Peter Baber
Reviews Editor

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This smart, compact motorhome from the popular Spanish brand offers a huge range of kit as standard. Our team took it away for an in-depth look

Overview

In the past few years, compact motorhomes have really grown in popularity, and for good reason: they're easier to drive and park, command less of a premium on ferry crossings, and generally have an MTPLM equal to or less than the magic 3500kg figure - therefore can be driven with a category B licence.

No wonder, then, that Marquis Leisure - sole UK importer for popular Spanish brand Benimar - has chosen to retail the compact, new-for-2019 Mileo 283 via its extensive dealer network.

This sub-6m motorhome is also hugely UK-friendly - the accommodation door being on the 'correct' side is just one example - and it has a rear lounge.

It's a layout found in a couple of other 'vans built by British firms - not least Swift, which produces the Escape Compact C402 (winner of the Best Compact Motorhome gong in our last awards).

But how would the Mileo compare with British-built rivals? We took it away for a long weekend to find out.

Design

The exterior of the 283 looks modern, with its grey and yellow graphics - it's quite different to anything else you'll see currently on sale.

The low-profile overcab moulding looks sleek and aerodynamic, too.

The gas locker is located on the offside of the 'van, and it's set nicely low down so you won't have to lift the bottles too high when they need replacing. The water-filler inlet is on the same side, which is handy for the driver, who'll be able to see it and therefore be able to position the 'van beside the tap more easily.

The accommodation door has a two-point locking system for security, and the flush-fitting tinted window in the door blends in nicely with the rest of the body's colour scheme.

There was no roll-out awning fitted to this Mileo, but if you wanted to add a drive-away version, you wouldn't need to carry the toilet cassette through it when emptying the latter - the cassette locker door is on the offside.

Elsewhere on the exterior you'll find a gas barbecue point - perfect for al fresco dining - a shower point and rear-corner steadies.

When loading the 'van for travel, you'll be grateful for the two locker doors that give access to space inside. The first lets you reach the area under the nearside rear sofa, while a large door on the back panel leads into the centre of the lounge, so you don't need to walk through the 'van when loading bedding and so on.

There's no electric step below the entrance door on this 'van, but you won't need one - the door is set low, so there's not too much of a climb needed to get into the motorhome.

On the road

Under that white bonnet sits Fiat's 150bhp engine; a peppy unit that gives the Mileo 283 a nifty turn of speed when pulling away from junctions. There's plenty of torque available - 280lb ft of it in fact - and it will be at its maximum nicely down the rev range, at just 1500rpm.

Our test vehicle was fitted with the standard six-speed manual gearbox; Fiat's Comfort-Matic automated 'box is a £2100 cost option.

The view is excellent from both driver and passenger cab seat; we didn't find the A-pillars obtrusive in any way. The 'van has a small turning circle; combined with its diminutive size, this means it's agile on the road.

Marquis's Benimars also come with a high cab spec as standard - it's great to see both driver and passenger airbags here. Safety kit also includes ABS, ESP, traction control, Hill Assist and more; while other welcome features are cruise control, electric windows and mirrors, and automatic headlights and windscreen wipers.

What's more, there's a DAB radio unit complete with sat-nav and rear-view camera system - you can see out of the back window, but the latter is a welcome addition to help you view hazards closer to the ground.

This may be a three-berth motorhome, but you can travel with four people - ideal if you want to bring guests who are willing to sleep in an awning or tent.

The rear belted seats are a little upright, but still comfortable - and both driver and passenger will be able to keep an eye on what any children stationed here might be doing.

Lounging & dining

You've a choice of two places to relax in this 'van: you can swivel the cab seats and sit at the front, or occupy the facing sofas at the rear.

If you choose the front option, you can make use of the small round table that sits on a single leg mounted into the floor. It's not huge, though, so is probably best suited for snacks and drinks. It's a comfortable place to lounge, with the cab seats being the best choice: the belted seats are (necessarily) rather upright.

Either way, you get the benefit of a couple of reading lights on stalks in the cab, and that large skylight above, which simply floods the front of the interior with brightness during the day.

For more complex meals, you're likely to want to eat in the rear lounge. Again, it's a comfortable place to spend time; despite this being a compact 'van, there's space here for a couple to stretch out and relax.

The dining table slots onto a rail on the rear wall, so it can't be moved fore and aft, but it's a good size and feels sturdy when in place.

There's plenty of lighting in the back here to help you see what you're eating, and space to mount a flatscreen television on the rear of the wardrobe wall if you wish.

The fabrics used on the upholstery feel good quality and look smart. The dark-brown shades of the rear lounge should prove practical in case of any accidental spills, too. The curtains, in a matching fabric, also look smart, and we appreciated the inclusion of net curtains on the windows - they allow an element of privacy even when the blinds are up.

Natural illumination in this area is good, with three large windows - one on each wall.

The boiler for the Truma 6kW space - and water - heating system lives under the offside sofa at the rear; blown-air ducts at the base of the seating keep all occupants warm in cold weather.

Kitchen

As with the rest of this 'van, the spec level in the kitchen is high. There's a three-ring gas hob with a glass lid (the latter is useful for providing additional work surface), and an oven/grill low down by the Thetford 80-litre fridge, meaning you won't need to lift out hot dishes from above your head. The same goes for the microwave, which is again located below the work surface.

It's also good to find an extractor fan above the hob, which will help whisk away any cooking smells from the accommodation area.

The large stainless steel sink also has a glass lid, which helps to increase the amount of work surface available. The same is true of the lift-up extension at the end of the kitchen unit, which feels sturdy and secure when raised.

Two mains sockets are located in the kitchen.

Sleeping

The main sleeping area in this motorhome is at the rear, and is made up from the twin facing sofas - it's a really straightforward process, simply requiring the base units to be pulled across to join in the middle, and the sofa cushions to be rearranged to create the flat sleeping surface.

Some of our testers found the bed a little hard, so users might prefer to place a mattress topper over the cushions to provide a bit more comfort.

The resulting double bed isn't hugely wide, but it is long - six-footers shouldn't be uncomfortable here.

The front dinette can also be made up into a single bed, using the belted-seat bench and the driver's seat. A single mattress topper is provided to create a flat sleeping surface here, and the resulting single bed is perfectly comfortable. We reckon that most buyers will use this as an occasional bed for guests or children, however.

The beauty of this layout is that, if you're a couple planning to be out for most of the day, you can leave the double bed made up during the whole of your tour and use the front dinette for eating breakfast and snacks.

Washroom

Compact the Mileo 283 may be, but the washroom, on the offside centre of the 'van, is of decent dimensions.

There's a reasonable step up to enter the area; once you're in, a swivel-bowl cassette toilet with electric flush sits to the right. There's a smart black basin to the left, and the chrome tap pulls out to become the shower head - it can be slotted onto a riser.

What's particularly cleverly designed here is the shower cubicle: a solid plastic unit can be swivelled around from behind to protect the toilet and rear walls from getting wet while you're showering.

A long towel rail sits below the basin; it's close to one of the two heater air vents in here, so your towels should dry quickly and stay warm.

Other neat touches you'll find in here include a cup/toothbrush holder, and a liquid-soap dispenser.

The artificial illumination is excellent, supplemented by a mini-Heki roof light above the shower and a window above the toilet.

There's not much storage here, so you won't want too many toiletries - it's limited to a slim cupboard above the window, and a small cubbyhole. Two smart hooks on the wall - in the shape of the Benimar 'B' - are a handy addition, however.

Storage

A 'van of these compact dimensions is never going to provide the ultimate in storage space, but there is a fair amount of capacity in the Mileo 283.

The prime storage area is in the base box of the nearside rear sofa (the one on the offside is taken up by the boiler and electric systems); this can also be accessed from outside.

There's also a really good-sized wardrobe in the 'van, located on the nearside between the kitchen and the rear sofa.

It's half-height and has a hanging rail; there's loads of room in here to store the clothes of a couple, as well as shoes and boots.

There's also plenty of room for clothes and other lighter items in the seven lockers you'll find up above the rear lounge - they're smartly finished in cream and usefully, also have easy-to-grab handles.

There are further lockers above the front dinette, and a couple of cubbyholes and a shelf up above the cab.

Storage in the kitchen is excellent, with numerous lockers and a sliding drawer that's ideal for packaged goods and tins.

A small cubbyhole within the floor by the front dinette is ideal for hiding valuables when you're pitched up.

Equipment

Its equipment level really is the Mileo 283's strongest suit, and the higher spec sets it apart from Benimar's Primero 283 (£45,995), from the range below the Mileo.

In addition to the kit previously mentioned, on the Mileo you'll find a solar panel to supplement the 85Ah leisure battery, Truma's iNet system to allow you to remotely control the heating, a 120-litre heated fresh-water tank (ideal for long tours in cold weather), a 105-litre waste-water tank (also heated), mounting points for a bike rack, an extractor-fan roof light above the kitchen, an easy-to-use control panel near the accommodation door, an LED awning light, a Trackstar Leisure CAT6 Tracker with one year's free subscription, a flatscreen on the accommodation door, a CO alarm and smoke alarm, and a bracket for a flatscreen television.

Technical specs

LayoutRear lounge
Sleeps3
Travel seats4
MTPLM3500kg
Payload650kg
Length5.99m19′8″
Width2.3m7′7″
Height2.89m9′6″
Engine (capacity)2300
Fresh/waste water120L / 105L
Leisure battery85 Ah
External Options
GRP sidewalls, Awning light, Directional TV aerial
Kitchen Equipment
Thetford Fridge, Combined Oven/Grill, Microwave
Washroom
Thetford C-250 toilet, Separate shower cubicle
Heating
Truma Combi heater
Security
Immobiliser, GPS tracking system

Verdict

Some buyers are put off by make-up beds, but by having two lounge areas, the Mileo 283 gives you the best of both worlds - it's easy to leave the bed up during the day, and use the front dinette for relaxing in the evening.

What's more, you've still got the choice of accommodating a third guest, too, which provides even greater flexibility.

But it's the high specification and quality of fixtures and fittings that really impressed us most about this Benimar. It's not as cheap as some of its UK rivals, but the level of standard kit that you get for your money is just astonishing. And when you take that into account, this smart, compact motorhome instantly becomes even more appealing.

Here are comments from two of our test team:

Claudia: "Driving this motorhome is a doddle - it's so compact and has a good turning circle. Adding the rear-corner steadies is also a good idea, helping to make the rear lounge feel less bouncy when you're pitched up."

Sarah: "I spent a lot of time in this motorhome when travelling to Belgium in it last year, and I loved it. The layout is ideal for a couple - you can choose to leave the rear lounge made up as a bed during the day, so there's no setting-up to do after a busy day exploring."

Conclusion

Pros

  • Back door - the rear hatch is such a clever idea as it allows you to load kit without needing to walk through the 'van
  • Kitchen design - very well specified, with its UK-friendly oven/grill, yet retains plenty of storage space

Cons

  • Rear-bed comfort - some of our testers found the rear bed a little firm