The Compass has a classic look, with smart aluminium side panels and an angular profile. The omission of separate skirts gives it a distinctive appearance but, from a practical point of view, any small impacts are more likely to cause panel damage. GRP skirts are more easily replaced when damaged.
The lack of an exterior locker on the Compass is a downside, and the quality of the waste water drain is also a concern. It sits directly in line with the back wheel, ready to collect dirt and muck and generally just doesn’t feel robust. A manually lowered step is standard.
Inside, the Avantgarde is something of a triumph in terms of fitting a lot into a limited space, but the lack of storage and disappointing beds count against it.
On the road
The Avantgarde is based on a Boxer 250 chassis, complete with short wheelbase and a 2900kg maximum weight. This is light for a coachbuilt motorhome, but given its short length, that doesn’t equate to an unrealistic payload. The shortest chassis are only available with the two-litre turbo-diesel engine, which is adequate in this vehicle, but not spectacular.
Inside the cab, a full electric pack is present and correct, with windows, mirrors and a CD/radio unit as standard. It also has speakers mounted in the doors, not the dashboard, which means bigger speakers and a richer sound.
There’s also remote central-locking and a dashboard oil level indicator.
Lounging & dining
The Compass can only seat four for dinner, but the dinette is comfortable to sit in. There are only front-facing three-point belts, but this is likely to be adequate for most families of four.
Despite being small, the six people choosing to lounge in the Compass will enjoy a good degree of comfort, with plenty of lighting and a dedicated television shelf.
Compass makes the most of the small amount of worktop space available, as the Avantgarde has a pair of well-designed, fold-out extensions in its corner kitchen. In terms of cooking equipment, the ’van is compelling. It has a Spinflo floor-to-counter oven unit with a separate grill and a four-burner gas hob. With a 77-litre fridge it’s bursting with food storage space. The dedicated cutlery drawer is also welcome. There are two fluorescent lights over the kitchen area, plus a window and rooflight, so the kitchen is bathed in natural, as well as artificial, light.
Sleeping arrangements are compromised because there is only a dinette and an overcab bed from which to choose and, unfortunately, both of these are limited. The overcab bed is small and made from several separate pieces of foam that slot together to form a reasonably-sized bed (just over two metres by 1.3 metres). However, with a mattress thickness ranging between six and eight centimetres, it is only suitable for children, particularly given the lack of headroom.
The biggest failing, though, is the dinette bed. As the main berth in the Compass, it’s simply too small for anyone over about five feet ten inches tall. On paper, the 1.88 metres by 1.44 metres bed seems okay, but by the time you factor in the intrusion of the seat belts, you’re very short of space – it is a case of ‘try before you buy’.
The washroom in the Compass is, frankly, tiny. It occupies a small area in the rear corner of the ‘van, but isn’t short on equipment. The bi-fold wooden door is novel and certainly saves space, but once you are locked inside, the tip-up sink and bench-cassette toilet are more reminiscent of a ’van conversion than a coachbuilt motorhome. On the plus side, everything is accessible and usable and if you tend to stop on sites with wash facilities (rather than aires), the washroom may just be a place to hang your coat and brush your teeth. Another positive point is that the entire compartment is very well built throughout.
The Compass has to take it on the chin when it comes to storage space. The ‘little Englander’ is brimful of nik-nak storage space with trays under the cab seats, the regular Fiat cab cubby holes, a television shelf and six modest overhead lockers in the main living area. However, there is no externally accessed storage space, meaning that mains cables, hose pipes and other campground paraphernalia need to be stowed inside the ’van. Also, the under-seat storage areas are small and tricky to access.
4-burner gas hob, Oven, Separate grill
Compromised beds and a disappointingly small washroom may limit the appeal of this small, yet handsome, motorhome.