Practical Caravan gets inside the double-dinette Bailey Pursuit 560-5 to see how comfortable, practical and flexible a budget-level, family tourer can be
The arrival of Bailey’s Pursuit range in October was arguably the most important new van launch of last year. Practical Caravan's review team feel it gave the Bristol manufacturer a strong entry-level competitor to Swift Group’s Sprite brand and Xplore from Elddis.
At the top of the Pursuit six-model line-up sits the 560-5, which offers five berths, as does its sibling, the 540-5, but by way of a double-dinette layout with a foldaway bunk, rather than the latter’s rear-corner washroom and lengthways fixed bunks.
The Pursuit was created to replace the Orion and Olympus ranges and combine the best qualities of both in a relatively narrow, lightweight and, crucially, affordable package.
Unlike the Orion, it offers much-needed layout options for larger families, the 560-5 being the perfect example. It’s a floorplan that is not available in Bailey’s other ranges, and should appeal to families because it offers several combinations of single- and double-bed layouts, which is handy on your caravan holidays.
All Pursuits ride on the popular Al-Ko galvanised-steel chassis, while the body is built using Bailey’s largely timber-free Alu-Tech construction. The sidewalls and roof are bonded sandwich with GRP inner and outer linings surrounding high-density polystyrene insulation.
The panels are connected via an aluminium extrusion without external fixings. This improves resistance to leaks at the joins.
The caravan's tough glassfibre skins are finished in a fetching slate grey, while the white, one-piece GRP panels at the front and rear feature integrated bumpers and are shaped to improve fuel economy on tow.
The 14-inch alloy wheels and simple blue graphics give a modern feel and work very effectively, helping a basic design that, while it sets no particular trends, looks fresh and contemporary.
Pitching and setting up
Lunar’s Quasar 525, which features the same layout, weighs in at some 61kg less, note Practical Caravan's experts. However, the Bailey weighs 37kg less than the Sprite Major 6 TD, its closest rival, and its 212kg payload is generous enough for family caravan holidays.
Behind our long-term test Ford Kuga 2.0-litre TDCi, the Pursuit never felt anything less than completely stable, aided by Bailey’s decision to move its gas bottles to a nearside locker close to the axle, which reduces noseweight and improves the Pursuit’s weight distribution.
The impressive standard equipment list includes dual-fuel Truma Combi blown-air heating, which we found highly effective and easy to adjust with the smart control panel mounted by the main door.
The new system uses a simple rotary knob rather than a touch screen, and is complemented by intuitive controls for the key services just below. Combined with Bailey’s impressive ability to retain warmth, the Truma should ensure that the Pursuit is a genuine four-season caravan.
Our Bailey 560-5 review van also benefited from the optional Premium Pack, which buys you an Al-Ko AKS hitch stabiliser, a spare wheel (mounted on the floor in the rear nearside bed box), a flyscreen for the entry door, an 800W microwave and a radio/CD/MP3 player. At £399, this pack represents excellent value for money.
The only other option that tempted us is the £356 opening sunroof. It completes the exterior look and helps the lounge feel bright and spacious. The drawback is that it was designed for Bailey’s Autograph motorhomes; the shape is unusual for a caravan, so it is inelegantly finished on the inside to fit.
As soon as you enter the Pursuit, you’ll notice its roominess; at 2.23m, it’s wider than the Olympus. This sense of space is enhanced by the 1.96m of headroom throughout and the two seating areas.
There’s a small table in the rear lounge and a pull-out tabletop in the front chest of drawers. For family meals, get the free-standing table from its storage space under the rear bunk, though this can only be accessed by lifting the cushions.
At the front, there’s space for six at a push and the attractive ‘Spice’ soft furnishings feel contemporary, with oatmeal squabs and copper curtains and scatter cushions. They make comfortable sofas, albeit with short backrests.
The cabinet work ties in neatly with the hessian-effect strips and chrome fittings on the walnut-finish locker doors. What looks like a chest of drawers actually hides the domestic-style mains unit, giving excellent access.
On the usefully deep shelf beneath the front window we find a socket for the Status 550 directional aerial and a 12V socket. As is common in entry-level caravans, there is a single front window, rather than three. All the windows in the Pursuit have flyscreens and black-out blinds.
The rear is ideal for kids. As well as providing three berths, it makes the perfect daytime play area. There is room for four to sit and storage for lots of toys and books. Its small table is ideal for drawing or board games.
If the children are being particularly rowdy, shut the solid, fold-out partition to separate them from the ‘grown-up’ lounge in the front.
Throughout, drop-in carpets add warmth to the timber-effect vinyl floors. Crucially, the carpets are easy to remove and refit, and are split into sections that are small enough to be shaken outside without trouble.
On the other hand, the kitchen offers everything you could want in terms of equipment – particularly with that Premium Pack microwave on board – though the choice of a Thetford Duplex combined oven and grill may be a little minimal for some, along with the three-burner Thetford hob with a flush-fitting glass cover.
Nevertheless, there’s a 103-litre Dometic fridge-freezer (113 litres with the freezer compartment removed), plus another two 12V sockets and stylish stainless-steel sink and mixer tap. The dark worktops are said to have been inspired by Bailey’s motorhome galleys.
Keen cooks will quickly find themselves running out of preparation space, however, and that decision to move the gas locker to the centre of the caravan puts kitchen storage at a premium. The positioning of sink and hob leaves little space, forcing the designers to scale back the clip-on plastic drainer to a very small crescent shape.
The positioning of the kitchen and washroom in the centre of the van, although excellent in terms of balance when towing, constricts the main thoroughfare between the front and rear lounges. The arrangement can make the chefs feel hemmed in, particularly if someone needs to use the toilet while they are cooking.
The toilet is the tried and tested Thetford C-260, which gets plenty of space for knees. Alongside is a proper-sized basin with a useful cupboard beneath.
Still more impressive is this caravan's separate shower, which a six-footer can use in comfort without soaking the remainder of the washroom, thanks to the bi-fold shower door. Inside, there’s a ceramic ball mixer tap and an Ecocamel showerhead.
To turn the front lounge into an enormous (2.03m x 1.47m) double, slide the sprung central slats from the shorter offside seat. Arrange the firm cushions to make a comfortable and supportive bed.
The only drawback is that the different lengths of the seats result in a bed that’s trapezoidal rather than rectangular, which may not accept standard bed linen.
When holidaying as a family, you’ll be grateful for that folding timber partition, which gives far more privacy than a flimsy fabric screen. We travelled with two young children, so the rear berths – though too short for most adults – were plenty long enough for them.
Should your children be older, or if you’re travelling with another couple, the ‘easy-glide track’ bed slats can be pulled from a storage box at the rear to create another roomy double.
This van has another trick up its sleeve: hidden behind a panel finished in the same fabric as the backrests is a bunk that can be unfolded intuitively – and quickly with a bit of practice – to sit across the rear window.
The folding bunk is narrow at just 0.61m, but a good 1.91m length and will support a child or adult of up to 75kg; it proved hugely popular with our kids, who fought over the chance to use it.
Apart from the lightweight ladder, which tended to scratch the woodwork unless we were very careful, it’s a very neat installation. The hassle of removing all the cushions to assemble it every night may get wearing if you use the rear lounge during the day.
We see this primarily as a four-berth that has the capacity for the occasional guest. Used in this way, the 560-5 makes a lot of sense, thanks to its plentiful usable space.
If all five berths are used every night, however, it could be worth comparing the 560-5 to the fixed-bunk 540-5 to see which layout works better for you.
On the flipside, a happy by-product of moving the gas locker to the centre of the caravan is that it frees up space for two deep wet lockers in front.
Full-height hanging space is at a premium, with a fairly narrow wardrobe between the front lounge and the washroom on the offside. Fortunately, there’s a great selection of aircraft-style overhead lockers in both living areas, all with ample capacity, plus several open shelves.
You’ll need to be careful about storing heavy items in the lockers, though, because they don’t have catches. But don't overlook the deep shelf beneath the front window: once you’ve pitched up on site, it’s a very useful place for books, toys and the like.
The Bailey Pursuit 560-5 arrives in one of the toughest sectors, appealing to first-time caravanners or those trading up to their first new van. In this market, price, weight and value for money are everything. The tourer acquits itself very well in these criteria. It feels spacious, particularly for four, and the fit and finish are excellent.
When you add in the £399 Premium Pack that most tourers will be specified with, it feels generously equipped, too. There are compromises, but the layout’s undeniable flexibility makes it well worth a look for families seeking an attractive and comfortable caravan at an affordable price.
- Flexible living space for day and night-times
- Wide body and generous headroom make for comfortable living space
- Side gas locker and central kitchen and washroom assure stable towing
- Washroom has separate shower and plenty of floor space
- Work and storage space are at a premium in kitchen
- Cooker is minimal, with three-burner hob and combined oven and grill
- Wardrobe is narrow and there is little hanging space