Going big on build
Looking for a step up in build quality? You might want to check out the solid nature of Knaus caravans generally, and the StarClass line-up, in particular.
The German manufacturer currently offers a six-model range sold via a dozen UK retailers, plus servicing back-up thanks to an additional relationship with MCEA (the Mobile Caravan Engineers Association). Not forgetting, of course, it has representation throughout mainland Europe.
The 550 is a very modern take on what older caravanners will remember as a classic Bailey Pageant Champagne (and others) floorplan – although you’ll see in the factfile (to the right or below) there are still rivals on the scene.
As a reminder, it’s a four-berth with a full-width end washroom, a dinette-cum-bunk beds along the rear offside, kitchen nearside and a front lounge comprising wraparound seating (our picture shows the more traditional central chest of drawers that are a £299 option).
The 550 kitchen is well up to UK expectations. There’s a full Thetford cooker (with dual-fuel hob as well as separate oven and grill) as well as a microwave, plus the sink has a permanent drainer. Worktop space is a little compromised, but there’s good storage despite the presence of the fridge under the drainer area.
Just think the quality when you use that toilet, too. It’s an upmarket Dometic model, with domestic-quality ceramic bowl. There’s an inset sink in the centre of the washroom, leaving space for a plastic-lined shower cubicle on the nearside corner.
Interestingly, Knaus says it prefers to stick with Truma heating, even for a premium model like this. It argues the Truma system is more flexible in allowing different temperatures in different parts of the ‘van, as needed, while ralliers in particular will appreciate the more energy-efficient, 12V fan for the blown air system. Indeed, the Truma is quicker to warm up and uses less gas.
Electric floor heating comes as standard, too. Nevertheless, Alde’s “wet” system is offered as an option. And the 550 has the payload to cope with such a fitting.
It’s certainly worth checking out the exterior. There’s an all-GRP roof, while the sides are aluminium-clad. The floor is 40mm thick, walls 33mm and roof 38mm (Knaus even says you can walk on the latter). Doors and hatches are double-sealed (rather than the usual single). Knaus’s Protec bodywork means interlocking walls, roof, front and back and no thermal breaks. Knaus also points out the front and rear sections are “multi-component”, so that repairs can be more cost-effective – which is exactly the way caravan insurance companies like it!
Clever touches include the exterior-access hatch which means you can retrieve the table from its underseat storage slot straight into the awning. Also, those bed locker lids use heavy-duty struts, making access all the easier. Consider, also, aspects such as the use of dowel in the furniture making, and heavier-than-average fittings like the tables.
It’s all on a BPW chassis, with iWD axle wheel lock that has top-level Diamond status from Sold Secure. That lock should help bring down the cost of insurance.
There’s no getting away from the high-ish price here. The good news is, despite all else that’s going on across Europe, Knaus says it will be held for next season. Indeed, you might bag a late 2017 bargain now, unless you prefer to wait for newer variants – they’ll be getting a new 10-year bodywork warranty (up from the current five) – which is completely factory-backed and transferable – TV aerial, kitchen extension flap, and four upholstery choices (including leather).
Verdict: Solid qualities in a classic format
Plus: UK specification levels, lots of good details, decent payload
Minus: Not the cheapest
In-a-nutshell: They do make ‘em like they used to!
There’s more information on the StarClass range on the Knaus website (www.knaus-uk.co.uk). To find out more about insuring this or your current caravan visit our caravan insurance discounts page
Alternatives: Coachman VIP 520, Lunar Clubman ES, Sterling Continental/Swift Elegance 530
Knaus StarClass 550 factfile
|Knaus StarClass 550
|7.32m L, 2.33m W, 2.57m H
|from £26,999 on the road
|Safety & security
|BPW VTec chassis with iDC stability control plus iWD lock, hitch stabiliser, alloy wheels
|Chassis upgrade to 1,700kg (£119), front chest of drawers in lieu of wraparound seating (£299), alternative upholsteries (from £249), wind-out awning (£550), air conditioning (£1,999), Alde heating (£1,999)