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Rob McCabe takes a look at a small caravan with a big personality
If you were asked to conjure up an image of a 2023 British-made caravan, I bet you wouldn’t come up with anything like this. The tiny Barefoot Forward is the latest model from Cotswolds-based Go Barefoot. It’s pure retro chic on the outside and pure 21st-Century style and glamour inside. Small it may be, but there’s a lot to talk about...
Unconventionally, the Barefoot’s bodyshell is a GRP monocoque (no framework in site) that sits on a bespoke, in-house-manufactured chassis. It is a beautifully-sculpted thing, with elegantly-moulded light clusters front and rear, and a thick, thumping feel to its smooth flanks. It sits very low to the ground, but there’s a neat, built-in step anyway. On your way in, admire the hefty metal hinges that support the equally hefty, airliner-style entrance door – oh, and the suitably retro-looking hubcaps that have been polished within an inch of their gleaming little lives.
Indoors, you’ll find high-quality materials everywhere – even the table top is white glass fibre.
Most Ford Focus-sized hatchbacks will pull this without the slightest complaint – the Forward is only 1,100kg fully laden and, at a mere 6ft 4in wide, few country lanes will present a challenge. It’ll even fit in some garages.
A Winterhoff hitch stabiliser is fitted as standard for added peace of mind – although towing something this light and narrow should be straightforward. The two-bike cycle rack on our test caravan is a £950 option, which includes a redesigned gas locker to accommodate it.
During this test, I had a number of inquisitive visitors. First, two ladies exclaimed “Oh wow!” upon stepping inside. Later, a chap on his own: “Oh wow!” The Barefoot Forward doesn’t just have the ‘wow’ factor – it has the ‘oh-wow’ factor!
Such are the options available to the customer upon ordering one of these, it’s unlikely you’ll ever find two the same. For example, our test caravan had a white body but you can choose from five other pastel hues. Indoors, you get to choose the colour of the vinyl upholstery. Then you select the curtain design and (if you’ve specified them for £60) the scatter cushions. When that’s all been decided, you can settle on the colour of the Roberts Revival Uno radio that’s included in the spec.
For all that the lounge looks stunning, this is where the space limitations do come into play. The longer backrest sections are in the front corners, but that’s where your shoulder or the back of your head comes into contact with the curtains and/or the side window frame when you settle back. The better seating option is to relocate to the opposite end of the sofas and lean against the dresser (nearside) or kitchen (offside) with your feet up. To that end, a pair of oversized cushions or a bolster would make a big difference.
Wherever you sit, you’ll get a great view, because the interior is an exercise in integrated design – where everything works seamlessly with everything else.
In among all the glamour, there’s practicality too. Lots of cubby holes, shelves and some surprisingly deep cupboards mean very good storage for two people – there’s even a built-in wine rack by the entrance door.
The dual-fuel Truma heating and hot water system allows comfortable year-round touring, and there are three USB sockets to keep your devices charged.
Our test caravan also had the £250 optional TV aerial. The Roberts radio is a nice thing to have – not only does it look right at home in here, but you get a tremendously warm, rich sound from it, whether listening to DAB, FM or your own music, streamed from your phone or tablet via Bluetooth.
Yes, you have to make up the bed and put it away again, but it’s an operation made easy by having a base whose two sections slide out from under the seating. When you’ve rearranged the upholstery sections, your reward is a comfortable 6ft x 6ft bed – which means you have the choice of sleeping side-to-side or front-to-back. You’ll need to sit up and reach to either the kitchen or nearside chest to grab your glass of water, specs or whatever, but that’s fairly painlessly achieved.
A two-ring gas hob – that’s all your cooking facilities. To which I say: just alter the menu accordingly! That may seem a bit flippant, but many caravanners will be entirely content with that, with maybe a toaster brought along from home to sort out breakfast.
In keeping with the rest of the vehicle, the kitchen is gorgeous – a vision in white acrylic, featuring an illuminated cupboard with an opaque sliding door and a beefy wooden cutaway sink cover/chopping board. The already compact fridge features a relatively tiny freezer compartment.
My inquisitive visitors were all surprised and delighted by the fact that such a diminutive caravan even has a washroom, never mind one that looks as lovely as this – the smart blue/white décor and the pronounced, curved rear wall play their part in the aesthetic appeal.
That curve means that space is at a premium, although the removable duckboard allows valuable extra inches if you want to use the shower. The wash basin’s mixer tap also serves as the shower head – pop it out of the window to rinse off sandy feet or mucky pup.
This is all very well done. The two attractive, touch-operated ceiling lights are dimmable, and piercingly bright on their full-fat settings. Tap once, and you get a cool, electric blue night light. The overhead cubby holes and kitchen cupboard look super-cool when they’re illuminated: they’re switched independently if you don’t want to have them on. The Forward also has floor-level lighting for a subtle touch of bling.
At nearly £35k, it looks expensive at first glance. But take a second glance and you’ll see you’re getting something rather special and beautiful. If you think you can happily adapt to the compromises demanded by its compact proportions, you are in for a treat.
Lounge with table in situ
Stylish kitchen is basic but adequate
Reasonable-sized double bed
Monocoque bodyshell is available in pastel colours
Stylish kitchen is basic but adequate