Here we’re reviewing the four-berth Bailey Discovery D4-4, which we’ve had on long-term test for several months.
The best entry-level caravans really punch above their price. What they lack in luxury equipment, they make up for with clever layouts, excellent use of space, and value for money.
What’s more, we think some of Britain’s most affordable tourers are also among the best-looking. Perhaps that’s because the manufacturers are willing to try something different in a bid to attract first-time buyers who might not necessarily be drawn to a more traditional caravan.
That’s certainly the case with the Bailey Discovery range. The smart white-and-grey exterior appears stylish and modern, and Bailey says the shape has been chosen for stability as well as good looks.
When the Discovery range was revealed in late 2019, it was as though Bailey’s designers had skipped a couple of generations. To our eyes, the Polar White and Dove Grey two-tone finish looks great, set off perfectly by the dark-grey alloy wheels.
Another notable feature is the single front window, which gives the Discovery its own distinct ‘face’. But does it also let in enough light? We’ll come back to that…
From the outside, the only aspect of the Discovery that looks a little downmarket to us is the exposed A-frame. However, there are practical advantages to this: it allows Bailey to offer an A-frame-mounted storage box or bike rack.
We applaud Bailey for daring to be different with the look of the Discovery range. We’re sure it will appeal to younger customers and those swapping a tent for the comforts of a caravan.
One of the quirks of 2020 is that we’ve had more opportunity to tow the Bailey than we’ve had to tour with it, because we’ve used it for tow car tests throughout the year.
Being a lightweight caravan makes the Bailey a sensible match for a wide variety of tow cars. Working from the Discovery’s MTPLM, a car with a kerbweight of 1419kg makes an 85% match, so the Bailey is very well-suited to being towed by relatively small cars, such as a Ford Focus diesel estate or a Dacia Duster diesel 4×4.
We’ve had no scary moments with the Bailey, whichever car was doing the towing. In addition, the D4-4’s neat 2.23m width means that this is an easy tourer to tow, even on narrow roads.
Pitch and set-up
Pitching the Bailey is straightforward. The modest length and width of the van make it easy to manoeuvre onto your pitch, and stout grab handles at all four corners help to fine-tune your position once you have unhitched the tow car. The van’s modest weight is another plus if you need to move the Bailey by hand.
Curved recesses to the bodywork make it easy to find the steady-winding points, so you can be ready to step inside the D4-4 a few moments after unhitching.
The water point is on the offside, out of the way if you fit an awning. However, the electric connection is on the nearside, so you’ll need to route the cable carefully to avoid any trip hazard in the awning.
An external door to the front locker on the nearside gives quick access to electrical cables and the like.
Step inside through the split door, and the electrical control panel is immediately on your right. There’s a drawer just beneath it, handy for stashing car keys and so on.
Turn left to enjoy a lounge that belies the Discovery’s size and price. It really is very roomy and comfortable, and the grey upholstery with mustard-coloured edging looks contemporary and understated.
Perhaps the lounge’s most controversial features is also its most distinctive – the tall but narrow skylight at the front of the van. You might think it wouldn’t let in enough light, but that’s not been our experience. There’s plenty of natural light. That said, we’d be happier still if there were additional panes on either side, but for that, you will need the extra budget to step up to Bailey’s Phoenix range.
When the sun sets, there are spotlights to either side at the front of the lounge, and LEDs above the lockers. The spotlights have USB charging points, so it’s easy enough to charge a smartphone or tablet computer.
For a budget van, the Bailey comes with a well-equipped kitchen, with a three-burner Thetford hob, and a combined grill and oven underneath. Some will no doubt miss having a microwave, but its absence is to be expected at this price point.
Beneath the oven is a locker giving access to the gas taps, and room for pots and pans. To the right is the square sink with a mixer tap. Beneath it is a 103-litre Dometic fridge with a 12-litre freezer compartment.
Again, a bigger fridge would be welcome, but it’s a perfect acceptable size for a budget caravan – three litres bigger than the fridge in a Sprite Alpine 4, for example.
It will help to have all your ingredients prepared before you start to cook, because once the hob is in use, work surface is at a premium. With the cover over the hob, and the fold-up worktop extension in place, there’s sufficient room for food prep.
There is also more potential work surface on the nearside of the van, but this is where the TV aerial is located, so it might not be available for other uses.
Two downwlighters make the kitchen one of the best-lit areas of the caravan at night, while the Heki rooflight allows for natural light in the day, as well as good ventilation.
The large washroom is one of the D4-4’s most appealing features. It runs the full width of the back of the tourer.
Inside, the Thetford cassette toilet has a push-button flush. The rooflight in the shower cubicle lets in very little natural light, but there is a downlighter by the door and an LED strip above the mirror on the rear bulkhead. It’s a shame the wires to the beds are visible on our test model.
In the offside corner are four shelves for lotions and potions, with a locker below for toilet chemicals and cleaning products.
The shower cubicle in the nearside corner is a little cosy in size, and a bit dark. But it’s preferable to showering in a wet room with a toilet seat and a flip-up sink for company. There are two hooks for bath towels, and a third for a hand towel next to the sink.
Slats pull out from the front bulkhead to support a double bed, with the backrests plugging the gap between the settees.
The double measures 1.88 x 1.37m, which makes it a little longer and wider than the fixed double at the back of the caravan. However, if you are taller than 6’2″ you are likely to find either bed shorter than ideal.
The fixed double bed has a comfortable padded headboard, and a cutaway side to make space to walk to the back of the van. It does compromise comfort a little if both sleepers are tall, but it’s par for the course with this sort of layout.
There are small shelves on either side of the bed, handy for a book or a glass of water, and directional spotlights for reading. However, we think Bailey has missed a track by not fitting these with USB ports, like the lights at the opposite end of the caravan.
As with any fixed-bed floorplan, you get a great deal of storage underneath the double bed. Even with the fuse box taking up some space, there’s plenty of room. An external door provides access from outside.
The wardrobe is next to the bed on the offside, with lots of hanging space and a couple of shelves for jumpers, shoes and the like. There’s also loads of locker space surrounding the bed, for other items.
Moving into the kitchen, there are a couple of overhead lockers, one tall enough for cereal boxes, and another with internal shelving that’s better suited to cups, glasses, jam jars and so on. There’s no rack for plates, though.
In the lounge, there are single overhead lockers on either side, and open storage to the front on each side where the roof meets the front panel. That’s not a huge amount, but Bailey has done well to squeeze in as much as it has in this size of caravan.
There’s more room under the settees, although as we’ve mentioned, some will miss the convenience of a front chest.
Kit and value
For a budget van, you get a good roster of kit as standard. Truma Combi heating quickly warms up the van, even on a cold day, and is controlled through a digital panel or the iNet smartphone app (if you upgrade at a cost of £199).
There’s just one TV point, with 12V and 230V sockets. It’s sensibly positioned in the centre of the van, so the TV can face either the fixed bed or the lounge. There’s no radio or Bluetooth receiver.
There are no curtains, although in a van with such a modern look, we don’t miss them. The windows are fitted with separate blinds and fly screens. We do miss having a flyscreen on the door.
Carpets are an option. A wipe-clean floor is practical, but it’s definitely an option we’d choose if this were our van. We’d also be included to buy a Prima air awning from Bailey’s accessory arm, which extends around the back of the Discovery as well as the side, for lots of extra living space.
THE FINAL WORD
The D4-4 will suit buyers seeking comfort and style in an easy-to-tow, lightweight van. It’s ideal for first-timers, but should also suit those looking to downsize.
Or you could try…
If you’ve enjoyed reading this article, why not get the latest news, reviews and features delivered direct to your door or inbox every month. Take advantage of our brilliant Practical Caravan magazine SUBSCRIBERS’ OFFER and SIGN UP TO OUR NEWSLETTER for regular weekly updates on all things caravan related.
The fixed double bed has a comfortable padded headboard, and a cutaway side to make more space when you need to walk to the back of the caravan
|Interior Length||5.4 m|
|Shipping Length||71.4 m|
|Awning Size||1156 cm|
|Construction||Al-Ko one-piece galvanised steel single-axle chassis, GRP-skinned AluTech body shell; Flush-fit front and rear impact-resistant bumpers with grab handles; Double-glazed Polyplastic opening vertical skylight; Extended A-frame for optional storage solutions; 14-inch alloy wheels|
|External equipment||Exterior storage lockers; Offside gas locker|
|Heating||Truma Combi heating system (2kW gas/1.8kW electric); Truma digital control panel|
|Lounge/bedroom||Midi-Heki rooflight; Freestanding table with dedicated storage; Status 570 telescopic directional TV aerial; TV station with 230V, 12V and one aerial socket; Fold-down occasional table; Remis two-part pleated flyscreen and blink to vertical skylight and Remis pleated flyscreen and blinds to principal window; Java soft furnishings, two scatter cushions|
|Kitchen||Dometic 103-litre refrigerator and 12-litre freezer with electronic ignition; Thetford Triplex combination oven and grill with three-burner gas hob; Drop-down kitchen worktop extension|
|Washroom||Rooflight; Thetford C-260 cassette toilet with integrated header tank; Separate shower compartment|
|Safety and security||Al-Ko AKS 3004 stabiliser; Interior floor-mounted spare wheel and tyre; Anti-tamper wheel bolts|