We review the two-berth Sterling Eccles Sport 442, Practical Caravan's 2013 Tourer of the Year Award winner – here's the verdict from our panel of experts
Our Tourer of the Year awards are designed to celebrate the very best in caravan design and manufacturing. Only new or substantially overhauled caravans are eligible to be included in the judging. This means we look for tourers that are tightly focused, beautifully executed and have a great story behind them. Our winner for 2014 has all this and more. A new approach to tackling leaks, a significant investment in the manufacturing process, and crowd-sourced styling make it stand out against strong opposition.
Tourer of the year: The Sterling Eccles Sport 442
A new construction method, an intriguing new approach to design and a radical delivery on styling inside and out won our judges over.
In an effort to revitalise flagging sales of Sterling vans, Swift Group decided all group dealers should be able to sell both Swift and Sterling brands. But first it had to differentiate the brands better, with more adventurous Sterling design.
Swift Group took a ‘Colour Concept’ model to the Spring Caravan and Camping Show at Birmingham’s NEC in February 2013, to test showgoers’ response to a more futuristic caravan. It gathered more than 700 feedback questionnaires, and over 80% of respondents ‘liked’ or ‘liked a lot’ the van. Crucially, 71% said they’d be ‘very likely or ‘likely’ to buy a tourer like this if it was available.
Swift Group quickly put the concept into full production with six layouts for the Eccles Sport range compared with 10 Challenger Sport layouts. The Eccles Sport 442 is a classic end washroom two-berth with parallel front seats. Clever packaging makes it shorter and lighter than most rivals.
Pitching and setting up
It’s not all about style over substance either. Swift Group has changed its build methods. Body panels now have PURe (a polyurethane material) framing in place of timber. It’s a closed cell material, which accepts screw fixings, resists compression loads and is impervious to water.
The MTPLM is 1235kg.
Flooring is a dark French oak effect, which looks good with the carpets up. For cosiness there’s a long pile rug. And its washroom is stylish and roomy.
It also gets a package of welcome specification bumps for 2014. The entrance door uses the same key as other exterior doors; the Truma Combi dual-fuel heating is programmable and upgraded to 4kw; a new ‘EcoCamel’ shower head mixes air to save water; and carpets are split into sections for greater flexibility.
Tyres are now the ‘DMACK EcoXtra’ brand, which has an energy-saving tread pattern. The 20-watt solar panel is uprated to 40 watts. Tracker and ATC trailer control, high spec items at this price, are retained for 2014.
It’s not quite as well kitted out as its Eccles SE sister range, which shares the styling and has Duvalay Duvalite mattresses, external barbecue and mains electrics points, and Alde heating. But for us the Sport wins out.
While SE and Sprite ranges have benefitted from the lion’s share of development work in recent seasons, and nibbled away at sales of Sport models, we reckon its unique styling and keen price will make buyers look at it again in 2014.
The main cushion fabric in the Sterling Eccles Sport 442 has a plain tweed look with attractive turquoise scatter cushions. Its 4.4m internal length is shorter than most, affecting the central kitchen and dresser unit. Seats convert to a decent sized double bed or two singles, one of them being 1.9m long.
Alternatively, you can choose to use the sofas as single beds, with the front nearside single measuring 1.9m x 0.72m (6'3" x 2'4"), and the offside single bed measuring 1.8m x 0.72m (5'11" x 2'4").
The 442 is a classic two-berth layout, with front parallel sofas, offside kitchen and full-width rear washroom.
For its new, strong bodyshell that’s resilient to moisture, its crowd-sourced approach to styling, its kit bump and its keen pricing, we had to make the Sterling Eccles Sport 442 our Tourer of the Year overall winner.
Read more about the rest of the 2014 Sterling Eccles Sport range of caravans here.
- Classic two-berth layout, well executed
- Rear washroom goes across the full width
- Stylish décor
- The facing sofas can be used as two single beds or a large double
- New construction method
- Might be worth buying a mattress-topper, as with any bed made from sofas
- The internal length is only 4.4m, so the kitchen is compact