Benjamin Davies

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If you are looking to downsize, the Compass Avantgarde 100 might be for you – find out in the Practical Motorhome review

Design

After undergoing a facelift at the end of last year, the 2009 version of the compact Compass Avantgarde 100 projects a bang up-to-date image. Its gracefully curved high line pod echoes the lines of the Peugeot Boxer cab.

Externally, the offside is home to the Thetford cassette locker and gas bottle compartment – neatly placed just 35cm (14”) from the ground with only a tiny lip to negotiate. The water inlet is situated above the rear wheel arch. The ’van’s budget credentials are somewhat highlighted by the lack of external lockers for cables, levellers or muddy gear.

Drainage taps are on opposite sides towards the rear of the ’van, and our testers found the small-bore grey water pipe very slow to empty. The leisure battery locker is on the nearside, which also houses the hook-up socket. The gas hot-water vent is also located on the nearside – our testers didn’t like its position: under a window and potentially within an awning.

On the road

Despite the 2.2-litre engine not being fully run in, our testers found it performed brilliantly – cruising effortlessly at 60mph and powering up steep inclines. The benefits of the HDi were obvious in the superior power and torque and excellent fuel economy. Our testers’ 400 miles of mainly winding, hilly country roads gave an impressive return of 33mpg.

Road holding, handling and manoeuvrability were superb and this should allowed you to explore minor roads and access smaller parking facilities.

Lounging & dining

Upon entering through the habitation door, our testers were immediately impressed with the light and airy ambience of the interior. By day, natural light pours in thanks to the panoramic side windows and the huge rooflight (a £295 cost option).

However, our testers weren’t too sure about the position of the rooflight, which is on the rise towards the overcab with 2.2m (7’2”) between its main opening bar and the floor. Another smaller skylight can be found towards the rear.

In the evening illumination is provided by four individually controlled, directional spotlights, but our testers found that for reading they also needed the two globe ceiling lights. “The spots tended to get rather hot to the touch,” Ian said.

All the habitation windows have Seitz pull-down blinds and insect screens, and the side windows benefit from lined curtains with wood-effect pelmets, contributing to the cosy atmosphere.

The lounge/dining area consists of a Pullman dinette and a longitudinal sofa. This arrangement provides ample, if rather upright, seating. Up to six people can socialise around the generously sized (0.55 x 1m; 1’8”x 3’2”) single-leg table, which can be stashed in its designated storage spot by the washroom when the ’van is in transit.

The fold-up bed extensions at the ends of the dinette seats also double as excellent occasional tables. The hinged shelf at the end of the sofa is at a nice height for television viewing and has an aerial and power socket nearby,” said Ian. “But having to move the sofa’s back cushion every time I wanted to erect it would annoy me. If I wanted a TV I’d install a swivel bracket for a flatscreen instead. A 240V socket is provided near the TV shelf.

Kitchen

Our testers were pleased with the rear transverse kitchen, which they found to have an excellent range of equipment. However, they didn’t like the dearth of work space which, in their opinion, renders it only really suitable for preparing simple meals.

There’s no electronic ignition on the hob and no extractor unit either; although our testers found that the rear-opening window and the habitation door provide perfectly adequate ventilation in good weather.

The sink is handily placed near the caravan door and has a sturdy 
Whale monobloc tap supplying good water pressure. Adjacent to the sink is an unobstructed 240V socket.

Two unshelved overhead lockers – one with a fitted crockery rack - provide excellent storage, and a floor-level cupboard, suitable for heavier, bulky items, is located below the oven. There is a slim cupboard next to the fridge, which incorporates 
a cutlery drawer and shelves, but there is no waste bin.

Sleeping

Our testers told us that they believed a significant lure for many potential purchasers of the Avantgarde will be the new-look overcab bed, which offers 15 per cent more width (now 1.37m – 4’49”) and 10 per cent more headroom (now 0.62m – 2’ – at its highest point) than its predecessor. The struts make it a cinch to push up and pull down, an offside opening window gives adequate ventilation and a single light next to the window permits limited bedtime reading.

However, they also had reservations: the steep, seven-rung ladder, the 6cm- (2”) thin foam mattress and the complete lack of any shelves or pockets to store watches, books or a glass of water all went against it.

They found the dinette bed easy to make up, with a slatted sliding section between the seats and two fold-up extensions at the seat ends creating the base. A quick re-arrangement of cushions results in a decent-sized, comfortable double bed, although our testers noted that those with children might prefer to have a narrower double bed and use the 1.35m-long sofa as another single.

Washroom

Our testers described the washroom as bland but functional. They found the interior’s stark white finish a little lacklustre, but liked the sturdy, good sized fold-up washbasin above the toilet.

Further up is a useful range of moulded plastic shelves and toothbrush holders, topped by a mirrored cupboard which has adjustable shelves, suitable for most family toiletries. A polished chrome towel ring and toilet-roll holder complement the shower head, which sits securely on a riser.

The shower tray comes with an anti-bacterial non-slip mat, but after a day of hand washing and toilet trips our testers found that the mat was inevitably scattered with dust, hair and dirt, all heading towards the single-drain hole.

Storage

This is a compact ’van so a vast amount of storage space is unlikely. And a fairly small payload of 358kg doesn’t warrant capacious cupboards.

Only the rear-facing dinette seat has usable storage space beneath it, which can’t be accessed externally because of the wheel arch. The other seat bases are taken up by the seatbelt frame, water pump, Truma tank, fuse box, ducting and the like.

Our testers were befuddled by the slatted seat bases which are all screwed down, making access to any of the spaces quite limited. Five good size overhead lockers in the living area complement the two in the kitchen, but there are no fitted shelves, which reduces their flexibility. Although the lockers don’t have positive locks our testers didn’t experience any door opening, even when cornering or braking quite sharply.

Behind the passenger seat, and nicely placed over the Truma heater, is the wardrobe, with a sturdy hanging rail which has a good 1.15m (3’7”) beneath it. Our testers did feel that the space above the rail is wasted, though. They suggested placing a shelf there to store folded clothes, perhaps with an access door from the end of the overcab bed to provide a cubby hole for night-time necessities or hidden valuables.

Technical specs

Sleeps4
Travel seats4
MTPLM3000kg
Payload358kg
Length5.65m18′6″
Width2.2m7′3″
Height2.99m9′10″
Waste water45L

Verdict

Despite being a tried-and-tested design and an Explorer Group stalwart for many years now, the Compass Avantgarde 100 responds perfectly to the growing demand for smaller, economical motorhomes.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Brilliant either as a first motorhome or for someone downsizing from a larger ’van.

Cons

  • Some aspects of the finish were disappointing for a £30,000 motorhome.
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