Rob GanleySee other caravan reviews written by Rob Ganley
A compact, entry-level two-berth tourer from Compass, the brand reincarnated for 2014 by Elddis, reviewed by our expert team at Practical Caravan
The Compass brand returned to the UK caravan market at the start of September 2013. Elddis, the Consett-based caravan and motorhome manufacturer – which also builds Buccaneer and Xplore models – launched three Compass ranges: entry-level Corona, mid-priced Omega, and luxury Rallye.
Each of the Compass ranges comprises four models, based on the best-selling floorplans from the equivalent Elddis sister range – that is, Corona borrows its floorplans from Avante, Omega from Affinity, and Rallye from Crusader.
Why was it time to relaunch the brand? Elddis felt there wasn’t enough choice in the market, and this would be addressed by increasing the number of brands and models to choose from.
It’s a welcome return for a brand that was discontinued in 2009 after more than 30 years of continuous production, when the as it was then known Explorer Group rationalised its line-up to focus on its Elddis and Buccaneer ranges. At launch, Elddis was at pains to explain the new Compass tourers wouldn’t simply be badge-engineered versions of their Elddis equivalents, which they were when deleted from the line-up.
As well as different furniture board and upholstery treatments, there are specification changes – more about these later. But as with all Elddis’s other tourers, Compass Caravans are built using the SoLiD construction method (which stands for strong, light and dry), that makes use of adhesives to bond the walls to each other. It replaces hundreds of screws with a proven, water-repellent adhesive, which makes for a stronger, more rigid bodyshell but does so without placing restrictions on exterior design.
All Compass tourers also get the same 10-year body integrity warranty against leaking. They’re not sold through Elddis retailers — instead, a dealer network was built from scratch, allowing Compass to grow a discrete market share from Elddis.
We take a look at the two berth 462 from the Corona lead-in range, a bread-and-butter Clubman style layout, to see how well differentiated it is from its Avante sibling, and whether it truly offers buyers a real alternative.
Pitching and setting up
It’s also fitted with an AKS 3004 hitch head stabiliser, and Al-Ko’s excellent ATC trailer stability control programme, which for a lower mid-market van is impressive. The handbrake is buttonless and two-way assisted, making it easy both to apply and release, and our testers liked the Compass-branded alloy wheels.
The sidewalls are simple and attractive, with smart blue-and-grey graphics. Despite its innovative construction method, though, it has two-piece sides. This may seem old fashioned, but it means scratches and dings on the lower or upper panel can be repaired more cost effectively.
The front gas locker is wide, with struts and locks at either end. Access is simple, with plenty of room for a pair of gas bottles, and the A-frame is covered with a step-on cowl to make cleaning the upper front panel easier. Lowering the steadies is straightforward, although there are no guiding tubes for the rear bolts, so you’ll have to crouch low to locate them. Reassuringly chunky-feeling grab handles at either end of the van make for manhandling it on site with confidence.
Setting up the utilities on site is straightforward too: the battery box is on the nearside, and the water inlet is on the offside. The waste water drain valves are sensibly sited just to the rear of the offside axle.
The light-toned cabinetwork has handles with a brushed-metal effect finish, and there are coordinated, stainless-steel effect facings for the sink, microwave, hob top, above the Thetford grill and oven, and to the 110-litre Dometic fridge door.
In the lounge, an occasional table slides out from beneath the central dresser top, and there’s a second, freestanding table that has its own storage space in the washroom, and slides into a plastic runners at its top and bottom, and is secured with a press-stud strap.
The oatmeal upholstery and green detailing in the curtains and cushions are appealing, and those cushions offer plenty of support, with chunky knee rolls for comfort. There’s a board as backrest to the seat cushions to help reduce the possible of condensation in colder climates.
The attention to detail throughout is impressive: for example, there are coat hooks by the door above an attractively shaped vanity mirror, and there are even patterned boards and dovetailed cabinetwork within the drawers.
Over-locker lighting is appealing throughout, and we’re pleased to see the LED lighting has a warm ambience. We’d like to have seen four directional lights rather than the two pillar-style lights built in to the corner locker, though.
All the windows have flyscreens and blinds, but the latter are not the posher, pleated version. The Whale space heater is mounted beneath the van floor, which frees up space onboard, while the water heater is sited in the offside bed box. Both run off gas and electric, with chunky, easy to use dials and switches.
There’s a plug socket up front on the ledge, next to the chest of drawers, and two more in the kitchen area for powering your electrical components, and a directional bracket for a freestanding TV above the dresser on the nearside.
Some of our testers felt the cooker controls, sited to the right of the unit rather than at the front, a bit fiddly to operate, especially those who’re left handed.
There are racks for cups and crockery overhead, and the brushed-metal effect strips to the lockers in the kitchen area help differentiate it from the rest of the living space. Two electric plug sockets here will be ideal for a camping kettle and toaster.
Beneath the work surface, there’s a large Dometic fridge and freezer, which should provide plenty of space for a couple’s chilled food requirements for up to a week. Storage for pots, pans and foodstuffs is ample, although oddly we found no dedicated, moulded cutlery drawer.
Across the galley – which measures nearly a full metre wide, allowing loads of space for the caravan cook to manoeuvre – there’s a lower level dresser, with an adjustable bracket for a flatscreen TV.
Positioned above it is an 800W microwave oven, which is fitted as standard, and sited at chest height. Again, it’s a decent addition in a van at this price point.
There’s plenty of legroom around the toilet and a simply massive, floor-to-ceiling wardrobe with two hanging rails – one at full height, the second at half height – and shelved storage, plus even a magazine rack. It’s enough space to accommodate a fortnight’s outfits on tour with you. Elsewhere, there’s a chrome-effect towel ring, toilet roll holder and clothes hook, and our testers were pleased to see a frosted-style, opaque window to the washroom area.
There’s a plug socket by the TV bracket above the dresser, and a further plug socket by the entry door, should you wish to charge an accessory while seated within the awning area.
The overhead lockers, which are positive locking, are deep but we’d have preferred them to be partitioned with shelves. The nearside dresser offers shelved storage, but of course, the premium storage space is that massive wardrobe area in the washroom.
The Corona is pleasingly styled and solidly constructed, and from the outside its clean lines give it a very up-to-date look and feel. The Al-Ko chassis, AKS stabiliser and ATC trailer stability control meant we towed it along varied open and winding country roads to the site without problem. And at 1279kg max weight, it’s a suitable match for the likes of a Volkswagen Golf.
Inside, the cabinet work and upholstery are neatly coordinated, and it all feels well assembled. With all this in mind, it seems a lot of van for the price.
But despite the different running gear, the calmer upholstery and wood veneers, a number of our testers felt that the Corona still looks too much like an Elddis product – inside and out.
This may not matter to buyers, though, who may just like what they see at a price they’re prepared to pay.
A number of our testers felt it’s a van they’d be proud to call home on tour, and one they’d be happy to show off to occasional visitors. Thanks to its SoLiD construction, it looks and feels bang up to date, and with a 10 year warranty against leaking that offers real peace of mind.
- The SoLiD, bonding construction method has fared well in Practical Caravan's Owner Satisfaction Surveys
- The 10-year body integrity warranty means real piece of mind
- The well-equipped kitchen gets a microwave as standard
- Is it just an Elddis on a different chassis?
- It's a little short on directional lighting in the lounge
- Some may struggle to locate the rear leg steady winding nuts