A little surprisingly, until earlier this year Nova Caravans only had one offroad design in its extensive stable. Although it does have quite a few what might be described as ‘rough road’ caravans, the 4.9m/16ft Terra Sport, in a variety of lengths, was the sole offroad contender.
That is until the Little Terra arrived on the scene. Quite distinctive in the Sydney RV, Penrith sales yard where I first laid eyes on it, the lack of body length does stand out a bit. Putting the tape measure on the Little Terra reveals that it comes in at just under 4.6m (15ft). It has a single axle and a relatively diminutive stature but there’s nothing diminutive about the design features or specifications though. The Little Terra has all the hallmarks of a van built for offroad use.
On the road
Starting with the essentials, the Little Terra has a tare mass of 2046kg and an Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM) of 2564kg. Consequently, it’s not an overly heavy van and has a decent payload of 500kg. To give the van a test run, I found a few bush tracks in the Megalong Valley in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. My tow vehicle, a Jeep Grand Cherokee, had no trouble with the van, and it was certainly overrated, but the Little Terra would be a good match for the vehicle of choice these days, a dual cab ute like an Isuzu D-MAX or Ford Ranger. A little something to note though, is that the unladen Tow Ball Mass (TBM) is 293kg, and relatively high, so a tow vehicle with a maximum TBM of 300kg would not be a contender. The ground clearance of the Little Terra was more than adequate and driving across a few bush track washaways, courtesy of recent Sydney floods proved to be no problem.
Even though the Little Terra is a relatively small van, it still has a very stylish and streamlined look about it with a silvery-grey colour scheme and striking decals. Being an offroad van, it has the the ever-present black alloy checkerplate on the lower areas.
The overall frameless construction uses Pro-Al aluminium sandwich panel and is designed to offer a strong and lightweight structure. The use of one-piece walls and fibreglass roof is intended to minimize water ingress.
Naturally the Little Terra body has all the expected features like an awning, external shower, lights on every wall and TV aerial but there are a few extra features like the Dometic Dust Reduction System (DRS). Mostly for outback roads, the DRS is designed to minimise dust entry into the van while it’s in motion.
External storage isn’t a strong point in the Little Terra. There is a front tunnel storage but that’s mostly occupied by the slide-out kitchen. In addition, there’s a drawbar-fitted alloy checkerplate storage box, but one half is taken up by the two gas cylinders, leaving the remaining section, with a slide-out as usable empty space.
Main rails and drawbar measure 150mm x 50mm (6in x 2in) and are used for the DuraGal® RHS box section chassis. It rides on AL-KO™ Enduro independent suspension complete with coil springs and twin shock absorbers. The 16in alloy wheels are shod with 265/70R16 All Terrain tyres. Fitted to the rear of the van is a 50mm x 50m (2in x 2in) bumper bar that has the spare wheel and two jerry can holders mounted.
A glance under the van reveals a very busy looking area but everything has its place. One of the 95 litre freshwater tanks is fitted forward of the axle but the second 95 litre tank and the grey water tank are fitted alongside each other in the rear area, unlike the more usual arrangement of one behind the other. It does make the water pipe connections looks a bit complicated, but it all tracks out and even the grey water tank piping is fairly well out of harm’s way. Both the battery boxes are mounted on the front offside chassis rail.
Fitting into the front tunnel storage, the Dometic slide-out kitchen is quite versatile. Measuring 1.67m x 0.64m (5ft 6in x 2ft), it’s made from an aluminum and stainless-steel construction which makes it quite strong, light weight and easy to clean. Installed into the kitchen bench area is a combo three-burner cooktop and stainless-steel sink complete with hot and cold water. While the water supply is permanently connected, the LPG is connected via a flexible hose and bayonet fitting.
Inside the Little Terra, things have that distinctive Nova look with smart and well-finished cabinetry work. The layout is a little different, with a front transverse double bed, a mid-offside parallel lounge, a fridge and cabinet on the facing side and a full-width bathroom across the rear. In this particular layout, the bed and the bathroom take up most of the space and it’s definitely a no-fuss arrangement for two people.
Having an east-west bed is something of a space saver but it does make things slightly awkward for the person who sleeps nearest the wall. However, with a bit of walkway space at the base of the 1.9m x 1.53m (6ft 3in x 5ft) bed, it’s not a bad compromise. There is one wardrobe in the front nearside corner complete with hanging space, drawer and pillow cubbie with the necessary 12V and 240V outlets. There’s another set of power outlets at the bedhead end, under the overhead lockers, the USB slot being hidden in the reading light mounting. For ventilation, there’s only a window on the offside but there are also two Sirocco fans, one mounted under the overhead locker and the other ceiling mounted, so that it covers more of the van. Lifting the slatted bed base gives access to the underbed area. It’s not as big as it looks because of the tunnel storage and the Swift hot water heater but the drawer conveniently saves lifting the bed base.
Something to be careful of when using the bed end wardrobe is the TV that’s mounted by the habitation door. Apart from the head knocking issue, it’s actual well located so as to be easily seen from both the bed and the adjacent lounge seat.
In a van this length, there’s not enough room for anything like a cafe dinette but the single lounge seat is more than adequate for two people, as is the height adjustable table. Indeed, the lounge is long enough for one person to put their feet up. Overhead lockers are fitted above the lounge seat and there’s a two-door pantry fitted in between the seat and the rear bathroom. It’s shelf fitted but a wire basket slide-out may have been a handy alternative.
Cooking Ins and Outs
Facing the dining area is what normally be the kitchen bench which it sort of is, just without a cooktop or sink. This is a van mostly designed for outside cooking and washing up. It does minimize cooking odours if nothing else. What is fitted in though is a Thetford 174litre, 12V compressor fridge with an NCE microwave oven above. The fridge is a two-compartment model – conventional fridge above and drawer-style freezer below.
Adjacent to the fridge is small kitchen bench without the usual features but with two drawers, a cupboard and a bit of benchtop space, handy for items such as a kettle and toaster. Above the bench top the overhead locker is divided in two, one half for storage the other containing items like the RV Wi-Fi, Project control panel and switching for the hot water and air-conditioning.
In some ways the rear bathroom is a sign of the times. Despite other features being downsized a bit to accommodate the length of the van, the bathroom is full size. It’s large enough to contain a separate shower cubicle, Thetford cassette toilet and a decent looking vanity cabinet complete with pedestal wash basin, shelving, cupboards and a wall mirror. It’s certainly well-appointed and there’s still enough space to turn around in.
Nova offers a three-year warranty on all its caravans. According to the brochure, that’s backed up by dealers in all states, along with a substantial number of ‘approved and qualified service centres’. Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) components are subject to the individual manufacturers’ warranties.
THE BOTTOM LINE
There’s a lot to be like about the Little Terra. Yes, there are a few compromises, and an outdoor kitchen might not suit everyone, but it gives a taste of the outdoor lifestyle without some of the downsides. If a smaller offroad van fitted with all the essentials is desired, then it’s a winner. The body length makes it a highly manoeuvrable van when doing a bit of offroad travel and makes it easier if the van needs to be parked in a small space. But that’s not usually a problem in Terra Australis …
HITS AND MISSES
- Lightweight offroad tourer
- Towing length
- Interior layout
- Battery and solar panel capacity
- Generous bathroom area
- Limited external storage capacity
- External kitchen
- Window area around bed
Value for Money : 7.5
Not a budget van but then Nova vans really aren’t in that category anyway
Towability : 8.5
Not an excessively heavy van and a short length makes this a well-behaved van behind a tow vehicle
Suitability for Intended Touring : 8
Relatively small van, well designed for offroad travel with a lighter footprint
Build Quality : 8
Built in the typical Nova style, the general fit and finish was good, and everything opened and closed as it should
Liveability : 7.5
The interior isn’t spacious but there’s still room to move inside. Storage capacity does mean travelling relatively lightly but that’s no bad thing
Self-sufficiency : 8.5
Fitted with 190 litre fresh water and 95 litre grey water capacity, plus the 200Ah battery/340W solar panel, the off-the-grid capability is good
Customer Care : 8
Nova offers a three-year warranty on all parts and components it manufactures. Everything else is subject to OEM manufacturers
Innovation : 7.5
Probably the most innovative feature is the overall concept, a downsized caravan built for offroad.
X-Factor : 8.5
Compact but still with reasonable living space, a van with offroad ability as well
Nova Little Terra Specs
Weights and Measures
|Body length||3.53 M (14ft 10in)|
|Overall length||6.63 M (21ft 9in)|
|Width||2.46 M (8ft 1in)|
|Height||2.98 M (9ft 9in)|
|Ball weight||293 KG|
|Cladding||Nova Pro-Al sandwich walls and one-piece fibreglass roof|
|Chassis||DuraGal® 150 MM (6in) rails and drawbar|
|Suspension||AL-KO™ Independent with coil springs and twin shock absorbers|
|Water||2 x 95 litre|
|Grey water||1 x 95 litre|
|Battery||2 x 100Ah|
|Solar||2 x 170W|
|Air-conditioner||Houghton Belaire 3400|
|Gas||2 x 9.0 KG|
|Sway control||AL-KO™ ESC|
|Cooking||Dometic 2 burner & grill|
|Fridge||Thetford T2175C 174 litre 12V compressor|
|Bathroom||Thetford cassette toilet & separate shower cubicle|
|Hot water||Swift 28 litre gas/electric|
Price as Shown $84,490
Supplied by Sydney RV
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