Claudia DowellSee other caravan reviews written by Claudia Dowell
An eye-catching layout, low weight and accessible price make it stand out, but can it perform on family holidays? Read our Caravelair Antarès 476 review
The layout is unusual in that it has a fixed double bed at the front of the caravan on the nearside, with an offside corner washroom.
At the rear are fixed bunks, and at its centre you’ll find a kitchen with a double dinette opposite.
There are few frills for daytime living, but the beds are long and the mattresses substantial: it could potentially sleep six, but four or five would be more comfortable.
And that’s its selling point: it’s a compact, lightweight, budget van that can sleep a large family.
So, does this different take on a family van work? We took this tourer home to France to find out!
The 476 may not draw envious admiring glances from your campsite neighbours: its exterior is simple, its graphics discreet and that one ‘eye’ at the front hardly competes with the glamour of a panoramic sunroof.
But they will be missing the point that the van’s 5.33m body length contains two sets of comfortable fixed beds, a good-sized convertible dinette and will, at a stretch, sleep six.
There’s its practical aspect, too. Exterior access to the space occupied by the lower bunk will allow you to pack in sporting gear, chairs and tables without having to negotiate the entrance door, and there’s a further outside locker to the area under the double bed.
Although 2017 Caravelairs are not NCC-approved, Marquis hopes to get full approval for the imported range from 2018.
What was the 476 like to tow? It features an Al-Ko chassis fitted with a hitch stabiliser, plus its manageable body length and light weight make it simple to tow and reasonably easy to deal with on hill-starts. However, it was a little jerky on the road.
We had barely used our payload allowance on the trip to France, and feel that with a little more weight in the van, it would have settled down.
In the Loire, we took the van down to the river for photography and the shock absorbers helped smooth the ride over slightly uneven ground.
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Pitching and setting up
The huge, wide front gas locker has room for two bottles, the spare wheel and more besides, so be careful not to overdo the noseweight.
The steady winder is long – that’s because the large steady bolts at the front are tucked well under and there are no guide tubes, so you really need to crouch down to locate them. Those at the back are easily accessed.
The Caravelair Antarès 476's hitch has an AKS stabiliser and a useful socket to keep the hook-up plug out of harm’s way when not in transit.
The van is not UK-oriented: the main door, the door to the storage/bunk area at the rear, the cassette toilet access and fridge vents are all on the offside.
The electric connection point and water point are on the nearside, as is external access to the space under the double bed.
What is awkward is access to the grey water outlet: it is such a long way under the rear of the van we had to guess where to position the container to collect the water.
There is no central mains control as you enter the van, just a pair of light switches on the right-hand side and the awning light switch on the left, so once hooked up to the electricity bollard, you’re up and running.
The water heater is on the front wall under the double bed, so you must climb into the storage area to switch it on.
The awning light is sensibly set to one side of the door, so you don’t cast a shadow when trying to locate the keyhole at night.
There is an awning rail on the offside and, if you plan to add a skirt, there are rails on both wheelarches.
The seats are oatmeal in colour, trimmed with chocolate brown. They will take two adults on either side, or three little ones at a squeeze – any more and you may have to eat in sittings.
They are fine for dining, but if you like to relax you are going to miss your sofas, because these are no-nonsense, upright affairs, with no scatter cushions to help you snuggle into a corner. The table can be taken out, of course, and stowed under the bed, but it is heavy.
There is a plug socket in one of the bases. This area has a wide window, with a flyscreen, blind and net curtains, plus a medium-sized rooflight.
At night, a pair of spotlights on flexible stalks can be pointed in any direction, plus there’s a square ceiling light, which houses many small LED bulbs, giving off a very bright, unforgiving white light.
The two wide roof lockers in this area are not shelved and there are no handles, but the catches are very secure and the doors need a good firm push to close them.
Cabinetwork is in cream wood-effect, which could easily be brightened up with children’s artwork.
The Truma gas heater under the wardrobe warms the space quickly.
Above that is a good-sized cutlery drawer, which will also take utensils and houses the gas controls.
Set in a small worktop are the three-burner gas hob and oblong sink with a tap that hinges up when you want to use it, and tucks away under the glass lid when you don’t.
The hob also has a lid and there’s a small area to the left if you like to use an electric kettle/toaster/slow cooker.
A mains socket is set high in the base of the overhead lockers – a common sight in motorhomes, and good for safety.
A nice touch is the wire basket attached to the wardrobe bulkhead beside the hob, which can be used for condiments or washing-up apparel. The area is lit by a small LED strip and window.
We liked the very useful floor-to-ceiling shelved cupboard/larder to the right of the kitchen. To the left is the wardrobe, and below that the gas heater.
The shower tray forms the floor, and there is a proper shower upriser with a chrome-effect showerhead.
The toilet is the bench-seat variety and above it is a flimsy flip-up sink, with a chrome-effect mixer tap.
The Caravelair Antarès 476's washroom may be small but there is a towel hook and a toilet-roll holder, while a shower curtain on a rail protects both from getting wet when the shower is in use.
The only storage is a narrow shelf above the sink.
On the back of the door is a mirror, and on the offside wall a smoked window.
There are two large overhead lockers, which are not shelved, and two spots on directional flexible stalks.
There’s also a magazine pocket on either side for tucking away your night-time reading, and a plug socket and light switch on the washroom bulkhead. There is an additional socket, TV point and bracket on the dinette bulkhead.
The area is lit by day by a window with blind and net curtain, which is anchored at the bottom because of the sloping front wall.
A square mains LED light does the job at night and the bed can be curtained off for privacy. The bed could do with a corner shelf on either side for placing specs, a cup or a book.
The bunks at the rear are wide and long (0.80 x 2.15m) with firm mattresses. There is nothing flimsy about them and they will easily accommodate adults.
The lower base has a socket, and both beds have large, shelved cubbyholes for books and so on, plus a spotlight and privacy curtain each.
The top bunk also has a narrow shelf running the width of the van and barriers to prevent the user falling out. It is accessed via a sturdy aluminium ladder.
The dinette converts to a bed by dropping the table between the seats and rearranging the cushions – the infill stored under the double comes into play here.
It is plenty long enough for someone of up to six feet tall, but it’s narrow for two.
We love the tall shelved cupboard next to the kitchen, which takes kitchen paraphernalia as well as DVDs and so on, while folded clothes can be tucked away in the large lockers.
The bunk at the rear can be lifted and fixed to the wall so you can get sports gear, such as children’s bikes, through the rear garage door, and there’s plenty of payload.
The wardrobe’s half-height hanging space is a little compromised by the TV aerial, and our test van lacked a rail. Lockers above the kitchen are fine for crockery and groceries.
Our biggest gripe is that, apart from the narrow shelf, there is no storage in the bathroom and no cubbyhole near the door to keep your keys or phone safe, or to tuck away your jewellery or watch when you take them off.
This layout is brilliant for sleeping a large family or a group of friends, and the inclusion of four proper fixed berths makes it unique at this price point.
The van’s compact dimensions will make it hard for six people to move around, however, and you will need to invest in an awning if you want some living space.
That oven is a nod to the British market, but we reckon that its low positioning may deter cooks from using it too much.
This is a van that will suit an active younger family who like to spend plenty of time on the Continent and outdoors, but who want the luxury of flopping into a made-up bed after a day of action and adventure.
- It's relatively light and compact
- You get four fixed berths
- Storage options are good, some spaces with external access, plus it has a decent payload
- There's no proper lounge in which to relax
- It isn't UK-oriented
- The washroom is very compact
- The grey water outlet is sited in an awkward position