TESTED: OTRON SIGNATURE SERIES 3

By: MALCOLM STREET, Photography by: MALCOLM STREET


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The Otron Signature Series 3 caravan is a long, stylish van designed to go wherever the road, or track, may take you.

TESTED: OTRON SIGNATURE SERIES 3
Otron Signature Series 3 caravan: wherever you go, you'll get there in style.
  • 7.31m (24ft) tandem-axle van
  • Independent suspension
  • Front bedroom, rear bathroom layout
  • Contemporary white and black interior

What makes an offroad caravan an offroad caravan? Ask any number of industry people and you will get differing views about the actual definition. Otron Caravan's Otto Tuza has his own answer: "I don't make offroad vans. I build a van that will go anywhere!"

One of the newest vans to emerge from the Otron factory is evidence of this. The Signature we reviewed was so new, in fact, that it didn't have any decals on it as they were being made to match the customer's tow vehicle. The Signature Series 3 is made like any other Otron van - with no distinction between offroad and on-road construction.

Supporting the Signature is a 150x50mm (6x2in) SupaGal chassis that comes with a 1.8m (6ft) drawbar and a 3500kg-rated coupling. Al-Ko drop down stabiliser jacks are fitted to each corner of the chassis and there is a Trail-A-Mate jockey wheel upfront. A holder for two 120A deep-cycle batteries is fitted to the offside front chassis rails.

The Signature rides on Aero Flex independent suspension and there's a full-sized working model in the Otron showroom if you'd like a demonstration of exactly how it works. A peek under the van reveals coil springs, shock absorbers and a trailing arm setup.

Like many vans, the Signature comes with a timber frame made with treated loop pine with a waterproof seal. There is plenty of external storage space including a front boot, large tunnel, drawbar-mounted pole holder and two smaller bins, one on the front offside and the other at the nearside rear. All the bins have internal lights. Two other bins store the toilet cassette tank and the caravan's electrics, including the battery charger and 12V fuses.

In a rather radical move, Otron has labelled the fuses, taking the guesswork out of electrical changes and fault-finding.

The Signature is well-appointed for al fresco living. There's an awning with a modified roof mounting that comes fully fitted with walls. In addition, there's a picnic table, a barbecue that slides out from the front boot and an entertainment unit. A grab handle light at the door, two lights on the nearside wall and another light mid-offside will make things easy to see in the dark.

 

CONTEMPORARY CARAVAN

Stepping inside the Otron Signature through the rear door reveals a striking black and white interior finish. It might not be for everybody but it certainly catches the eye.

There is a full-width rear bathroom to the right of the entry door, a Dometic 184L fridge directly opposite, and a kitchen bench along the nearside wall facing a club lounge and a bedroom, with an east-west bed up the front. LED lights are fitted throughout, giving good illumination throughout the van. A look inside the cupboards reveals that everything is finished off nicely.

Positioning the bed across the van with the bedhead against the offside wall is a bit unusual, but I like that it allows for a full set of wardrobes across the front wall. There are five in total, all with mirrored doors and large drawers underneath. They are not quite full-height because of the tunnel boot underneath, but they still offer a very generous amount of storage space. It almost makes the overhead lockers above the bed a bit superfluous, especially as there is underbed storage, too.

This Signature's large bathroom comes with the full kit: nearside shower cubicle, offside Dometic cassette toilet, vanity cabinet across the rear wall and a Lemair top-loading washing machine in the corner. On either side of the vanity and in each corner are benchtop-to-ceiling cabinets, so there is absolutely no shortage of places to stash things.

Not only does the shower cubicle have a flexible-hose shower, but it has a towel rail and two grab handles. The sliding door, meanwhile, appears to be fitted better than most I've seen, including one or two that bounced off their tracks - not necessarily under offroad conditions, either.

With the fridge located on the offside - it's off the floor with a large drawer underneath - there's plenty of space for a functional kitchen bench on the nearside. At the door end, the Stoves four-burner cooktop, grill and oven has a flush lid that matches the benchtop. The stainless steel sink with drainer sits mid-bench, leaving a generous working area at the forward end.

The microwave is located in the overhead locker space above this, but it is set lower than the adjoining lockers - at what should be a user-friendly height for most people.

The sound system is in the overhead cabinetry but, rather than above the cooktop where they are often placed, it's further along, still convenient to use while being away from steam and fumes.

 

STORAGE SOLUTIONS

Given the length of the kitchen bench, there's plenty of drawer space - five drawers in all - as well as a cupboard and a wire-basket pantry. There's a multi-shelved floor-to-ceiling cupboard fitted to the bathroom wall by the entry door. Have I mentioned that well-thought-out storage is not lacking in this van?

Opposite the kitchen, the club lounge is a very inviting place in which to sit and relax. There's plenty of room to stretch and both seats have footrests. These are not the usual hinged variety, they're small slide-outs, with the cushion stored against the seat end when it's not being used. This arrangement also allows for an under-seat drawer.

The table is designed to fold down easily to make up a bed, but I did wonder whether, given how everything else is put together in this van, that something more sophisticated than a single pole mount could have been used.

The corner shelves above each end of the dinette are a nice touch and there are three, yes three, powerpoints and one 12V socket behind the dinette. I've been known to lament about a shortage of powerpoints in many vans, but that's almost over the top!

Being 7.31m (24ft) and having a Tare of 2960kg means the Signature isn't a small van but that doesn't mean it's a difficult tow. Naturally, a large tow vehicle (preferably with a tow rating of at least 3500kg in view of the ATM) is needed but, once on the road, the van travels along in a well-behaved manner. That might sound like a bit of an inane statement, but if a van doesn't travel well on-road, then it's not going to be a good offroad traveller.

This van's owners have opted for a dual-cab Iveco Daily with a custom-built storage bin on the back. This is an interesting choice of tow vehicle but not that unusual - the fifth wheeler set are very familiar with Ivecos. There's certainly nothing wrong with them and in this case it makes for a long towing combination - 16.4m (53ft 10in) in total.

 

THE BOTTOM LINE

You'd expect a lot in terms of layout, space and components in a caravan the length of this Otron Signature Series 3. And the good news is, that's exactly what you get. The Signature is a well-built van with copious amounts of storage that's ready for the long haul - in style, of course, with just about everything necessary for comfortable travel. Not everyone is going to want a van of this length, but it is good indicator of what else might be available in the Otron range.

 

I LIKED...

  • General construction
  • External bin storage space
  • Powerpoints and lights all over the place
  • Dinette design with corner shelves and footrests
  • Spacious pantry against bathroom wall

 

I WOULD HAVE LIKED...

  • Better table mounting design


Originally published in Caravan World #511, February 2013.

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