Alastair ClementsSee other caravan reviews written by Alastair Clements
The new Swift Conqueror 560 is bang on trend, with a central washroom and rear island bed – so is this enough to impress couples who like luxury tourers?
Swift’s SMART HT construction system, which replaces all of the timber in the tourer with polyurethane, rightly gained plenty of plaudits when it was launched in the flagship Elegance range (and its sister Sterling Continental) in 2014. However, the Swift SMART HT construction has always had two fairly substantial stumbling blocks: price, and weight. So Swift’s decision to move its much-loved Conqueror range into the same structure makes sense, bringing down both price and weight, and also distancing the luxury line from the updated mid-range Swift Challenger.
As well as revamping the look and feel inside and out, Swift has added two new layouts to the range, this Conqueror 560, and its twin-axle equivalent, the Swift Conqueror 650. These take the tally of island-bed models in the range to four but, unlike the transverse-bed Swift Conqueror 580 and Swift Conqueror 645, the 560 reviewed here features the layout very much of the moment, with a central washroom and an in-line bed with its headboard against the rear wall of the caravan.
And, of course, it’s worth pointing out that if the décor doesn’t appeal, the return of the Sterling Elite line as the Conqueror’s near-identical twin means that there’s a 2016 Sterling Elite 560 offering a more modern interior with the same layout.
Often an island bed means an ugly blank sidewall. Not so with the Swift Conqueror 560, which has four double-glazed windows along the offside, and a pair of windows plus a glazed one-piece door on the nearside. Add these to the minimal but stylish graphics, and the streamlined nose with its triple front window and panoramic sunroof, and this is an unusually attractive caravan.
The overall appeal is aided by neat automotive detailing, with LED running lights and rear light clusters, a high-level brake lamp and an aerofoil-style rainwater diverter over the front window. Plus, like all 2016 Swift caravans, the Conqueror features fixing bars on the rear wall for an optional Thule bicycle rack.
SMART HT construction means glassfibre inner and outer skins to the roof, walls and the five-layer composite floor. The aluminium frame has an integral cold bridge, and the internal structure is polyurethane with polystyrene insulation.
The headline news inside is Swift’s new Command system. Replacing the traditional control panel, it includes functions such as a battery-level meter, lighting and water-pump controls, internal and external temperature, internal humidity levels, a 230V load limiter, heating controls, plus charging levels for the roof-mounted 80W solar panel. Much of this information can be accessed and even controlled remotely, too, using the Swift Command app on your smartphone.
We towed the Swift Conqueror 560 behind our long-term Kia Sorento – for which it would be bang-on the 85% match ratio if the caravan were laden, despite only being a single-axle. In fact, it had little gear on board, yet this is a tourer that you never forget is behind you, with its Mass in Running Order of 1515kg.
On bumpy, twisty roads it makes itself known with the occasional shove and clonk on the towbar; however, it’s pleasingly narrow. This tourer’s galvanised steel Al-Ko chassis is equipped with every trick in the book, too – including shock absorbers, an AKS 3004 hitch stabiliser and ATC trailer stability control – so it never gets unruly. And, on the flipside, on a dual carriageway or motorway it is truly serene, thanks to the slippery, aerodynamic shape, feeling rock-steady at the speed limit even in crosswinds and when you’re following lorries. And to see other Swift caravans for sale, click here.
Pitching and setting up
Once it’s sited, things really improve. The heavy-duty steadies are solid and their winder bolts are unusually easy to access: the fronts in rubber-edged cutouts in the lower trim rail, the rears just below the GRP rear panel. Add the spirit level mounted on the front shelf, and visible through the window, and it’s a doddle to pitch.
Only the refrigerator vents are on the awning side – along with a useful gas barbecue point and a 230V socket – with all of the other services moved to the offside, where you’ll also find a satellite aerial connection in the battery locker. The waste-water outlets are well sited just behind the axle line and, rather elegantly, the door is held open by a little magnet, rather than the usual latch.
This is an upmarket tourer, so the specification is as high as you’d expect: there’s a remote-controlled infra-red alarm, Tracker Retrieve, Alde heating, LED lighting throughout, alloy wheels and a receiver for an optional Al-Ko Secure wheel lock – though bearing in mind the price-tag, it seems odd that this is not standard-fit.
Not that the four-seater lounge is confined: there’s masses of headroom and, during the day, plenty of light comes in from the front and side windows, the sunroof and a pair of rooflights. At night, dimmable LEDs make it easy to create an attractive ambience.
If the soft furnishings in the 2016 Swift Conqueror 560 seem familiar, that’s because the upholstery was used in the 2015 Swift Elegance. It’s a slightly sombre brown and beige with leaf-pattern curtain fabrics and a mixture of gloss woodwork, chrome and ‘Smoked Oak’ inlays for the lockers. All have positive catches, however, and there’s a central chest with a slide-out occasional table.
If the décor doesn't appeal, consider the factory-fit upholstery options: ‘Zimba’ (£195); ‘SwiftShield’ (£295); ‘Winchester Stone’ (£745).
Mounted on the front shelf are a power pod with 12V, two 230V and aerial sockets, though – frustratingly – no USB port.
Deeply padded and with fixed bolsters at the front (though none to the rear), the Swift Conqueror 560's sofas are comfortable, with sculpted backrest boards to circulate warm air from the Alde radiators.
Annoyingly, the dining table is located all the way back in the cupboard on the rear wall. However, the table is surprisingly light, which eases the pain of having to lug it through the caravan for mealtimes.
There’s another locker beneath the oven on the opposite side of the caravan – ideal for pans – and the whole area feels well thought-out. The microwave, for example, is mounted fairly high, but kept away from the hob. It’s flanked by a pair of lockers with a hessian-effect finish, and other storage options include a usefully large drawer and a pair of pull-out wire baskets. One loss we won’t be mourning is the lack of a ‘bling’ cocktail cabinet.
Not that there isn’t a dash of style: we love the Conqueror 560's attractive backlit kitchen splashback and stylish black ‘Fenix’ scratch-resistant worktop, which comes with a particularly generous lift-up flap to provide extra food-preparation space.
There are two 230V sockets in the Conqueror's kitchen, plus a good-sized sink and a top-spec cooker; the latter has a separate oven and grill, as well as a dual-fuel hob with 800W hotplate and three gas burners. Rounding out the practical specification is a two-way Omnivent overhead.
As you walk into the washroom from the lounge, you’re greeted by an attractive vanity unit comprising a cabinet, sink and a backlit mirror, flanked by twin doorways into the bedroom. There’s a Thetford electric-flush toilet on the offside, and a circular, fully lined shower cubicle on the nearside. It features a new EcoCamel Orbit water-saving showerhead and, although there is some intrusion into the tray from the wheelarch, it’s roomy enough for a decent shower. It would have been nice, however, to find a shelf in there for your soap or shower gel.
Water pressure is strong, but the high-flow on-board pump of our test van was fairly noisy and, because the cubicle is in the centre of the van, there’s only one drain hole (to the end-washroom 580’s two). Outside the shower, and usefully sited above a radiator, are a towel loop and a couple of hooks.
The main event is the fixed bed. As ever with island beds, however, our main complaint is the length: it’s 1.82m wide and 1.33m long – that's 5ft 11 wide but just 6ft long from end to end, which might not be enough for taller caravanners.
If it is, however, you’ll enjoy a very comfortable night on the standard Duvalay Duvalite memory-fibre mattress.
The master bedroom feels luxurious, with attractive floor-level lighting, twin radiators and a shallow headboard, while the bulkhead at your feet is equipped with a TV stand, power and aerial sockets and a useful shelf. Each occupant gets a spotlight and a shelf that’s ideal for a book and a cuppa, with an oddments drawer beneath.
Unusually for an island-bed van, you also get a window on either side – add in the Midi-Heki overhead and it feels pleasantly bright. There are no curtains, to maximise space in what is a relatively narrow room, but padded panels do soften the white walls.
If you tour with children, and want to use the sofas as single beds, those kids will need to be small: the seats measure just 5ft on the nearside and 5ft 4in on the offside – though each has a fixed bolster that doubles as a headboard. However, pull out the slats beneath the front chest and the result is a generous 6ft 6in double – with reading lights to suit every configuration.
There is the front chest of drawers, of course, along with the bed boxes. The Swift Conqueror 560's offside under-bunk space is dominated by the boiler and consumer unit, but both cavities can be accessed from inside the van via drop-down doors and – in the case of the nearside – from outside, too. Aside from the large front gas locker, that’s the only external locker available.
The Swift Conqueror 560's main storage is to be found towards the rear of the van; there are narrow ‘his and hers’ wardrobes on either side of the fixed bed, each with a light that comes on automatically when the door opens. Both have compromises: the expansion tank for the Alde heating is in the offside and the lounge table lives in the nearside.
Lift the bed and it rises on a gas strut, revealing a huge void beneath – accessible only from the narrow side passages, with no external hatch. You’ll find the spare wheel mounted here, too, but there’s still plenty of space – though you should avoid overloading it when towing.
In essence, the new Swift Conqueror is a down-specced version of the flagship Swift Elegance. And that’s no criticism: it offers the same qualities for less money and less weight – in fact, we struggled to find any corners that had been cut. And in the 560, the Conqueror boasts a layout that its more prestigious sibling doesn’t currently offer – one that, for our money, works better than the £1000-dearer Swift Conqueror 580.
For an 85% match, you need a tow car with a kerbweight of 1966kg to tow the 2016 Swift Conqueror 560 caravan. We have more advice on how to choose the right tow car for your caravan on our Practical Caravan and What Car? Tow Car Awards website. There's even a tow car chooser tool to help you search for cars by kerbweight as well as by the judges' ratings.
How does it compare to rival caravans? With an identical layout and similar dimensions, the Coachman VIP 545 (£23,995) is the Swift Conqueror 560’s nearest rival and undercuts it on price. The 2016 Elddis Crusader Aurora (£22,599) is cheaper still, and significantly lighter, a little smaller, but offers a retracting 6ft 3in double bed. The Lunar Delta RI (£26,199) is a twin-axle, which means that it offers plenty of space, for only a small weight and price penalty, but it features a transverse rather than an in-line double bed.
So, will you buy the Swift Conqueror 560? To decide, you probably only need ask yourself three questions: can I afford it, can my car tow it, and is the bed long enough? If the answer to all three is yes, you’ll find this a classy and comfortable caravan for couples who enjoy touring in luxury.
- It's an attractive design
- SMART HT construction
- Alde wet central heating and water heating
- Generous specification
- Fixed island bed and central washroom layout
- Cheaper than the Elegance
- The lounge bed is 6ft 6in long
- It's a heavy caravan
- The fixed bed is only 6ft long
- If you use the sofas as single beds, they're rather short