Alastair Clements
Group Head of Content

See other caravan reviews written by Alastair Clements

Added to the range for 2017, the Xplore 554 wants to woo couples with its light weight, low price-tag and more than a dash of luxury – does it succeed?

Overview

Over the past few seasons, Xplore – the first step on the Explorer Group’s caravan ladder – has been making quite a name for itself in the affordable family tourer market.

For 2017, however, the County Durham firm has launched this, the 554, a caravan that is clearly targeted towards couples.

Like its rivals from Swift and Venus before it, the new Xplore features a transverse island bed and an end washroom.

It’s a layout more associated with mid-market and flagship ranges, but here there’s a tempting price tag and remarkably low weight – an MTPLM of just 1335kg – that brings it within range of smaller, more affordable tow cars.

As ever with this layout, the headboard of that transverse bed means a blank expanse of wall on the nearside – accentuated on this Xplore caravan by its minimal graphics and unglazed door – but this is otherwise a smart-looking tourer, albeit a touch dated alongside the Sprite.

And to see other Xplore caravans for sale, click here.

Pitching and setting up

Like most Xplores to leave the factory, our test van was fitted with the £440 SE pack, which brings an AKS stabiliser for the Al-Ko chassis, along with alloy wheels, a steel spare with carrier, Secure wheel-lock receiver and a radio/CD/MP3 player.

Access to the front steadies is easy, but the rears are a long reach under the van, and the main controls – including those for the 4kW Whale blown-air heating – are sensibly sited just inside the van.

All of the services are located on the offside, well away from your awning, and there’s a large gas locker with bags of space for accessories.

It’s great to see external access to the void under the island bed on a caravan at this price, and kit-wise there’s an awning light and a directional TV aerial – though you can also add a gas barbecue point (£100), an external 230V socket (£66) or ATC stability control (£425).

Like all Explorer Group vans, the Xplore is built using fully bonded SoLiD construction and boasts a 10-year water-ingress warranty.

Lounge

Alternative fabrics are available (for £260 each), but we’d stick with the cheerful standard trim in the Xplore 554. Combined with the large front window and pale woods, it makes for a bright and calm lounge, despite the lack of a sunroof.

The cushions, in oatmeal and brown, are thick and comfortable – so thick, in fact, that it’s easy to catch your thigh under the table that pulls out of the centre chest.

End bolsters add to the comfort and there’s plenty of room for four – an extra £210 buys wraparound seating, should you need more.

There’s just one socket in this area, on the narrow window sill, but there’s bags of storage under the nearside sofa (the offside one is dominated by the consumer unit and heater).

At night, there’s a small strip light under the front lockers, LEDs in the rooflight surround, plus a pair of reading lights – though both are at the front, so one of you will miss out if the front bed is set up as a double.

Kitchen

Unusually, the SE pack doesn’t include a microwave so you’ll need to splash out an extra £180 if that’s a must. Otherwise, there should be all you need: a Dometic fridge/freezer, a combined oven and grill, and a three-burner hob set into the generous worktop.

The black sink is a good size, plus there are two sockets. LED spots provide task lighting in the Xplore 554's kitchen, while the two overhead lockers are painted white to separate the kitchen area from the lounge.

On the opposite side of the van there’s a sideboard with lockers above and below a counter. This surface is ideal for a TV, with two 230V, plus a 12V and aerial points.

Washroom

Enter through the sliding door and you’ll find everything you need in this end washroom, from an electric-flush loo to a fully lined shower cubicle, but the bathroom feels a little Spartan.

That sense is not helped by there being no window, so it’s a touch dingy, but there is a rooflight. A neat vanity unit with bowl sink tops a double-doored cabinet.

A pop-up plug is a new addition for 2017, and it’s good to see moulded shelves and a light in the shower of a budget model.

The only real flaws are a towel loop that is set too high for kids, and the room’s shallow depth, which limits changing space.

Beds

The sofas in the front lounge are too short to be single beds, but make up into a large (3ft 7in x 6ft 6in) double for guests.

The main bedroom is closed off by a pleated screen, and during the day the island bed can be retracted by a full 400mm to ease access to the end washroom.

Fully extended, this transverse island bed is an unusually large 4ft 5in x 6ft 3in, with a padded headboard and reading lights on either side – but, sadly, no shelves for books, reading glasses or a cuppa.

There are wardrobes on both sides of the bed – though that towards the front (where you’ll also find the freestanding lounge table stored) is cut off from the bedroom by the screen.

A socket and aerial point on the kitchen bulkhead are ready for a second TV, while the well-sited window boasts attractive, domestic-style curtains on a pole. Happily, the expanse of wall to the rear is broken up by a mirror.

Storage

With that huge void under the bed, it’s easy to make use of all 176kg of the Xplore 554's payload – an optional (free) plate upgrade to 1350kg yields another 15kg.

In the lounge there are six overhead lockers – only one is shelved, but a trio of extra shelves is a £40 option.

Under the kitchen worktop you’ll find three drawers and two cupboards. The aft bedroom wardrobe is slender, but the front one is a good size and they are linked by two overhead lockers.

Technical specs

Berth4
MiRO1159kg
Payload176kg
MTPLM1335kg
Interior length5.75m
Shipping length7.38m
Width2.18m
Awning size1015cm

Verdict

Xplore isn’t setting a new trend with this layout – in fact, you could argue that it is rather late to the party.

However, it’s clear that its designers have used that time to iron out some of the compromises that afflict this floorplan, and to retain as much of a sense of luxury as it can within the low price-tag.

For the most part, they have succeeded. That they’ve done so in a caravan that has such a likeable personality, and a low weight, is particularly commendable.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Very light weight
  • You get a decent amount of kit for the price
  • The interior is bright and attractive
  • It has great storage options

Cons

  • The Xplore's shape is starting to look a bit dated now
  • There are no small shelves in the main bedroom area
  • The washroom feels dark
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