Alastair ClementsSee other caravan reviews written by Alastair Clements
It has a fab, family-friendly layout, is loaded with kit and is keenly priced – what's not to love about the Marquis dealer special Swift Lifestyle 6 FB?
The science behind the dealer special edition is simple. Take a basic model of caravan, add a choice selection of extras from the options list, give it a unique personality with bespoke graphics and fabrics, and voilà! You have a van that offers mid-market appeal for a temptingly affordable price-tag.
The eight-strong Marquis Lifestyle range follows this approach faithfully. Despite the Swift branding, it’s actually based on the Sprite and at the top of the range sits a pair of twin-axle, fixed-bed models.
We spent two weeks in a six-berth Swift Lifestyle 6 FB – with a fixed nearside bed to the rear, a corner washroom, an offside dinette and a parallel front lounge – to find out whether the extra kit of this reworked Sprite Quattro FB turns it into a caravan fit for a touring family.
The £1825 price difference between the Sprite and its Lifestyle clone initially seems hard to justify. But take a calculator to the Sprite options list and it soon makes sound financial sense, as well being more aesthetically pleasing.
Standard kit includes items such as the Scorpion alloy wheels, an AKS 3004 hitch stabiliser, Secure wheel lock receivers, a door flyscreen, a microwave, scatter cushions and a radio/CD/MP3 player with iPod connectivity (all part of the Sprite’s £595 Diamond Pack).
There's also a panoramic front sunroof (usually £365), an alarm (£260), and a 100W solar panel (you have to pay £275 for an 80W version on the Sprite).
And that’s before you take into account the various other items that aren’t on the standard model’s options list, such as the uprated upholstery, the Omnivent, the external 230V mains socket and the gas barbecue point.
The Swift Lifestyle 6 FB sits on a twin-axle galvanised-steel Al-Ko chassis. It uses Swift’s ‘SMART Plus’ construction which comprises ‘PURe’ timberless polyurethane body framing, styrofoam insulation and GRP outer skins for the floor and roof.
Our 2016 model featured aluminium sidewalls, but changes for 2017 Sprite caravans – which will be shared by dealer specials such as the Lifestyle – were announced shortly after our test.
The most fundamental is the decision to shift to more dent-resistant GRP for the sidewalls, while all models also gain Swift’s Command system, with a smart control panel that allows you to monitor various caravan systems. If you download a free app, you can also control functions such as lighting and heating remotely via your smartphone or tablet.
Even though this dealer special is based on the Swift Group’s lowliest model range, it’s still a fine-looking tourer that hides its size well thanks to elegant design.
Up front, there’s an upmarket triple window topped by a panoramic front sunroof. The stylish graphics in red and grey will stand the test of time and more closely align the Lifestyle with the mid-market Challenger than the greens of the Sprite.
To the rear, you’ll find a high-level brake light and fixing bars for the optional Thule Elite G2 two-bicycle rack.
Pitching and setting up
The jockey-wheel winder can clash with the handbrake lever when it’s up, too. But our complaints end there.
Heavy-duty corner steadies are standard on twin-axle Lifestyles, and access to the winders on the Swift Lifestyle 6 FB is among the best we’ve come across.
Practical details include a step-on hitch cover to make it easier to clean the front of the van. There's also a huge gas locker with twin locks, large enough for a couple of gas bottles plus a Wastemaster and Aquaroll.
When you take them out and plumb them in, they’ll be on the offside along with all the rest of the key services – only the vents for the fridge/freezer intrude into your awning area (and can help speed up drying wet walking gear!), and there’s room for a very big awning along the 1066cm rail.
Also on the nearside you’ll find a pair of shallow but good-sized locker hatches, with the hook-up point located inside the battery locker on the offside. The one-piece glazed door is held open by a magnetic Hartel retainer, and you’ll find both the intuitive control panel and the blown-air heating controls just inside above the door.
There are attractive oatmeal curtains, although we found some of the bespoke – and excellent quality – fabrics a little busy.
The long sofas are fantastic for lounging on, as long as you’re not planning to watch television because the sole TV point in the lounge is on the front shelf, as part of a moulded pod with 230V and 12V sockets, plus a tray for your remote control. Although there are a pair of them here, we’d like to have seen one or two more 230V sockets in the van.
The top of the centre chest pulls out to form a coffee table. There's also a freestanding table in a dedicated open cabinet at the far end of the kitchen, and its foam-filled construction makes it easy to manhandle despite its substantial appearance.
Three front, two side and the panoramic window, plus a rooflight, means there’s plenty of natural light. At night when those roller blinds are down, there are four corner spotlights along with the LED overhead unit, which is flanked by a pair of rather tinny speakers for the standard radio/CD player with iPod connectivity.
Storage comprises a trio of overhead cabinets – finished in white to mark out the kitchen area – a large cupboard, useful open shelves, a cutlery drawer, and in the under-sink cupboard there’s a wire rack that looks as if it should pull out, but is fixed. You’ll also find storage for the drainer and chopping board here. There’s a pan cupboard immediately beneath the separate oven and grill.
Above it, there’s a three-burner hob but no electric hotplate. There is a standard microwave – mounted rather high – and an Omnivent for extracting cooking smells.
The kitchen window is fairly small, but there is additional task lighting under the overhead cupboards and there’s simply masses of worktop, so you can leave the good-sized dinette opposite for the children to play at rather than calling on it for additional preparation space.
Minor quibbles include there being just one socket here, and the 113-litre fridge with removable freezer compartment is rather compact. Plus, at night, the ladder for the bunks made up from the dinette area slightly intrudes into the kitchen.
Having the sink separate means that kids can brush their teeth while the shower room is in use, and there’s an illuminated mirror, a couple of shelves alongside, plus a towel ring and a decent bathroom cabinet beneath.
The wetroom has easy-clean white gloss walls and these – combined with a rooflight overhead – make the small space feel bright and cheery.
A clingy shower curtain keeps your loo-roll and towel shelf dry, and is also needed to prevent water escaping though the door – the only part of the bathroom that isn’t lined.
There’s a water-saving EcoCamel Orbit showerhead, a moulded shelf for bottles and a moulded shower tray – although with only one plughole you need the caravan to be dead level.
Hot water (and blown-air heating) comes courtesy of a Truma combi boiler with digital programmable controller. It’s efficient and fast-heating, although we found the water pump a little noisy.
The memory-foam Duvalay Duvalite mattress (a feature of all fixed-bed Swifts) is superbly comfortable, the cutout at the foot end is minimal and it’s a very good size, at 6ft 4in long by 4ft 4in wide. If you’re not particularly mobile, clambering in and out from the bottom corner isn’t easy, and with just the one window it can get a little dark during the day, but there are otherwise few complaints.
There’s a long shelf along the side for books, and another big shelf plus a TV mount and sockets at the foot of the bed. Each side gets a small shelf and reading light, there’s a padded headboard and the whole area can be closed off from the rest of the caravan using a concertina blind and screen – although that also cuts off other users from the washroom.
Sleeping options for a family of four – or grandparents with occasional visiting grandkids – are excellent. The dinette can be turned into a set of berths using the fold-out top bunk and lowering the table to create the base of the bottom bunk. You can then leave these made up as nominal ‘fixed’ berths and still enjoy a spacious lounge.
Alternatively, the two lounge sofas can form generous (2ft 4in wide, and 5ft 11in long on the nearside, 6ft 3in on the offside) single berths that are ideal for teens. Visiting couples can turn this area into a huge 6ft 8in by 5ft 11in double, and there are reading lights in all four corners.
The bunks get a reading light for only the top berth, but a thick curtain adds privacy.
However, few of them are shelved, and they are too shallow to be used to store adult-sized clothing. For that you have a fair-sized wardrobe between the sink and dinette with a hanging rail, a large shelf and space beneath for shoes. Frustratingly, the latch on our test van’s wardrobe tended to spring open on tour.
The huge void under the fixed bed helps you make the most of the 180kg payload, and it’s easy to access either via the external hatch or a fabric handle that lifts the bed on a gas strut. You’ll find the spare wheel under here, too.
There are large bed boxes under the sofas, with sprung seat bases and drop-down access flaps on either side, plus there’s further space for bedding under the dinette seats.
The Swift Lifestyle 6 FB’s layout – with the option of four ‘fixed’ beds and a wonderful big lounge area for up to six – works brilliantly if you don’t like the hassle of making and breaking beds. Even with four kids it won’t feel cramped.
Meanwhile, the standard spec list lifts it firmly into mid-market territory, despite the affordable price-tag. Throw in a very towable weight for a twin-axle, and it makes a very compelling package.
- You get a great standard kit list
- It's useful to have a split washroom
- The layout is supremely family friendly
- The lounge is large
- It's heavy to manoeuvre, so you might well need a motor mover
- There's just one socket in the kitchen