Swift Caravans have made their presence felt in Australia, with their different looks and relatively lightweight designs. Eurotech Caravans and Motorhomes, under the direction of Greg Quince, is the importer of the European range and now has dealers in most states.
The Swift models are built a little differently to most Australian-made caravans but that doesn’t mean they’re any less suitable for Australian roads, as long as they’re used for their intended purpose – that is, travelling on tarred or well graded roads, for which our review Challenger appears to be eminently suitable.
NEAT AND SWEET
Underpinning the Challenger is a galvanised Al-Ko chassis fitted with a Euro-Axle, which is a hexagonal rubber tube design with shock absorbers. The hitch is an AKS 3004 stabiliser and the jockey wheel is, as expected, also an Al-Ko item. It doesn’t detach, instead the wheel simply lifts off the ground. It’s designed to steer the van off the road, should it disconnect from the tow vehicle.
Many caravans are designed with spare wheels mounted on the rear, but this one has the spare mounted underneath it – behind the wheels – so it doesn’t affect the van’s length. It sits in an underslung carrier that slides out easily if the spare wheel is needed.
Up front, the drawbar is covered with a fibreglass shroud to keep everything looking neat and tidy. Plug tidies keep the 12V connecting leads from trailing on the ground.
Above the chassis, the Challenger body is built with sandwich-style walls and a roof, the former being 25mm thick and the latter 32mm thick. Both have a high density polystyrene insulation core and aluminium cladding on the outside. The back and front are moulded fibreglass. Included in the front moulding is the boot, which holds two 4.5kg gas cylinders. In addition, there are two external bins under the front side windows. The nearside one has an external powerpoint and is suitable for a slide-out barbecue, and the offside one has a 240V power lead connection plus space for an optional battery and satellite TV connection.
Standout features of the Challenger are the streamlined front and the very large windows all round, especially at the front. A little wider, 45mm (2in) and taller 80mm (3in) than previous models, the two-piece stable door has a moulded garbage bin in the lower half and a separate concertina flyscreen built into the door frame. The Challenger style vans sit slightly lower than many locally built vans.
Naturally, the interior has a very Euro look about it, with curved ‘timber’ doors, a space-saving design and a bright interior – assisted by large windows and three roof hatches.
Up front are two lounges which can convert into a second bed. Amidships are the kitchen on the nearside and the bathroom opposite. Occupying the rear is the main bedroom, complete with an island bed.
In confined spaces, perceived space is as important as actual space, as demonstrated in the front lounge area, where the two sideways facing lounges are surrounded by five huge windows. It’s possible to lean out of any of them and have a chat with people passing by.
There are a couple of options for dining. Between the lounges at the front, there’s a small cabinet for drinks and nibbles; for a more substantial meal, a free-standing table can be used. When not needed, the table is stored in a cupboard. With a bit of fiddling around, the lounges can be made up into a 2.1x1.4m (7x4ft 8in) bed.
Overhead lockers are fitted around the walls above the lounges, there is some storage under both seats and there is also a small cabinet between the offside lounge and the bathroom. Most of the lower space of that area is taken by a Truma space heater that supplies ducted heating throughout the van.
All the usual items are fitted to the kitchen bench: a four-burner Stoves cooktop/grill/oven, a Thetford three-way 113L fridge, stainless steel sink and a Sharp microwave. The benchtop area is moderate, partly because the sink doesn’t have a drainer, instead having a detachable plastic item. Storage area is limited to an overhead locker with plate and cup racks, and a cupboard that has a small slide-out wire basket pantry.
From the outside, the bathroom appears deceptively small but it does contain a semi-circular shower cubicle, Thetford cassette toilet and a small washbasin. The shower cubicle is a particularly dexterous item with a moulded foot stool/seat and soap/shampoo holder, in addition to the flexible height shower rose. I particularly like the curved sliding screen.
Outside the shower are additional fittings like the upper and lower cupboards, glass/soap holders and a heater duct. An odd omission is a shaving mirror, although there is a full reflector outside the bathroom.
Something many European vans don’t have, especially the smaller ones, is an island bed. Well, the Challenger 560 does, a 1.9x1.3m (6ft 2in x 4ft 4in) mattress on an aluminium and timber-framed base. The latter can be lifted up to get to the storage area underneath. It is actually smaller than the mattress, which makes it easier for those of us with big feet. This is good news, as the offside corner is a bit tight. Bedroom storage consists of the usual bedhead arrangement of wardrobes and overhead lockers, plus a nearside, half-height corner cupboard at the foot of the bed.
THE BOTTOM LINE
A little different to many Australian-built caravans, the Swift Challenger does tend to draw a second glance. With features like the island double bed, large lounge area and high-level appointments (including things like an alarm and chassis number-etched windows), it’s not hard to understand why. Its relatively light towing weight is also attractive, which makes the Challenger eminently suitable for a wide variety of vehicles, including something like a Toyota Aurion. It’s a good, economical choice for blacktop touring in these times of high-priced fuel.
SWIFT CHALLENGER 560
Overall length: 7.3m (23ft 10in)
External body length: 6.2m (20ft 4in)
External width: 2.3m (7ft 6in)
Interior height: 1.9m (6ft 4in)
Nameplate ATM: 1500kg
Nameplate Tare: 1289kg
Body: Sandwich construction
Chassis: Al-Ko galvanised
Gas: 2 x 4.5kg
Fresh water: 60L
Price: $58,220 plus on-road costs
Eurotech Caravans and Motorhomes, 31 Millennium Place, Tingalpa, Qld 4173, (07) 3393 4800. For more information, including your nearest dealer, visit www.swiftrv.com.au