As a family of four with two teenage children we had specific requirement from a caravan. After spending the whole day at the Caravan show at the NEC we realised that buying something that would last us as the children grew was going to be tricky as a lot of the bunk beds were just too short for the strapping young teens that we now have. After careful consideration we opted for the Abbey Vogue 540 as the ideal model. We selected a special edition which gave us extra plugs, a BBQ point, nicer upholstery and an alarm. We bought this model in April 2008 for about £14000.
This van has a reasonably standard caravan layout, the lounge area with seats either side is at the front, there is a kitchen on one side in the middle with a dinette opposite which converts into bunk beds then there is a toilet and shower room and a set of fixed bunks across the rear of the caravan. Thus this is a six-berth model.
The front lounge seats can be used as comfortable single beds as they are 5’11” long. It is however a simple matter to make it up into a double by pulling out the hidden slats from the front locker and then just rearranging the cushions, this gives a nice supportive bed which is a much more reasonable size and gives great nights sleep. Above the lounge area is a huge roof-light that slides back, there is a black-out blind and a flyscreen on this.
The side dinette makes up into bunks, the bottom one only take a few seconds to erect after stowing the table in the cupboard. The top bunk comes with safety rails and a ladder which is stored in the wardrobe. Putting up the top bunk is quite a straightforward operation and it feels very solid when it is up.
The rear bunks are permanently set up. The bottom one is also 5’11” but unusually for a caravan it has plenty of headroom which is useful . Although the top bunk is a fraction longer there is not a lot of room above it and it can a bit tricky getting out of it for an older child. There is a permanent ladder attached to these bunks with comfortable rungs. The bottom bunk can be lifted and then this produces a store area that can be accessed from the extra rear door and is good for storing bikes whilst travelling (but care has to be taken with weight balance). The door cannot be opened from inside, it has a window as does the top bunk .
All the beds have reading lights over them which are independently controlled and the bunks also have curtains around them which works well for a little privacy.
The lounge area is very comfortable with supportive cushions and hard-wearing upholstery. There is a centre unit with drawers and a flip-top table which is ideal when you don’t want to get the main table out of the cupboard. You are just about able to sit 6 people down for a meal here if you use the flip-top table along with the free-standing table but it is a squash and if anyone in your family is prone to sticking their elbows out it can be a bit of a trial, it is usually easier if two people sit at the side dinette instead. There are several 230v sockets around the van so there is ample space to plug in your kettle and your TV (we rarely take a TV but we are certainly in the minority!), there is also a 12v socket and a TV aerial. The lighting in the lounge area is good as there is a bright central light as well as side lights that can be dimmed if you prefer a cosier atmosphere.
Caravan kitchens can be tiresome to produce food from as they are usually quite small. I find this one quite workable. There is a good-sized fridge which works off mains, gas or battery, a gas oven and grill with 3 gas rings and an electric ring (a god-send when trying to cook anything and you find the gas bottle is empty.) and a microwave. The microwave is in the typical top-cupboard arrangement which is standard in vans but which can be dangerous for people who are not particularly tall. There is a large storage cupboard which also houses the tables and that is great for storing all the cooking equipment and large boxes etc. There is a very slim cupboard under the sink which just about manages a couple of cans of soup but is really too small to be very useful. The sink has a detachable draining board which is useful as you can pop it in the cupboard and it gives a little more workspace. There is an extractor-fan over the kitchen which works really well to rid the van of steam and smells.
The bathroom has a Thetford cassette toilet with an electric flush. There is a small sink which is one panel that pulls forward and forms a shower cubicle. This works surprisingly well and the shower is very effective. The only problem with the bathroom is the lack of storage. There is one slim cupboard on the wall above the toilet but none in the moulded area around the sink and nowhere to put shower gel or soap either.
The caravan has plenty of storage. Under the front and side seats there is plenty of storage for sleeping bags, towels and outdoor toys. At the rear of the van there is a tall cupboard next to the bunks. This is great for storing all the children’s stuff as there are several shelves. All around the top of the van are lockers that are easy to open and are very deep. The only area that is not adequate enough is the wardrobe. It is very narrow and trying to fit in clothes for a family of four for two weeks is a feat of engineering requiring using lost of lockers and folding everything very carefully, six people would certainly find it a squeeze.
All of the windows have fly screens so you can keep the windows open but avoid being bitten to death at night. The windows also have black-out blinds which help keep the van dark in the mornings and give you that longed for holiday lie-in. These blinds also act as thermal blinds so if the caravan is standing in sun you can close them to keep the inside cool if you are going out.
This model has sold particularly well partly to do with its modern looking interior. The lockers are oak-grain with brushed chrome handles. The carpet is plain brown and is removable and leaves a laminate floor which is useful on pitches that are particularly sandy. Outside this is a nice looking van, it is just a white box really but the windows are tinted and it is has one piece aluminium side which make it really shiny.
Externally the caravan has a BBQ point and an outside light, unfortunately the BBQ point is in such a position that if you erect a full-sized awning you cannot access it safely.
This is a big caravan at over 7 metres in length but it runs on a single axle. This means that it is still easy to manoeuvre onto a pitch by hand as it is very well balanced. It tows very well as it does have a stabiliser and we have never had a snaking problem. It is a heavy caravan too so it is probably best to be towed with a large saloon car or a 4×4. The MTPLM is 1500kg
Overall this caravan suits a growing family well. The bunk arrangement means that the children can both have comfortable areas to themselves where they can sit and play without getting a cricked neck. The bathroom could certainly have done with a little more time being taken on designing the storage but the shower works well. This caravan is one of the newer styles that are wider than traditional models. This is really noticeable inside and makes for a comfortable living space. We don’t feel as if we are on top of each other all the time and there is plenty of room to move about unlike our old van when we had to adopt the “shuffle-sideways” mode of getting past each other.
The Abbey name has now disappeared but the Vogue has 7 different models and they are certainly worth looking at.