Rob GanleySee other caravan reviews written by Rob Ganley
The experts at Practical Caravan review the new Lunar Lexon 470, a new layout for 2014 that features a new interior construction to reduce weight
Last season, the lion’s share of development at Lunar Caravans went into improving the Lexon, luxury Clubman and twin-axle Delta ranges. Each benefitted from stylish new bodyshells that brought their exteriors bang up to date, despite not offering fashionable sunroofs. Instead, they all got one-piece roofs from front to back, flat aluminium sidewalls and redesigned front ends, echoing the smooth, futuristic look adopted by rivals.
Lexon got integrated LED lights, a redesigned and enlarged gas locker, shock absorbers and the Al-Ko ATC anti-snaking system as standard. The front windows were bigger, too, and the heater more desirable – it got Alde’s premium wet central radiator system, which boosts the line-up’s year-round caravanning credentials.
For 2014, Quasar grabbed most of the limelight, but Lexon quietly added a new two-berth, the 470, which undergoes our full live-in test treatment here. The two-berth 470 inherits its end-washroom layout from the Clubman CK, which also features a very spacious end washroom with two wardrobes.
Like its big UK rivals, Lunar spent a lot of time in the run-up to the current model year thinking long and hard about how it builds caravans and how to do it better. For years, Lunar’s reputation for producing the lightest tourers on the market served it well and attracted greater market share year on year. At its summer press preview for 2014 models, Lunar said its market share had grown from 8% in 2008 to nearly 15%.
In recent seasons, however, its competitors have responded by driving weights down for their own vans, while Lunar’s designers have made bodyshells larger. So for this season, Lunar has set out to reclaim centre stage as the leader in lightweight tourers. It’s done so with a new interior wall material that it claims chops up to 60kg from the MiROs of its largest models.
Lunar calls this new approach to construction Core. The traditional plywood inner wall was replaced with a material called ThermHex – a board comprising plastic skin flanking a polypropylene honeycomb core. It’s covered with the usual decorative PVC, so the only visual clue is the single horizontal board joint made possible by its large sheets. According to Lunar, the strength and durability of the new construction has been proven by simulated life testing on track, in cooperation with chassis supplier Al-Ko.
Will the two-berth 470’s low weight and high kit levels be enough to make it the first choice of rallying couples? And how will it fare on layout and pricing against such rivals as the Bailey Pegasus GT65 Genoa or the Swift Challenger SE 480? Our test team investigates.
Pitching and setting up
The A-frame comes with a step-on hitch cover, to ease cleaning the front panel. The buttonless handbrake is gas-assisted, which takes the grunt out of applying and releasing it. Access to the heavy-duty corner steadies is straightforward.
The Lexon gets a security alarm, alloy wheels with Lunar’s badge at the hub, and Al-Ko’s ATC trailer control system all fitted as standard. Underneath are the spare wheel and its carrier. New for 2014 are range-specific grey-and-green graphics and Polyplastic Trend windows with push-button locks.
The one-piece aluminium-skin sidewalls, moulded rear panel, colour-coded awning rail and alloy wheels all look great, while the two-piece entry door has a long window. The hook-up lead plugs in at the offside, and shares a locker with the battery box, which is alongside the water inlet. Also on the offside is access to the Thetford cassette, and a pair of drain outlets for the waste water, just to the rear of the axle.
On the nearside is a single wet locker, which also houses a 240V socket. However, there’s no external access to the storage spaces beneath the front seats.
Like the rest of Lunar’s ranges, the Lexon is wired to receive a roof-mounted solar panel, installed as a dealer-fit option.
With an MTPLM of 1265kg, the 470 is an 85% match or less for a Hyundai i30 Tourer or 90% for a new Volkswagen Golf, which would make for safe and stable towing.
The Lexon range has two major advantages over its less-expensive Quasar cousins: a substantial width of 2.28m and 1.96m internal headroom. These certainly help it feel considerably roomier.
Its open-plan layout includes facing sofas, a generously proportioned side kitchen and an end washroom. One of the star features is the premium Alde wet heating system, with radiators sited throughout the van to ensure even heating. The system was upgraded for 2014 with a touch-screen control panel that’s easy and intuitive to use.
The security alarm included as standard is operated by a button on the remote-control key fob. This little trick also turns on the awning light – great news if you return to your van on a busy site or rally field after dark.
At the front, Lunar does not follow the current fashion for sunroofs. Instead, it provides considerably larger front windows, all three of which open. These and a large Heki let in plenty of daylight.
The seats are comfortable and covered in a patterned fabric that Lunar calls ‘Cavani’. The soft furnishings feature a smart plaid in light-grey tones. The sofas flank a two-drawer centre chest, which has a slide-out top and a cubby at the bottom.
Our testers found the deep window ledge great for placing bits and pieces; it also houses a TV point. When it’s dark outside, there’s plenty of artificial lighting throughout, all LED, including four directional reading lights, one in each corner of the lounge, and a pair of pillar-style lights in the front corners. All windows come with flyscreens and blinds, although of the non-pleated variety.
The sofas measure 1.86m (6ft 1in) in length, so they’re ideal for feet-up lounging, roomy enough to welcome visitors for a cup of tea, and long enough to be pressed into service as single beds if you prefer to sleep separately – and are not too tall.
We mentioned that the centre chest of drawers houses a slide-out, occasional table suitable for the odd mug of tea, but for mealtimes you’ll need to use the free-standing table, which is stored in quick and easy reach near the offside sofa in a dedicated kitchen cupboard. It has light aluminium legs that enable it to be folded flatter than any other table we’ve encountered before. Folding and erecting, however, takes a bit of practice until you get the knack. The surface measures 95cm x 54cm and it stands 72cm tall, which makes it just right for
four to dine in comfort.
There’s a Thetford hob with three gas burners and an electric hotplate, which is good news for those who pay for electricity and cook on site, plus a separate oven and grill. There’s no built-in extractor fan to remove cooking smells, though; you’ll have to make do with opening the kitchen window.
Lighting comes from a single LED strip to the underside of the overhead kitchen cabinets, and there’s a cutlery drawer, while the storage shelves beneath the sink are good for pots, pans and condiments. There’s a 20-litre microwave, a standard fit item sited above the kitchen and alongside lockers with frosted acrylic fascias.
Our only criticism is of the worktop: why is there so little?
The washroom contains two large wardrobes, with long drops from the hanging rails and shelves beneath them. They have the capacity to swallow enough clothes for a couple going on an extended tour.
There’s plenty of space to store toiletries in the cabinet beneath the washbasin, an ample mirror and sufficient clothes hooks, plus there’s an opaque, frosted styled window rather than a see-through one.
The Alde wet heating system buys you a radiator that doubles as a towel rail and which sits alongside the toilet. But the star features is the massive shower cubicle – it’s got a square base, so there’s no wasted space, and a single, effective, hinged cubicle door. It’s fully lined, boasts a showerhead on a riser bar and is simply massive.
Then it’s a matter of simply dropping in the backrest cushions, although we’d suggest turning the knee rolls out to the sides of the van, because they’re rather pronounced. Note also that there are backboards to the backrests, which should help reduce condensation and the risk of damp bedding.
Space under the front seats is easy to access, thanks to full-length drop-down flaps in front and hinged, aluminium-frame lids to the seat boxes. Lunar missed a chance to maximise their usefulness, though, by omitting external access.
There’s a large dresser and storage space alongside the entry door on the nearside, which has storage shelves and cupboards. It’s also perfect for siting a TV. And don’t forget the two, large wardrobes in the massive end washroom.
The Lexon 470 is an attractive and luxuriously equipped two-berth, that pulls off the feat of being both spacious and light. It’s got the exterior and interior styling just right, and should compete well with the likes of Bailey’s GT65 Genoa and Swift’s Challenger SE 480.
Without a trendy sunroof, it may lack the showroom dazzle of its rivals, but not everyone wants to be the centre of attention, do they?
- It's lighter than key rivals in this sector on the market today
- Premium kit levels include Alde's wet central heating system
- The cantilvered gas locker is a real improvement on the usual hinged door
- It doesn't offer a fashionable sunroof, not even as a cost option
- There's no external access to the storage spaces beneath the sofas