The Sterling Eccles Sport 544 SR won Practical Caravan's 2012 Tourer of the Year Award – in this review we reveal which features our experts rated the best

Overview

The Swift Group owns Sterling, among other caravan brands, and Swift’s shake-up of its mid-market ranges for 2012 earned it success in Practical Caravan’s Tourer of the Year Awards 2012. The sleek-looking Sterling Eccles Sport 514 SR won Tourer of the Year for having “the appearance of a more expensive tourer, sensible weights, plenty of kit and looks that won’t date in the next decade”. 

The same can be said of the rest of the eight-model range, which replaces the Sterling Europa. The range’s sloping, aerodynamic GRP front moves away from the boxy profile of many tourers, giving it a sleek, modern look, as you'll see in the video of the twin-axle Sport 636 at the end of this review. The vans’ sandwich-construction shells have earned Grade 3 classification for heating and thermal insulation. Standard kit includes Al-Ko’s ATC system, a hitch-mounted stabiliser and shock absorbers, as well as an aerial point for portable satellite TV in the battery box. 

The four-berth Sterling Eccles Sport 544 SR under scrutiny here is a twin-dinette layout with a transverse rear washroom. The rear dinette has a horseshoe-shaped seating arrangement that occupies the same space as a fixed bed.

Pitching and setting up

Pitching the Sterling Eccles Sport 544 SR was no trouble. The jockey wheel was within the step-up A-frame, rather than on the side, and the nuts for the sturdy rear steadies were easily accessed. There’s also easy access to the large front locker, with the door supported by gas struts. The mains controls are in the form of a user-friendly touch panel above the door. The water heater switch, along with the fuse box, is under the offside front seat.

Lounge

Inside the 544 SR you get a good feeling of light and space, thanks to the panoramic roof window. This £300 option comes at a space cost, too – you lose two front lockers. But it’s worth it. If you are pitched under a tree, you can watch the comings and goings of the birds and it’s great to see the sky.

The centre chest has a pull-out table extension, two drawers and a locker below.

The rear lounge has a good-sized table supported by a single pole. This fits into a recess in the floor that allows you to swivel the table for easier access to the seating. You can also remove it to gain more space but there is no place to store it. I stowed it in the washroom against the wall, which is more or less how the main table is stored, against the offside wall opposite the rear dinette, with clips to hold it in position. It’s efficient but not particularly attractive.

The comfortable, supportive upholstery is in neutral tones of brown, black and white, and the beige carpets are removable for easy cleaning. Cabinetwork is pale wood with aluminium trim and handles. There are plenty of lighting options, including four spotlights at the front and three at the rear, mains lighting, and LED lighting above the cabinets.

Kitchen

A removable drainer and flip-up extension help to provide ample worktop space for food preparation. Cooks will appreciate the dual-fuel hob and efficient separate oven and grill. There is also a microwave, flanked by a cupboard either side, and LED lighting illuminating the worktop below. I liked the pull-out wire baskets in the narrow cupboard between the fridge and oven, but the door to this could do with being hung on the opposing side as it compromises access to the baskets.

Opposite is a dresser with a cutlery drawer above the dual-fuel heater. This area has a plug and aerial socket and space for a TV.

Washroom

The Eccles Sport 544's washroom is a little austere but perfectly functional. It is accessed by a domestic-style door, has a frosted window above the Thetford C250 toilet with electric flush, and a mini rooflight.

The separate shower in the Sterling Eccles Sport 544 SR has a bi-fold door and a water-saving showerhead that works by holding down a lever. The shower has two shelves for lotions and potions.

The basin has a shallow cupboard below and a mirror above with shelves to one side. There is a towel ring and towel hook.

Beds

Making up the front bed was straightforward with slats that pulled out from the centre chest and stayed put on their runners. The cushions fitted snugly and provided a comfortable bed.

The bed at the rear was a trickier proposition. The table forms the base and two infill cushions are supplied, but I couldn’t fathom how it all went together and ended up using a small back cushion from the front seat to complete the puzzle. It was comfortable, though.

A fabric divider separates the two sleeping areas and a blind shuts off the area next to the TV; just raise it if you want to watch TV in bed or in the rear lounge.

Storage

There are two large lockers at the front of the van but the space in both is compromised. The nearside locker has clips for bottles and glasses and the locker on the offside houses the radio/CD/MP3 player.

There is plenty of space in the nearside seat box, but the offside seat box houses the water heater and fuse box.

Two cupboards sit above the kitchen. One has racking for crockery, while the other can house tall items such as cereal boxes. A wired rack is located between the fridge and oven with a small drawer above. Opposite is a shelved locker for groceries.

The wardrobe is opposite the rear lounge and has ample hanging space and shelves to the side and a section below for shoes. There is space below the seats to stow bedding and three shelved roof lockers.

There are also two small corner shelves for a book or cup. Above where the main table is stowed are two coat hooks.

Technical specs

Berth4
MiRO1282kg
Payload153kg
MTPLM1435kg
Interior length5.6m
Shipping length7.25m
Width2.25m
Height2.65m
Awning size99.9cm

Verdict

The Sterling Eccles Sport 544 SR is a tourer designed to suit a couple who like a lot of living space. Everything works with the layout but making up the rear bed for a comfortable night is tricky.

Unless you really need two lounges, the 554 model is the better bet, because it has a good fixed bed but is otherwise identical.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Sharp looks
  • Great kitchen space
  • All controls are easy to understand
  • Optional panoramic roof window lets in lots of light

Cons

  • Too large a locker is used for drinks storage
  • Rear-bed cushion arrangements are difficult to fathom
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