When Hoover designed their Freespace compact vacuum cleaner range recently it was easy to see that in a market awash with supermarket exclusives and mass rivals trying to outdo each other against Dyson's best bagless efforts, Hoover have at last picked up on the idea that consumers value their decisions on factors other than just power and performance. You can have the best machine on the market which appears to be the best for a couple of months before something else comes along and replaces it with a desire for greater practicality or has shifted the balance for ease of use and maintenance.
Dressed in good quality and durable matt black plastic that gains the name "Luxor Black," and a sturdy shaped silver handle on the main body, the Freespace TF5192 sits in a market alongside Hoover's 15 year old Telios model that is larger and more user friendly with a tool storer on board the machine giving the consumer a complete Hoover cylinder vacuum package. The difference with the Freespace is that it is much smaller measuring half the size of the Telios in height and being able to store away easily thanks to its oval and squat shape. It would be easy to discount the Freespace straight away if it had a much smaller motor, but at 1900 watts it is only 100 watts down from the bigger and poorer built Telios whilst its weight is also substantially lighter at 5.7kg. Sturdy bumpers and a generally good impression of robustness comes across well with the Freespace, and doesn't suffer from a slipping hose which is a common problem with present production Telios models.
Like Electrolux's larger bagged Powerplus cylinder vacs however the latest Hoover Freespace TF5192 has the unfortunate downside of only having a 5.5 metre power cord, and whilst it retracts easily and quickly at the touch of a pedal button, it struggles geographically because of this short cord length; this may be good news for consumers looking for a small compact cylinder vacuum for duty in a small flat. However as I've found out the TF5192 Freespace has a few tricks up its sleeve despite its short cord (there are ways around to machines having short power cords, it's called an extension lead!)
For a start when bought brand new (and costs around £50; £49-99 from Comet for example) you'll receive a washable permanent bag that can be used in lieu of the disposable 2.3 litre paper bag of which it costs £5-99 for a pack of 5 bags and each bag has a new adhesive pad seal that can effectively seal the bag opening. The latest bags from Hoover also carry the "Pure Filt" banner which basically means a high filtration bag that keeps out the nasties and keeps the odours in; also helped along by a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter fitted as standard that is additionally washable but carries the same adage that the filter must be dried fully before it can be slid and locked back in place. Locating the filters and maintaining them should be cost free because both pre motor filter and exhaust HEPA filters are both washable and can be changed easily and quickly; but the Freespace offers another trick up its sleeve; located in the twin rubber coated wheels at the back of the cleaner, you'll find a spare filter located on the right hand side wheel; handy and very accessible! And in actual fact once washed, you can install the filter back there to keep on the machine until it needs to be installed to replace the one you're already using; sadly for Hoover, it is Bosch who had put this idea first on one of their budget European cylinder cleaners but it is nevertheless welcomed for owners who lose consumables such as filters over time.
Life with the Freespace is as befitting as its name suggests however. With a long 1.5 metre hose by its own and telescopic height adjustable tubes which comprise of two sections of chrome tubes with a ratchet slide and lock mechanism, the Freespace only lets its side down with a cheap feeling handle that also includes an air outlet slider on the underside. Steering and getting around with the Freespace is something I've found incredibly easy even if the very look of it is squat and doesn't look capable; aside from the large two wheels at the back, the Freespace also has three additional castors which turns the Hoover into a twiddling vacuum that can be turned around on a 360º axis. It also lessens damaging or marking carpets and is welcome for this very additional use as well as being workable in tight spaces. On top of manoeuvrability the Freespace does not have a variable suction control and the 1900 watt motor is a touch too noisy even though Hoover quotes a "quiet" decibel level of 79. Regardless of the noise depending on what you'll put up with the suction on the Hoover is extremely strong (Hoover quote 330 air watts but this is only with an empty bag and not a full one!) and can only be adjusted with the air valve on the handle loosened; this prevents ploughing on carpets. The floor head is also quite cheap but also lightweight, with a feeble, weak pedal to position the difference of brushes for hard flooring or none at all for carpet cleaning. Edge areas on the floor head means edge suction can be used on corners and skirting boards; a clip on the back of the floor head (just like most) ensures that it can be clipped to the back of the Freespace once you're finished cleaning or simply put it into another park position located on the base of the machine. Cleaning on stairs is for once easy to do because the main exhaust vent is now located in the right hand back wheel and not the base which means no more burning hot surfaces.
Because this is a suction only vacuum cleaner (and most cylinder/pull along vacuums are unless they come with an extra roller turbo brush) dirt pick up is great if the dirt in question is top surface, but give the Freespace ground in dirt that needs the employment of a rolling brush and you'll find that the Freespace struggles - despite a very powerful 1900 watt motor. Add a cost optional floor turbo brush to Freespace and thanks to its 32mm measurements finding a cost effective floor head from EBay means parts and spares are readily available. When attached I thought the roller brush was going to fly off!
When storing away the Freespace does another trick very well; whilst the telescopic tubes can be compacted away, the Freespace remains very easy to store away even if there is copious amounts of hose left over. This model lacks the "Nano" feature however (simply referring to three tri-scopic tubes and a much more compact body on higher priced Freespace models) it doesn't disgrace itself when it comes to storing away; the only slight downside is that it prevents the machine being lifted from the top unless you use the handle on the front part of the body or grip the rather small recessed handle at the base of the cleaner of the rear-side top.
If there is one other issue which slightly detracts its generally good design it's the awful tool storer which can be slid onto the tube. Whilst this may well be welcome to lengthen the quality of plastic involved, a cheap snap on brush on the crevice tool qualifies the "brushed upholstery combination tool" excuse from Hoover but remains noisy in use due to its short length. What I do appreciate however is the fact that Hoover have wisely included a flat lint upholstery tool which is great at removing fluff and has sealed edges meaning it's great for cleaning seams on cushions and sofas. So its a pity that in use, the tools can fly off the so called "on board" tool storer - as they seem to do with all types of clip on tool storers that generally clip on a tube - and shows up Hoover's thinking here to point out the Freespace as a budget compact cylinder vacuum cleaner.
Over a months use, I found I only needed to empty the Hoover once and the bag can take quite a lot of dirt in one go. Being a collector of older machines however I'm not completely convinced that an adhesive sticky flap on the bag ensures complete sealage of dirt, but at least when it comes to removing the bag, access to the bin is only hampered by the fact that the lid comes off completely and lacks a hinge. Whilst this may appear to be novel so that you can get access to the bag, I find it disappointing that Hoover hasn't put a hinge here where the lid can simply hook over. Regardless of these facts, access to the bin is never tight so even the biggest of hands can gain access easily. The Freespace even has a more reliable electronic red LED light on its handle to show when the bag is full unlike mechanical indicators which on most Hoover models can either break with time or get clogged with dust, rendering them useless.
It is fair to say that Hoover have done their homework here in meeting consumer's needs rather than offering a model which has all the bells and whistles. Whilst it lacks a rolling brush, or turbo brush, the Freespace TF5192 is very eager and very compact. It has acres of suction and with its optional permanent bag, paper bag and washable filter options points the way forward for consumers who are looking for a small compact vacuum cleaner with longer lasting consumables. With the new "Xarion" ranges waiting in the wings, the Freespace is now the budget bagged baby cleaner of the Hoover family and in a market full of rivals it already feels like it is growing up fast. Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2008
Short name: Hoover TF5192