Niall HamptonSee other motorhome reviews written by Niall Hampton
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|Layout||Rear corner bed|
|Fresh/waste water||127L / 105L|
|Leisure battery||110 Ah|
|Gas bottle size||13kg|
|Number of gas bottles||2|
Dometic Fridge, 2-burner gas hob, Combined Oven/Grill, Microwave
Thetford C-250 toilet, Separate shower cubicle
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.
- 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
- 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