Practical Caravan's experts review the fixed twin-bed Venus 500/4, a light and affordable four-berth
As with most entry-level tourers (with the possible exception of Sprite), a Venus isn’t exactly pretty on the outside. Although probably best described as ‘functional’, this isn’t saying it is an unattractive caravan, but it’s clear that costs are controlled when it comes to the design and production of the body panels.
The Venus 500/4 won the Editor’s Choice gong in our 2013 Tourer of the Year Awards. It’s how we recognise something that’s practically perfect, where a few careful improvements could make it truly great. Our judges praised the Venus 500/4 for its ‘what you see is what you get’ approach, noting its low weight and price. But we also subjected it to a real world test, to get behind the figures and tell the real story of this caravan.
Pitching and setting up
In fact, this van is simple to set up and everything is accessible. All four corner steadies are easy to reach, as are the pair of waste water outlets, sensibly placed behind the offside wheel. A bonus comes when you open the battery locker on the offside and see a satellite TV connection – a great touch for an entry-level caravan!
On test, moving inside (from the sub-zero temperatures outside), the warmth within the caravan was really noticeable. It was good to see that most of the electrical controls are just to hand inside the entrance door.
Although the Venus 500/4 is quite narrow, there is a definite feeling of space in the living area, thanks in the main to the large single front window and light-coloured fabrics. The seats are comfortable and despite there being no front centre chest, there is a wide shelf across the width of the lounge under the front window, on which to place cups and glasses.
The TV point is at the end of the kitchen unit – we could foresee problems with water from the sink splashing onto the back of the set, so care must be taken. Also, the TV will have to be moved when the kitchen is being used.
It was good to see four spotlights (halogen rather than LED) fitted around the lounge area, rather than the two you’d usually expect at this level. A couple of mains lights and a ceiling light complete the illumination options.
However, dining presents a problem for a number of reasons. The first is the table’s dimensions: it is low, so getting your legs underneath without sending things flying is a struggle. The second issue is that the table is quite short – it's fine for two, but three is a little cosy. There isn’t a front occasional table to assist, either. A slightly larger table would solve these issues. But, aside from this, the lounge is a nice place to be.
Work surface space is very much at a premium, but no less than in other caravans with this layout. A removable drainer and a chopping board cover for the stainless steel sink do help, but space is still tight. There is a triangular three-burner hob, whose controls are mounted diagonally on the left-hand side. There’s no microwave, which is unsurprising at this price point. As well as the TV point (including a satellite socket), there’s a second mains socket for an electric travel kettle.
Overhead, a Mini Heki rooflight lets fresh air in and unwanted smells out. This, plus a large opening window, make the area light and airy. When it’s dark outside, the area is well lit by a ceiling light and a pair of spotlights mounted under the roof-level lockers.
A large double-door cupboard below the sink houses the cutlery drawer, and two good sized overhead lockers accommodate crockery, while another is big enough to pass the cereal box test. So cupboard space is good, but there's nowhere to hang towels, other than over the oven door handle.
Although first impressions of the kitchen suggest it drops points (probably because of the fridge’s positioning), it actually has pretty much everything you really need, and works quite well.
While the shower area isn’t lined, it does seem well sealed. It is separated by a bi-fold door, and has a long hanging rail at roof level for wet towels. The Thetford C-250 cassette toilet is of the electric flushing variety. An adequately sized sink sits atop a small vanity unit, which can store most toiletries, and there is a soap dish but, strangely, no toothbrush holder. A large mirror is fixed above the sink, while a towel loop is mounted on the wall next to the door.
At the front, the two seats (each 1.39m x 0.68m) convert into a fairly spacious 1.93m x 1.39m double bed. Although the knee-rolls aren’t too pronounced, turning the cushions around will make for a better bed.
It seems, then, that the Venus 500/4 may be better suited as a family van in which the parents take the front double and children sleep in the fixed beds (a popular use of this layout, according to many caravan dealers). However, some would say this defeats the purpose of this floor plan.
Using the 500/4 as a family van could throw up a couple of potential issues: some weight savings would be sacrificed to make the fixed beds longer, and the small folding-leaf table could cause problems during mealtimes.
The wardrobe is rather on the small size, especially if used by four people, and the hanging depth is only 0.96m. This is because the fridge is underneath the wardrobe. We believe it would probably be better to lose some, if not most, of the storage under the kitchen unit, and put the fridge there instead. This would gain extra space for the wardrobe, together with three or four drawers underneath in which to put jumpers and underwear. Also, apart from the cutlery drawer, there isn’t a single drawer in the entire caravan. And we thought that maybe the dining table has been kept small because it is stored in the wardrobe.
The areas underneath the fixed beds are empty to provide vast storage, but care will have to be taken not to fill them too much and reduce noseweight by having too much weight behind the axle. Like the front seat bases, the bed bases are sprung and hold up even with the weight of the beds on top.
There is also some room under the front bunks, but that on the offside contains the water heater and its associated plumbing, together with ducting for the blown-air heater. The nearside one fares a bit better, although it contains the mains consumer unit. This is perhaps not in the handiest of positions, as it is at the back, next to the outer wall, and requires the seat base to be lifted to gain access.
The Venus 500/4 is a bit of a conundrum. It’s a caravan that you want to love, and manufacturer Lunar should be applauded for trying different things, but in reality it doesn’t quite work. If the beds were longer, the wardrobe/fridge situation rectified and a bigger folding table included, it would be a cracking entry-level van. However, it is lovely and light, which makes it feel more spacious than it actually is.
- It's a popular layout
- There is loads of storage
- It's good value for money
- Light to tow
- The single beds are a touch too short
- The wardrobe and folding table are a bit small