes on both sides. There are no bedside shelves, instead, small compartments will easily store night-time essentials. A flat-screen TV mounted at the end of the kitchen overhead lockers will face the bed or swivel towards the dinette.

Personally, I like the large windows on either side of the bed but when open they’re a bit too easy to climb through, so I’d err on the side of caution if leaving the van unattended or when camping in less salubrious areas.

Under the bed provides room for general storage, the battery and assorted electricals. Neither the 240V circuit breaker nor 12V fuses are easy to get at, especially the latter items. Nimble fingers and good eyesight are required.

L-SHAPE DINETTE

Avida Emerald L-shape Dinette

The Emerald featured the L-shaped dinette option rather than the cafe style. I reckon it works better in this length van. There really is only room for two but it’s more streamlined for moving around. Above the dinette are three overhead lockers with the end one not only having a handy keys ’n’ torch shelf but a radio and 12V/5V USB charger outlets. I don’t know about the visible wiring to the panel. It’s not 240V, so it isn’t dangerous but I’d prefer it concealed as it could get caught on something. Under the seat, at least in the corner out of the way and off the floor, is a single power point. The lounge converts quite simply into a bed with an extra bit of timber under the bed but in the model I saw, something was wrong with the essential support leg. I think someone may have fitted the wrong length.

KITCHEN ESSENTIALS

Small caravan equals small kitchen? Not always, but certainly in this case. There are the essentials, naturally – four-burner cooker and grill, stainless steel sink, 190L fridge and microwave but not much in the benchtop working space department. Three good-sized drawers, three overhead lockers and a two-door cupboard make up the kitchen storage facilities, so relatively speaking, it scores quite well there.

SEPARATE TOILET/SHOWER

Compact bathrooms are tricky to photograph, especially if they have a good sized wall mirror like the one we see here. Large mirrors do matter to buyers but more than that this ensuite has a separate shower cubicle, cassette toilet and decent vanity cabinet. There’s also a wall-mounted Daewoo washing machine for handling smaller loads on a regular basis. 

LIGHT ON TOW

Towing the Emerald is a breeze. With a Tare mass of just 1786kg and an ATM of 2200kg, it’s suitable for a good range of tow vehicles. Certainly, the Toyota Prado I was using that’s a few years old didn't have a problem at all. Many caravans I see these days are heavy enough to push the maximum towing mass limits but having a few hundred kilos in "spare capacity" makes the drive more relaxing and gives a bit of reserve in emergency situations. A little something to keep in mind is the size of the water tanks. If both are filled they will absorb 240kg of load capacity, leaving just 174kg for everything else.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Smaller vans with slightly compressed layouts aren’t for everyone but for me, they do offer the standard front bedroom/rear bathroom layout in a van that’s an easy towing prospect. In the world of RVs, where many vans are getting heavier and heavier, there’s much to be said for designs like the Emerald that don't require a super heavy-duty tow vehicle. 

HITS AND MISSES

Measuring up

Pros...

  • Smaller, lighter van
  • Lighter-duty tow vehicle acceptable
  • Front bedroom/full-width bathroom
  • Forward-entry door
  • Large window area (mostly)

Cons...

  • 12V cabling visible in the cupboards
  • Circuit breaker and 12V fuse panel located under bed
  • Support leg on dinette bed ill-fitting
  • Full water tanks absorb a lot of the payload

Weights and measures

  • Overall length: 7.2m (23ft 8in)

  • External body length: 5.47m (17ft 5.5in)

  • External body width (incl awn): 2.46m (8ft in)  

  • Travel height: 2.97m (9ft 9in)            

  • Internal height: 2.10m (6ft 7in)            

  • Tare: 1786kg

  • ATM: 2200kg

  • Payload: 414kg

  • Ball weight: 146kg

Price as shown

$63,990 2018 Model

More information

To inquire about this caravan, please visit www.caravanworld.com.au/spec or phone (02) 4948 0433.

The full feature appeared in Caravan World #573. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!