Practical Caravan reviews the Sterling Eccles Sport 524, an award-winning budget family caravan that revisits the side-dinette end-washroom layout

Overview

Swift Group’s launch of the Sterling Eccles Sport and SE ranges with its ‘Concept-based’ interiors for the 2014 season got off to a good start when the Eccles Sport 442 took the overall gong at our Tourer of the Year awards.

Changes for the 2015 Sport have been kept to a minimum: new one-piece doors and ‘Scorpion’ alloy wheels, refreshed worktops and wall coverings and, as with all Swift Group vans, Duvalay Duvalite mattresses for fixed beds.

One layout has now rejoined the range after a year’s hiatus: the 524. The return of this side-dinette, end-washroom four-berth was so successfully executed that it went on to be named the best caravan for small families in our Tourer of the Year Awards 2015.

Pitching and setting up

Built using Swift’s SMART construction method, the Sport 524’s ‘graphite’ front and side trims and bold graphics are enhanced by the alloy wheels, and Swift-branded mudflaps. 
A 40W solar panel offers some freedom from electric hook-up.

The 524 rides on an Al-Ko chassis, which comes with an AKS 3004 stabiliser, but it’s disappointing to see that Swift has dropped last year’s standard-fit ATC stability control, a safety feature that won’t be missed until it’s needed.

The Sport is Sterling’s least-expensive van, so the 524 misses out on external wet lockers and under-bunk external access. It does get satellite-dish points and waste-water outlets that are easy to access. The electrical controls are above the entrance.

Lounge

The side-dinette, four-berth layout is one of the most spacious on the market, and that feeling is enhanced in the Sport 524 by its sunroof, midi-Heki rooflight 
and the light-coloured furniture.

The plain brown seats contrast well with the fixtures and fittings, and should hide the odd mark. There’s plenty of room for four in the lounge area, either to relax or eat, and a small unit between it and the offside dinette houses the TV, which can be either viewed from the lounge or the dinette.

The contrasting wall covering next to the side-dinette almost gives that part of the caravan a separate identity.

Kitchen

There’s a huge worktop and cupboards aplenty for the cook’s use. In addition to the storage in the kitchen unit there’s a cupboard with pull-out baskets underneath the TV area. The new Thetford Aspire oven and separate grill are topped by a three gas-burner hob and hot-plate, and a Dometic 8-Series fridge/freezer keeps things cool.

All three overhead lockers are side hinged for easy access, but the height of the digital-control microwave may make removing hot food challenging for some.

Washroom

The shower cubicle is fully lined with a bi-fold door and water-saving Ecocamel showerhead.

The wardrobe is in the rear offside corner. Despite its good size, hanging space is restricted by shelves in the lower half. Nevertheless, it should cope with a family of four’s clothes.

The basin unit sits between the wardrobe and shower, and has a large mirror above and good-sized cupboard beneath.

Ventilation is dealt with by an opening opaque window and a pop-up rooflight. Lighting is good, and operated by low-mounted switches, making them accessible to youngsters.

Beds

The lounge is converted into two singles or a double. The offside single is longer (1.90m x 0.69m vs 1.80m x 0.69m), but both could be used by adults. The double bed (2.02m x 1.4m) is made up using pull-out slats. Whichever arrangement is used, both occupants get spotlights.

You get two bunks in the side dinette suitable for children into their early teens. The lower bunk is 1.8m x 0.61m and the top bunk is 1.76 x 0.61m. The cushions are unfolded to form the mattresses, so they are not especially thick. The top bunk occupant gets a reading light, but the roof lockers encroach on space. There’s no light for the lower bunk. A full-length curtain gives privacy.

Storage

With kitchen storage, seven overhead lockers elsewhere, the wardrobe and the front chest of drawers, there should be plenty of room for a family’s needs.

The nearside front under-seat area is clear for large items, and has both top and front access. The one on the offside houses the water/heating system and mains electrics. However, both side-dinette seat bases would easily hold sleeping bags and pillows.

Technical specs

Berth4
MiRO1265kg
Payload150kg
MTPLM1415kg
Interior length5.29m
Shipping length6.94m
Width2.25m
Height2.65m
Awning size968cm

Verdict

The 524 is a welcome addition to the Eccles Sport range. It’s well thought out, with an excellent kitchen. Only minor details such as pop-up rooflights and the lack of external lockers reveal that this is Sterling’s cheapest range.

The Sport 524 is a cracking van, and has an MTPLM that puts it within the towing abilities of a good range of cars.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Good looking van
  • Practical interior
  • Good range of storage options
  • We like the addition of a loose rug

Cons

  • Al-Ko ATC is now a cost option rather than part of the standard specification
Share with friends

Follow us on

Explore the range