* Prices may differ from that shown
So the bagless Argos Value/Vax has been impressive, what about the bagged version? Well, it seems that Vax don't have their version out - yet, but like the bagless cyclonic upright, the Argos Value VU-201 model has a few surprises in store other than also being sold under the Bush brand at a further £49-99 that includes a longer hose and a pet hair brush for all matter of dust clean up above the floor line. Argos Value's bagged vacuum costs a mere £37 with a further £5-99 thrown in for 5 paper dust bags. There are no pet tools with this vacuum and it's very much a back to basics approach where the VU-201 is concerned.
Once again like the bagless variant, the VU-201 arrives in a box that is similar to an average microwave and against the cross head four screws needed for the cyclonic upright assembly, you'll find 6 screws in the box, of which the bin assembly needs to be screwed to the main frame of the plastic floor head, then the handle screwed in by one screw and the last two screws for the clip on, slide in tool holder that holds a long extension tube and a long crevice tube that sits inside for maximum compactness. Other accessories you get with the VU-201 are low on the ground; three spare dust bags for example are included and that's about it.
Once the vacuum has been assembled, it certainly does possess a toy look thanks to its bright blue colouring and grey accents dotted about the body. It doesn't look particularly spectacular, again a befitting simplistic look that mirrors the rather cheap price and the build quality at best is durable with only a few of the exterior parts that feel cheap such as the five notched height selection on the floor head, the flimsy bin lid even though it has a lock and the handle release pedal. Just like the bagless version, the VU-201 also has a pedal to switch the machine on and it is here coupled with the height selection I got the biggest surprise.
This is a quiet vacuum cleaner that really impresses me. It may well have the same kind of light plastic that doesn't look reassuring, but in reality although the paintwork on the floor head can get marked easily, this isn't the kind of vacuum that you should abuse by banging or bumping it off walls, if in a hurry. I have thick wall to wall carpeting but it is also a short pile type, so the endless pushing and pulling across this type of floor usually ends up being heavy and ploughing through the pile. Not with the VU-201! Even on the highest setting this is an extraordinary light vacuum cleaner that is simple to push and pull, edge cleaning on either side and gets lighter to use if the height selector dial is slid all the way downwards to lift the brush off the floor and still manages to pick up dust and fluff like it was made to clean. On hard floors the VU-201 also impresses well, with most viewable dust being picked up rather than bouncing off the moving roller. The main handle on this upright is chunky yet feels good without hand fatigue inducing. Like the bagless Argos Value model, this VU-201 also has a high 1600 watt motor and 160 air watts, though it is impossible to rely on the air watts alone since the dust bags fill up with dust and at 4 litres, double the capacity than the bagless model, I'm not really surprised that in 2 weeks, the bag has filled to a quarter of its capacity. Unlike Electrolux's Powerlite upright, there is a clearly visible dust bag full indicator that goes bright orange/red if the suction is clogged or when the bag is full and similarly when it comes to user appreciation, unlike the Electrolux Powerlite, the wheels on the back of the VU-201 leave very little marking.
Dust pick up isn't the be all and end all from the beater bar on board though. Compared to my Electrolux Powerlite upright, the hose on the VU-201 measures approximately 1.5 metres which is 0.3 more than the bagless version and using the hose couldn't really be easier since it winds around the back of the upright with ease and is simple to take off, even though there's an additional hose clip at the top to keep it all neat and compact. However the power cable itself is also long at 7 metres and I'm pleased that I can go from room to room without changing plugs. Also, as the cord is located at the side via one slip lock clip and a permanent one at the bottom to the left hand side of the vacuum at the back, the cord's location at the bottom means a lot more travel than putting the cord anywhere else like many other upright vacuums on the market. There's even a cheap cord clip on the end of the cord where you can push it upwards to your personal needs and a cord hook bonded on the middle half of the handle to keep it out of the way of the thick plastic wheels. At a push, the hose will stretch to around four or five steps, or six or seven if you have steep narrow staircases like I do leading up to my flat. The hose is very cheap feeling though flexible and whilst it is easy to take off and push back in, the VU-201 will make a leaky sound if the mouth of the hose isn't pushed back in properly.
Thanks to the cheap price though, it is plainly obvious from its general build that this is a cheap vacuum that does what it says. What lets the Argos Value VU-201 down is the lack of a dusting brush. Since the pipes and the crevice pipe lock in at the side happily enough, I've found that the pipes will happily accept any 32mm cleaning tool such as Hoover, Numatic (Henry) or some Electrolux models. However unlike its Bush counterpart model, which is literally £12-99 more expensive, there are no brush tools or any location on the VU-201 to store any other tool, which is a pity to say the least. However, if you reverse the suction pipes so that they sit upside down, I've found I can clip on an old Hoover dusting brush quite easily on the top of the tube quite easily. I can also use and fit my Electrolux Risor Visor mini pet hair tool on too! The result is that the pipes will sit outside their holder at the base but stay put because of the clip at the top and without it, the hose badly needs something other than suction tubes for dust pick up above the floor line. There is also a handle at the back that needs to be screwed in by two screws and this will hold the hose as well as act as a handle when lifting the upright off the floor. Although Argos claim that this model weighs 6.7kg, it feels comparatively lighter around the 5kg mark and has a neat and compact design all round to remain as space efficient as possible. It even manages to get under low furniture fairly well although again like the bagless variant, the hose hook at the bottom at the back means the upright can only go down so far and doesn't clean flat to the floor, unlike more expensive brands such as SEBO.
Fitting a paper dust bag is an incredibly cosy scenario and can be quite tricky. The bin chamber is quite small and I found it initially tricky to push on the bag without tearing it. Again, you get what you pay for and it's no surprise to find that the VU-201 has thin paper dust bags with no filtration added and no dust seal to seal the bag up once it fills to full capacity. Still, a little puff of dust is nothing compared to the huge clouds of dust the bagless version suffers from, hence no tears or sneezes! Although there is a washable pick out black filter that sits under the bag and goes under the "motor protection," promise, another filter at the front that contains the low hot motor whoosh (so unlike the Electrolux Powerlite that has a habit of knocking off loose papers on low furniture) is a thick washable foam sponge filter that acts as the main "cleaning air," element. It sits in its own holder and is relatively easy to pull out and push the foam filter out. On the Bush model you get a washable HEPA cartridge, but only foam which holds back so much odour before it needs to be washed. What a pity then that for all this vacuum is cheap, Argos haven't thought about putting a thicker cartridge in for cleaner air. Whilst the bag itself lacks filtration, I'm still getting that "new motor," smell coming into my rooms and if the vacuum starts to stink with dust I'll simply add a tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda to neutralize the bag and the odours coming through the filter.
Other maintenance highlights reveal that only five screws on the base need to be taken off for access to the single drive belt. Like the bagless upright, the hood comes off the top and gaining access is very easy to do. I already bought drive belts for this model from a seller off Ebay (£5-99) for a pack of 2. The user manual however leaves a lot to be desired, with little wording and photographs used to describe assembly and various parts of the vacuum. The photos are in black and white however and the first couple of pages show a very dark upright model that is nigh impossible to see.
Whilst it would be easy to dismiss the Argos Value VU-201 over the Electrolux Powerlite (mass brand means bags and belts are always available against Exclusive brands like Argos Value) all things considered the Argos Value VU-201 is just as good as the Electrolux on pick up. What it lacks is a dusting brush and a HEPA filter. Then there's the long assembly procedure against Electrolux's handle that just needs to be screwed in. This is why it looses one star off the top rating. Although both vacuums take bags, which must be bought, the versatility and performance alone betters Electrolux's Powerlite on noise, hose length, suction and weight. Even the hot air at the front is lessensed! If you can get past putting screws in and treat the VU-201 with kid gloves, it should last the justification of its cheap price. If you suffer from allergies however and need a HEPA filter, the longer hosed and better equipped Bush model at £49-99 (in red and grey) should suffice. Spending £70 on an Electrolux Powerlite Pet Lover all of a sudden seems rather expensive! Thanks for reading! ©Nar2 2010
Product code: 406/4097
Short name: Argos VU-201