Family caravan review: Bailey Phoenix 650
This summer we had the chance to go back to our caravan holiday roots with Bailey of Bristol. They are one of the UK’s top caravan manufacturers and were the makers of our first ever family caravan.
Six years after we started our family travel adventures in a Bailey, they asked us to try out the 2019 Bailey Phoenix 650 during a caravan holiday in Wales. Here’s our review of this family caravan and how it works for touring caravan holidays with kids.
Key information about the Bailey Pheonix 650
- Shipping length (from the tow hitch to the back of the caravan): 7.369m
- Internal length: 5.841m
- Overall width: 2.212m
- Maximum Technical Permissible Laden Mass (the caravan’s weight when fully loaded): 1,388kg
Find the full specifications on the Bailey of Bristol website.
A family caravan layout
The layout of the Bailey Phoenix 650 was a massive winner for us and we think families with up to three kids will like it too. In fact, it’s won awards as a light-weight, family caravan.
The Pheonix 650 is a five berth caravan with a double bed at the front, fixed bunks and a single side dinette in the middle, and an end bathroom.
Take a tour in our video of the Bailey Phoenix 650:
The layout is ideal for families with space at the front for everyone to hang out together and the dinette where the kids can play separately. We could also use this space to give the girls breakfast while we put away the double bed.
We then used the small pull out table in the chest of draws at the front rather than getting out the large fold away table (if the kids didn’t relocate to it first).
The folding table was what we used most for eating together as a family outside.
You can also partition the kids’ area with a folding screen, which came in handy for us at night when we wanted to sit at the front once the kids were asleep.
I’m sure teens would also appreciate having their own space to escape to, which is really important when you are all living in close proximity.
Modern interior design
Bailey’s Pheonix range was the base range of the caravans released for the 2019 season, but the 650 feels stylish and modern with lots of new materials and surfaces. I know a lot of people who are unfamiliar with modern caravans were surprised when they followed our holiday in Wales.
I’m a particular fan of the large front window in Bailey caravans. This makes the front of the van open and light.
The Pheonix furniture also has: soft close draws; LED lighting in the overhead lockers; Nordic Stone affect in the kitchen; and polished chrome finish fittings, not dissimilar to what you would have at home.
In fact, many of the Bailey fixtures and fittings have been upgraded for 2019. You’ll even find two USB sockets in the spotlights at the front of the caravan.
Heating in the Bailey Phoenix range
Bailey’s Phoenix, Pegasus and Discovery caravan ranges come with Truma Combi heating. After having an ALDE radiator system in our last caravan and a Truma in our previous one, we were glad we were trying the Phoenix in the warmer summer months.
However, we switched on the Truma Combi heating system during a cooler July evening and were impressed with how quickly it warmed up the caravan. Gone are the days of cold spots and uninsulated pipes running under the caravan.
Read more about what we got up to during our caravan holiday in Wales or take a look at our trip video:
Beds in the Bailey Pheonix 650
The large double bed at the front of the van is a really good size, even for larger adults. Neither Mr Tin Box or I consider ourselves to be small! The double measures 6’2″ by 4’7”, and if you want to use the benches as single beds they measure 5’11” by 2’1”.
When setting up the double we found the pull out slats were a little awkward. Bailey have fitted an ‘easy glide track’ but we still found it a bit sticky.
We think the fixed bunks are a great feature in this family caravan. If you have young children, like us, it’s handy to have their beds ready for daytime naps or easily transferring them from the car if they fall asleep during a journey.
The fixed bunks are just as useful for older kids who want to chill on their beds. They can take the weight of anyone up to 75kg and measure 6’1″ by 2’2”. There would be plenty of growing room for our our six and four-year-old girls.
The kids absolutely adored their bunk beds and were very happy to have their own windows to peak out of in the morning. The only downside was that the blinds had a habit of flicking open when the kids rolled against them in the night.
The end bathroom
This family caravan’s end bathroom with separate shower worked well for us.
When anyone showered we closed the blinds and partition screen to create a dressing area. All our clothes were stowed away here. This left the front of the van and kitchen open for everyone else to use.
The large mirror over the bathroom sink made it feel roomy, and the shelves above and below this were useful for storing small items like toothpaste and brushes.
We found the bathroom sink was a good size and there was plenty of storage in a cupboard underneath it for spare toilet rolls and wash bags.
The shower was big and came with a water saving Ecocamel shower head and folding shower door.
The only thing missing was somewhere to hang bath towels. We struggled to find somewhere to add a hanging rail other than the one fitted for the hand towel by the sink.
Appliances in this family caravan
The Bailey Phoenix 650’s kitchen area is well appointed with all the things you need for whipping up family meals when it’s too wet or cold to barbecue.
There is a Thetford oven with separate grill, three gas and one electric hob, a microwave and, on the opposite side of the van, a Dometic 103 litre refrigerator fridge with removable 12 litre freezer compartment. This can run on gas or electric.
The fridge was smaller than the one in our previous van, so we couldn’t do our usual ‘one big shop’ for the week. But topping up as we went was not an issue. On longer trips a cool box in the awning would be ideal for drinks to save space in the van. But who doesn’t have one of those for caravan holidays?
Cupboards and storage
The Bailey Pheonix 650 is packed with useful storage spaces. The large wardrobe over the toilet in the bathroom is an excellent use of space, and the under bunk storage is ideal for larger items like water and waste carriers.
Other overhead cupboards opposite the bunk, in the kitchen area and above the front seats were more than enough to accommodate clothes, toys and gadgets for the four of us (plus Tin Box Dog) for our seven day trip.
The only thing we couldn’t find a convenient space for was a general waste bin. I brought along a small pedal bin for the bathroom that fitted on the floor beside the toilet, but there was nowhere to slot a bin for everyday rubbish.
Our solution was to put a black sack in our gazebo during the day and hang it off the internal grab handle by the door at night so it didn’t get investigated by local wildlife.
If anyone with this van has another solution that doesn’t involve putting the bin in the doorway at night we’d love to hear about it.
It’s also worth noting that the spare wheel is stored under the front seat and not under the van where we have found it on our own caravans in the past.
Initially this seemed a bit of a waste of space, but on reflection there are definite benefits in having the wheel more easily accessible in the event of a puncture. The locker opens in front of the caravan door on the off side.
On the near side of the van there’s a gas locker with space for two 6kg light weight propane bottles and a large toilet cassette locker with space to keep your toilet chemicals. You can access the locker under the bunk beds from the near side too.
Security and safety features
The Bailey Phoenix 650 we tested had an AL-KO wheel lock receiver point for a through axle security device; although they don’t come fitted as standard. We have had these on previous vans and would highly recommend getting one.
Something that we would have liked to see fitted as standard on the caravan was an AL-KO ATC Trailer Control System. This is a very useful safety feature and we have experience in our family of how well they work should you be in a collision with another vehicle.
You can get the system fitted at additional cost of £425. It’s an extra we would invest in.
How easy is the Bailey Pheonix 650 to tow?
At 1,388kg, the Bailey Pheonix 650 is the lightest caravan Mr Tin Box has towed. He was very impressed with how settled and balanced it felt on our journey from South Devon to Carmarthenshire.
We towed with our large KIA Sorento, which significantly exceeds The Camping and Caravanning Club’s guidelines for suitable towing vehicles (it’s recommended your caravan does not exceed 85% of the kerb weight of the car). The low weight of the van means even smaller family cars should find towing the Bailey Pheonix 650 a doddle.
Final thoughts on the Bailey Phoenix 650
If we went out to buy a family caravan tomorrow we’d be speaking to dealers about the Bailey Phoenix 650. We found very few niggles and nothing that would be a deal breaker. Even features that we were sceptical about, like the Truma heating system, won us over.
In terms of price, the RRP is £19,099, which we think is good value for a new van with a purpose built layout for families and plenty of style.
Find out more about the Bailey Phoenix 650 and Bailey’s other family caravans in the Discovery, Unicorn, Pegasus and Alicanto ranges on the Bailey website.
Disclosure: we were loaned the Bailey Pheonix 650 for our caravan holiday in Wales and have been compensated for our time creating this blog post and other content about our trip.
Looking for a new family caravan? Why not save this Bailey Phoenix 650 review for later.