The Mileo 231 is a compact motorhome that packs a French bed layout into a six-metre length – considerably shorter than most fixed bed rivals. It also benefits from a UK-handed floorplan and a comprehensive standard spec that leaves little on the options list. With the 160bhp engine it performs well, while the size of the kitchen and upright lounge seats are the main downsides.
Base vehicle: Fiat Ducato Price from: £54,995 Berths: 2 Travel seats: 4 Length: 5.95m Gross weight: 3,500kg
You’d think life in a fixed bed low-profile motorhome that’s less than six metres long might be cramped. But that’s the surprise about the Benimar Mileo 231 – it’s more spacious than you’d expect. And, you get many more standard features for your money than from some of the premium brands.
Not only is the Mileo range comprehensively redesigned and upgraded for the UK market, but it’s one of the few imports to have a UK-handed layout with the habitation door on our nearside.
With its 2.3-litre, 160bhp engine as standard, and its modest 2,940kg unladen weight, the Mileo 231 fairly zips along – many rivals make do with Fiat’s 120bhp motor, which has maximum torque of 320Nm, rather than the more impressive 380Nm here.
So, the power-to-weight ratio is good, which makes this motorhome a joy to drive. The Mileo is responsive when you speed up, and it feels agile during manoeuvring. Its van conversion-like length and the built-in reversing camera make it easy to park, too.
Built on the latest Euro 6d Fiat with a wide-tracked Camper chassis, the Mileo has a dashboard and cab features that many motorhomers will recognise, but it benefits from upgrades like a leather steering wheel and aluminium-coloured highlights on the fascia. Cab air-conditioning and cruise control come as standard, as do the DAB radio with integrated sat-nav and reversing camera.
The driver and passenger seats are comfortable, have twin armrests apiece and provide enough legroom for all but the tallest people. The chairs come in a pale fabric with a faux-leather trim at the sides, so you won’t stick to them if you’re travelling when it’s warm outside.
Overhead, the cab’s best feature is its skylight. It transforms what could be a gloomy cab into a bright spot when driving. It also lights up the living space behind and, when parked, you can open it to bring in fresh air.
There’s a shelf above the cab too, but no enclosed storage, so this area is rather wasted – you wouldn’t want guide books and maps to land on your head as you navigate a roundabout!
The living space in the Mileo 231 is comfortable but a little cramped. However, that’s one compromise you have in a compact motorhome with a fixed bed.
The travel seats have the same upholstery as the cab seats, as does the single seat by the habitation door. With the addition of the contrasting green scatter cushions, the living space is somewhere to relax, socialise and eat, but the different floor height in the cab compared with the living area does impact on comfort.
It should also be noted that the example photographed here was missing the head restraints from its rear travel seats.
The dining table extends using a swivel section, so you can sit four people around it easily, and probably a fifth person could be accommodated if necessary – but remember that this is just a two-berth motorhome.
Two adjustable reading lights above the cab seats give you directional light in addition to the overhead illumination, and there are LED strips above and below the cupboards. A vertical light strip sits on the outside edge of the travel seats, adding a touch of bling to the living space.
Two top cupboards on the offside of the motorhome provide storage for your gear. And, there’s a metal rail on top so you can store lightweight items that needn’t be tied down when on the move, like jumpers, perhaps.
A skylight adds more natural light to the dining space, and there’s a window by the table but not one behind the nearside seat. The skylight and a vent near the kitchen give you more ventilation options for hot weather, or for venting cooking smells from the kitchen. The fresh water tank is below the travel seats, where it’s properly protected from cold weather.
There’s a three-bottle wine locker hidden behind the single side seat and above this is a cocktail cabinet with Perspex door and LED downlights inside. Perhaps this motorhome is ideal for oenophiles!
If telly is more your passion, above the habitation door is a swing-out TV mount, plus the power and aerial connections are nearby. It does appear to be mounted rather too high to be ideal for comfortable viewing.
Below the television connections are the easy-to-use Benimar and Truma heating control panels.
The kitchen is compact and, as expected, has limited surface space, yet it is very well-equipped. For storage, there are two overhead cupboards for food and ingredients, a cutlery drawer below the sink, and two lower cupboards for crockery, pots and pans.
The large circular sink has a mixer tap to the left. The hob, to the right, has a glass cover so you can put your washing up on it before your other half dries up. The sink, too, has a glass cover, giving you some preparation space when cooking.
Unlike some imported motorhomes, though, the galley spec is greatly increased for British buyers. Here, Benimar has installed a hob with two gas burners as well as a mains electric hotplate. Below, the integral oven/grill is relatively small but it’s fine for warming or roasting food, even if you might struggle with a full-sized joint of meat. To cap it off, the built-in extractor hood, with its downlights, will help keep the motorhome smelling fresher.
Opposite the kitchen, at the foot of the bed, is a very generously sized fridge/freezer for such a small motorhome – at 145 litres it’ll cater for the hungriest and thirstiest of couples, while automatic energy selection means you can just switch it on and leave it to choose between 12V, mains or gas power. Above it, there’s a built-in microwave oven (another surprise in a continental motorhome) and a small locker.
Really, the only thing missing here is a fold-out worktop extension, so keen chefs will have to requisition some of the dining table for meal prep.
The rear bedroom is open to the living space which, given the size of the Benimar Mileo 231, is what you’d expect. And, the French bed format will not be everyone’s choice. Island bed layouts are more popular, but those are usually at least a metre longer overall.
At its longest, the bed is 1.87m, which will be enough for most people. At its widest point the mattress is 1.34m and, at its narrowest, it reduces to 1.08m. French beds are always a compromise but the size of the bed here will suit many owners, as long as they don’t mind climbing over their partner to get out of bed. Note, too, that the wardrobe here is suspended over the foot of the bed, although there’s enough room underneath so it will not be an inconvenience.
Storage in the bedroom is in two parts. Above this area are four cupboards. Like the lockers in the living space, they have a metal guard running along the top, so you can stow lightweight items above. In the corner is an open storage space, which is of very limited use while travelling as anything stored here may fall out.
The other storage is below the bed. When you lift the hinged bed base, it reveals a big locker at the front end and also access to the deeper area at the back of the motorhome. You can also get to this latter space via an external door on the back wall of the Benimar. This is probably where you’d store your outside furniture, wellies, etc, but it’s a smaller space than you’ll find in some French bed layouts and the external hatch isn’t the biggest.
Additionally, you’ll find the spare wheel under the bed. It may not be easy to get out (hopefully you won’t need to), but it’s in a clean, dry position and so much better in an emergency than a can of ‘gunk’.
A notable aspect of the bedroom is its lighting. The LED strips above and below the cupboards reflect off the white walls, giving a soft but bright light. Behind the headboard is more LED lighting, which makes the bedroom look classy. To cap it off, there are two reading lights.
It’s a small point, but setting up the cover on the windscreen is a little fiddly compared with drawing built-in blinds across the screen. Adding internal blinds might add to the cost, but they would make life a little easier when setting up for the night.
Another pleasant surprise is the washroom. It’s in the usual location for a French bed model (alongside the fixed bed), but it’s bigger than you’d expect and that’s because the washroom has three parts to it.
On your right as you enter this space there’s a see-through basin with a stainless-steel mixer tap and a small shelf above for a soap pump and toothbrush mug. Over that there’s a mirror-fronted vanity unit for your toiletries, and there’s another mirror on the kitchen end of the wall.
Next is the shower section, which has a wooden duckboard on the floor. The showerhead sits on a black Perspex unit, which runs almost floor to ceiling. It looks sleek with its chrome shower unit fixed onto it.
However, on a more practical note, the shower unit has two folding partitions to divide it off from the washbasin and toilet sections. This means all your splashes stay in the shower section and don’t soak the rest of the washroom.
A vent above the shower takes all the steam away and you can dry your towels or wet coats in here on the ceiling-mounted rail.
The final section is right at the back of the ’van where the swivel cassette toilet is located. There’s enough leg and shoulder room here to sit on the throne without feeling cramped.
As a whole, the washroom in this compact motorhome is not compact at all. In fact, it’s well-designed and has more room than you’d imagine.
A sub-six-metre motorhome’s size might bring with it certain limitations, but that’s the price you have to pay for easy manoeuvrability and effortless parking. Of course, less bodywork also means less weight, so this is a 3,500kg in which you’ll have no worries about payload, even if you decide to add an awning and bike rack.
A no-cost upgrade to 3,650kg is available but seems unnecessary when the standard model has a 560kg payload, without the downsides in terms of driving licences, speed limits, tolls, etc, that go with a heavier chassis.
External storage, as we’ve said, isn’t huge but it’s sufficient for your outdoor furniture and, unusually, you’ll load it from a door in the back of the Mileo 231. The Benimar has other outside features, too, including a solar panel on the roof to keep your leisure battery topped up and external shower and barbecue points, so you can enjoy time outside, or even wash down your dog!
The Spanish designers certainly seem to have packed as much as they possibly can into this compact motorhome and they have used the limited space well.