Advantages Good sleeping arrangements and feels spacious
Disadvantages Quite heavy and uninspiring bathroom.
|Value for Money|
As some of you who have read my others reviews may already know my family and I like to take holidays in our caravan. We purchased our first caravan about 7 years ago after getting fed up of permanently holidaying in a tent in the rain in summer. I refused to take the tent again and insisted on wanting my own toilet; I was not walking to a toilet block in the night anymore! After borrowing my sister-in-laws caravan for a weekend we took the plunge and got ourselves a great little van and my husband and I and our two children holidayed in it very happily.As you would expect our little children who were 8 and 5 at the time kept growing and in 2008 we realised we needed a bigger caravan. After spending the whole day trudging around the Caravan show at the NEC we realised that buying something that would last us as the children grew was going to be tricky as a lot of the bunk beds were just too short and offered too little head-room to accomodate the strapping young teens that we now have. After careful consideration we opted for the Abbey Vogue 540 as the ideal model. We selected a special edition which gave us extra plugs, a BBQ point, nicer upholstery and an alarm. We bought this model in April 2008 for about £14000 I think.
This van has a reasonably standard caravan layout, the lounge area with seats either side is at the front, there is a kitchen on one side in the middle with a dinette opposite which converts into bunk beds then there is a toilet and shower room and a set of fixed bunks across the rear of the caravan and the door is also located near the back.This is a six-berth model and I have on occasions gone away with a friend and her children and we have managed using the six-beds quite happily but normally there are just the four of us.
After a tiring day enjoying the outdoor life a nice comfortable bed is an essential.The front lounge seats can be used as single beds if you are quite short (which I am!) as they are 5’11” long. They are quite comfortable and although my husband is 5’10” he just about manages to sleep on them. Normally we just make it up into a double by pulling out the hidden slats from the front locker and then just rearranging the cushions, this gives us a nice supportive bed which is a much more reasonable size and gives a great nights sleep. Above the lounge area is a huge roof-light that slides back. This was heaven in France last year when the hot evenings were clear and we were able to slide the roof back and lie and look at the stars.
The side dinette makes up into bunks but we usually only use the bottom one which only takes a second to erect after stowing the table in the store-cupboard. This gives my son another 5’11”bed which is ample for him. The top bunk comes with safety rails and a ladder which is stored in the wardrobe but we leave these at home as we don’t need them. Putting up the top bunk is quite a straightforward operation and it feels very solid when it is up.The rear bunks are permanently set up. The bottom one is also 5’11” but unusually for a caravan it has plenty of headroom so my 15 year old daughter is able to sit-up comfortably in bed if she wants to read or play on her lap-top. Although the top bunk is a fraction longer there is not a lot of room above it, I climbed in there once just to see what it was like and it was a bit tricky getting out again! There is a permanent ladder attached to these bunks.
The bottom bunk can be lifted and then this produces a store area that can be accessed from the extra rear door and is good for storing bikes whilst travelling (but care has to be taken with weight balance). The door cannot be opened from inside are no escapee children! The door has a window as does the top bunk so the children can spy on the world from their den.All the beds have reading lights over them which are independently controlled and the bunks also have curtains around them which works well when the children want to shut themselves in for a while and chill out.
The lounge area is very comfortable with supportive cushions and hard-wearing upholstery. There is a centre unit with drawers and a flip-top table which is ideal when you don’t want to get the main table out of the cupboard. You are just about able to sit 6 people down for a meal here if you use the flip-top table along with the free-standing table but it is a squash and if anyone in your family is prone to sticking their elbows out it can be a bit of a trial, it is usually easier if two people sit at the side dinette instead. The tables can be easily stored away in the cupboard when you don't need them. They are easy to fold and stow and then the caravan feels even bigger because of the additional space created.There are several 230v sockets around the van so there is ample space to plug in your kettle and your TV (we rarely take a TV but we are certainly in the minority!), there is also a 12v socket and a TV aerial. The lighting in the lounge area is good as there is a bright central light as well as side lights that can be dimmed if you prefer a cosier atmosphere.
The caravan has a space heater and also blown air heating so it is a simple matter to have the caravan lovely and snug even when travelling in the colder months of the year.
There is a large storage cupboard which also houses the tables and that is great for storing all the cooking equipment and large boxes etc that we take. There is a very slim cupboard under the sink which just about manages a couple of cans of soup but is really too small to be useful and the worlds amllest cutlery drawer. The sink has a detachable draining board which is useful as you can pop it in the cupboard and it gives a little more workspace when it is removedThere is an extractor-fan over the kitchen which works really well to rid the van of steam and smells.
The bathroom has a Thetford cassette toilet with an electric flush. When I started caravanning I hated the idea of emptying the toilet but the cassette is so easy as it is all sealed and you just open a nozzle and empty it at the disposal point, the chemicals stop the smell and although it isn’t my favourite job it is not too bad either.There is a small sink which is one panel that pulls forward and forms a shower cubicle behind it. This works surprisingly well and my husband frequently use the shower. I tend to use the shower block as my hair takes a lot of washing and I would use all the water. The only problem with the bathroom is the lack of storage. There is one slim cupboard on the wall above the toilet but none in the moulded area around the sink and nowhere to put shower gel or soap either.
The caravan has plenty of storage. Under the front and side seats there is plenty of storage for sleeping bags, towels and outdoor toys, these have self supporting arms so don't fall on your head when trying to access them. At the rear of the van there is a tall cupboard next to the bunks. This is great for storing all the children’s stuff as there are several shelves. All around the top of the van are lockers that are easy to open and are very deep. The only area that is not adequate enough in my opinion is the wardrobe. It is very narrow and trying to fit in clothes for a family of four for two weeks is a feat of engineering requiring using lots of lockers and folding everything very carefully. If there were six of you I think you might have to go naked!
One of the reasons we chose this particular model was the fact that it looked modern inside. Too many vans still have brass carriage clocks and cocktail cabinets and floral cushions that I would never have in my home and certainly don’t want in my caravan. Considering that caravans are still a huge growth industry in this country particularly amongst families I can't believe how awful some are inside. The lockers are oak-grain with brushed chrome handles. The carpet is plain beige and is removable and leaves a laminate floor which is sometimes better for us during the summer, we just leave the carpet at home.
This is a big caravan at over 7 metres in length but it runs on a single axle. This means that it is still easy to manoeuvre onto a pitch by hand (when my reversing skills let me down) as it is very well balanced. It tows very well as it does have an Al-ko stabiliser and we have never had a snaking problem but we don’t tow over 60mph anyway (sorry if you are behind!).
Personally I think that this is a nice looking caravan. Obviously it is just a white box really but the windows are tinted and it is has one piece aluminium side which make it really shiny with a neat grey stripe down the side.
It is a heavy beast too so we have to tow it with a 4x4 as we couldn’t afford the type of saloon car that could pull it, there are no Mercedes for me I am afraid. For anyone who needs to know the MTPLM is 1500kg.
This caravan is one of the newer styles that are wider than traditional models. This is really noticeable inside and makes for a comfortable living space for all of us. We don’t feel as if we are on top of each other all the time and there is plenty of room to move about unlike our old van when we had to adopt the “shuffle-sideways” mode of getting past each other.I was converted to caravanning very easily but I know it doesn’t appeal to everyone. However should you ever need a family van I would not hesitate to recommend this one and if you needed a different arrangement there are 7 different layouts in the range. The Abbey name has now disappeared so these can be picked up for about £11,000 from a dealer for the 2008 model.
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