Mike Le CaplainSee other Blog articles filed in ‘Editor's Blog’ written by Mike Le Caplain
The Birmingham NEC plays host to one of Europe’s biggest caravan shows on 14-19 October. But with so much to take in, we're here to help you make sure you don't miss the highlights – here are top 10 things you simply cannot afford to miss.
Products that are “lighter, brighter, cooler and smarter” – that’s what the organisers of this year’s NEC Motorhome & Caravan Show are promising visitors to the UK’s traditional year-end (but season kick-off) celebration of all things caravan-related. As 2014’s caravans become a hazy memory and all eyes turn to the increasingly appealing models being offered by home-grown manufacturers and European importers alike for 2015, the NEC is the place to be to see all the models that matter under one roof. Whether you intend to slap down a deposit on a new tourer or simply browse and dream, you absolutely cannot afford to miss the UK’s flagship show.
The proven format remains the same as ever: ranks of brand new caravans rubbing shoulders with the very latest lines in accessories, together with a host of family-friendly attractions, expert advice and – courtesy of the Camping and Caravanning Club – free towing tuition. Read on and find out about the 10 best attractions at this month's show – plenty of inspiration for your caravan holidays.
Let's start with Adria – which you'll find at Stand 77 in Hall 20. The brand threw its spotlight on the Adora and Astella ranges for 2014, so 2015 marks the turn of its budget Altea range. The Slovenian manufacturer has revised its entry-level offering with ‘i-Shape’ exterior styling to bring it in line with the Adora, polyester sidewalls and easily-replaced front and rear panels, should the worst happen.
Adria is also hoping to demonstrate its slightly more frivolous side at the NEC, too, as plans are afoot to celebrate the company’s 50th birthday by unveiling the dazzling Altea 4Four Signature. Drawing inspiration from the current vogue for trendy mix ‘n’ match cars such as the MINI, Fiat 500 and Vauxhall Adam, and based on the smallest Altea, the 4Four Signature will be available in 29 different exterior colour combinations. Sunglasses are, presumably, optional!
In Hall 19 on Stand 29 you'll find Bristol-based Bailey, a firm which has gone from strength to strength in recent years, and while its recent focus has been on more affordable models, this year’s starring role is definitely that of the range-topping Unicorn. Now into its fifth year, the Unicorn moves into the new season in third-gen guise, sporting less opinion-polarising frontal styling, a more aerodynamically-efficient rounded rear roof and Polar White body panels in place of last year’s cream sidewalls. Look out for the bigger washrooms, more spacious living areas and improved weight distribution for better road-holding. We've already reviewed the Bailey Unicorn Cadiz, while we recently crowned the Bailey Unicorn Seville our Tourer of the Year 2015 – things are clearly going well at Bailey caravans.
If you're heading to the NEC Birmingham for the Motorhome and Caravan Show later this month, make sure you go to Hall 19, Stand 39, where you'll find Coachman caravans. Much of the big news for 2015 within the Coachman range concerns the popular Pastiche range. The switch from the 2014 model’s VIP body to that of the cheaper and narrower Vision initially looks like a retrograde step, but equipment levels are unchanged, and the move brings down both weights (by some 50kg) and prices. The switch also brings with it the existing panoramic front windows and VIP-style interior trim. Look out for the new VIPs, too, with their revised layouts and – a first for a single-axle Coachman – Alde central heating. Expect a new Laser twin-axle – the 650/4 – to make its debut at the show, too.
4. Compass and Elddis
We also think that Compass and Elddis (Hall 20 Stand 19) are one of the top picks of this October's Motorhome and Caravan Show. After years being built on BPW chassis and running gear, 2015 MY Compass, Elddis and Xplore caravans have switched to Al-Ko, bringing with it the option of ATC anti-snaking technology and the proven stabiliser towing hitch. There are trim and equipment changes galore across the ranges, but the biggest news concerns the Compass Omega – now absorbed into the Corona/Rallye ranges, both of which now sport standard Alde central heating – and the heavily revised Elddis Affinity, which gains a new transverse island bed 554 model.
The range-topping Crusader and Rallye models are now also much lighter, while the Buccaneer – alone within Elddis in sticking with the BPW chassis – gets an 8ft-wide body, hydraulic self-levelling corner steadies and three new island bed models: Argosy; Cutter; and Cruiser.
Over in Lunar (Hall 18 Stand 13) you'll find a swathe of equipment and styling improvements across the range for 2015, with Clubman and Delta models warranting the popular ‘Sky View’ rooflight and dimmable lighting. Quasar and Lexon get new layouts – a fixed-bunk six-berth and four-berther with twin single beds respectively – while the Venus range is all new. Look for new exterior looks, more modern-looking and upmarket interiors, but still with pioneering low weights.
6. Swift Group
There will also be Swift caravans aplenty at the NEC Birmingham – visit stands 31, 33, 39 and 41 in Hall 6 – and brand also makes it into our top 10 list of must-see things at the show. It’s evolution rather than revolution following a busy couple of years at Swift Group. Sprite and Eccles Sport/SE received considerable attention last year, so 2015 changes are mostly confined to detail tweaks. New arrivals include the Sprite Major 4 SB (replacing the old Major 4), the side dinette Eccles Sport 524 and the twin-axle rear island bed Eccles SE Sapphire. There are several new models over at Swift: the end washroom Elegance 530; fixed twin bed 565; and fixed double 630 twin-axle.
7. Knaus Tabbert's Caravisio
But that's not all! Don't miss Stand 20 in Hall 8. One of the most talked-about stories surrounding this year’s show concerns the UK debut of Knaus Tabbert’s astonishing ‘Caravisio’ prototype, which will be making its UK debut. Two years in the making, the Caravisio has been designed and built specifically to showcase what the caravan of the future might look and feel like.
As you’d expect, it is bristling with modern technology, from the fingerprint entry system, adjustable self-levelling air suspension and smart glass doors – all controllable from your smartphone, to the inbuilt entertainment system into which you can plug your laptop and tablet. Not forgetting, of course, the electric bike charging system, air conditioning and full-HD projection home cinema. It’s not all show and no practicality, however. The V-shaped twin single beds allow for a much sleeker shape and can be converted quickly and easily into a double. An intelligent touch-screen controls the on-board water system, while the rear living area opens out onto a yacht-like veranda.
Away from the caravans, there are plenty other stars to see. The 1992 Formula 1 World Champion Nigel Mansell is opening the show and the Experts' Theatre – and he is also a keen caravanner."It’s amazing to see how far the industry has developed in recent years," he said, "there are some great looking vehicles that are more technologically advanced than ever. I’m delighted to open the show and will no doubt be browsing the new models myself!"
And that's not all – you can meet TV’s Fiona Bruce and Julia Bradbury. Fiona is opening the show with Nigel and you can catch her at the Caravan Club Lounge on Tuesday 14 October, while Julia will be at the show on the Friday 17 October.
9. Perfect your towing skills
Come to the Motorhome and Caravan Show at the NEC Birmingham this month and go home a towing pro! The Camping and Caravanning Club is giving showgoers a free towing lesson – and learn how to hitch up and go safely. Book your lesson by clicking here – and remember to bring your driving licence.
10. We've an exclusive Practical Caravan ticket offer!
Save money on your Motorhome and Caravan Show tickets with Practical Caravan – adults get in for just £7.50, seniors tickets are £6.50 if you use our PC5 promotional code when booking. Tickets include parking and a show guide. But don't delay, the ticket offer ends at 11.59pm on 13 October 2014. To book, click here or call 0844 338 7799 – remember to quote PC5.