I sometimes wonder if compact coachbuilts might be my favourite type of motorhome (taking campervans out of the equation). They offer all the facilities you’d expect in any ‘proper-size’ motorhome, but with a footprint on the road/campsite/driveway that’s no larger than a typical van conversion (or even a larger car these days).
Because on-board space is relatively limited, designers have to be a bit cleverer, not just in the provision of kit but also ensuring there’s enough room to manoeuvre and for storage. Plus, bear in mind the British penchant for rear lounges.
Luckily, at least three of our top manufacturers have responded to the call – Bailey, Elddis and Swift. It’s probably no coincidence that these also happen to be the UK’s three main caravan producers. A lot of touring caravan folk find themselves turning to a motorhome, for various reasons. And it’s not surprising they want to stick with brands they know.
Also, despite said folk being happy towing car/caravan outfits, somehow, a motorhome can seem to be a daunting prospect to drive (a fear that soon dissipates, believe me).
So, what is a compact coachbuilt? It’s not exactly an official term, but this essentially refers to anything up to 6m in overall length.
The key is, they have full camping facilities. And if they lead you wanting to – literally – stretch your legs a bit in a bigger unit, so much the better.
Then again, you might decide a compact coachbuilt does indeed provide you with everything you need.
As Good as New
2017 (17) Elddis Accordo Evolution 120
- Price now £39,995
- Price new From £41,495
- Base vehicle Peugeot Boxer
- Engine 2.0-litre turbodiesel, 130bhp
- First registered June 2017
- Mileage 12,001
- Berths/travel seats 2/2
- L/W/H 6.00/2.20/2.73m
- Extras Bike rack, reversing camera
- MTPLM 3300kg
- Payload 711kg
- Plus points Special edition upgrades, larger lounge
- Minus points Still a bit basic in some places
One of Brownhills’ own – Evolution is the name for its line of special editions, based on the Autoquest/Accordo ranges from Elddis.
As a dealer special, this example has a significantly higher level of specification compared to the initial model. It’s a long list, but once you start delving into what you get for your money, you’ll soon be convinced.
Like the other two ‘vans reviewed here, the level of use is so minimal, it’s too early to say how it will fare in terms of wear and tear.
One thing is for sure, if you own a model like this for three or four years, then trade in, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how residual values have been retained.
Accordos are narrow-bodied, and inside the 120, there’s a different rear lounge treatment when compared to the other two in this month’s challenge.
But it’s one that might appeal most to caravanning couples making the switch to motorhomes. True, you lost out on the extra travel seating, but the lounge has longer settees and a central chest. At night, you have the choice of two 1.80 x 0.70m single beds or a generous 2.10 x 1.40m double.
Look out for the upgrades, from a dual-fuel hob to extra trim and kit in the cab, plus the 130bhp engine. The bike rack is an added option.
Value for money
2018 (68) Swift Escape Compact C404
- Price now £41,995
- Price new £48,090
- Base vehicle Fiat Ducato
- Engine 2.3-litre turbodiesel, 130bhp
- First registered October 2018
- Mileage 4126
- Berths/travel seats 4/4
- L/W/H 5.99/2.26/278m
- Extras Comfort Pack
- MTPLM 3300kg
- Payload 538kg
- Plus points Two double beds, modern styling
- Minus points Short lounge
This is a very early version of a Swift Compact – the range was amalgamated into the Escape line-up around this time, although it was really just a badge change.
It’s well worth comparing to the Bailey that’s up next – but this is £10,000 more.
However, there’s an age difference of more than three years in the Swift’s favour. It’s had just the one owner, covered far fewer miles and is a full four-berth, thanks to the drop-down double over the U-shaped lounge.
And it comes with the £1740 Comfort Pack (cab air-con, passenger airbag, flyscreen for the hab door, windscreen blind and more).
The kitchen has a good run of work surface, a three-ring hob, combined oven and grill, and a microwave.
It’s a better washroom, too, although again, there’s not enough space here to provide you with a separate shower cubicle.
It’s based on Fiat’s Ducato with the 2.3-litre 130bhp engine, and has only just completed 4000 miles. The conversion certainly shows little sign of anything other than the lightest use.
There’s also the balance of the original manufacturer’s warranties to consider here, although you might prefer to take up the three-year warranty that is offered by Brownhills on all of its pre-owned motorhomes.
2015 (15 Bailey Approach Advance 615
- Price now £31,995
- Price new £39,714
- Base vehicle Peugeot Boxer
- Engine 2.2-litre turbodiesel, 130bhp
- First registered July 2015
- Mileage 36,243
- Berths/travel seats 2/4
- L/W/H 5.99/2.35/2.78m
- Extras Premium Pack, awning, reversing camera
- MTPLM 3500kg
- Payload 804kg
- Plus points Two seating areas, four travel seats, Al-Ko chassis
- Minus points Washroom not the best, limited kitchen worktop
The Approach Advance was introduced by Bailey for the 2015 season, with this, the 615, the baby of the line-up.
Unusually for a model so short, it has an Al-Ko chassis extension, which promises a more forgiving ride.
This ‘van is part of Bailey’s policy of one-spec-suits-all, which pays dividends not just for the manufacturer (in terms of economies of scale) but also purchasers – you know exactly what you’re getting for your money.
This example also has the Premium Pack (try finding an Approach Advance without one) – this £1199 option gave you cab air-con, DAB radio/CD player with Bluetooth, passenger airbag and a windscreen blind.
Two lounges are rare in any motorhome, especially one as short as this. The cab seats swivel to face the rear double seat for a forward lounge/dining area, while at the back are two short, inward-facing settees.
Here, too, are two small side windows with a large one across the back – again, imitating a typical caravan lounge. The rear seating converts to a 2.06 x 1.34m transverse double bed.
The biggest sign of wear? Some minor tarnishing to the mirror in the washroom.
With £3000 off its initial asking price we’re talking bargain here. A perfect starter motorhome.
BROWNHILLS – BIG IN THE MIDLANDS (AND BEYOND)
It’s difficult – nay, impossible – to visit Brownhills without being very impressed. It’s a massive site – more than 10 acres – dedicated to all things motorhome, with space to include a 50-plus vehicle showroom, plus hundreds more on display outside extensive workshops, a cafe/restaurant, large accessories shop and more.
The customer parking area, which includes bays for any size of motorhome, dwarfs the size of many dealerships’ total premises.
Customer loyalty counts strongly here, too. Hence Club Brownhills, whuch you can join when you buy a motorhome, new or used, from the firm.
Members have everything from on-site overnight camping facilities (if you’re bringing in your vehicle for servicing work, for example) to substantial discounts on accessories, a pretty full calendar of social events, and exclusive access to an indoor swimming pool, sauna, lounge and more.
Key for buyers of pre-owned motorhomes, though, is the sheer choice you get here, thanks to an extensive display of vehicles all in the same place.
For starters, that makes it easier to compare and contrast examples of the floorplan that you favour most.
Sales manager Jon Baker offers his opinion on the three compact coachbuilts under review this month. “The Bailey is the ideal starter ‘van. We’re very keen on pre-owned Baileys like this because it won’t go wrong. The Evolution spec is second to none (our own of course) and the Swift is a family favourite.
“Of the three, however, I’d choose the Evolution purely on its specification.”
- Brownhills Motorhomes
- A1/A46 Junction, Newark, Nottinghamshire, NG24 2EA
- Tel 01636 704201
- Web www.brownhills.co.uk
- New franchises Adria, Auto-Trail, Elddis, Itineo, Rapido, Swift
- Facilities Full service centre, large accessories shop, easy parking, café/restaurant, extensive showroom and outdoor display areas, Club Brownhills
The small print
- Vehicles are reported on as seen. This is usually before any base vehicle and habitation servicing, including any rectification work, has been carried out before they go to their next owners.
- Dimension and payload figures refer to official measurements before the addition of any extras, unless otherwise stated.
- If you like the look of any vehicle featured here, do call ahead before making any visit. Stocks shift fast!
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The Bailey is the ideal starter 'van. We're very keen on pre-owned Baileys like this because it won't go wrong. The Evolution spec is second to none and the Swift is a family favourite.