When Hoover announced that they would release a budget upright vacuum which carried the "Junior," name in 2005, fans of the old model which had sold for well over 40 years grew excited, less so when they actually saw the actual model on Hoover's website in 2006.
You see whereas the old Hoover Junior was made of good old metal, had a low powered motor and a permanent rolling brush based on its "It Beats As it Sweeps As it Cleans," principle (and then applied to all uprights in the Hoover range in the 1980's,) Hoover have lost their way somewhat in launching a model which isn't really a Junior at all. To Europeans outside the UK, they will recognise this new model as the old "Athyss" stick vac with a large capacity motor - but no large capacity dirt bag or a permanent rolling brush bar let alone the reason to consider the model as a general all round carpet vacuum which justifies the old Junior model. As a collector I couldnt wait to get my hands on the new Junior...
** This is a long review **
** Quick Skip Product Spec **
* Model: Hoover Junior ST226F
* 1200 watts power
* 200 air watts of suction.
* Bagged/Permanent washable bag supplied
* Crevice tool
* Upholstery tool with tool handle storage clip
* 2 way universal Hoover branded floor tool
* 5 stages of filtration
* 7 metre power cord
* 3.5 kg - Extremely lightweight
* 1.5 litre dirt capacity high filtration bag.
* Can convert to hand vac via foldable handle
* Bag full indicator
* Retail price £79-99
* My price (EBay stockist, brand new) £49-98
** THE NEW JUNIOR - THE DESIGN **
From flat pack, the model has a featured lockable swing down handle which rises upwards and locks into the upright position so that the cleaner can be used normally - no need to fish out a screwdriver here. A silver button acts as the lock button which is located just below the handle and hinge mechanism where an additional smaller lift handle rises automatically so that the owner can use the vac in hand vac mode; more about this later however!
It is pity that Hoover never went to the bother of colouring the button in a different colour as the power on button is a bigger silver button located a few inches further down. The bin door for example has another similar silver button but this is a push up push down activator which releases the main door bin (at the bottom) and reveals the bag chamber which is miniscule. Forget that the button is there in lieu of the power button and you may find yourself in a spot of bother as I did, of trying to clean in the upright position with a handle you've just released instead of pushing the on button!
This model is a red upright which has silver detailing and many Hoover branded logos which serves up a classy looking machine even if it does have slightly cheap plastic quality between seams and parts.
** INSTALLING A BAG & THE CAPACITY **
The ST226F model comes with 2 or 3 additional paper bags and a washable permanent bag but in both cases it is pernickety to put a bag in, having to make sure the collar squeezes onto the cylindrical opening as well as sliding the bag into the correct plastic points. Once this is done, the bag grips onto the rubber collar and the bin door can be snapped back into place. Is it easier than putting a bag into the old Hoover Junior? Not in my experience, regardless of whether the old models have bottom or top fill dirt channel designs.
The bag itself can take up to 1.5 litres of dirt which indicates just how small this machine is and the bag looks like it could probably cloak a British Airways sized travel bottle of wine - but the cloth bag is at best washable but lacks the high filtration layered aspects of the paper bags - which are difficult to buy for the moment unless Tesco happen to sell the bags - the only high street outlet at the moment which sells the new Junior. Price for a pack of 5 paper bags would cost you £4-99 on average and already since using this machine from Christmas, the bags have already filled up and I'm now onto the permanent washable bag as I refuse to spend any more money. The bags are extremely small and take up a lot of dirt but Hoover should enclose two permanent washable bags so that one can be used whilst the other one is drying off from being washed after use.
** USING THE JUNIOR AS AN UPRIGHT **
When the handle is raised and locks itself into position, I found the new Junior comes across as extremely lightweight and easily manoeuvrable no doubt thanks to the fact that the standard universal 2 way floor brush floor head which comes as standard can move from left to right very easily which minimises bending. However the weight of the stick vac may be light weight at 3.5kg to carry but the gliding factor is very compromised by the sheer weight drop of the motor against the floor head and with the brushes down on hard flooring, the Junior cleans brilliantly but on carpet and multi fabric surfaces, the Junior comes across as too bottom heavy and gliding principles are compromised when the brushes are retracted. This is simply due to the fact that the floorhead is a cheap design and hasn't been thought out well.
Cleaning performance is also restricted by the fact that the red model has no moving brush roll - a black Junior model which comes with additional tools and a turbo air driven brush comes as standard but it is more expensive in price - with more time spent going over carpet surfaces because the lint pickers on the floorhead fail to pick up threads on carpets. Whilst this is a known fault seen on cylinder cleaners, Hoover need to rethink this model if it is ever to carry on the Junior reputation of excellent pick up.
Whilst the handle is old fashioned, it also feels too lightweight to stay in the upright position despite the locked mechanism - in use it feels as if the handle will eventually crack as it is moved across deep carpet pile - a downside to its design here of being made to swing down on a plastic hinge.
In terms of being used as a second, more compact upright to your normal larger vacuum cleaner, Hoover's Junior just about cuts it no doubt thanks to its excellent suction properties. Although Hoover do quote 200 air watts suction, this has always been measured at the end hose with an open bag. With a full bag however suction is still good and this is only because the bag is nearer the floor head from the carpet surface. In my experience this is better than the original Junior upright.
** USING THE JUNIOR AS A HAND VAC **
Whereas old Junior models had a cost optional tool kit which the consumer had to pay, this model lacks any hose and again consumers would have to pay £19-99 from Hoover for the additional hose. And what a pity Hoover haven't included the tool kit as a permanent kit with all the new Junior models.
As a hand vac, the experience is bulky and time consuming. For a start you get three tools supplied with the Junior - tools such as a short crevice tool and a flat upholstery tool - both of which have been derived from other Hoover tools used on past machines. However the quality of these grey tools leave a lot to the imagination to the fact that the flat upholstery tool has no lint pickers against the original ones and they have to be mounted on a cheap clip which slides and locks into place on the handle. The third "tool" is a long plastic extension tube which someway sustains the length of the vacuum in use.
Swing the handle down to lock into the rear of the Junior roughly - and the tool mount slides off the handle and is only restricted by the locked handle to keep it in place - otherwise it flips off and scatters elsewhere in the room.
When the Junior is made to compact itself up, an ingenious handle in the middle of the hinge rises so that the owner can then pick the Junior up by using the handle as well as using it as a guider to point the machine into areas which need cleaning - where the larger floorhead can't travel to. However there is again, another problem with this.
Whilst the floorhead slides off easily enough, and the tools are easy to mount on instead, the sheer length of the Junior's body limits actual use as a hand vac in small and difficult areas. In my experience a hand vac should be stubby and short and should provide good hand rests particularly in use. I struggled to keep the Junior upwards whenever it was used as a hand vac whilst the body gets in the way, particularly if the machine is used in the car - the body can't for example pivot any of the tools to left or right, unless you bend down and fix the tools at the angle you want - and the experience will leave you thinking why you bothered to convert the Junior in the first place.
If the additional tool kit is bought you would receive a proper upholstery brush and an extendable ribbed hose which fixes at the bottom dirt channel. With an additional shoulder strap which locks onto the Junior, it can then be carried more easily rather than held at the hinge handle which reveals the whole weight of the cleaner and adds more stress to the fact that you have to keep sliding or lifting the cleaner to get to the areas such as corners or above the floor cleaning - where you have to lift the whole machine to clean hard to access areas. Forget lifting the Junior into the air with the extension pipe and tools added either - the weight and bulk is just too much to consider the proper versatility of a lightweight hand vac should convey here.
** NOISE & FILTRATION **
The 1200 watts power is extremely good at supplying suction but it is a noisy motor and the speed of suction cannot be raised or lowered. Against the old Junior which has no filtration (perhaps saved somewhat by the paper bag and soft bag of the old machine) there are filters located on the Junior to minimise smells. HEPA filters are also available for the new Junior but again the consumer would have to pay for these direct from Hoover.
The first filter sits underneath a released grille just below the handle where the motor is located. Access to the filter is easy enough and whilst Hoover charge £3-99 for a white pleated fabric filter for the exhaust and an additional black foam filter for the motor filter located behind the bag, the filters are not washable thanks to their pleated content and must be replaced after five bags have been used.
The Junior does have good filtration however and I found the filters were similar in design to my old Telios cylinder if not on size but also on capability.
** CONCLUSION **
For the price of a larger upright Hoover have overpriced the Junior here. It is simply not worth £80 for all that is has the apparent versatility of being able to convert from an upright to a hand vac in a matter of seconds. The vacuum doesn't even stand up on its own if it is put flat against a wall whilst the folding handle also makes no difference when the cleaner is stored away unless you put it in a corner with flat wall.
Although the model looks compact and feels lightweight, as an upright it fails to clean properly without the additional turbo brush and tool kits which would provide a better versatility all round, if not less time spent putting everything together. Sadly in my experience, this is not a real Hoover Junior and once again shows up Hoover's poor marketing skills to produce a vacuum cleaner worthy of the old Junior name.
The problem is if you're going to use a model name which for many recalls long reliability, excellent pick up and a large dust bag, for heaven's sake Hoover give us a model that is worthy of its name! Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 07.
Short name: Hoover ST226F