Read our live-in test of the 2015 Bailey Approach Advance 665 to find out how Practical Motorhome's experts rate it as an entry-level family six-berth

Overview

In just four years of building motorhomes, Bailey has gained an impressive reputation for its large, luxurious ’vans that offer plenty of kit (such as standard Alde wet central heating) for a surprisingly low price. But with only one entry point to the brand, the top-spec Approach Autograph range, Bailey has long needed a smaller, more affordable offering – and here it is, the new Approach Advance, launched at the NEC show in February 2015.

Unlike its black-cabbed big brother, the low-profile coachbuilt Advance features an all-white finish. Prices for the four-model range start from just £38,515 for the two-berth 615, rising to £40,795 for this six-berth 665, which features a large rear lounge, a central washroom and a front dinette with an electric drop-down double bed above. It’s the same layout that works so successfully in the range-topping Bailey Approach Autograph 765.

The Advance finds itself in a highly competitive area of the marketplace, up against some capable Continental rivals as well as cut-price home-grown fare from the likes of Elddis and Swift. (See our Motorhome of the Year Awards 2015 winners.) The question is, how well will this relative newcomer get on in future, when the margins are tight, and the spec level has to drop to account for it?

Design

One thing that Bailey has got right is the looks. This is still not a curvaceous coachbuilt, and you can blame the Alu-Tech construction for that, but the white cab better integrates the slimline, low-profile rear body and the short overhang gives a tidy stance, less cumbersome than the Approach Autograph.

It’s all set off by the new Bailey ‘B’ crest and minimal graphics, while the rear wall features the curved profile that its maker claims improves fuel efficiency.

The body is constructed using an extruded aluminium frame with sandwich panels featuring a plastic skeleton structure with polystyrene insulation and GRP inner and outer skins. All models come with mounting points for a Thule bike rack, along with fixing points for an exterior ladder and roof-rack and bike rack.

Under the skin, the cab is mated to the proven Al-Ko AMC chassis, here in ultra-low-profile form, helping to keep the roofline nice and low and allowing the habitation door to be positioned low enough to avoid the need for an additional entry step.

On the road

Bailey’s ‘Designed to be Driven’ tagline is telling: this is a six-berth family ’van that is remarkably easy to live with. Its compact dimensions (it’s less than 7m long and 7cm narrower than the Autograph 765) make it feel wieldy on the road and relatively simple to park, plus it’s narrow – and low – enough not to be intimidating around town. It also sneaks under the 3500kg limit, so can be driven by all B licence-holders.

All of which means you can make the most of all of those travel seats and use your ’van as an occasional MPV; there are six belted travel seats – two captain’s chairs up front, plus four in the dinette, two forward facing and two rear facing. All sit on steel frames with structural bulkheads to provide secure anchors for the seatbelts.

The 130bhp Peugeot turbodiesel gives a useful turn of speed and relaxed cruising once into sixth cog in the manual gearbox – there is no automatic option. Perhaps its greatest asset, however, is its wheel-at-each-corner stance. It helps it to resist buffeting, aiding stability on the motorway, and means that you don’t have a large rear overhang swinging out on corners; you do have to remember not to cut the apex of a bend, however, with such a long wheelbase.

The low-profile chassis and low roof give a usefully low centre of gravity, making the ’van feel more agile, and you can even
see (a bit) out of the rear window, which helps when reversing; should you decide that’s not enough, all Advance models are pre-wired for a reversing camera.

Lounging & dining

With the table stowed, you might be tempted to relax in the central dinette, but the seats are pretty upright so the majority of the time you’ll almost certainly make a beeline for the rear lounge. It’s only as you make your way through the short corridor that links the two that you really feel the Advance’s compact size – it lacks the open feel of its big brother Autograph 765 – but when you get to the rear you can really spread out on the long sofas.

Here you can seat five with ease, six at a push, and it feels light and bright thanks to the rear and side windows, and Heki rooflight. It’s also aided by the standard ‘Pimlico’ upholstery, which is modern and cheerful with its grey cloth and black vinyl lifted by scarlet curtains and cushions. The timber-effect walls are finished in Bailey’s light ‘Mendip Ash’, with a dual matt/gloss finish for the locker doors. The sideboard is ideally positioned for a TV, and there are two 230V and one 12V socket, plus an aerial point. Readers will appreciate the spotlights in every corner.

The obvious place for four to dine is the forward dinette, which boasts a removable wall-mounted table. There’s a spacious
feel in this part of the ’van, though taller users need to watch their heads to avoid catching them on the base of the drop-down bed above. You could seat a fifth diner by turning around the passenger-side cab chair, but it’s probably more practical to set up the freestanding table in the rear lounge if more than four want to eat.

Kitchen

If you’re used to preparing haute cuisine on tour, this might not be the perfect ’van for you. If, however, you want to knock up simple meals for the family it has all of the equipment you’re likely to need. It’s also ideally sited alongside the dinette, in the social heart of the ’van.

The fridge is a relatively tiny 80 litres (or 85 with the freezer compartment removed), so you’ll need to pack it carefully for a longer tour. The triangular Thetford hob, with only three gas rings, initially seems a bit meagre, too, but in practice it works rather well, taking up less of the worktop, which is at a premium with the sink drainer in place. Beneath, there’s a combined oven and grill, also by Thetford, which is compact but warms up quickly and boasts a usefully large pan cupboard underneath it.

That stainless sink looks smart with its chromed mixer tap, and we like the pale-grey worktop, but we’d have liked a larger window, and some storage racking for crockery would have been handy. A microwave is a £149 dealer-fit option, but leave it out and you’ll get an extra large cupboard, plus another socket.

Sleeping

Flexibility is key to the appeal of a family ’van, and the Approach Advance 665 scores well here. There are no single berths, but younger children will likely be happy to share the drop-down double over the dinette, using the ladder stored on the washroom door. Usefully, there are small wooden flaps that fold up to stop kids falling out, rather than a fiddly net, and a spotlight in the cab roof to appease bookworms. Beneath, the dinette forms another relatively narrow double, but the varied cushion densities here do compromise comfort.

The master suite is in the rear, where pull-out slats and the sofa cushions combine to form a bed measuring a whopping 2.06m by 1.62m. It’s firm but comfortable to sleep on, with reading lights all round and useful shelves for a book or a cup of tea. The only real drawback is privacy, with no doors or curtains to close off any of the sleeping areas.

To sum up, here are the bed sizes in the 2015 Bailey Approach Advance 665: dinette double: 1.83m x 0.98m (6’ x 3’2”); drop-down double bed: 1.78m x 1.25m (5’10” x 4’1”); rear lounge transverse bed made from the sofas: 2.06m x 1.62m (6’9” x 5’3”).

Washroom

On the whole, a central washroom in a six-berth ’van tends to be a pretty cramped affair, but the Advance manages to pack an awful lot into a relatively tight space and it feels roomy enough.

Above the Thetford swivel toilet with electric flush you’ll find a mirror, plus a bathroom cabinet and a set of shelves, and there are further ‘wet’ shelves on the side of the sink for your shampoo and shower gel.

To avoid soaking the whole room when having a shower there’s a clingy curtain on a rail, and the EcoCamel water-saving showerhead should help you make the most of the generous 90-litre on-board water tank (with matching capacity waste tank).

Impressively, the whole washroom is fully lined and, though there is only one outlet for the blown-air heating, it warms up very quickly. That’s surely due, in part, to there being no window in here – only a vent over the shower area provides daylight as well as ventilation.

Storage

If all you want to store is bedding and clothing, then you’ll be perfectly happy with the provision aboard the Advance 665. There’s a useful wardrobe and a cupboard beneath the sideboard, while six shelved lockers – all with positive push-button catches – line the rear lounge, and there’s a trio of smaller ones above the dinette. There is space for bedding in the bed boxes, but they are restricted in the rear by the wheelarches (and the water tank on the offside) and up front by the boiler and consumer unit.

No complaints about kitchen storage, however, where you’ll find a cutlery drawer and five large cupboards – though you’ll lose one of those if you go for the optional microwave. The biggest frustration, however, is that there is no external access to the storage areas, so you’ll have to lug outdoor gear through the habitation door.

Equipment

Bearing in mind its bargain-basement status, there is no getting away from the fact that this is a pretty basic motorhome. That said, there really is all you could need for a family touring holiday, albeit with little in the way of luxuries.

Instead of the Alde wet central heating system of the Approach Autograph, the Advance makes do with a Whale rapid-heat boiler for hot water and a 4kW blown-air heating system; it’s effective enough, generating heat quickly when asked to, but there are relatively few outlets for the hot air. The control panel also takes a bit of deciphering before you become confident with it.

There are roller blinds all round for the habitation area, and the cab features a pleated Remis blind (part of the Premium Pack fitted to our test motorhome), along with practical and thermally efficient, poppered, padded covers for the side windows.

Elsewhere, there’s good provision of LED spotlights and four 230V sockets, plus pre-wiring for a satellite aerial.

Technical specs

LayoutRear lounge
Sleeps6
Travel seats6
MTPLM3500kg
Payload543kg
Length6.96m22′10″
Width2.35m7′9″
Height2.79m9′2″
Engine (capacity)2200
Engine (power)130
Engine (torque)236
Fresh/waste water90L / 90L
Leisure battery80 Ah
Gas tank size13kg
Number of gas tank compartments1
Gas bottle size6kg
Number of gas bottles1
External Options
GRP sidewalls, Manual step
Kitchen Equipment
Dometic Fridge, 3-burner gas hob, Combined Oven/Grill
Washroom
Thetford C-250 toilet, Shower curtain
Heating
Whale water heater, Whale blown air space heater

Verdict

Touring in the Bailey Approach Advance 665 is hardly going to be the height of luxury, but that’s not what the Bristol firm is setting out to do here: this is a practical, flexible and – above all – impressively affordable six-berth motorhome, designed to open up the joys of family touring to those on a tighter budget. That does show in some of the fixtures and fittings, which aren’t as rugged as you’ll find in costlier rivals, but it never feels austere inside and we love the cheerful interior fabrics.

Not only is the 2015 Bailey Approach Advance 665 great value, but it also packs a huge amount of accommodation and kit into a sub-7m length, making it an ideal choice for first-timers. And to see other Bailey motorhomes for sale, click here.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Add Premium Pack to get air-con, twin airbags and a DAB radio
  • Storage in the double-skinned floor
  • Dedicated place for a microwave
  • Light and airy
  • Roomy wardrobe
  • All B+ licence-holders can drive it

Cons

  • The control panel is not easy to use
  • Fridge is a bit small for six people
  • Small kitchen worktop area
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