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Nick Harding takes a closer look at the four-berth 74-4 model in Bailey's Autograph range which comes on a Peugeot Boxer base and features a rear French bed, washroom and spacious lounge.
Bailey admits the majority of its early motorhome customers were already owners of its caravans who were ready to switch. That was nearly a decade ago, and it’s fair to say the Bristol-based manufacturer has flexed its considerable muscle since, broadening its appeal.
The manufacturer’s output has been getting more upmarket, the Autograph series sitting at the top of the current portfolio and comprising eight models. The 74-4 here is a full four-berth with a rear French bed and washroom and a particularly spacious lounge up front.
Gone are the chunky-looking overcab pods preferred by Bailey in its ‘formative years’ as a motorhome producer. It’s all so sleek now. The latest Autographs have stylish exteriors – the graphite-coloured cab marries well with the light silver finish of the coachbuilt bodywork, black alloy wheels and white detailing. Only the non-flush windows hint at any compromise.
The backbone of the motorhome is a Peugeot Boxer, while Bailey’s Alu-Tech bodywork is long proven. The sides and roof have GRP exterior and interior walls, while the underside of the floor also features a protective GRP layer. Bailey’s Al-Ko chassis also have outriggers (extension pieces) that add rigidity to the floor for extra safety.
Note that the coachbuilt body is wider than many – you probably won’t find it an issue when driving, but on-site and indoors you’ll certainly notice the difference.
There's no garage, but there is some underbed storage space accessible from the outside, into which you’ll be able to slot outdoor chairs, table, barbecue etc. There’s no retractable step at the habitation door, but height from the ground is some 40cm. Luckily, there is a handy, illuminated grab handle just inside the door.
Keeping everything to a 3,500kg maximum weight – with a decent-enough 445kg payload – is a massive credit to Bailey, which offers the usual, six-year body-integrity warranty.
The pliant Al-Ko chassis aids the general driving experience, while a lower centre of gravity (compared to a standard Peugeot chassis-cab) bodes well for handling, too. Peugeot’s most powerful, 165bhp Euro 6.2 engine is under the bonnet. Standard on all Autographs, it’s a very relaxed/relaxing performer, and significantly quieter than its forebears.
Economy is always in the eye of the beholder – sorry, the feet of the driver – so budget for anything between the upper-20s in miles per gallon and low-to-mid-30s, depending on your driving style. As this Autograph tips the scales at over 3,050kg unladen, be aware of speed restrictions (see.gov.uk/speed-limits).
The cab is well equipped – Remis blinds, cup-holder centre console, DAB stereo radio with sat-nav and reversing monitor are all standard on the Autograph. As are traction control and hill-start assist. Travellers in the rear will appreciate the shaped seating that gives decent all-round support. The head restraints, though, have no height adjustment.
The Autograph’s body may only be centimetres wider than that of its rivals, but you really do notice the difference inside. The front lounge feels particularly spacious, with the light upholstery and furniture (there is an alternative) and double sunroof contributing to the overall, roomy ambience.
Normally, I’m the first to complain about dining tables that are too small. It’s the opposite here. This unit is just a little too large to negotiate around or move easily when two or more of you are sat down. Its storage location – the underside of the French bed – isn’t ideal, either. A second, smaller table attaches to a rail on the offside wall, as long as you’re prepared to forego the L-section to the seat here.
French beds like the permanent double here have been rather under-represented in recent years. They have their fans, especially among couples where one person is quite a bit shorter than the other (provided the taller sleeper doesn’t need to clamber across the other for a night-time toilet visit).
The 74-4’s bed is set low enough for easy access and you can sit upright for reading or watching TV. Refinements include the small corner shelves, individually switched reading lamps and a section of open corner shelving which is ideal for stowing books etc.
The transverse lounge double is a little tricky to make but, once up, is supportive and comfortable.
Comprehensively equipped, the Autograph kitchen features Thetford’s latest Caprice cooker – dual-fuel hob, separate oven and grill. To its left is a circular sink, with a Russell Hobbs microwave oven set above it (always a more favourable location than directly over the hob; and it’s at a height that will be convenient for most users).
Storage isn’t as good as it might at first seem. The two drawers and floor locker under the sink are compromised because they back onto the gas locker. The fridge is a Dometic 8-series model with a 134-litre capacity and a removable freezer box. It’s set off the ground (there’s another floor locker here), making it all the more convenient to access.
Handy details include the rather flamboyant acrylic splash panel, two mains sockets (one at right angles to the other, for convenience), space to set the plastic drainer to the left of the fridge, and the cover that extends worktop availability when the hob is not in use.
This is a typical French bed-with-washroom-adjacent layout. Extending to the back of the vehicle, it’s narrow but there’s sufficient space for a small corner basin.
The lack of a window is rather surprising (there is a small rooflight) and, although the shower tray has two plugholes they’re all but side-by-side. However, among the plus points are an Ecocamel showerhead with riser bar, a drop-down clothes hanging rail, towel/clothes hooks, a locker large enough for all your toiletries (plus there’s a toothbrush mug in here) and a shelved corner locker under the basin.
The standard inventory – which includes Alde central heating system, 100W solar panel and Status 550 TV aerial – is fairly generous, and I counted five mains sockets and five USBs (including one in each of the stalked reading lights over the cab seats and bed reading lamps) in the living quarters. The locks to the external hatches have a superior feel to them and exterior gas and mains sockets are very welcome.
Easy to use, the Autograph 74-4 is also comprehensively equipped, from its Al-Ko chassis up. And it’s keenly priced too.