Peter BaberSee other caravan reviews written by Peter Baber
This family-friendly, superbly comfortable six-berth is designed to feel just like your home away from home. Our test team scrutinises its every detail.
Lunar is clearly becoming much more confident at producing 8ft-wide vans.
The company's luxurious Alaria brand only went 8ft wide in its second season, and when, following adjustments to its assembly line, the firm decided to introduce wider vans further down the market too, its first attempt, the Lunar Quasar 686, had considerable redesigns.
The 686's sibling, the 696, is a twin-axle with six berths. It wowed lots of people on its debut at the NEC show in February. We popped over to Leisure Sales in Cheshire to have a good look at it away from the show crowds.
From afar, this Quasar has a stripped-down look. The alloys might add a touch of class, but there is remarkably little in the way of decals down the sides.
And because the range now includes a single gas bottle locker across the front, there's relatively little interrupting the front and rear ABS panels.
But as you get nearer, you notice something unusual. What you might have thought was a snazzy window on the nearside front is actually a fake: a decal with a 'go-faster' pattern on the side. This is because the inside wall here is free from any settee, so is designed to take a large TV. Not having a front window is quite a daring move, but we think it works here.
Pitching and setting up
But this is an 8ft-wide van, with an unladen weight of 1680kg. While it was perfectly fine to tow - thanks in part to the layout, which confines much of the heavy equipment to the centre of the van, where it sits over the twin-axle - it would be just that little bit smoother with ATC as well. This is listed as an optional extra at £349, so we would be tempted to go for it.
That single gas bottle locker is a huge boon when you set off. Its door is cantilevered, so every corner of the locker is easily accessible, while it's a relatively short height to have to heave a bottle into position.
The hook-up point and the cassette toilet access are both on the offside, out of the way of any awning. Further back, you'll also find external access to the underbed locker. That's unusual in this price range, and unlike in some caravans we have seen, that access is not encumbered by the bed frame. You could easily store folding outdoor furniture in here.
Around at the front nearside corner - and possibly inside the awning if you put up a full one - there is a fully enclosed wet locker, with a mains socket. So you could include an electric heater in the awning for those chillier nights.
To make room for the TV wall, the lounge comes with an L-shaped settee spread across the front and the offside wall. This arrangement really lets you spread out.
The fully sprung settee is comfortable, with a heating vent just beneath it, and because the front of the van slopes down more vertically than most, you don't find yourself with restricted headroom if you lean back. There is a handy set of shelves on the nearside wall, where you can rest a cup of tea.
Loads of light floods in via the huge Skyview rooflight and the sunroof in front of it. And as the Skyview opens out fully, on a clear day, you should have great ventilation here, too.
The roof light is surrounded by seven LEDs, including a large one at the front, so the lounge should remain well lit at night.
There are four individually switched and directional spotlights, one with a USB socket. The speakers for the Pioneer CD/MP3 players and radio in one of the lockers are right above the front settee, and although there is no TV bracket fitted as standard, the TV connections are all there.
The small cubbyhole at the end of the settee on the offside underneath the kitchen work surface is ideally suited for storing phones, but rather oddly, doesn't include any charging facility. You would have to use the kitchen socket nearby.
In this layout, the kids get their own dinette at the back, which comes with a clip-on table. Along with a roof light, there are two spotlights over the table, one with another USB socket, and a well-positioned vent to keep everyone warm. The arrangement of the two settees means taller children should still have room to fit in.
There are some downsides, however, particularly when it comes to dining. The large foldaway table (stored in the wardrobe in the washroom) is big enough for four, but unless you are all going to squeeze into the 'L', you might need to bring an extra seat along with you, as Lunar does not provide any seating for the open side of the table. (In contrast, the Alaria, which also has an L-shaped settee, includes a footstool that can double up as a seat.)
And if there are six of you eating, the kids will probably have to eat on their own at the back. That could prove tiring for whoever is serving them.
We also found that, with no window on the nearside, if you were sitting on your own on the front settee, you sometimes had little opportunity to see whose footsteps were crunching over the gravel coming towards you until their face appeared at the window in the door. But at least there is such a window.
That more than makes up for the fact that the pan locker under the separate oven and grill and four-burner dual-fuel hob is on the small side.
The work surface also has a large round sink and patterned splash back. Up above are three overhead lockers, the largest of which (in the middle) is shelved. The one on the right holds a crockery and mug rack.
Over the way on the nearside is a slimline three-way fridge with separate freezer, with a small pan locker beneath and a large locker above. So food storage should be no problem.
There's even space to display stuff in this kitchen, because immediately to the right of the door as you come in are two large, open shelves, with a top that provides a useful resting place for the microwave above.
There's another mains socket here, and there's even a locker above the microwave, too.
In the washroom wall, by the hob, there are two cubbyholes. These are possibly intended for wine bottles, but if you are the kind of cook who likes to use expensive olive oil, such bottles would also fit in here.
The salad-bowl-style basin next to this feels a bit squeezed in, but you get a large mirror in front of it, with two LEDs, a toothbrush mug, a towel ring and a large cupboard beneath.
Right at the bottom of this cupboard Lunar has even - and possibly uniquely - included a step you can pull out, so that little people can reach the basin and look at themselves in the mirror. They really have thought of everything.
The shower in the circular compartment on the offside has a sliding, curved door and a head that could almost be a rainfall shower. But of the total of five ledges where you could potentially rest a shampoo bottle, only one has a retainer.
There are four more open shelves outside the shower; good while you're on site, perhaps, but not much use on the move.
The rooflight keeps the area bright, and there is an extra LED here, too, and a heating vent near the floor.
Many people think such a system inevitably means one partner has to sleep on the far less comfortable part of the bed. All we can say is that we found the whole bed comfy. You don't even need a host of infill cushions to make it up, either: just a long, chip-shaped one to firm up the mattress.
Even with the bed extended, there is room for an early riser to sit and make a cuppa. We were just a bit disappointed that the small rooflight in front of the washroom door has no blind, so you could be disturbed by the morning light.
What literally sets the rear bedroom apart is that it can be sealed off with a sliding wooden partition: no flimsy plastic concertinas here. You can put the children to bed, and with two doors between them and the front lounge, you shouldn't disturb them.
They needn't necessarily go straight to sleep, either. Each of the fixed bunks has its own spotlight, and a pouch to store their book of the moment. The two beds on the nearside are also so easy to put together that you could almost leave the kids to do it on their own.
The bunk folds out easily and the lower bed just requires the table to be lowered. You don't need an infill cushion - the base cushions simply slot together.
Our only surprise was that in our test model, there was no bite in the carpet for the fixed ladder offside. It's a minor point, but it does feel like an omission.
General internal storage isn't bad, either. The area under the front section of the settee is completely clear, as is most of the space below the offside seating. They both have access flaps, too, and you can also lift up the slats.
The areas under the seats and the bunk in the rear bedroom are also clear and, although there are no access flaps, the base cushions are so light that you can leave them in place and the slats will still stay in position when you lift them up.
In terms of overhead lockers, you'll find three in the rear bedroom, with a small open shelf in the corner between two of them. There are three more in the front, too, with shelves included in those on the offside. And you get corner lockers either side of the pelmet over the front windows.
Because the Quasar range isn't Lunar's true budget range, it's a bit unfair to compare the 696 with caravans from other manufacturers' ranges that are.
It has a higher standard of equipment than you would find in many of those models, with a separate oven and grill, a dual-fuel hob, and a more powerful heater than you often get elsewhere - which should mean you can use this caravan all year round.
The L-shaped layout also makes this interior somewhat special, providing additional space that you are unlikely to find elsewhere.
But we still think a van this size should really have ATC fitted as standard.
The Quasar 696 provides a very comfortable, friendly environment for a family, and thanks to the L-shaped seating and separate bedroom at the back, almost feels like home.
In fact, if you are seeking an 8ft-wide caravan with a solidly partitioned bedroom, this could be the one for you.
It might seem a little more expensive than other vans offering similar benefits, but look closely and you'll find there are significant differences. We particularly like the airy interior design, too.
- Well-placed shelving in front lounge
- Huge opening roof vents
- Plenty of storage space in washroom
- Sizeable shower
- Would like ATC fitted as standard
- Limited dining space for six