Claudia DowellSee other caravan reviews written by Claudia Dowell
How has Compass fared in its attempt to offer comfortable, well-appointed touring in a compact space? We spent time with this standard 6-berth to find out.
For 40 years the Compass brand has been a familiar name in caravanning circles, delivering a solid, across-the-board range of layouts that has consistently met the varied needs of the UK caravan market. And, as with all the ranges in the Explorer Group, it's now part of the Erwin Hymer Group, which was recently bought by Thor Industries in the US.
The brand also benefits from the SoLiD construction method, meaning the units are fully bonded, and are guaranteed by a 10-year water-ingress warranty.
The Casita - meaning 'little house' - is the brand's entry-level range, and comprises four standard-width layouts and three twin-axled, eight-foot floor plans; ideal for seasonal touring. The standard-width 586 layout skilfully manages to manipulate a relatively small space - under 5.7m (or 18' 8" for those who still think in imperial) - to accommodate a family of six. It's a layout that, in the Xplore range - also part of the Hymer Group - was named Best Budget Tourer in our most recent Tourer of the Year Awards.
The Casita offers more: its £3000 premium over the cost of the Xplore version buys you a classier three-piece front window, a Sky Scape panoramic sunroof, carpets throughout, a dual-fuel hob, a separate oven and grill, a microwave, ATC and a number of other assets.
The Casita's understated graphics adorn Strong-Lite aluminium one-piece sidewalls, while the stone-chip-resistant front panel incorporates the now almost obligatory panoramic sunroof, three-piece window - all can be opened - large grab handles and a wide front locker.
Inside, the decor is neutral but far from bland. The cabinetwork is mid-toned 'Salinas Ash' with a cream trim and long chrome handles. The parallel sofas' wipe-clean 'Daytona' upholstery is a pale oatmeal tweed effect with faux suede trim. Accents in silver grey are picked up by the carpet, tie-backs and scatter cushions. The overall look is fresh, modern and inviting.
Pitching and setting up
Towing was a doddle, helped by the AKS 3004 stabiliser and the ATC (trailer control), which all come as part of the Al-Ko chassis. Should you be unlucky enough to get a puncture, there's a spare wheel held in a carrier under the van.
Those large grab handles were useful when it came to the final tweaks required to get the van onto our lakeside pitch at Sumners Ponds. With the brake on, Reviews editor Peter was able to get on with the job of winding down the steadies, grateful that they were easy to access at both front and rear.
Next came turning on the gas in the front locker. There's plenty of room inside here, but without any other exterior locker it would be easy to overload the space, although a low-lifting lid does hinder access. With the electrics connected from the battery compartment, and chemicals applied to the toilet cassette on the offside, we were keen to get the kettle on.
The entrance door is a two-piece, so you can open the top half and keep pets and toddlers safely inside if need be. The awning light is directly above. Towards the back on the nearside are a pair of windows allowing daylight into the bunk-bed area, while on the offside is a frosted window illuminating the washroom.
The sofas are supremely comfortable. They have quite high backs and moulded narrow bolsters at the front end to enable full, put-your-feet-up relaxation. Large, supporting knee rolls, four scatter cushions and a fully carpeted floor add to the comfort factor. The curtains perfectly blend with wood tones, giving a pleasing overall ambience. You also get plenty of scope to stamp your personality on the space, although you might want some members of your family to stamp their personality outside - along with their shoes.
The panoramic sunroof, mid-sized rooflight and three-piece front window make this a bright space to be during the day, while the four individual reading lights and over-locker lighting offer different illumination options in the evening. The lighting is LED throughout.
It's a comfortable space, and you can prop some photographs up on the shelves over and under the window to personalise it. Use the TV aerial point, satellite connection, 12V and mains sockets located in the nearside corner to set up the TV on the central chest, or use the similar socket cluster above the narrow dresser that separates the lounge from the dinette.
The dresser is the more obvious location for a TV if you are relaxing in the lounge, but at least you have options. There's ample space on the central chest for a vase of flowers, drinks and a book, and if you need more space for snacks there is a pull-out occasional table, below which are two drawers.
One of the four overhead lockers holds a CD/radio player (there is a speaker either side of the panoramic window), and one other locker is shelved. Two heating vents on the offside sofa serve to warm the area.
The sofas are plenty big enough to fit two people on each side, but we brought the occasional table into play to comfortably accommodate plates and bowls for four people. You could use this area for four children, while two adults could eat in the dinette. Alternatively, with just two children in tow, the dinette offers a great space for games, colouring books and teatime treats. A socket in the base of one of the dinette seats is available for charging laptops, tablets and phones.
The dresser unit separating the lounge from the dinette is home to the freestanding table when it's not in use. There's also space and shelving in here to store books and games.
Essentially, the living space, although not particularly large, offers plenty of flexibility.
The Whale heating and water heater says 'quality', while the use of LED lighting throughout will save the battery if you go off-grid. The upholstery combines quality and comfort, and the Grade III Thermal insulation is welcome.
Appliances comprise a Thetford cooker with separate oven and grill, and dual-fuel, four-burner hob with controls at the front and electric ignition. There's also a good-quality Russell Hobbs microwave above the worktop, which is of a fairly generous size thanks to a detachable drainer. The circular black enamel sink is serviced by a domestic-style chrome mixer tap, and you can expand the preparation area if you bring into play the smoked-glass lid over the hob and the chopping board over the sink.
The cutlery drawer is above the fridge, while a further two drawers and deep cupboard - where the chopping board and detachable sink drainer are stored - are located between the fridge and the oven.
The wall cupboards are in cream : one side is shelved, while the other holds racking for crockery, plus there is a locker for pans below the oven.
The fridge is disappointingly small for a family van, but then again it's hard to see how a larger one could be squeezed in unless you lost some worktop and, possibly, the microwave. The worktop could be replaced by an extension flap, but the convenience of a microwave might be harder to give up when catering for a family on holiday.
Russel Hobbs is a respected name so there's every reason to think the microwave will be durable, plus you have a separate oven and grill and dual-fuel hob to make this a versatile kitchen.
Set in the rear-offside corner of the caravan, the fully-lined shower is equipped with an Eco-Camel Orbit water-saving shower head, chrome upriser and soap dish set within a moulding that creates a couple of shelves for shampoo bottles. A downlighter illuminates the roomy unit. Daylight is let in via the frosted window behind the loo and a small roof light.
On the wall outside the washroom is a long mirror for checking your appearance before facing your fellow campers.
A further two bunks can be made up by converting the dinette, which transforms in the usual way. At 2'5" x 5'11" the lower bunk would suit a teenager; the drop-down upper bunk - at 1'10" x 5'5" - is considerably smaller and is reached with a wooden ladder stored under the fixed bunk. A privacy curtain wraps around the two.
At the front of the van the bed makes up in the standard way, with slats pulled out from the central chest and by rearranging the OZIO cushions, designed to be cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The bed was very comfortable and, at 2.1m long (and a cosy 1.3m wide), it can accommodate taller occupants.
Space under the lower bunk is taken up by the wooden ladder for the dinette's drop-down bed, but there is still space for toys and games. Accessing this space - and that under the nearside front sofa - from outside is an option for £77 per locker. You will find three lockers over the dinette, two of which are shelved. If you want more shelves for the lockers there's an option pack of three shelves for £42. Bulkier items can be stored under the seat.
As well as the four overhead lockers and centre chest at the front of the van, you have space for bulkier items in the seat bases; although the one on the offside is taken up with the boiler and heating system. The nearside one is clutter free and both have front access.
Below the control panel at the entrance is a welcome coat hook. Two would have been nice, but then too many coats here would become bulky and could hinder your exit.
This is a pleasing family van offering ample comfort and equipment, if not bags of space. That said, the layout is about as flexible as you can get in trying to accommodate up to six people. That Grade II insulation means you can tour in low season, but it might feel a little crowded so a full-sized awning with heater would come in useful.
All in all the Casita is a great little family van, well constructed and with a good level of kit.