This revamped four-berth is sleek and modern, with the brand's pared-down look and neat design touches, but how will it perform in our in-depth assessment?

Overview

Bailey's Phoenix range hasn't risen out of the ashes of anything else, despite the name. Last summer the Bristol manufacturer revamped its cheapest line-up to include some features that first made headway in the more upmarket Unicorns.

We've been loaned the 440, an end-washroom four-berth with a fixed corner bed, to try out as our latest long-termer. Here are our first impressions.

Design

Bailey's designs have been simplified quite a bit in recent years. The swirling decals and unusual mouldings - which some customers thought rather resembled moustaches - have mostly gone, and in their place, you now get something much more pared down.

The new Phoenix range, for example, doesn't even include a gas bottle locker at the front - it's been moved around to the side by the central kitchen.

The decals down the side do at least include a distinctive colour - purple - but they have the same pattern with the large 'B' at the rear that is now common on all Baileys.

The crisp whiteness of the front and rear panels is a little offset by having rather cheap-looking black plastic grab handles, and this same black plastic is included in the fairly ordinary-looking rear light clusters, too.

But we thought that the overall effect was still sleek and modern, especially when this caravan was lined up against Baileys of the past at our storage depot.

One thing that Bailey hasn't abandoned from years gone by is the stable door. It is still a feature on this entry-level caravan. Those who take dogs with them on holiday, but occasionally like to leave them behind in the van, with plenty of air, will appreciate this.

Towing

You only get an AKS 3004 stabiliser fitted as standard in the Phoenix 440. The ATC trailer control system is a dealer-fit cost option.

But with an overall length of 6.88m, this is not the longest of caravans, and with our Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV tow car, we found the Phoenix a relatively easy tow, even on busy suburban roads.

It also proved relatively nimble when it came to having to reverse it back into position at the storage depot.

It's not difficult to believe that some of that easiness in manoeuvring could be down to having the heavy gas bottles moved away from the nose and positioned over the caravan's axle, for greater balance.

Pitching and setting up

Not having that front gas bottle locker isn't so much of a problem when it comes to setting up camp, either, because you get external access to both the nearside underseat locker and the area under the French bed at the rear.

The new position of the gas bottle locker also means that you can load and unload gas bottles without disturbing anyone in any awning you might put up.

The cassette toilet is on the offside in the rear washroom, so the access hatch to it is also on the offside, and thus away from any awning, too.

It's rather a pity that such thoughtfulness didn't extend to the electric hook-up cable: the connection point for this is right next to the door on the nearside, so a cable could well be trailing through the awning.

The front corner steadies are very easy to access, with two little notches to guide you to the bolt on the side of the caravan. The steadies at the rear are a little bit more of a stretch, and on our model the notches only just matched up.

Lounge

Bailey's thinking behind moving the gas bottle locker away from the front, as we said, was to create more room inside in the lounge. In this layout, you really do need that extra space: there is room for four to sit here, but not many more. Entertaining would be quite a squeeze. In any case, the table, which you have to retrieve from its slot beyond the kitchen by the rear bed, will only just seat four people.

That said, the whole area is wonderfully lit in the daytime, thanks to the large central window. The beige upholstery may look a bit samey (it can be pepped up with the Dressing Pack Bailey offers as a £229 optional extra), but its light colour does make the lounge feel larger than it is.

You don't get any curtain on the central window, because of its size, but we do like the full curtains that Bailey provides on all of the other windows - particularly because they have holds that are sewn on, so are less likely to get lost.

Two LEDs in the housing for the central window provide adequate overhead light at night, but these are the only ceiling lights you get in the evening, which does make the central area a little dark.

You only get two directional spotlights here - although one does include a USB socket.

Two speakers on the edge of the two front corner shelves also provide good sound from the stereo system housed in the back of the nearside shelf.

You also still get the same pull-out shelf above the central chest that Bailey is known for - the one that doesn't fold up to provide a flat workspace.

You can make up your mind which system you prefer, but one advantage of not having a bulky locker becomes apparent just below this. The slats for the bed disappear into a space where presumably the locker would have been, and instead, you get extra leg room under the chest, warmed by two heating vents. You could even let a small dog rest in here.

There's a handy ledge for keys and fobs immediately above the door. On the other side of it, a shelf above the fridge provides a perfect resting place for a TV which everyone will be able to see, with all of the appropriate connections nearby.

Alternatively, if you just want to listen to a portable radio, or watch something on a tablet, there is a mains socket located on the side of the front chest.

Kitchen

Like the Unicorns, the Phoenix range includes the wooden cooker cover that Bailey has brought in from its Australian models. That really makes a difference in this central kitchen, because without it, workspace might be limited.

It's a gas-only hob, which still comes with a separate glass cover, but you do get four burners. The square sink is a good size, too, and two mains sockets mean you could easily position a kettle or toaster behind it. The work surface is also well lit, by the window and two LEDs under the lockers.

You get a separate oven and grill under the hob, and the medium-size pan locker below both of them is not obstructed by the wheel arch.

Obviously the gas bottle locker does intrude a bit into storage space on the left side of the unit, but there is still room for a large drawer in front of it and a shelved cupboard underneath. This drawer does not include a cutlery tray as standard, however. You'll need to find one that fits.

Neither of the overhead lockers is taken up with any kind of crockery rack, either, although they are a good size and one includes a shelf.

Across the aisle, the half-height three-way fridge is just about large enough for the food of a family of four. Above the TV shelf there is a microwave, and above this, a small locker for extra dry food storage.

Washroom

The shower cubicle at the far end of the rear washroom is a good height and width, with an Ecocamel shower head, a roof vent, and a bi-fold door you can tuck away. There is, however, only one drainage hole, so you'll need to level the caravan carefully.

Two large hooks just outside the cubicle provide plenty of room for towels and robes, and you can admire yourself in the mirror stretching right the way along the rear wall.

There's a further towel ring to the side of the small basin, and you will find a toothbrush mug with its own storage hole inside the cupboard underneath this. Not a bad idea, when you think how often accessories come adrift on the road.

There are two open shelves on the left-hand end of the mirror, where you can display your cosmetics, and three other shelves for more mundane items in the cupboard above the toilet on the left.

Beds

The rear double bed is a good size - easily long enough for people well over 6ft in height, and wide enough for them, too.

While the fridge, microwave and TV shelf unit would make it more difficult for the person sleeping on the inside to get out of bed without disturbing their partner, the problem isn't as bad as we've seen in some caravans with this layout.

You get two small shelves either side of the headboard for glasses, and one of the two spotlights includes a USB socket, so you could charge a mobile here, too. The passage to the washroom provides a perfect place to get dressed in the morning, right next to the large wardrobe.

There's even a mains socket on the shelf above the TV storage, so you could use a hairdryer, too. It's a bit of a shame, then, that there's no mirror here, in a space that is crying out for one.

The two front settees would only work as single beds for very small children; although they do come together as a reasonbly comfortable, if slightly narrow, double bed, thanks to slats that are easy to roll out and split base cushions that you just have to turn over and reposition.

The heating vents under here should keep occupants warm.

You do need to bear in mind that the plastic concertina partition you'll find here shuts off the entire rear section of the caravan, not just the double bed. So anyone who is thinking of sleeping in the front and who might want to use the toilet during the night would have to navigate past it.

Storage

External access isn't the only good thing about the lower storage areas in this van. The nearside underseat area at the front is completely clear, and although the space under the bed includes a spare wheel, it has thoughtfully been given a cover, so it shouldn't mark anything you place against it.

The offside underseat area includes the heater, but there is some space. And all the slats in these areas stay up when you lift them, if you remove the base cushion first.

The double-doored wardrobe is large, with a long rail, a little shelf to one side and two full-width shelves at the bottom, although the lower one is partly obstructed by ducting.

Up above, you get a good selection of overhead lockers - some shelved, some not - including two large ones up front, so there should be room for children to store their clothes without necessarily having to intrude on parent space in the rear.

We did find the locker doors unusually heavy, though. The two overhead lockers in the rear are interspersed with open shelving, so there is room for books or ornaments.

Technical specs

Berth4
MiRO1166kg
Payload150kg
MTPLM1316kg
Interior length5.36m
Shipping length6.88m
Width2.21m
Awning size995cm

Verdict

The 440 isn't specifically a budget caravan - Bailey says it doesn't produce such things. But it still stands up reasonably well against caravans that potentially would fit such a description. You only get a single-fuel hob, but there is a combination boiler. And you still get a microwave.

Storage is good, and the fact that the wheel arch is so unobtrusive suggests that a great deal of thought has gone into the design of this van.

It certainly doesn't look as though it has been thrown together from other models.

Bailey's one nod to cost-consciousness here is to offer the scatter cushions as a cost option. Given how plain the upholstery is otherwise, we'd be inclined either to go for this, or to bring colourful cushions of your own.

The Phoenix 440 is a spacious four-berth with a reasonable spec level. We suspect, though, that it would work best as a van for two people who occasionally have visitors. Given the small-ish size of the front lounge, it would probably also function best with an awning.

Either way, this caravan has lots to offer - not least the good-sized fixed bed, the roomy end washroom, and the reassuring knowledge that, at under 7m in length, this caravan is relatively easy to tow even without ATC.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Sewn-on tiebacks for the lounge curtains that remain secure; excellent storage; shelving in the washroom

Cons

  • EHU connection right next to the door; cheap-looking black plastic grab handles; limited space in lounge

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