Peter BaberSee other caravan reviews written by Peter Baber
Significantly upgraded spec helped the revamped Venus 550/4 to win our Best Van for Small Families award this year; find out why the judges were impressed
Outstanding caravans aren't always completely new - sometimes, a model that has been quietly selling well for years has a small upgrade, and suddenly is an obvious winner.
This seems to have happened with the Venus 550/4, a fixed-single-beds, end-washroom model in Lunar's budget range, which had long been admired without raising any eyebrows too high.
But the marked upgrade in the range was enough for our 2019 Tourer of the Year judges to name the model Best Van for Small Families. Here, we find out what impressed them.
Pitching and setting up
Alloys added this season give a touch of class and, for the first time, Venus comes with an Al-Ko AKS stabiliser.
And if that's not enough, there's a huge Skyview rooflight running down the centre, with LED spotlights in its housing. There are also directional spotlights under the lockers - which you don't often see in an entry-level van.
The Light Walnut wood grain might be a bit dark for some tastes, but the Malawi soft furnishings are up-to-date and complement it well.
You don't get a sunroof at the front, but the interchange of gloss off-white lockers and open shelving reduces any feeling of being boxed in. There is a pull-out shelf at the top of the central chest for snacks.
As is common among Lunar layouts, the foldaway table is big enough for four and easily retrievable from the kitchen.
Here, Lunar has opted for a permanent worktop that edges out over the rear of the offside sofa, so comfort at this end is a little compromised. But a heating vent under the front chest keeps things nice and toasty. The heating unit is a Truma Combi 4 - perfectly adequate for a mid-sized van such as this and a smaller family.
Our judges thought the 550 worked particularly well as a small family van because of the open aspect to the central area and the comfy mattresses on the fixed beds mean you could use the rear section as an overspill seating area.
Or you could lounge in bed in the morning while the kids play in the lounge. There's nothing stopping you being able to keep an eye on them.
The work surface, as we said, does intrude into the lounge; but it is a good area to work in, with light switches and mains sockets well positioned nearby, and enough room to position a kettle and toaster.
The Dometic fridge behind this is only half-height - one reason for considering this van as a choice for smaller families. A half-height wardrobe sits above it, so you might need to move if you are cooking while someone is changing.
A large salad-bowl-style handbasin sits under a mirror and over a good-sized storage cupboard as you come in. The rooflight over the middle of the room and the opaque window behind the toilet let in all the daylight you'd need. The large shower cubicle is unencumbered by any wheel arch.
The front sofas turn into single beds that are just 5ft long, so probably only suitable for younger children.
But if your kids are taller and don't mind sharing, you'll be pleased to know that the Lunar designers' predilection for platform beds, rather than slats, extends down to the Venus range.
The open aspect of this van's centre means there is only a flimsy draw-across plastic partition separating the two sleeping areas. However, the front double is so large that you might be tempted to give the fixed beds to the children and have the rest of the evening to yourselves in the front.
The attractive run of large lockers and open shelving in the lounge and bedroom is practical, without encroaching on living space. The wardrobe could be a little larger if your children are fashion-conscious, but that's a minor point.
The 550/4 is a very comfortable van for a small family, and this year's spec upgrade adds to its appeal. Venus doesn't look like a budget range any more. That does mean it's not quite the bargain it once was, but it should still be on your 'must view' list.
- Directional spotlights under the lockers
- Well-equipped kitchen
- Flimsy partition for sleeping areas