The Autoquest has been Elddis’ best-selling budget range for many years now, and has rightly won a number of prestigious awards in that time. In 2008, the caravan body got a much-needed facelift. The outdated-looking, boxy overcab and planked sidewalls were replaced with the flowing Luton and flat aluminium sidewalls you see here. And in 2009, Explorer Group discontinued Elddis’ badge-engineered sister brand, Compass, to focus solely on its bigger seller. This is the first ’van we tested from the range sporting the smart new livery.
Elddis’s manufacturing preference for tiny fresh and waste water tanks (just 45 litres each) backed up with caravan-style aqua roll and waste master has advocates among UK ralliers, but didn’t suit our testers' touring needs: they just took up valuable wardrobe space. But they did like the Whale autofill system that makes putting water onboard a breeze, and the colour-coded drain taps either side of the ’van. The heating and insulation properties, with temperatures falling well below zero outside, impressed our testers a lot for a budget model. The ’van was fitted with the £999 Luxe Pack of blown air heating, electric step, door flyscreen and Heki 2 rooflight.
On the road
Editor Rob Ganley put some serious mileage on the Autoquest with his family trip to Spain in our April 2010 issue, and subjected this ’van to heavy duty live-in testing – four adults (Rob and wife Anna, and Rob's parents) and one infant (son Joe). They covered 3250 miles over 16 nights, six of which were on aires without hook-up, and one in foot-deep snow in northern Spain, awaking to serious icicles. And the ’van barely put a foot wrong – that’s pedigree for you.
On the road, the 2.2-litre 100bhp HDI engine coped admirably under loading approaching the motorhome’s MTPLM (3500kg). It’s not underpowered, and the torque is astonishing, right through the rev band in each gear. There were few inclines on which it ran out of puff. On such a long journey, and with buffeting from serious crosswinds, that was a godsend. Editor Rob was also glad of good through-vision thanks to the large rear window, which also worked well for passenger-assisted reversing manouevres (ie, no one had to get out and get cold!). The steering wheel-mounted radio buttons are a big hit too, and the rear passengers were thankful for the Truma en-route heating system as they crossed Spain’s high plains.
There were one or two complaints from the rear that the headrests were fixed too high, and difficulties with buckling in the child seat owing to the thickness of the backrest and the length of the three-point belt, but our testers coped.
Lounging & dining
Drop-in carpets on the vinyl floor of the living quarters made keeping the ’van clean easy work, and our testers loved the two-lounge layout at evenings. The twin dinette up front comes equipped with three-point belts for four passengers - that is, two forward- and two rear-facing seats, and the seatbacks are rather upright for lounging in. However, at meal times the table clips to a wall rail, and has its own locker when not in use. Curtains, blinds and window flyscreens cater for all weathers. The rear lounge has three panoramic windows and four 'roller ball' lights. Seating is comfy, but no board behind the back rests may result in condensation in cooler climes. A free standing table serves at meal times, and a dresser extension does the job of a surface for the odd cuppa.
The kitchen was fine for three-pot cooking, providing the rest of the crew cleared the area to let chef use that front lounge table for preparation space. The sink plus drainer, oven, grill and 92-litre fridge amount to a decent kitchen specification, but although both the hob and the sink have glass lids that double as worksurfaces, food preparation space is at a premium.
The front dinette double was quick and easy to make up. Simply pull out a slatted centrepiece, which forms the bed base, and cover it with two drop-in cushions. There are two hinged panels, which widen the bed from 97cm to 1.25m, but won't take much weight, and prevent use of the overcab ladder. The overcab has a substantial 60cm headroom at best. The rear lounge makes into a huge 2.05m x 1.35m double too, altough our testers would have liked a privacy curtain to partition off the rear bedroom.
The washroom is just the right size to be practical without eating into too much of the floorplan. Go for the blown air option and you'll benefit from ducted heating here. With a swivel toilet and shower space measuring 1.3m wide by 80cm deep, it's just the right size for a decent scrub of a morning. The mixer tap shower head, riser bar and curtain are just the job for showering.
There’s nothing in the way of externally accessed storage. All the bigger items must be walked through the ’van and stashed in the seat boxes. Thankfully they all have push-button locker doors. Our testers were impressed by the lockable external access to the leisure battery, though. The lockable electric hook-up inlet is simple and brilliant, too.
Six genuine sleeping berths, six travel seats, a massive U-shaped end lounge, a washroom that doesn’t cut corners, a workable kitchen and a very useable overcab bed all squeezed into a motorhome a shade under 24 feet is a true feat of engineering. There's a whole lot of ’van for little money here.