Lizzie PopeSee other caravan reviews written by Lizzie Pope
Practical Caravan's experts review the second generation Bailey Unicorn II Valencia
Bailey’s premium Unicorn range has been a runaway success for the Bristol-based brand, accounting for around 30% of its new caravan sales since its launch.
For the 2013 touring season, the range got a refresh: GRP sidewalls and roof, new front and rear panels, bolder graphics and a skylight. The view from inside is radically different as Bailey has jumped on the skylight bandwagon, but coming to the party late has its advantages as it takes a couple of seasons for new ideas to bed in.
Bailey has extended the front middle window right up to the roof. As there’s no ledge across the front of the caravan, the view from the lounge is unimpeded. What’s more, you can actually open the window, making Bailey’s caravan skylight unique.
Elsewhere, there are improvements across the range. Weights have been reduced by up to 100kg, and there are new kitchens, washrooms and soft furnishings.
Here we have the end-washroom, rear fixed-bed Valencia. In its 2012 guise, it was the best-selling model in Bailey’s best-selling range. But it faces tough competition – so how will the 2013 model fare?
Pitching and setting up
The gas locker has also been relocated, now situated on the offside, near the axle. This is to accommodate the new front chest arrangement. With no A-frame fairing to negotiate, the new gas locker is easily accessed and can accommodate two 13kg gas cylinders. This may not appeal to less able-bodied caravanners, who could find it hard to manipulate the heavy cylinders at waist height (the gas locker is 0.55m from the ground), but this may be preferable to having to stoop low to lean into a conventional front locker.
Access to the caravan is via a two-piece door, and a redesigned integrated control panel is located on the left-hand side as you enter. This controls the van’s lighting and water pump systems, and the Alde wet central and water heating, from one place. The mains consumer unit is under the nearside seat bench.
A walnut surround frames the window from the inside and continues upwards to run around the rooflight. Three LED spotlights and an LED strip are built into this surround to provide ambient lighting for evenings.
Another change is the revamped arrangement along the front of the caravan. The centre chest has been pushed forward into the space vacated by the gas locker, so that it doesn’t butt into the lounge. This creates a deep shelf running across the front wall, which would be ideal for a TV or for somewhere to put homely knick-knacks. The centre chest features a slide-out tabletop and three drawers for storing everyday items.
To prepare the caravan for mealtimes, use the folding leaf table, which stows under the fixed bed’s mattress.
Caravanning cooks will appreciate the practical and well-equipped kitchen. There’s a dual-fuel hob for maximum flexibility, which sits atop a separate oven and grill. The dual-fuel fridge has a 103-litre capacity and has a detachable freezer compartment to increase refrigerator space. An 800W microwave oven sits at head height, above the TV station on the nearside. We would have preferred to see this at chest height, to make removing hot foods safer.
Another upmarket feature is provided by a mirrored drinks cabinet, which is above the sink and has a see-through door.
The shower area has had a makeover: there’s a circular frosted entrance door and the shower head attaches to a smart grey plastic unit with built-in storage for shampoo bottles. There’s no moulded shower cubicle, now that the caravan walls are clad in GRP and can be in contact with water without risk of corrosion. Instead, water runs off the walls into the moulded tray below, which has two drain points for maximum efficiency, or for situations when the caravan may not be completely level.
The Belfast basin featured in the original Valencia has gone, too, replaced with a circular one housed in a rectangular moulding. The Belfast sinks were certainly in tune with contemporary domestic tastes, but swallowed a lot of water. The new basin will easily hold enough water for shaving, but there’s nowhere to prop a mirror above it. The vanity unit underneath offers two deep shelves to house toiletries.
Above the sink there’s a clear window at head height. It’s a shame that it’s not frosted, but a flyscreen can be pulled down to obscure the view from outside.
A cupboard and shelves in the offside corner sit above the Thetford swivel toilet. We also welcome the four hooks for bathrobes on the washroom wall, above an Alde heated towel rail. Other comfort buttons are pushed with the inclusion of a small laundry basket, to the right of the sink.
the nearside, though. There are LED reading lights at each corner of the headboard, where you’ll also find a small shelf, and a large rooflight above the bed.
In the lounge, a new sliding seat frame will make assembling the double bed a cinch. The offside seat frame pulls across the gangway to bridge the gap between the bed boxes. Arranging the seat cushions to fit is just as straightforward. The result is a bed measuring a respectable 2m x 1.4m and the firm cushions create a very supportive sleeping surface.
Thanks to LED spotlights at either end of both seat benches, there are reading lights available wherever they’re required. At 1.4m long, the lounge seats can be used as single beds for children, including younger teenagers.
The storage picture at the front of the caravan is good, too, as the nearside seat bench is unimpeded by any equipment so will easily accept bedding. Up above, there are two lockers on each side of the lounge. These have a smart new look, with chrome handles and cream-coloured edging along the bottom of the doors.
The overhead lockers in the kitchen have part-frosted doors and racking for crockery, and all are tall enough to hold cereal boxes. There’s more storage space under the sink, in a smart circular unit that contains three shelves (the top one has a plastic tray for cutlery). The dresser opposite the kitchen has three drawers underneath its work top and there’s another locker above the microwave.
Four overhead lockers look down on the fixed bed – two on the end wall and two on the nearside wall. They offer good storage for folded clothes. Items that need to be hung have plenty of space in the wardrobe opposite.
The original Unicorn Valencia was a runaway success for Bailey, quickly becoming the most popular model in the brand’s best-selling range. It’s not surprising: the fixed-bed, end-washroom floor plan is the most supplied layout to the volume UK market, and Bailey’s Unicorn interpretation of it was well built, well equipped and excellent value for money.
We think the new Unicorn Valencia hits the right notes. The skylight is clearly the talking point – from the front, it doesn’t make for the best-looking caravan (children will love the fact it does have eyebrows, a nose and a mouth, though), but it’s impossible to dislike when you step inside and see the view from the lounge.
Elsewhere, the kitchen and washroom are both improved from the original van, and there are plenty of detail refinements to keep it looking sharp, inside and out. But one of the changes we like most of all is the 4.34% drop in the MTPLM to 1497kg, which makes it a suitable match for a wider variety of family cars.
As a package, it’s hard to come up with reasons not to buy one: Bailey has taken weight out, raised the spec and upped the wow factor – all for a whisker under £20,000. It doesn’t look like the Unicorn Valencia is going to lose its top spot anytime soon.
- The new skylight gives wonderful views
- The kitchen is well equipped
- Storage is good
- It's lighter than before
- Some might say the skylight hurts its exterior appearance