For several years now, Britain’s most popular caravan layout has been the fixed bed with full-width rear shower room, on a single axle. This layout zoomed past the classic two-berth in popularity as more and more couples discovered the concept of fixed-bed luxury that revolutionised caravanning by ending the bed-making task.
So what now, with the layout still dominating popularity? Manufacturers are constantly trying to give buyers something different as they strive to give us reasons to upgrade our caravans. But it’s not just the makers of the caravans that are in on the act of persuading us that, by changing our caravans, we’ll truly get something better. Sometimes it’s the manufacturers of key components that invent something of sufficient importance to make buyers sit up and take notice. So it is with Whale, makers of water and heating systems. The arrival of the Whale I-Van control panel for the blown air heating system has moved blown air heating forward into the touch-screen age. The panel exhibits symbols for the various functions and allows you to select space and water heating temperature and source (gas or electricity) and level (500w. 1kw, 2kw) of mains power. It’s incredibly intuitive. But the “I” in the name doesn’t stand for intuitive, it stands for intelligent; it communicates wirelessly with the water and space heaters and allows you to set up to three automatic timers per day for each of the water and space heating systems.
Is this technological advancement a reason to change your caravan? Yes if you love all things techy and touch screen. Yes if you’ve not yet experiences the rapid warm-up efficiency of the Whale heating system.
The Verona’s now-classic fixed-bed, end shower room layout arrives, in the new GT65 form, slightly narrower than the previous Pegasus range. That’s a major factor in enabling Bailey to make the current generation of Veronas 32kg lighter than the initial model. Do you notice the width difference? The answer is that you do, if you’re very familiar with previous Pegasus models. But that’s far from a problem, especially in the shower room…
With the washing department stretching the full width of the caravan, a few centimetres less is never going to be noticed. The shower is square, with glossy white GRP-lined walls and a bi-fold plastic door. The basin, in the centre, is oval. There’s a frosted glass toothbrush mug (yes, real glass, not plastic!) in a simple metal holder-ring. A slim cabinet plus a triangular wall cabinet and some shelving takes care of the showering necessities. Two substantial towel hooks are above the outlet for the blown air heating system. There’s also a towel loop on the door.
The deep sprung mattresses feels amply comfortable, in a nicely yielding, yet firmly supportive sort of way. Acknowledging that most Verona buyers will be couples, its four-berth capability is also important to some, perhaps to accommodate family members on an occasional basis. At 1.72m long, the nearside settee will easily make a single bed. The offside settee is shorter, at 1.54m, but is nonetheless suitable for a child’s single bed.
If you need to make up the double in the lounge, this is achieved by drawing the centre section of the bed base out from under the offside settee. It’s substantially made, and stands on sturdy wooden legs. Equally importantly, it pulls out and retracts smoothly.
Fixed beds make brilliant storage areas – but unfortunately current Pegasus (and also Unicorn) models have a slight design problem. When you raise the bed base, there’s no recess to enable you to get your hand under the frame. You can get around this by lifting the mattress and then taking hold of the frame from the inside. But then when you come to lower it again, it's difficult to do this without trapping your fingers, as we discovered very quickly during this test.
There’s a new and clever storage solution hidden in the depths of the Verona’s bed. More precisely under the Verona’s floor. Pegasus and Unicorn models have a new type of spare wheel carrier that, instead of relying on a metal carrier that you draw out from under the caravan, you wind the spare wheel down from inside the caravan, under the bed. A small circular black bung is your only clue to the spare wheel’s presence. You lift the edge of the bung by inserting a flat-bladed screwdriver under it and easing it up. Then you wind down the wheel using a handle that looks a little like a corner steady winder but with a hook on its end. This advancement in spare wheel accommodation means that if you should ever need to use it, the fact that you wind it down from within the caravan is more convenient (especially in bad weather) than doing the job outside.
Under-lounge storage is brilliant. There is no water heating equipment to get in the way. And the power distribution panel is housed under the central drawers, so the settee storage areas are completely free from obstruction. Drop-down doors give you access to about half the lockers’ length; raising the top isn’t difficult, there are gas-filled struts on the offside settee (they have to support the extra weight of the draw-out bed base) and two spring hinged on the nearside settee.
Four top lockers at the front and four more over the bed create more than adequate hide-away space.
The wardrobe is angled to allow for the corridor alongside the bed. It is here, incidentally, that you notice the narrower width of the new Pegasus GT65. The corridor is only 37cm wide at its narrowest point. But we’d say ignore this, because the Verona has so much going for it in so many other ways.
Clothes hanging width is 83cm, although 27cm of that runs over the top one of two shelves. Two more shelves, each the full size of the wardrobe, are below, But the space under the base shelf is occupied by the Whale water heater, so shoes can go on the shelf above.
The freestanding table stows away under the bed, supported on four brackets. At first we wondered if lifting the table in and out from this mount would be arduous but we quickly decided that it’s fine for all caravanners except those with persistent back problems. Each of the four brackets is well padded with high-density foam so that the table can't become scratched.
Snack-style dining opportunities are created by a table that pulls out from under the deep windowsill. It’s 40cm deep and 60cm wide; that’s 4cm wider than the same tables on Unicorn models – and the extra width makes a lot of difference when it comes to placing two dinner plates opposite one another.
Some lightweight fixed bed caravans have short lounges, but not the Verona. The 1.73m long nearside settee is well capable of seating four and the slightly shorter offside settee can seat three. That makes the Verona a caravan to consider if you like entertaining friends for coffees or drinks.
It’s also up there with models to consider if you like entertaining friends for meals. The Verona’s kitchen capability exceeds expectations in a caravan that’s not especially large, at 5.6m body length.
The kitchen surface is 1.14m long and 84cm at its deepest point. That’s much larger than most in its class. But then Pegasus (and also Unicorn) models are unlike any other in terms of kitchen configuration. That’s because the gas housing is within the kitchen. In front of the gas compartment, the Verona has a piano-hinged door that opens to reveal three shelves, one of which is fitted with a cutlery tray. The door hinges right back, at 90º, which means it doesn’t need to block the central corridor when it's open.
The fridge is within the kitchen (between the shelved cabinet and the cooker), which means that there is no lower kitchen cupboard – but directly opposite is a large cupboard, plus a top locker above the microwave, in a dresser alongside the door.
Top lockers have cream frames and frosted plastic inserts. There are two double-doored lockers (one containing fitments for tableware) and a central single cabinet.
Pegasus GT65s (the GT65 celebrates Bailey’s 65th
year in production) are well equipped in terms of towing spec, with the electronic stability system (ATC) in place. And at only 1448kg, it was a long way from a challenge for our full-fat 4x4. The Verona’s test tow was a bit of a non-event, in a positive way – simply straightforwardly stable and agile.