Peter Baber
Reviews Editor

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As Swift expands its Eccles range to include several eight-foot wide models, Peter Baber finds out whether the extra width works in the buyer's favour.

Overview

Eight-foot-wide caravans have been unveiled so regularly recently that one is apt to become a bit blasé about them. But there is something a bit special about the Eccles range - which celebrated its centenary last year - being graced with its own versions of them.

The 850 we test here is one of four eight-foot-wide models that Swift is bringing out this year as an Eccles X sub-range.

Pitching and setting up

On the road with an eight-foot-wide caravan, you are going to be just as concerned about stability as you are about the Eccles' timber-free construction. So it's good to know that the Eccles comes with an AKS stabiliser. The standard Eccles does not, however, include Al-Ko's ATC trailer control system, and Swift hasn't decided to make it standard even on this wider model. That would likely make a big difference to towing comfort.

Lounge

When the Eccles range was given its complete redesign last year, one thing many people remarked on was its daring - perhaps too daring - dark interior. Well, that dark woodgrain effect on the lockers is still there, as is the black splashback with the diamond pattern in the kitchen, along with the black-with-gold-accent scatter cushions.

But in the wider confines of the X 850, such a scheme doesn't seem so oppressive. This could be because light streams in through the sunroof and two rooflights over the lounge and the kitchen.

But the other reason for this sense of room is undoubtedly the layout, as this front lounge adopts a layout that includes an L-shaped settee.

There's no window on the front nearside corner, because Swift has left a space here to fit a TV. Rather nicely, it has even positioned the sockets for such a set within the small cupboard that forms part of the shelf running along the bottom of this panel. So you don't need to have plugs showing. If you are the kind of person who likes to reach your connections easily, there is another clearly visible here, along with two USBs.

On the other side of the entrance door there is a small sideboard, a coat hook, and a handy shelf where you can leave fobs and keys and the like.

Kitchen

There is a pull-up extension to what is already quite a large work surface in the side kitchen. But you might need to be judicious about when you use it, because in the up position it only really leaves room for one person to sit on the part of the settee that would face the TV directly.

A very large, round stainless-steel sink is built into the work surface, but there is still space to store a kettle at least, and there are two mains sockets close by. A dual-fuel four-burner hob is on the right.

Underneath, you will find a large cupboard with a pull-out shelf inside, while up above there are two overhead lockers either side of a microwave. The one on the left has a mug rack and there's a crockery rack in the one on the right.

The opposite side of the aisle is home to Dometic's new two-way-opening fridge/freezer with removable freezer - although we found removing it a bit tricky given the position the fridge is in. There is a small locker above the fridge, and an even smaller one below it. A slim storage cupboard for the table sits between the fridge and the washroom door and, as a result, the two shelves above it are restrictively narrow.

Washroom

Unusually for a central washroom such as this, there's no central washbasin. The salad-bowl-style basin is over on the offside near the circular loo, with a double cupboard above it and an opaque window. The central pillar instead has a large mirror lit by one LED light with a cupboard underneath it. You could use this for hair drying, only there isn't any mains socket nearby.

The circular shower on the nearside doesn't have its own vent, but it does have an LED light and an Ecocamel showerhead. Outside it you will find plenty of places to leave a dressing gown, and a towel near the Alde radiator.

Beds

The inline island bed in the rear bedroom butts up right against the central pillar, so wouldn't be great for anyone on the particularly tall side. But there are touches in here that you don't always find in rear bedrooms like this, such as the cloth panelling around the windows, and the drawer in the little cupboards underneath the two wardrobes either side of the bed. There's good headroom too, and a TV bracket along with the required sockets on the central pillar.

The other double is made up from a platform that comes out of the L-shaped settee at the front. Such settees rarely make the most comfortable solution for couples, because one partner has to put up with an odd assortment of cushions. But the bed in here isn't as complex as some arrangements we have seen, and the extra width of the caravan means that it's lovely and long, too. And with this arrangement an early riser still gets somewhere to sit and have a cuppa.

Storage

The platform for the bed in the L-shaped settee makes reaching the area under here tricky, although there is some space for storage if you can make it. There is loads of space under the rear bed, which you can access from either side of the pillar. The overhead lockers here are a good combination of shelved and unshelved.

Technical specs

Berth4
MiRO1634kg
Payload165kg
MTPLM1799kg
Interior length6.36m
Shipping length7.98m
Width2.45m
Awning size1052cm

Verdict

The extra width in this model should blow away any concerns about today's Eccles range being a little dark. The 850 is a stylish van to go touring in; but it does have a handful of niggles, and at this width we would prefer to see ATC fitted as standard.

       

Conclusion

Pros

  • Light and airy while still modern and stylish

Cons

  • Kitchen extension butts into the lounge area

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