Read Practical Caravan's Swift Lifestyle 2 review to get the expert verdict on this Marquis dealer special that adds extra appeal to this Sprite based van
The dealer special caravan is, by nature, a very inviting prospect. Dealers love them because they get to pick the specification and interior trim to which their customers respond best. It also gives them a unique model range to sell, so customers who fall in love with a van they see on the forecourt cannot go somewhere else to get a keener price on the same van. If you love it, you’ll buy it.
From a caravanner’s point of view, that’s good news, too. They get familiar layouts from leading manufacturers, but the dealer specials are reliveried, reupholstered and kitted out with manifold extras to build a unique version of a favourite, helping you stand out from the crowd on your caravan holidays.
This is certainly the case of the Swift Lifestyle 2, which is based on the Sprite Alpine 2. The really tempting bit for dealers, however, is that they set their own prices, which are calculated to make the extra specification hard to resist.
The Swift Lifestyle range is sold exclusively by Marquis Caravans. Standard Sprites feel grown-up for budget tourers, but they fall short of being plush. That makes them ideal for adding the right extras and livening up their interiors.
The 2014 Swift Lifestyle 2 is a classic end-washroom two-berth. It’s difficult to get a lot wrong with such a tried-and-tested configuration, but there is huge competition at this end of the market and that makes pricing and weight critical.
Pitching and setting up
The Lifestyle weighs around 30kg more than a standard Sprite Alpine 2, but that differential is accounted for by all the extra kit specified by Marquis.
The layout is superbly balanced, with a large washroom at the rear, and all the weighty kitchen components midships. That translates into excellent road manners.
Certainly, when it was coupled to a range of tow cars, including a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and a Volkswagen Tiguan, the magazine's experts had outfits that inspired real confidence on the road.
In terms of its standard equipment, the Lifestyle doesn’t feel remotely like a budget model. The Truma Combi 4 water- and space-heating system, with a fully digital control panel, is top-drawer.
As with any system, you’ll need a few minutes’ with the instructions to get the best out of the Combi 4, unless you can remember your dealer handover well enough to fire things up.
In truth, though, it is intuitive and easy to operate. We had little need for heating during a late-summer stay on site, but the water heating side of the Truma’s operation was quick and quiet on gas.
Other features that are standard on the Lifestyle, but not the unadorned Alpine, include exterior mains and gas points, alloy wheels, Al-Ko hitch-mounted stabiliser, a door flyscreen and a spare wheel and carrier.
Easily the most impressive extra, however, is the panoramic front sunroof, which dominates the interior. It is a major factor in making this caravan, which is built on relatively humble underpinnings, feel really rather special.
The centre chest has the familiar slide-out top. You won’t have to resort to setting up the freestanding table for light lunches and breakfasts, because the chest’s occasional table offers ample space for your teapot and cake stand. Still, you will end up sitting at a slight angle to get the best access to it.
The folding table, when combined with the pull-out surface, provides a positively generous dining space that’s big enough for four. As is generally the case in caravan lounges, the main table feels a little smaller and lower than ideal, particularly for tall diners.
The supportive cushions make lazing about an entirely comfortable affair and this is another massive advantage of the layout. Stretching out to read or have a cheeky afternoon doze is entirely possible thanks to the long sofas and wide seat bases. The chest of drawers is ideal for stowing your paperbacks. Meanwhile, the trinket trays under the front window with adjacent mains sockets are handy for charging mobile phones and digital cameras.
The available offside sofa space is reduced if your caravan’s chef exercises the right to use the fold-out worktop extension, but that is only likely to be needed until dinner is served. The sideboard adjacent to the main entrance is an ideal surface for your television.
The bright curtains create a little visual relief to the otherwise discreet interior colour scheme, but they are likely to remain stowed in favour of the more effective and functional window blinds. That said, the front one is huge to cover the single window, so it must be pulled with care and, ideally, by two people.
The sunroof has a concertina blind, which is effective and simple to use.
The fridge is ample for even the hungriest caravanning couple, while you can get cooking with the separate oven and grill, or the hob with three gas burners and mains-powered hotplate.
A microwave is mounted high up, but not uncomfortably so, and there are plenty of storage options, including a modest utensil drawer.
Workspace is on the lean side, but the fold-out worktop extension provides extra elbow room when required. The sideboard opposite the kitchen is a little too low for comfortable food preparation but it does have space to serve meals efficiently.
In terms of size, we have no complaints about the Swift Lifestyle 2. Any fixed-bed caravanner will be hugely jealous of the palatial space on offer.
It’s not only the amount of room that impresses. The separate shower cubicle is big enough for even the most cuddly caravanner to have a scrub and the water pressure is good, too. That’s essential if you aspire to showering on board. Even the finest cubicle is just a posh, shiny cupboard if the showerhead can’t deliver hot water at high pressure. This one does a great job, though.
The biggest shortcoming is that the cubicle is quite dark; any natural light that filters in settles on the other side of the washroom, which boasts the translucent pop-up roof vent and an opaque window above the Thetford C260 toilet. In fact, even the artificial light is a little on the mean side.
The handbasin is snugly located between the shower and double wardrobe. A large mirror over the sink makes it an ample, if slightly gloomy, grooming area. Nevertheless, the basin looks impressive and feels robust, too.
Provided you’re not a couple of basketball players, the twin beds are fine. You need to find somewhere to stow the backrest cushions but, once they are out of the way, the beds are wide and long enough for most. The offside berth is less than 6ft long, so reserve it for whichever of you is shorter.
The better arrangement of the lounge is as a double bed, which rewards you with an enormous, flat and comfortable sleeping platform from which to recover from your caravan holiday exertions. Although quoted as being 180cm (5ft 11in) wide, that doesn’t take into account the centre chest which encroaches considerably. Even bearing that in mind, the bed is still more than 4ft wide, which is at least as good as many domestic double beds.
Spotlights are fitted above each corner of the bed so that, whichever way around you choose to sleep, both occupants get their own reading lights. Even more welcome – thanks to the low sideboard opposite the kitchen – both get somewhere to keep reading specs, glasses of water and other bedtime paraphernalia within reach.
Ultimately, it is a great caravan to sleep in, unless you don’t like making up a bed. That aside, it’s hard to fault.
The front locker is easily accessed and the door rises on a gas strut so it’s not in the way when you are lugging your gear back and forth. Other than that, the only external locker is the battery box on the offside.
Inside, there is a huge amount of storage for two people. The acres of space in the two front seat boxes may be taken up with bed linen and pillows by day, but there are two overhead lockers on each side of the lounge, plus drawers and a drop-front locker in the centre chest.
The washroom is also generous with storage options. Under the washbasin, for example, is a large storage locker, while the enormous double wardrobe will swallow enough clothes for even the most well-heeled adventurer.
The biggest problem you’re likely to face is deciding how to use all the options at the rear, and avoiding the temptation to chuck loads of your caravan clutter there. The wardrobe is right at the back of the caravan – precisely where you don’t want much weight.
The Swift Lifestyle 2 is an excellent example of the end-washroom breed. Well equipped, tastefully appointed and towable by most modern tow cars, this dealer special has plenty to commend it.
But there is one reservation. At £15,995, this is no bargain – nor should it be, given the level of equipment. However, that figure puts it close to a host of mid-range rivals, such as the Bailey Pegasus GT65 and models higher up the Swift ecosystem, despite it being based on a humble Sprite.
The Alpine 2, which is the base model, costs around £13,500 with the Diamond Pack of options. That is an awfully big saving for what is in essence the same vehicle. If you can tolerate simpler living, opting for the less-expensive original with a select option or two may be a shrewd alternative for you on your caravan holidays.
Nevertheless, the best bit about putting such a heavyweight specification into such a light bodyshell is that it makes this one of the best equipped end-washroom two-berth vans you can still tow with a conventional, non-4x4 hatchback.
If you fall in love with the Lifestyle, however, and can afford the premium that such generous specification demands, we would say nothing to dissuade you from buying this very likable two-berth.
- One of the best-equipped end-washroom two-berths you can tow with a two-wheel-drive car
- The lounge is spacious and bathed in daylight
- The washroom is impressive, especially the spacious shower cubicle
- There are lots of reading lights
- There's ample storage
- The base caravan, the Sprite Alpine 2, costs much less, even with options added
- The only external storage are the gas and battery lockers
- The shower cubicle is short on daylight and artificial illumination