Niall Hampton
Editor

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Spanish Benimar motorhomes are back in Britain, thanks to Marquis Motorhomes – we test the Benimar Mileo 231 to see how good this coachbuilt is for couples

Overview

If you’re unfamiliar with the Benimar motorhome brand, don’t be too hard on yourself, for its presence here in the UK has been intermittent over the years. It flourished for a while during the favourable years of the euro, but faltered when Sterling rediscovered its mojo, to the extent that it eventually disappeared for a while.

Now, though, this stylish and youthful brand, part of the giant Trigano Group, is back with a vengeance, with a new importer – Marquis Motorhomes – and a whole new look. Only one range is being offered here: the Mileo. However the comprehensive line-up comprises all manner of typically European layouts, with prices ranging from just under £44,000 to a whisker under £50,000.

All models run on the latest Euro V compatible Fiat Ducato base vehicle and use the proven 2.3-litre 130bhp engine allied to a six-speed manual gearbox. Fiat’s popular Comfort Matic automatic is, however, available as an option.

The Benimar Mileo 231 tested here adopts the familiar longitudinal French-bed layout, complete with adjoining corner washroom and an L-shaped central lounge boosted by swivelling cab seats. Impressively for a motorhome from a Continental factory, the habitation entrance door is fitted to the UK nearside.

Design

Benimar has always been marketed as a modern and youthful brand, and this Mileo certainly adheres to that principle. The body is mostly white, with its flanks broken up by flashes of yellow, black and grey. The graphics also successfully connect the cab and the conversion, an area where the ‘seam’ may be poor.

The low-profile roof is simple, with a bare minimum of joins to a near-vertical bluff rear inlaid with six tail lights and separate fog/reversing lights. If we have one criticism, it’s that the graphics back here lend the motorhome a permanent and slightly inelegant ‘surprised’ expression.

On the plus side, we like the low-set entrance step, the rear access to the under-bed storage void and the presence of a reversing camera. It’s good to see the awning light set aside from the doorway, too, so you don’t exit the motorhome in your own shadow.

Inside, it’s all very Docklands apartment, with a stylish white, black and dark-brown colour scheme enlivened by vivid red scatter cushions. The washroom, meanwhile, gets a further dash of oxblood red to its shower riser surround.

On the road

This is an extremely enjoyable vehicle to drive over long distances. The lack of a rear window is offset nicely by the presence of a reversing camera that you can leave on, and the driving position is typically Fiat. To the uninitiated, this brings pluses and minuses.

The good news is that forward vision is excellent and unimpeded by bulky blind cassettes, and the seats themselves are supremely comfortable. The bad news is that some drivers find reaching the pedals without their legs fouling the lower section of the dashboard rather tricky. Luckily, the seats are multi-adjustable.

In terms of driving prowess, the Fiat has always been one of the best in the business. The 130bhp engine is powerful and torquey, if a little raucous under load or when negotiating steep hills. The chassis, while a little on the firm side, offers nimble and predictable handling. The gearbox, too, provides well-judged ratios and snicks from gear to gear with reassuring accuracy, The steering feels just about spot-on.

Conversion noise is reasonably well-muted, especially with the usual precautions of removing oven shelves and pans and the microwave plate taken into account.

Lounging & dining

Judged purely as a two-berth motorhome, the 231’s lounge is pretty good. It comprises the familiar half-dinette layout, boosted by a third seat by the doorway and the swivel cab seats. You could seat five in here with ease, and possibly even a small child on the shallow short leg of the L.

As is often the case with a half-dinette, the sitting position is a bit too upright. There’s plenty of legroom, though, and the adjacent window is of a good size.

The doorway seat is very much an occasional affair. The base is broad and comfortable, but the backrest is rather short, and there’s a good chance your feet will foul those of the occupant of the swivelled passenger seat.

In short, the cab seats are the place to be if you want to relax. The step in the floor means you sit higher than those in the half dinette, but the seats themselves are extremely comfortable and adjust hither and yon for ultimate comfort.

Come mealtimes, the fixed dining table proves to be a work of engineering art – folding, sliding and collapsing in all manner of directions to accommodate as many diners as possible. Some may miss being able to remove it completely, but overall, this does feel like the best compromise.

Kitchen

It was never going to be possible to squeeze a king-sized kitchen into a motorhome that’s less than 6m long, but the Mileo 231 does have a few pleasant surprises up its sleeve. For instance, you may not expect to find a full-blown fridge/freezer in something as compact as this, but Benimar has managed, shoehorning one into the space between the half dinette and the bed. The microwave sits above it.

There’s no worktop to speak of in the kitchen proper, but the Thetford cooker stretches to a two-burner hob further fitted out with an electric hotplate and a combined oven and grill beneath. The sink is practically deep enough to paddle in and the 230V and 12V sockets hereabouts are located sensibly beneath a lip protecting them from oversplashes.

Sleeping

The Mileo 231 is marketed as a two-berth motorhome, and the 6ft 2in x 4ft 5in French bed is certainly comfortable, supportive and of a good shape. The inevitable cut-off to the mattress is evident, but not as pronounced as it could have been, although this does make getting in and
out of the washroom next door a bit of a squeeze.

The area is encircled by four roof lockers, and each occupant gets a dedicated reading light, although the person sleeping by the wall has to sleep with his or her legs under the wardrobe.
It would appear, however, that Benimar is a little coy about the 231’s ultimate sleeping capacity, for there’s a third berth hidden up front. Granted, making up the transverse single in question is an arcane faff that involves sliding various seat bases, folding over panels, collapsing the table and figuring out which cushions go where. As an occasional-use single for visiting children or teenagers, it’s pretty good.

Washroom

For such a compact motorhome, the Benimar 231 is surprisingly generous with its washroom, although it’s not exactly perfect. At first glance, it impresses with its stylish looks, ample storage and decent lighting (even if the light switch is difficult to find at first), and we love the wooden duckboards, which keep your feet dry even if the shower tray isn’t.

The mirrors open up an additional feeling of space, too, and the twin folding doors create a central shower cubicle that’s surprisingly spacious.

However, banishing the shower to the rear would mean that only one set of doors is required, and would free up the toilet, even when someone was showering. Several of the PMH test team also felt that the doorway was too narrow.

Storage

Benimar really has gone to town on the 231’s available storage. The vast storage space beneath the French bed is in sections, and while one is taken up by the spare wheel, the main area is more than big enough for camping gear. A false floor gives access to the heater/boiler beneath. A door sunk into the rear panel affords access to a third, smaller area, too.

The ‘floating’ wardrobe has a reasonable amount of hanging space, and both the kitchen and washroom provide large cupboards and shelves. There are seven overhead lockers, too, plus all manner of open shelves and storage pods above the cab.

Equipment

We have few complaints here. The base vehicle’s kit list includes twin airbags, air conditioning, cruise control and an uprated CD/radio that incorporates Bluetooth connectivity. A reversing camera is hooked up to a large monitor on the dashboard. There’s also a USB connection point for MP3 players.

Further back in the Mileo’s main body, the habitation door warrants a sliding flyscreen, but there are no windscreen blinds to close at night. Instead, Benimar relies on a pull-around curtain.

Technical specs

LayoutRear corner bed
Sleeps2
Travel seats4
MTPLM3500kg
Payload550kg
Length5.99m19′8″
Width2.3m7′7″
Height2.89m9′6″
Engine (capacity)2300
Engine (power)130
Engine (torque)236
Fresh/waste water127L / 105L
Leisure battery110 Ah
Gas bottle size13kg
Number of gas bottles2
External Options
GRP sidewalls, Awning light, Manual step
Kitchen Equipment
Dometic Fridge, 2-burner gas hob, Combined Oven/Grill, Microwave
Washroom
Thetford C-250 toilet, Separate shower cubicle
Heating
Truma Gas Blown air heater, Truma Electric/Gas water heater

Verdict

As the British pound continues to be strong, we can probably expect more Continental motorhomes to reach the UK’s shores. And on this showing, this can only be a good thing. 

There’s nothing particularly new about the French bed/half-dinette layout, but that’s simply because it’s a tried and tested layout for two people that has proven to be popular. The washroom probably needs a rethink to make it perfect, and we’re a little puzzled as to why the third berth isn’t mentioned in Benimar’s literature. Nevertheless, getting this amount of living space into a motorhome that’s shorter than 6m is no small feat. Well done. And to see other Benimar motorhomes for sale, click here.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Stylish looks
  • Excellent value for money
  • Easy to park (6m long)
  • Home comforts for two
  • Poky engine, six-speed gearbox
  • Automatic transmission option
  • Large fridge

Cons

  • Shower should be at the back of the washroom
  • Washroom door is narrow
  • Short people have to jump to get on the bed
  • It's a tight fit around the lounge table
  • Flimsy curtain separates cab from habitation area
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