Twelve Month Caravan Review

December 2014. A keen caravanner for many years,  James from our West branch has previously owned a Sprite Alpine, 2001 Elddis Sussex special edition Ashington and a 2007 Bailey Pageant Champagne.  For the past year he has caravanned with his family in a 2014 Sussex Caravan Centre special edition Ashington RS.  Read his review here:

Overview
2014 gave us warm weather with a reasonably dry summer resulting in a long UK touring season, and from Coachman it heralded the introduction of an all new model to replace the ever popular Amara - the Vision. Vision includes all Coachman’s trademarks including exceptional build quality and thoughtful design features in a handsome and spacious body.

Vision introduced us to a new breed of Coachman – a lighter weight model; saving around 100kg per model over the previous Amara! Another first for Coachman is that Vision also boasts bonded construction and introduces the use of high density polyeurethane structural framework to replace traditional wood.
Sussex Caravan Centre chose Vision as its base for their RS special edition range, and a great success the range has been with all models selling out!

We were fortunate enough to collect our Ashington RS in October 2013, it is based on the flexible family 520/4 layout (4 berth with side dinette).  Ours has been used throughout the year including for the first ever time for my family - winter caravanning in December!

Extras and Value
Ashington RS was an obvious choice over the standard Vision as it offers the following upgrades over the standard model for little over the cost of having ATC fitted as an option:

Al-Ko ATC 80 watt roof solar panel
Bespoke graphics Upholstery finished in VIP make-up
Large lounge Heki sunroof
Omnivent
Washroom mini Heki
Washroom Roman blind
Alarm with remote control
Sussex Lifetime Water Ingress Warranty + more…

Further to this I can be confident that when I come to part with my Ashington RS that its value will be stronger than the standard model, making it a very good financial proposition. So both head and heart are more than satisfied.

Towing
From the picture you can see that we use a soft roader, the MTPLM of the Ashington RS is only 1450kg means that traditional grown up 4x4’s aren’t required.

This is our first caravan with Al-Ko’s brilliant ATC, the electronic stability system that automatically applies the caravan brakes to bring the caravan back under control if it starts to become unstable. Just knowing that this silent guardian is keeping an eye on proceedings gives me more towing confidence. The hitch is as you’d expect a stabilising Al-Ko 3004 model that engages securely to the car.

We towed across the south of England this summer and I can honestly say that the caravan’s road manners were without fault. We noticed that the caravan suspension soaked up even the worst ruts and potholes without transferring any of the usual kickback to the car.

Setting up
Two words for this: A Doddle. Modern caravanning is all about ease of use. From arriving on site to getting the caravan levelled, hooked up and water on board takes under ten minutes and is easily managed by one person.

Ashington RS has a loadbearing A frame cover so you can easily clean off any dirt that might have collected along the way – I really like this feature.

The corner steadies are well positioned so there’s no need to have to go foraging under the caravan to find them (one of my pet hates, I always seem to get dirty before even starting a holiday).

The battery and all services are located on the offside; on the nearside there is a wet locker under the front seat with a 240v outlet.

The awning rail is white and matches the side panels, it looks really crisp and has awning feeds at both ends for convenience. The same can be said of the skirt rail and wheel arches.

Accomodation and Facilities
It’s a Sussex special edition Coachman, so it’s something special.

The outside looks very slick with its bespoke graphics and crisp lines, we noticed that it gets many admiring glances on site. Sussex special edition owners are a friendly group and you’ll soon know if any others are on site as we all seem to get nattering, often over a glass of something cold!

As I’ve previously mentioned the interior upholstery is upgraded to VIP standard with wraparound seating, additional bolster cushions and colour co-ordinated scatter cushions. Sussex Caravan Centre special editions are well respected across the industry for their upgrades and this is a belter! It oozes quality and provides a very comfortable and stylish environment. The curtains are the best quality I’ve had in a caravan, being well lined and finished in a neutral fawn colour with a simple accent of colour to one edge allowing owners to easily accessorise.

The two front settees are over 6 foot in length and are nice and deep.   This means that if you, like us, prefer to have two single front beds rather than make up the double they give a generous amount of room. If you are going to make up a double it’s easily done by pulling across the aluminium and beech bedframe from under the offside settee – this is on runners and the seat squab is on a gas strut, so it takes very little effort.
The side dinette is easy to convert and capable of accomodating two children up to around 5’8. The top bunk should only be used by a child of 6 or older. It has a very sturdy metal ladder, side protectors and wrap around curtain. The cushions I’m told are really comfortable and the dinette seats offer plenty of storage in the seat boxes.

The kitchen area is located on the near side and features an array of Thetford appliances including electric and gas hob, gas oven with separate grill and a smashing fridge/freezer. The worktop is shaped and projects out above the fridge without impeding space in the centre of the caravan, this makes for a very good sized workspace and has power for an electric kettle or toaster etc. Under the worktop above the fridge is concealed a very decent cutlery drawer – this is a great design and will no doubt be carried forward across Coachman’s other models. Above the hob is a concealed microwave. The sink is oval with a removable drainer and glass lift up lid. There is plenty of space for catering for four people or more.

As for heating, Wow! The caravan benefits from Truma’s 6kw combi unit supplying blown air heating and hot water - this is housed in the offside front bed box. The digital control panel is positioned by the door and is very straightforward. We took the caravan out last December and it was very chilly outside. My family are coldphobic so I set the heating thermostat to 18˚, I was asked to get up in the night and turn it down – this is a first! The heating is very effective AND quiet meaning that little legs could easily nod off!

I’m a big fan of correct lighting, the Ashington RS has more lighting than I’ve ever had in a caravan before. It also offers ceiling mood lighting that is nicely diffused and a range of reading lights. The over cupboard lighting in certain lights can be a little too white, I think I would have preferred a softer LED.

There is plenty of lockerspace in the caravan and all the hinges positively close, over the year not a single item fell out of any locker!

The washroom is very luxurious with a central sink and window beside it, a capacious wardrobe to the near side and shower and toilet to the left with a neat medicine cabinet above the toilet. The shower has a circular cubicle that cleverly doesn’t take up too much space. The room is airy and bright and not at all cramped.
All the woodwork is pale in colour - owners of the previous Amara will be familiar with it as I think it was carried across, and there’s nothing wrong with that because it’s very pleasant.

For security the caravan is equipped with a tilt sensor and PIR alarm with remote control that also operates the awning light and has a fitted Al-KO secure receiver.

Verdict
We’ve had a brilliant year holidaying in our Ashington RS and it hasn’t let us down at all. I’m pleased to report that nothing has fallen off or broken and that’s with family use - not that I expected it to fall apart!

It tows very, very well, it’s surefooted and well balanced.

What are the negatives? Well, if I am to be very picky the over locker lights are a little too white and I’d have like to have had a TV aerial point on the front shelf which seems to be a silly omission, and we would have preferred to be able to have a storage area for the dinette curtain. These are all very small things that can be overcome and as caravan compromises go, they are hardly worth registering.

It’s a brilliant caravan and we thoroughly enjoyed putting it through its paces.  

Update
Owing to my changing family needs, I have recently taken delivery of a 2015 Sussex special edition Lunar Coneyhurst.  I can't wait to get out and start my new caravanning year - watch out for my review in December 2015. 

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