Tucked away in a quiet area of sunny Nelson is the home of RV Leisure Centre, owned and operated by Mike Irvine and Barry Avery.These guys have been in business since 1978 and have a long history with RV owners New Zealand wide. The business has been a distributor for the Tourism Holdings Ltd Group products as well as other caravan manufacturers’ products over the years. From 2011 they became the sole official distributor of the quality UK-built Elddis and Buccaneer caravan range, and we’ve seen Mike and Barry at motorhome shows in Auckland, Hamilton and Christchurch with these quality caravans since then.
We arrived in Nelson for the NZMCA AGM rally early so we could catch up with the guys and their latest arrival just off the boat – the first model of the newly updated Elddis Encore 254 motorhome. It’s a very exciting time for this business because they’ve been working with the UK company for over five years to get these models into New Zealand. The main reason they had to wait was because the motorhomes are on the Peugeot cab chassis base. As knowledgeable RV owners will know, we predominantly have motorhomes based on Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen Crafter, Iveco, Ford Transits, Fiat Ducato and LDV cab chassis units in the 3500kg range because these vehicle manufacturers offer a worldwide warranty on their products, which means if you have an imported vehicle and it has a mechanical issue, it’ll be covered by their warranty, which usually covers a two-year period.
For Mike and Barry, it was vitally important to have a vehicle manufacturers’ warranty cover on the chassis, so they’ve worked tirelessly with Peugeot to make this happen for their company, and applicable to their Elddis motorhomes in New Zealand.
What they can now offer is a fantastic three-year manufacturer’s warranty on the cab chassis, plus the 10-year body water ingress warranty that is standard on the bodies of Elddis motorhomes and caravans.
The Encore 254 has a Peugeot Boxer 2-litre, 97kW Blue HDi Turbo Diesel with six-speed manual gearbox. It has the new Euro 6 engine so it features reduced emissions and latest technology economical running. There’s plenty of space in the cab that’s well fitted with drink and bottle holders, and has cruise control which is so handy for sticking to the speed limit on long straight stretches of road. The cab seats are fully adjustable Captain seats with armrests that swivel to the rear for extra seating. The radio has steering mounted controls, the wing mirrors are electrically heated, and there’s a USB charger fitted as well as Bluetooth capability. The lockable storage box is big enough for a laptop computer so that suits me very well. The chassis itself is the extra wide rear track, which offers improved road handling and gives a sportier look. It’s fitted with Continental Vanco Camper tyres made specifically for the motorhome market, and there’s a spare wheel as standard. Many vehicles nowadays don’t carry a spare wheel. There are pleated windscreen and side cab window blinds for privacy, and a large Heki opening vent floods light into the front of the vehicle.
The exterior body
In 2012, Elddis introduced a major rethink on the way it builds caravans and motorhomes. It developed a new method of joining the sides/roof/front and back panels that make up the vehicle body, using a high-tech adhesive developed by Henkel, a world-renowned structural bonding specialist company, instead of screws and bolts. The result is an adhesive that fuses the panels together, creating an almost seamless weld, which assists the panels to work together to create an intrinsically stronger exterior shell for the vehicles. The walls have more integrity and rigidity by spreading stresses and strains evenly across all joints.
Added to this has been the benefit that it has been able to reduce weight by taking out some of the wood that was formerly in these structures. This has resulted in over 90 per cent fewer screws and bolts than are used in traditional RV building methods. The method has been trademarked as SoLiD construction.
This Encore 254 model has one-piece GRP silver sides with cool and groovy graphics to give the vehicle personality. The under belly of the vehicle has a GRP under skin which provides a water-resistant barrier to the base of the motorhome. The windows are all Aero Privacy flush-fit double-glazed and tinted for privacy, and fitted with pleated blinds and fly-screens.
They’re fitted with some great extras, such as a bbq gas fitting, a TV aerial plug and bike racks as standard. The habitation door has a fitted waste bin, window privacy blind and fly screen. Storage pods are accessible from both outside and inside the vehicle.
The winter pack is standard across all models, including tank heaters, waste pipe insulation and fridge vent covers.
The step into the house area is inset and low enough not to need an exterior step. The habitation entry is behind the passenger door and front lounge area, about a third of the way down the body. Once inside the lounge, there are two loungers to the left opposite each other, the bathroom is opposite the entry, and to the right is the kitchen. The rear is home to the bedroom, with a window in the back, which is becoming more unusual in European vehicles. It’s nice to be able to see out the back as you are driving; though you have rear cameras fitted no doubt.
The front lounge area has a TV fitting, and normally there’d be a TV there, but this model was so hot off the boat there hadn’t been time to have it installed. This is a four-berth model and initially you might wonder how that works, because there are no visible seats back here. There’s a very clever concept in play – instead of having seats that convert to a bed, these lounge couches lift up and have storage underneath, but also each side has a seat that folds up to be a legal seat, with diagonal seat-belts fitted. They also have slat bed slide-outs, so the area can be converted to a good-sized 1940x1240mm double bed. Very slick, and not difficult to set up at all.
So for those couples that rarely have visitors to stay over or the grandkids visiting, this gives the best use of space possible. The upholstery is described as Sumptuous Savanna-Aquaclean with OZIO hi-performance, lightweight construction. The matching side bolster and scatter cushions make this area nice and comfortable. A privacy blind can be pulled out from the left side to make this a private area for sleeping if required.
The walls are finished with a Nagoya textured wallboard, the cabinetry throughout are Ladinia craftsman-built ‘no-rattle’ units with chrome trim and canvas contrast detailing, with 24mm locker construction, removable shelves and positive locking handles. The flooring is bamboo-effect, easy clean heavy-duty vinyl with removable luxury deep-pile loose fitting carpet on top.
The bathroom has an electric Thetford cassette swivel toilet with its own water tank, a heated towel rail is on the wall behind the toilet that works when the hot water is on, there’s a compact (boutique) plastic sink with a swan-neck mixer tap and separate soap dish. I also noticed the fitted toilet roll holder that is vertical – so the toilet roll won’t come off accidentally. There’s a very cool and groovy-styled shower with Halo water-saving showerhead that is certainly different in looks as well.
The fresh and grey water tanks are 100L, there’s no window in here, but a roof vent takes care of light and ventilation.
The kitchen is compact, as is pretty much standard in any European-styled motorhome. The black gloss enamelled Aspire Mk2 oven, grill and dual fuel hob with an 800w electric hotplate and three gas burners, get the food cooked, and the smoked glass lid on this increases the workspace for preparation. The 135L Dometic fridge-freezer is ample inside, and for those who still use them, an 800W microwave is fitted. The black gloss finish is carried through to the round enamelled sink with a removable drainer, finished with polished chrome fittings and taps. There’s no range hood in this model, but there are three drawers and two cupboards under the bench for utensils and kitchen needs, and cupboards above as well. The fold-down dining table fits into a narrow cupboard under the bench.
Heating is via the Alde 24-hr multi-programmable central and water heating system that runs on gas or electric and has a LCD touchscreen control panel.
The rear bedroom has a fixed transverse bed with an adjustable sliding design – essentially you can push it up during the day for more walk-around space, and pull it back out for the long 1980mm length. There’s an OZIO Coolsoft luxury mattress, which provides optimum support and pressure relief, and is warm in winter and cool in summer from what I read. There are wardrobes on both sides of the bed, with cupboard overhead and small drawers on each side. The bed lifts up on gas struts to access storage underneath, which is accessible from outside as well. The 400×400 MPK VisionStar M Pro Midi Heki roof vent provides light and ventilation, as do the double-glazed windows in the side and rear of the vehicle.
This was the first model to arrive in New Zealand for RV Leisure Centre, but there are a number of floor plans available including models with single beds in the four-berth models, as well as a two-berth model where you convert the lounge to bedding as required. This model is the Encore 275 and will rival the standard two-berth camper models on the market today. It’s in the larger motorhome body with all the room required and with full rear-bathroom, but all on a compact-sized chassis base.
In this Encore range, Mike and Barry have imported four models initially. The other models available and on show at the Covi Motorhome & Caravan show in Auckland in March 2017 are the three Autoquest models, which have fixed double beds as well as single bed options, and the compact Accordo 120 two-berth model, under six metres.
With more than 150 floor plans available in the Elddis motorhome models, there’s bound to be a plan that’ll suit even the most discerning buyers, so do make sure you visit the Auckland show to see these brand-new motorhomes, or visit Mike and Barry in Nelson over the upcoming months to see what they can offer. They will have the Elddis Encore 254, Autoquest 185 and the Accordo 120 models on display.