The Bailey Approach Compact 520 has an awful lot going for it as a comfortable ’van for two to go touring. If we had any major complaint, however, it’s with the targeting of this model: the huge garage, the high-sited bed and the vast payload suggest a vehicle aimed at active younger buyers who are into windsurfing, mountain-biking and the like, yet the price-tag and the luxurious spec pitch it into a market usually occupied by retired couples.
Bailey has clearly spotted that disconnect, too, because for 2015 the Compact has been discontinued, with this layout slated to reappear in more affordable form in the Advance series.
The fixed double bed is enormous and very comfortable
The rooflight and panoramic sunroof make for an airy lounge
It has a strong spec
The washroom is roomy for a ‘van of this size
Storage is impressive
The lounge table is quite heavy to lug about
Bristol-based caravan maker Bailey may have been late to the motorhome party, only launching its first Approach range in 2011, but it has already taken a firm foothold in the UK market.
Like its caravans, the firm’s motorhomes major on value for money, with strong kit levels, and the arrival of the Compact range last year made them still more affordable. The three-berth 540 won Best Compact Motorhome in our 2014 Motorhome of the Year awards, so how does its two-berth 520 sibling fare?
Unlike the 540, which has a drop-down double in the centre of the ’van, the 520 features a large rear fixed double mounted high above the huge garage, with a front lounge and a mid-mounted washroom and kitchen. It’s an ideal layout if you like to combine comfortable touring with active sports such as mountain-biking.
We’ve been lucky enough to run this 520 for nearly a year, giving us plenty of opportunities to discover how it performs in short- and long-term touring.
You’ll do well to run out of storage space in this ’van
While some may lament that the Compact 520 has only two berths, that may be a good thing because the lounge area is perfectly sized for a couple to enjoy. There’s seating for four, and the table – which lives in the garage when not in use – extends to accommodate guests, but four-up this ’van soon begins to feel a touch cramped.
For two, however, it’s plenty roomy enough and the standard sunroof makes it feel lovely and bright. That sensation is boosted by the pale, leather-look optional ‘Piccadilly’ trim fitted to our test vehicle. It’s quite jazzy and costs an extra £199; if you don’t fancy the outlay, or find it a bit eye-popping, the standard ‘Trafalgar’ is more traditional and sets off the walnut-effect wallboard just as effectively. They are complemented by the drop-in carpets, which are easily removed for cleaning, but did begin to fray after a year of heavy use.
One complaint with the living area is that it is laid out over a number of levels, which makes it harder to navigate and means that those in the two fixed seats find themselves sitting lower than those in the swivelling ‘captain’s chairs’ up front.
That said, headroom throughout is good (up to 6’9″ in places), there is plenty of ambient and spot lighting, and there’s a good smattering of 230V sockets. However, telly addicts may complain that there is no obvious position for a TV in the lounge area, unless you add a bracket and socket to the washroom wall.
There is no getting away from the fact that the corridor kitchen in this Bailey Approach Compact 520 is not enormous, but then this is not a huge motorhome and you’ll soon find that all of the essentials are there.
The gloss-finish worktop space is at a premium, but if you extend the lounge table it’s close enough to use for food preparation, or alternatively you can close the flush-fitting glass hob lid and work there instead. We like the circular stainless-steel sink, which gives a classy look and comes with mixer tap, plus washing up bowl, drainer and chopping board as standard.
Pale-finish overhead lockers with translucent centre panels provide a pleasant contrast to the wood effect elsewhere. They also offer plenty of room for groceries and crockery, while a decent-sized drawer and drop-down locker beneath the combined oven and grill will house pans and baking trays.
The 80-litre Dometic fridge should be big enough for couples on shorter tours, and can be boosted to 85 litres if you remove the freezer compartment – though access is tight.
As well as that oven/grill there’s a three-burner Thetford gas hob, but you won’t find a microwave on board unless it is specified as an optional extra, with Bailey instead preferring to conserve storage space.
In contrast to the kitchen, the washroom opposite is reasonably roomy for such a small ’van. There’s a proper radiator in here, a roof vent, a mirror and a couple of towel hooks, plus good kneeroom around the Thetford electric-flush cassette toilet. The sink is a fair size as well, with a useful shampoo shelf beneath. The washroom’s offside position also means that you won’t have to remove the cassette through the awning to empty it.
Although it’s really more of a wetroom than a proper bathroom with a separate shower cubicle, it is fully lined for practicality and the addition of a shower curtain does at least give a sense of privacy. It also prevents the rest of the washroom from being soaked when you have a wash. The Ecocamel shower head will make the most of the 90-litre on-board water tank, and you can hook up a separate Aquaroll if you need more capacity – though beware because the waste-water tank is 90 litres, too!
As long as you don’t suffer from any mobility issues, it’s hard to find fault with the 520’s enormous double bed. If you do, however, the neatly stowed ladder and the slightly narrow entry to the sleeping area may prove a little awkward. If you’re prone to needing the loo in the night, make sure you take the side nearest the exit to avoid having to clamber over your sleeping partner.
Once you’re up there, however, it’s extremely comfortable, with a sprung base beneath the foam-filled two-piece mattress that measures a whopping 2.02m x 1.37m (6’6” x 4’5”). At the foot of the bed there is a fully adjustable television mount, with aerial and 230V sockets, and at the head of the bed are reading lights. There’s a small bookshelf on the rear wall, too.
Plus, of course, unlike two-berth ‘vans that use the front lounge to make up the bed – and the majority of panel van conversions – the bed in the 520 is fixed, so you can leave it made up throughout your trip. In a small motorhome, that is a real luxury.
You’ll do well to run out of storage space in this ’van. The colossal rear garage can be accessed from both sides, as well as from inside the living area, and it features additional cubbyholes and adjustable tie-down points for large loads.
Inside, there are two-tone aircraft-style lockers in the lounge and bedroom, but there are plenty more options throughout the ’van. Opposite the washroom is a good-sized hanging wardrobe, while a small door behind the bed ladder reveals further shelf space.
Elsewhere, there are more cubbyholes above the cab, and when you run out of space for groceries in the kitchen, you can stow cans and bottles under the rear travelling seats.