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                                                                                                                                                                          attaches to a cradle under the chassis: both                                                     multiple sets of mucky juvenile paws will be
                                                                                                                                                                          these facts contribute to a well-balanced
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Technical                                    traipsing in and out from the beach or the
                                                                                                                                                                          caravan, as well as helping keep noseweight         RRP                  £Below 2006             play area. Just look at the sheer size of the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   (then £11,995)
                                                                                                                                                                          under control.                                                                                   thing, though: not such a problem if you
                                                                                                                                                                             The Dart’s mild diet has resulted in a very      Internal length      5.55m (18ft 2in)        remove it before you go on holiday, but
                                                                                                                                                                          modest 2% (25kg) weight loss, which, with           Overall length       5.98m (19ft 7in)        where will you put such a behemoth if you
                                                                                                                                                                          20kg taken off the maximum weight gives             Headroom             1.93m (6ft 4in)         feel the need to lift it on site? It would have
                                                                                                                                                                          5kg more payload. You wouldn’t go far               Overall height       2.59m (8ft 5in)         been far more user-friendly to have split it
                                                                                                                                                                          wrong with a Seat Alhambra 1.9TDI                   Width                2.09m (8ft 6in)         into two, making it easier to stash away, as
                                                                                                                                                                          undertaking towing duties. With a gutsy,            MIRO                 1045kg (20.57cwt)       well as giving the wherewithal to remove
                                                                                                                                                                          frugal diesel engine and good                       MTPLM                1280kg (25.19cwt)       just one section.
                                                                                                                                                                          accommodation for up to seven, it’s a               Payload              235kg (4.62cwt)            The front lounge is a full-sized affair,
                                                                                                                                                                          likeable MPV of proven pedigree.                                                                 allowing a choice of a double or two single
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Berths               6
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           beds; and, thanks to the securely extending
                                                                                                                                                                          USABILITY                                                                                        dresser top and the freestanding table being
                                                                                                                                                                          The 556-6’s designers have made good use                                                         the same height, set-piece meals for six will
                                                                                                                                                                          of the available space to accommodate six                                                        be no problem at all.
                                                                                                                                                                          people, but this layout works well for three                                                        A potential downside of the huge
                                                                                                                                                                          or four occupants, too. If the side dinette                                                      window at the front is that the blind is
                                                                                                                                                                          isn’t being used as sleeping accommodation,                                                      equally vast. With a three-piece window,
                                                                                                                                                                          it obviously gives somewhere else for people                                                     you can close off one third to block out
                                                                                                                                                                          to sit. Given the compactness of the                Avondale Dart 556-6                          direct sunlight without making the caravan
                                                                                                                                                                          kitchen, it makes a highly civilised food                                                        feel gloomy – here, it’s all or nothing.
                                                                                                                                                                          preparation area – comfy seat, chopping                                                             The combined gas/electric Truma heater
                                                                                                                                                                          board, vegetable knife and glass of wine.           VERDICT                                      has blown-air outlets in the front dinette
                                                                                                                                                                          Lovely – but go easy on the vino if you’re in       Construction             I I I I II          and in the washroom – good news for chilly,
                                                                                                                                                                          full chopping mode…                                 Towabillity              IIIII               autumn half-term breaks.
                                                                                                                                                                              For years, it’s been a proud boast of                                    I I I II I             Nine overhead lockers and plenty of
                       BACK TO                                                                                                                                            Avondale that every single one of its
                                                                                                                                                                          caravans, no matter where it sits in the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Living and sleeping
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       I I I II I
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           open shelving is a generous allocation, and
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           there are plenty of other places to stash

                                                                                                                                                                          range hierarchy, has included a spare                                                            things, too: there are bedlockers in the          BELOW,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Washroom                 IIIII                                                                 CLOCKWISE FROM
                                                                                                                                                                          wheel as standard equipment.                                                                     front lounge, under the bottom bunk and
                                                                                                                                                                          Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Lighting and electris    I I I I II          under the seats in the side dinette. The
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             TOP LEFT: The
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Remis sliding
                                                                                                                                                                          buy a year 2007 Dart and you’ll have to             VERDICT                  IIIII               front ones are accessed by excellent, lift-       sunroof assures a
                                                                                                                                                                          fork out extra for one. There are ways and                                                       up slatted seatbases.                             bright, welcoming
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             interior; a non-
                                                                                                                                                                          means of cutting costs to try and keep the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             paying resident at
                                                                                                                                                                          asking price of a new caravan in check –          lounge now benefits from four reading lights   LIVING AND SLEEPING                               Ferry Meadows;
                       AVONDALE HAS REALISED THAT, COMPARED WITH THE                                                                                                      but it’s a shame Avondale had to pick on
                                                                                                                                                                          this. It’s the end of the line for the ‘secret’
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            – one above each corner of the parallel
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            seating. The two new lights enhance the use
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           The big front lounge in the Dart will win lots
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           of admirers. As well as being able to seat six
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             gas locker takes
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             two steel 6/7kg
                       OPPOSITION, ITS BASIC RANGE ISN'T BASIC ENOUGH.                                                                                                    spare wheel compartment under the floor           of this area during waking hours and at        at mealtimes without too many elbow-              cylinders; compact
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             kitchen frees more
                                                                                                                                                                          as well: where fitted, the spare now lives in     bedtime: a worthwhile improvement.             induced soup spillages, you can get some
                       ROB MCCABE TRIES THE 2007 MODEL, BUT DOES HE                                                                                                       a cradle attached to the Al-Ko chassis.              The loose-fit carpet is something of a      full-on, feet-up action going when the kids
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             worktop; plenty of
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             storage; all beds
                       END UP DART-BORED?                                                                                                                                     On a brighter note (literally), the front     must-have in a family caravan, where           have been despatched to their various beds;       are at least 6ft 1in

ABOVE: Cunning

                            ’VE ALWAYS had a soft spot for the         transversely across the rear wall, manages        around inside it at any given time.
moulded lines
                            Avondale Dart. It’s a jack-of-all-         to cater for up to six people in a roomy             Inside, the furniture shows no obvious
make the new
single front window         trades, entry-level caravan that’s light   caravan sitting on just one axle.                 signs of budgetary restraint, with simple,
appear like a triple   on gimmicks or frippery, but which still           Let’s see how it measures up.                  solid wood framed locker doors
from this angle        comes with all the essentials to guarantee                                                        infilledwith lightweight ply by Tecnoform
                       fuss-free caravanning.                          CONSTRUCTION                                      of Italy. Fuss-free metal loop handles
                          Since its arrival in the mid ’90s it has     The front window’s an odd one. Last season        provide the finishing touch, everything fits
                       evolved quietly, moving with the times as       it sported three. Now, although it’s a big,       well and the substantial steel sprung
                       best it can but never quite catching the eye    one-piece unit à la Continental caravans, it      hinges should withstand many years of
                       as effectively as those fashion victims from    hasn’t lost the British-style, three-piece look   holiday use and abuse. Side-hung
                       Swift, Elddis or Bailey. If the Avondale        altogether, thanks to strategically-placed        cupboard doors sportsecure double nylon
                       Dart were a teenager, it would be               grooves moulded into it.                          roller catches.
                       embracing clamshell mobile phones just as           The remainder of the package is as
                       everybody else was moving into slide-to-        traditional as it comes. Two-piece bonded         TOWABILITY
                       open ones, or treating itself to a David        aluminium sidewalls are joined front and          There’s no longer a standard-fit hitch
                       Beckham mohican just as the Man                 rear by ABS plastic panels, the front one         stabiliser for 2007, but the Dart was, as
                       Himself had it all shaved off.                  extending to just above that big window.          usual, a stable, well-mannered companion
                          With layouts catering from two to six,       The full-height rear panel is big, square and     on the road, so it’s not too much of a loss.
                       the big-hearted Dart has an option to suit      window-free, lending it a definite                The gas locker, as on all Avondales, is
                       most caravanners. Here, we’re running the       motorhome-esque air. The corner steadies          situated in the sidewall, but does not yet
                       rule over the 556-6 that, with the help of      though, are disappointingly skinny for a          accept BP’s new lightweight composite
                       two permanent bunks running                     caravan that may have six bodies moving           cylinder, while the spare wheel (if specified)

62 THE CARAVAN CLUB MAGAZINE                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     AUGUST 2006 THE CARAVAN CLUB MAGAZINE 63
                                                                     near-zero maintenance on holiday, they                generous allocation of space for toiletries is
                                                                     make two cracking beds. Each bunk –                   also creditable – four cupboards and some
                                                                     separated from the rest of the caravan by its         open shelving.
                                                                     own curtain – also has its own little 12V                A small striplight operated by pull cord –
                                                                     light, not to mention a foot-end window on            reachable by the juniors on board – gives
                                                                     the world, so that those waking up in there           acceptable illumination at night; during the
                                                                     can check what’s occurring outside as they            day, a window and a roof light combine to let
                                                                     welcome in the new day. Trouble is that, in           in plenty of daylight.
                                                                     high summer, they might be welcoming in
                                                                     that new day rather earlier than they’d like:         LIGHTING AND ELECTRICS
                                                                     only a curtain of almost unfair flimsiness            The three roof-mounted ‘torpedo’ lights
                                                                     protects each window. I’d have blackout               by themselves chuck out a decent amount
                                                                     curtains in there as a matter of urgency. No          of illumination, and they’re well spaced to
                                                                     flyscreens, either – another downer for               spread it throughout the length of the big
                                                                     summer use.                                           Dart. With four reading lights at the front,
                                                                        With the side dinette pullout overhead             another two by the side dinette and a good
                                                                     bunk still stowed against the wall, the seat          striplight in the kitchen, you can dial in
                                                                     cushions join together to make a perfectly            lighting to suit your needs. A switch by the
                                                                     fitting single bed. Put that bunk in place,           door controls one of the roof lights and the
                                                                     though (an easy single lift-up action), and           awning light.
                                                                     the extra bit of width that results mean they             As everyone settles down to read a few
                                                                     no longer fit. The methodology here is to             pages of their paperbacks before falling
                                                                     transfer the lower cushions to the top bunk,          asleep, spare a thought for the bod in the
                                                                     while the stowed ‘bunk’ mattress is                   lower bed of the side dinette: he or she will
                                                                     designed to go on the lower berth. Neat.              need to bring a torch… but then this is a
                                                                        On this test Dart, the wall press-studs that       basic entry-level model.
                                                                     should secure the thin, upholstered board                 There are two mains sockets on board,
                                                                     that covers part of the side window were              almost exactly opposite each other. The
                                                                     notable by their absence, but this was a one-         usual ‘kettle’ socket by the kitchen is paired
“A big, well-made,                                                   off prototype omission.                               with one above the fridge, which has an
                                                                                                                           adjoining 12V/coaxial socket for a TV or
friendly caravan but, like                                           KITCHEN
                                                                     If you’re trading up from an old Dart to a
                                                                                                                           stereo radio. Water and space heaters can be
                                                                                                                           operated on hook-up as well as gas.
all friends, it’s not devoid                                         new one, you’ll notice one of the hob burners
                                                                     has gone AWOL: it’s not as great a loss as the
                                                                                                                               The fusebox/circuit breaker is a breeze to
                                                                                                                           get to: just lift off the small section of

of shortcomings”                                                     spare wheel, but may be a factor on this
                                                                     model for families of six who would make
                                                                                                                           upholstery at the front of the nearside sofa,
                                                                                                                           lift the bed base and there it is. The drain
                                                                     full use of that fourth burner were it there.         switch for the water heater on the opposite
                                                                         I wish I had a round pound for every time         side enjoys identical ease of access.
                                                                     I’ve arrived on site and realised I’d forgotten
                                                                     the matches, so it’s good to see spark                VERDICT
                                                                     ignition on the Spinflo cooker, which also            A big, well-made, friendly caravan but, like
                                                                     has a combined grill and oven.                        all friends, it’s not devoid of shortcomings.
                                                                         The modest proportions of this latter             It’s a shame the spare wheel has gone for the
                                                                     item leave a usefully big cupboard                    2007 model year. The tasty alloy wheels,
                                                                     underneath; and kitchen storage is, on the            hitch stabiliser and fourth gas ring are more
                                                                     whole, pretty generous.                               understandable cuts, and a consequence of
                                                                         Six people’s worth of provisions will soon        the former is that the Al-Ko Secure wheel
                                                                     fill the 77-litre Dometic fridge – which sits         lock cannot be offered as an option.
                                                                     on the nearside and provides a base for your          However the bonus comes in the pricing: I
                                                                     television – but at least it has a full-width         don’t think I’ve described £1000-worth of
                                                                     freezer compartment.                                  specification cuts, but that what’s coming off
                                                                         With the side dinette made up as beds,            the retail price, which will range from
TOP: Nothing        and you have the option, of course, of having    you’ll lose the tabletop that otherwise is            £10,000 to £11,500. Well done Avondale!
budget about this   either single or double beds here.               your saving grace on the work surface
                       It’s comfy, too, although you might want      front. I do appreciate the compromises
ABOVE: Modest
fridge provides     to buy in a couple of extra cushions to boost    involved – something has to give when
extra worktop-      loungeability in the corners. Knee bolsters      there’s such a delightfully spacious lounge
cum-TV-station      are subtle, guaranteeing a fairly flat double    – but you will have to plan family meals
                    bed; and I found the blend of firmness and       with patience and precision.
                    comfort to be just about spot-on. The slats
                    that pull out to form the bed base moved         WASHROOM
                    with an uncommon panache.                        How often will buyers of a family caravan
                       Two permanent bunks are sited across the      like this actually use the shower? Hardly
                    back wall – a set-up that’s hard to beat, both   ever if at all, I’ll wager, but if they do, they’ll
                    for common sense and for the nighttime           be chuffed to find a shower unit with its own                Club insurance: 01342 336610
                    comfort of the occupants. Not only do they       dedicated mixer tap – no need to haul the               i    Info:
                    take up precious little room and call for        mixer from the wash hand basin here. The

64 THE CARAVAN CLUB MAGAZINE                                                                                                      

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