Peter BaberSee other caravan reviews written by Peter Baber
Exciting new caravans always turn heads, especially when they are so light and priced under £12,000! So don't miss our Caravelair Antarès 335 review
Towards the end of the criminally neglected 1970s weepie Love and Pain and the Whole Damn Thing, a terminally ill Maggie Smith and her young lover escape for a romantic getaway on the then-deserted Spanish costa in the cosiest and tiniest of caravans you have ever seen (towed, apparently, by a 2CV).
I hope Hollywood never gets around to doing a remake of the film. But if they do, they wouldn’t go far wrong in using as a modern alternative the smallest model in the six-strong Caravelair range that Marquis Leisure has just introduced to its network.
The two-berth Caravelair Antarès 335 has a MiRO of just 726kg. Marquis hopes that the low weight will appeal to the first-time buyers it believes are the key market for this entry-level van, because there will be no need for them to upgrade their tow car.
They could opt almost as easily for any of the other caravans in the range – the two/four-berth 420, the three-berth 450, the four-berth 455, the four/six-berth 476, or the six/seven-berth 496. None of them has an MTPLM figure that’s higher than 1300kg.
The Caravelair Antarès 335 is currently on offer for just £11,995 (a price that includes an air awning and starter pack thrown in), making it equally easy on the wallet. The most expensive model in the range, the 496, still comes in five pounds short of £15,000.
That figure is becoming an increasingly rare occurance, as Practical Caravan found when it came to judging the budget category of our Tourer of the Year Awards, where the cut-off point is £15,000.
Still, does such a tempting proposition work out in the real world? Does the 335 make an affordable, practical proposition for a cosy weekend away for just the two of you?
Pitching and setting up
The cost-cutting has to come from somewhere, and with the Caravelair it has been sparing on the decals. That said, you do get external access to the under-seat lockers – something you won’t find in some much more expensive tourers.
And the Antarès range includes something you don’t see as much in caravans these days: a stable door. It is said that such a door is particularly useful for containing any dog you have brought with you.
This is true, but it is, of course, also useful as a means for steam from the end kitchen to leave the interior easily, or just for you to stand and contemplate the view from the comfort of your van.
But it is good that, even with only around three metres of internal length to play with, the Caravelair Antarès 335's designers have seen fit to allow the settee on the side where the door is to extend beyond the clip-on table.
That allows you enough room to stretch your legs – right by the Truma heater. That heater may look at bit old-fashioned, but such a set-up is perfect for an autumn afternoon when you have come in from a walk and are waiting for the kettle to boil.
You still get two directional spotlights up front, so there is plenty of light for reading. And there is a TV bracket on the wall of the wardrobe, so you can both easily watch the screen relaxing on either settee. There’s a mains and a TV socket nearby, but no other socket of any kind anywhere in this lounge.
At first glance it looks as if there are curtains, with net curtains behind them. But closer inspection reveals that they are actually just one piece of voile (sensibly held back at the bottom) with a darker brown at the edges to make it look as if this is a real curtain.
Within the blind cassette itself the blind and flyscreen are entirely separate, so you don’t get the easy option of clipping them together to get half of each, as you do on some caravans. But at least you get a flyscreen on the door. Again, that is something you might not expect in a caravan at this price.
The most obvious of these is the addition of a Thetford Duplex combination oven and grill in the kitchen. It’s in an unusual position – above the heater and below the wardrobe.
This puts it on the other side of the washroom from the rest of the kitchen, so you need to ensure that your efforts to get something out of the oven do not clash with your partner’s decision to exit from the shower – or you make sure that the table is free to receive hot dishes to avoid a nasty collision.
There is the added inconvenience that the contents of the wardrobe may become imbued with cooking smells. But it does mean that you don’t have to sacrifice any part of the main kitchen to fit in the oven.
The area includes a stainless-steel unit housing a three-burner gas hob and a sink, both with glass covers, but still allows a reasonable amount of prep space. The whole thing is well lit – during the day by the large window behind, and at night by an LED strip by the window.
Down below you get an 85-litre fridge, and next to it a cutlery drawer and a large cupboard. There are three shelves next to this, but they don’t have any retainers on them. Neither do the two lockers above, although they are a good size.
On our test model the handle of one of them became rather easily caught in the flyscreen of the rooflight above this area.
There is a moulded cupboard under the washbasin, which on our test model was fairly flimsy, although the wooden locker and shelf above the basin both have retainers.
You do at least get a light and a roof vent – something we have missed on more expensive caravans.
That bed is either 192cm or 177cm long (depending on whether you retain the backrests as a headboard). Such an arrangement means that you retain seats on both sides of the lounge, even with the bed made up. Perfect for an early riser.
If 120cm is just too narrow for you, the caravan comes with a couple of boards you can place between these two seats to make a longer bed that varies in width from 172cm to 204cm.
Here, however, you come across another tell-tale sign that this is a budget van. Those two boards are just pieces of plywood (something you could easily pick up at your local timber merchant) and they are visible even with the cushions in place, making the caravan look a little cheap – which, of course, it is!
The two large overhead lockers across the front of the Caravelair Antarès 335 are not shelved, but they are high enough to prevent even tall people banging their heads on them as they squeeze into the corner to sit down. There are also smaller shelves along the top of both sides of the lounge.
The wardrobe is another item that is compromised by the UK fittings: with the oven beneath it, it’s certainly not full-height, but it’s still a good width.
Marquis’s business is two-thirds motorhomes, so it’s good to see that it is still serious enough about caravans to develop this very enticing entry-level range.
The Caravelair Antarès 335 is not quite as unique as you might think, but it makes a very promising proposition if you are a couple just wanting to get away in your own modest car with all the basic facilities you will need. And you get the support of an 11-strong dealer network.
- It is light with a good spec and a generous payload – great if you're new to caravanning
- We're fans of the stable door
- The finish is very basic
- The habitation door is on the UK offside