Elddis Autoquest 130 (2011) - motorhome review
Posted on 03 Oct 2011
Which Motorhome Road Test
The compact coachbuilt market is awash with Elddis rivals and the new Autoquest still needs a better washroom and larger water tanks to compete with the Tribute and Escape.
Pros & Cons
At A Glance
Elddis Autoquest 130 2011
- Compact, yet offers five berths (four travel seats)
- Well equipped kitchen with cooker
- One of the cheapest coachbuilts on the market
- Fiddly water drain taps
- Small 45-litre fresh water tank and dated washroom
- £999 Luxe pack is essential if you want blown air heating
|Model Year ||2011|
|Class ||Overcab Coachbuilt|
|Base Vehicle ||Peugeot Boxer|
|Maximum weight (kg)||3300|
|Main Layout||End Kitchen|
|Price from (£)||34049|
|Price from (€)||-|
|Campervan Test Date||-|
|View the full Buyers Guide entry|
Parked by Dunbar harbour watching three seals swimming and playing alongside the fishing boats, it didn’t matter a jot that my motorhome – a brand-new Autoquest 130 from Elddis’ press fleet – didn’t feature all the latest gismos.
And here, I was glad that it was pretty compact (just over six metres long and a little less broad of beam than most modern coachbuilts, at 2.20m). Such has always been the appeal of Elddis’ budget-priced range – forget the fripperies and look at the price. These are brand-new ’vans at almost secondhand prices.
And for years Elddis (along with discontinued sister brand Compass) have had this market pretty much to themselves. Yes, there were Italian rivals but their continental layouts targeted a younger audience.
If you wanted an interior with a British flavour, Swifts and Auto-Trails were in a different price league. But not any more. With Tribute and Escape brands respectively, Auto-Trail and Swift are poaching buyers away from the Autoquest range, and while Elddis are retaliating with the more upmarket low-profile Aspire, the cheaper ’vans get a largely cosmetic facelift.
On the outside, smart new graphics, new Polyplastic windows and a 3D Elddis ‘e’ logo on the rear are all that mark out the 2011 Autoquest.
The introduction of the pleasingly curvy luton moved the Autoquest’s styling into the 21st century and the new red and grey stripes do a remarkably good job of taking your eyes away from the simplistic bodywork. After all, this is a motorhome without moulded skirt panels, wheeltrims and devoid of anything but the simplest piece of low-level GRP to break up the slab-like back wall.
When you come to use it you will notice the lack of any external storage locker. There is a caravan-style hatch that accommodates the hook-up point and leisure battery and the conveniently low-set gas locker houses two 7kg cylinders in the tightest of fits, but neither area leaves room to store a mains cable.
It’s a shame, too, that Elddis persist with such tiny and fiddly water drain taps, especially as the one for waste gets covered in mud from the rear nearside wheel. And the water capacities (45 litres each for fresh and waste) are frankly ludicrous in a modern coachbuilt motorhome. Unless you always shower and wash up at the site ablutions block, you’ll be cursing the regularity of visits to the motorhome service point.
At least our test vehicle had an electric step for the habitation door (with automatic retraction), as well as a useful flyscreen. Both features are included in the Luxe Pack, which only adds £999 and also includes the Heki sunroof and blown-air heating, you’ll probably struggle to find an Autoquest that hasn’t got it.
NO SIX PLEASE
What Elddis fail to offer is a pack of options on the base vehicle, which being a Peugeot, comes with remote radio controls on the steering wheel but otherwise seems a bit pauper-spec. Most noticeably, perhaps, only the largest
Autoquests (the fixed bed 155 and six-berth 180) are available with anything but the 100bhp HDi engine and five-speed gearbox.
The Autoquest 130 is only a modestly sized coachbuilt but it does have a tall overcab, so whether a hundred gee-gees is enough propulsion will be a matter of taste.
I decided a long trip north was required to come to my own conclusions, and despite just 14 miles on the clock at the outset, the Elddis acquitted itself pretty well. Certainly the light, sharp steering, reassuring stability
and easy gearshifting are everything you’d expect of the latest Peugeot/Fiat cab and this one even seemed to ride reasonably well.
Driver and passenger can sit comfortably low in height-adjustable chairs with one armrest each, but you only get an airbag if you do the steering. And I was pleased to be testing this motorhome in October as there’s no air-con, either. Despite its base spec cab, though, (and its newness) this Peugeot actually felt quite lively up to the legal limit (or at least an indicated 70, which was a real 66mph on this example). It would cruise all day at this pace, and when I got off the A1 onto more challenging routes, the Boxer still didn’t seem out of its depth. You do feel that the performance has been achieved at the expense of lower gearing, though, and the 2.2HDi unit seems to permanently be working quite hard. That said, its constant background hum is reasonably muted. And just under 23mpg is not a lot worse than we’d expect from the 130bhp engine.
Once I’d given up listening to Radcliffe and Maconie because the cab radio switching itself off every 20 minutes was driving me potty, I plugged in my laptop, got out a DVD and sat back and admired my surroundings. Certainly, the vista from the Camping and Caravanning Club site of the North Sea and the town of Dunbar through the huge nearside window was the best view of the week, but one constant was the appealing décor inside the Autoquest.
At the outset, I wondered if the super-swirly patterned backrests, mated to plain squab cushions and black scatter cushions, might be a bit too modish for the Autoquest’s clientele. Actually, though, I reckon they’ve got the look exactly right, with a design that should appeal to conservative types as well as trendier folk. With plenty of light from the (optional or Luxe Pack) big Heki sunroof above, swivel reading lights in each corner and squishy armrest cushions on the ends of the settees, this lounge looks – and feels – anything but ‘budget’.
If there’s any downside here it’s the removable carpets, which in their almost black ‘Dark Chocolate’ show every crumb or dog hair and which get creases in them as they’re not fixed down with the usual press studs. It’s not just the fabrics that are new, either. The furniture is now Noce Prosecco ash with angular brushed aluminium handles and Cappuccino Stone granite-effect worktops. The design compliments the Elddis’ revamped style but the locker doors only push shut, so we were concerned about the possibility of heavier items bursting out of high-level lockers in an accident. And even without an incident, the door to the cupboard forward of the habitation door burst open on one twisty road, tipping magazines onto the floor.
LIGHT OF YOUR LIFE
You won’t find new-fangled LEDs in here, but the round ceiling lamp and the fluorescent tube directly over the galley ensure that the chef can see what he or she is doing. In the daytime, though, the small rear window combines with the unglazed door and the opaque roof vent to make the rear of the vehicle quite gloomy, especially in contrast to the daylight flooding into the lounge.
You’ll have few reasons to complain about the equipment here, though, or even the worktop space provided. The Thetford cooker has a grill, oven and three gas rings (one super-sized), so there’s nothing ‘economy’ about the business end of the galley, while the washer-upper will do their chores at a glass-lidded stainless steel sink that comes with an inset plastic bowl and a matching removable draining board.
Downsides? Well, the fridge comes with manual push-button ignition for its gas function and this 92-litre Dometic item looks a bit dated, too. How much classier this kitchen would look with one of the latest black-fronted fridges, but I suppose there have to be cutbacks somewhere to keep the cost down, and this isn’t a big price to pay.
More inconvenient is the tiny cutlery drawer that is limited in its travel because the door it hides behind clashes with the lock on the habitation door. You won’t want for storage space, though, and plate and cup racks are fitted in one of the top cupboards.
Underfloor water tanks might be the last thing you want on your motorhome in winter but for the other three seasons they do free up space inside for storing your gear. And the old-fashioned gas fire (with the optional addition of mains power and blown-air) did keep me cosy in the autumn. The spread of warmth did seem to favour the rear of the vehicle, though.
Ironically, although the nine eye-level lockers do not have positive locking catches, the drop-front flaps into the under-seat compartments are so equipped and these areas open up a generous amount of stowage space. The dinette seat bases are partially filled – electrical items under the rear-facing seat and boiler and reassuringly hefty scaffolding to support the seatbelts under the forward-facing bench – and you’ll need to be careful of the exposed plumbing here, too, when stowing and retrieving your stuff. Better then to put outdoor gear, like levelling wedges, under the long nearside settee, where you can also lift the slatted seat base on a ratchet system for easy access.
Then there’s the wardrobe, which is adequate for a couple, though it will struggle with family requirements. At least your clothing will be nicely aired by the heater below. Of course, with no big external locker, outdoor chairs will probably end up in the luton, a space that also makes a good bed for one adult or two kids (the sweep of the external shape means headroom is almost non-existent towards the front).
You can tip up the rear section of the bed on gas struts, though, to keep stored stuff in place and to maintain the walk-through from the cab. The downstairs beds are greatly superior in comfort, due to their much thicker mattresses, and you can make two singles or turn the offside bed into a double. Do that, though, and you won’t be able to use the luton’s ladder. Either way, you’ll need to use slide-out caravan-style slats to fill the space between the dinette benches.
THERE IF YOU NEED IT
Squeezed into the offside rear corner of a narrower-than-the-norm body and barely deeper than the wardrobe alongside, the washroom is best described as petite. The bench cassette toilet is the modern one with wheeled cassette, while its separate flush is a mixed blessing – ideal for when the underfloor tanks are drained or frozen but topping up its reservoir is another job to do when you go to the site’s motorhome servicing point.
Above the cassette is a tip-up basin of surprising solidity – no longer do these things feel as if they’re going to come off in your hand each time you use them – and a minuscule mirror-fronted storage unit. You’re never going to be able to keep all your toiletries in here and the wallpaper-and-white-plastic look seems so bare and dated alongside more upmarket ’vans with wooden washroom cabinets, but the little room works for those who won’t be relying on it all the time.
You can even take a shower in here if you’re slim of build and don’t mind being intimate with a clingy wet shower curtain. In fact, the washroom is (along with the associated tiny water tanks) perhaps becoming the Autoquest’s Achilles’ heel. Elsewhere, there’s much to like, especially as you laze around in that big and comfy lounge. The interior design does feel refreshed, but there’s still work to do to take the fight to the Autoquest’s newer rivals.
To read the full motorhome review in PDF format exactly as it appeared in the February 2011 issue of Which Motorhome, click here.
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