When buyers and review site members have messaged me in the past for a good quality vacuum cleaner that is compact in design but has good suction I've always recommended bagged vacuums by Miele or Sebo because by and large they are a lot healthier than the bagless idea and both these companies offer excellent quality, long lasting dust bags (generally) coupled with low noise motors, well designed tools and a general efficiently designed vacuum that just does what it promises. Buyers however are put off with spending anymore than £100 on a vacuum cleaner thanks to budget brands that offer the same idea without durability or other lifestyle requirements designed to make life easier. Everyone wants bagless instead and whilst it is true that the price is cheaper and you don't have to buy bags, spare a thought for what happens in hospitals and health clinics where organisations are still using bagged vacuum cleaners. Dyson may well claim that buying bags is an in efficient way of economising, but on the basis that back in the 1970s many people never suffered from the allergies that everyone seems to have these days, there's a lot to be said for bacteria and allergens that have now become present in the air. If health institutions pride on hygiene then it makes sense for dust to be contained in a bag regardless of extra cost.
As a brand, Bosch have been making vacuum cleaners for years but British buyers have been slow to forgive the company since their troublesome bagless upright that Vax co-produced in the late 1990's has stopped production. From a reputable point of view, their cylinder vacuums could be as good as Miele or Sebo just because Bosch also happens to be German in origin too.
From Bosch comes a model that John Lewis has now signed their name to, the John Lewis VS06 cylinder vacuum. It is based around the older Bosch BSGL4000GB with few body changes aside from John Lewis silver name painted on the model and a few differences in switches and sliders to differentiate the two companies' similar products. Try and look for a Bosch counterpart at any John Lewis store and you'll be disappointed. Argos meanwhile has just started selling a new Bosch cylinder vacuum at £99. Evidently John Lewis has been savvy here not to offer another Bosch model that has the same features at a similar price. High filtration dust bags from John Lewis for the VS06 cost £7 for a box of 5 bags against Bosch's own similar designed bags for 95p more and one less bag. Clearly John Lewis are all about value for money where Bosch's sponsored model is concerned. Is the VS06 as good as Miele's S4 though?
For a start the size of the VS06 is very welcomed. It is similar to my old Miele S4 (S4210 for those who want the exact model) and in small spaces where space is confined I rather like the squat shape of the VS06 helped by park positions down the side and back of the vacuum in which the long hose and tubes can be stored onto. Over my older and wider Sebo K1 the JL VS06 is a lot smaller and is similarly light at just 5.8kg making it very easy to carry by its large carry handle or pull along the floor thanks to three recessed castors that mimic Miele or Sebo's space efficient 360° compact vacuums to twirl around on flooring without marking. The bag capacity for this model is 4 litres which is bigger by 0.5 than my old Miele S4 and with it's known capacity and weight makes it light enough to be considered a possible rival to the recently launched Dyson DC26 City claimed to be made for "city dwellers" who need a compact vacuum and that model weighs 5.2kg.
Whilst my old Miele S4 now rests with a friend, I've been ready for a change particularly when John Lewis no longer sell the Sebo K1 base vacuum and JL's own vacuum looked like a particular bargain when I tested it in store before purchasing. One of the most appealing features is that unlike the Miele S4 that does with a clip on hose/or tube tool storer, the tools supplied with the JL/Bosch VS06 all fit inside the vacuum cleaner underneath the main lid which means that A) They don't get lost over time and B) reasonably simple to find when in a hurry to do a specific cleaning task at the time and don't fall off the vacuum when in normal use. The downside is that compared to Miele there are only two tools on offer; a short crevice tool and an upholstery brush. I was however impressed with the weight of this vacuum too as it felt comparative to my old Miele and less weight means an easier time of it, especially when getting into ceilings or doing above floor cleaning that uprights merely dream about!
Although the JL VS06 has a softer and more organic design to Miele it doesn't sit well on stairs because it does have a wider width compared to the smaller Miele S4 and it is inside under the cover that build quality just isn't as smooth as Miele or Sebo. Hard edges abound where the bag slips in (and whilst bags are easy to take out or in) there are some surprising edges that should be made smoother for the cost price here, if not the company who are actually responsible for it. A long 7.5 metre power cable is also fitted and whilst there may be no pedal for rewinding the cable back in, Bosch have copied Sebo here in offering a pull function on the cord which automatically winds the cable back in (after pulling on where it comes out from) after cleaning has finished. Then all you need to do is walk back to the vacuum with the hose/pipes in situ and store it! Over Sebo and Miele, the JL VS06 does have a longer power cable here and that's welcome even in a small flat.
Where performance is concerned the JL VS06 has nothing to worry about although there are some surprises along the way and again it's down to build quality and possible cost cutting. There is a central variable power suction control that also acts as the on button for the vacuum to start (another Sebo copied idea here) and upon switching it on and turning it up to maximum provides acres of suction and a lack of noise that puts it in direct competition with both Sebo and Miele for sound absorption. The suction only floor head has a nice precise movement with a single pedal to put bristles down for hard floors and bristles up for carpeting but I find it isn't as well made as Miele or Sebo and the floor head has already received a few scratches which have already shown up. Sometimes the floor head feels too light for its own good, sometimes flipping upwards because of a lack of natural gliding ability. Stubborn hairs and threads need a couple of sweeps of the floorhead to get the dirt up although for general dirt and dust the VS06 copes well without having to go over the same surface three or more times. The VS06 has 1800 watts of variable suction anyway to cope with difficult to stubborn dirt pick up but my old Miele's suction-only floor head had excellent pick up against the cheaper and lighter feeling Bosch-derived floorhead and although the JL VS06 claims to have edge cleaning on both sides of the floor head I've found it's not always the case particularly when cleaning skirting boards on flat level surface vinyl floors.
It is however in the little details that let the JL VS06 down. The telescopic height adjustable pipes for example are well made and undoubtedly have been tested for strength. Produced of brushed metal they fit into the floor head by friction fit only and if you don't jam the floor head in tightly the floor head will come away from the pipes. This is really annoying and unlike Miele or Sebo which have lockable tubes, tools and floor heads. The top handle however feels a bit cheap which I find surprising for the price here, and ribbed at the top means that whilst it is comfortable at the least to hold onto, the bottom part of the handle also fits into the top of the metal pipes by friction fit only. Already in use when the suction was turned up mid way with a fresh new dust bag on board, my handle fell out of the top of the pipes that can make for a frustrating time of it and having to constantly push the handle back into the top tube. Luckily like Miele's S4 you get a long 1.5 metre hose that is kink and crush proof and feels decidedly better made than other rivals. Like Sebo and Miele the hose can be independently removed from the handle if anything gets clogged. Other helpful indicators consist of a LED light that comes on to show when the bag needs replacing.
Another little foible is the filtration on board. Unlike Sebo with its massive optional long lasting filters or Miele with optional filtration types available, the JL VS06 uses a cheap Microfilter cartridge that is not washable or HEPA / High Efficiency Particulate Air branded which means pet hair odour can often be detected early on. However with the box of bags you do get a free micro-hygiene filter included which mirrors Miele in this respect. There is however a sliding dust seal cap that slides over the bag once the bag has been removed. Nothing new here if you're the owner of a Miele or Sebo but is good that Bosch/John Lewis have stuck to their principles of staying with Germanic sense of hygiene here.
All in all the Bosch-derived VS06 by John Lewis isn't a bad compact vacuum cleaner and for most tasks it covers the cleaning uses that a vacuum cleaner is supposed to do with long lasting bags. Powerful, quiet and nicely designed it only loses points on its build quality and to a fair extent a lack of bag availability because even with the Bosch name, only a few stockists on the high street (unless you happen to have a John Lewis at your disposal) stock actual Bosch dust bags and against the more reputable and better known brands such as Miele or Sebo, buying the bags beforehand is an issue that needs to be done beforehand, possibly in bulk to avoid running out. The VS06 is not as accomplished as the Miele S4000 range or for that matter Sebo's K1 series, but at just £90 cost price, it's a good starter and introduction to a better-built vacuum cleaner that is German by design - just watch the friction fit tubes, floor head and handle because by all accounts just because it may be made in Germany, it doesn't covet all the design elements of both Miele or Sebo rivals. I'm disappointed by this model so watch this space! Thanks for reading! ©Nar2 2010
Short name: John Lewis VS06