Kate Taylor
Digital Content Manager

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Practical Caravan reviews the Swift Group’s Sterling Eccles SE Topaz – the most radical-looking revamp of any 2014-season model

Overview

At the NEC caravan show in February 2013, Swift Group exhibited a very different ‘Colour Concept’ model, designed to appeal to those with contemporary tastes. The feedback received was evidently favourable, because many aspects of the design have appeared in the 2014 Sterling Eccles Sport and SE ranges, including this Sterling Eccles Topaz SE.

Prices include VAT at 20% (September 2013) but exclude a recommended dealer delivery charge of £545 (including VAT).

Pitching and setting up

Sterling Eccles SEs have an attractive, modern shape with the added appeal of a front sunroof. Caravans for the 2014 model year are distinguished by a graphite-coloured A-frame, front locker door, wheel arches and skirts. Punchy graphics in shades of grey with a red accent complete the contemporary exterior appearance.

The Topaz is a compact six metres in overall length and rides on an Al-Ko chassis with the ATC trailer control system, so it should have excellent road manners.

On site, the 2014 Topaz has useful standard equipment, such as an external gas point and 230V socket, and a luggage door. However, heavy-duty steadies are now reserved for twin-axle SE models only. The roof-mounted solar panel has been uprated from 20W to 40W, so living without mains power is a realistic option.

A Tracker Retrieve system and Stinger alarm are standard fit, while an Al-Ko Secure wheel lock is a dealer-fit option.

Lounge

The interior design is more radical than the exterior’s, yet still follows popular domestic trends. The furniture has a hessian-effect finish teamed with matt-white and chrome handles. The main cushion fabric is a textured weave in chocolate-brown and light-grey, which looks smart and practical. Highlights are provided by the red leaf design of the curtains and coordinated plain scatter cushions.

The picture is completed by chrome fittings throughout and a dark French-oak vinyl floor covering which looks good without the drop-in carpets provided. There’s even a trendy ‘long-haired’ rug to make the lounge super cosy.

The seating is spacious and comfortable, and the wide front shelf affords plenty of shoulder room for lounging in the front corners. The free-standing table, stored in the washroom, is a good size for four. Lots of daylight comes through the front sunroof and adjacent Heki rooflight.

The all-LED illumination is also good. There are four reading lights, while concealed over-locker lights are supplemented by a ceiling fitting.

Two 230V sockets and a TV point are conveniently positioned in the centre of the front shelf and there’s another TV point on the nearside dresser.

The Alde central heating system, which is cold chamber tested, has a plentiful supply of radiators and a wide seat-back ventilation gap all round. This is a caravan that will be comfortable in even the most severe winter conditions.

Kitchen

Looking every bit the contemporary kitchen, the caravanning cook’s domain in the Topaz has well thought-out details. There are two cutlery drawers, pull-out baskets and a fold-up worktop extension. A removable drainer maximises worktop flexibility. It’s good to see two 230V sockets provided and a microwave fitted low enough to see inside.

The equipment level in the Eccles SE Topaz is high, comprising Dometic’s 8-Series digital-control fridge, a cooker with an electric hotplate and an Omnivent two-way roof fan. To emphasise the high level of style, the pleated window blind is recessed behind a glass splash-back, plus there’s a smart new pillar tap finished in chrome and white.

A sideboard opposite provides more work surface and storage, but access to the lower cupboard is restricted by a narrow door.

Washroom

The fully lined and insulated ensuite washroom is in the rear offside corner and features an Alde heated towel rail, Ecocamel shower in a separate cubicle, an attractive sink set in a vanity unit and LED backlights in the washroom mirrors.

Beds

The Topaz’s unequal front single beds can accommodate one taller person, but they are shortened by the commendable heating airflow gap and only measure 1.86m x 0.72m (6' 1" x 2' 4") and 1.76m x 0.72m
(5' 9" x 2' 4").

However, the double bed base is easily assembled with pull-out slats retained in their tracks and, at 203cm x 150cm (6' 8" x 5' 9"), it’s big enough with the chest of drawers in place. The seat cushions have knee rolls but these can be placed at the head and foot to make the main sleeping surface flatter.

A nice touch is a small, floor level light near the door – ideal for nocturnal visits to the washroom.

Storage

Swift Group’s seat base design gets top marks. Tough, injection-moulded supports maximise available storage space and access is easy. The nearside seat box is empty.

Since we tested the 2013 Challenger Sport 442, with the same floor plan, the electric control centre has been moved to create more useful room under the offside seat and easier access to switches and circuit breakers.

There are seven overhead lockers, so most owners will not miss lockers across the front. We like the positive and easy action of Swift’s new combined handle-and-catch, but would like there to be more shelves were provided inside to make best use of the space.

Technical specs

Berth2
MiRO1171kg
Payload121kg
MTPLM1350kg
Interior length4.4m
Shipping length6.06m
Width2.25m
Height2.64m
Awning size877cm

Verdict

A super modern and stylish caravan, the Sterling Eccles SE Topaz is very competently designed, leaving little room for criticism. It is shorter than many competitors with the same layout which keeps its weight low, meaning the choice of tow cars wide.

But the single beds will not suit tall people, although the double is roomy and easy to make up. The unusually high level of equipment (Al-Ko ATC trailer control, Tracker Retrieve, Alde heating and a 40W solar panel)offers good value for money.

Conclusion

Pros

  • It has a high level of equipment
  • It has an ultra-modern design
  • The washroom is well laid-out
  • The kitchen has a flip-up worktop extension and an eye-level microwave
  • It's great value for money
  • It has a roomy double bed
  • The Alde heating is good for all-year touring

Cons

  • The single beds are quite short
  • The washroom rooflight should be over the basin, not the toilet
  • It needs more shelves in the overhead lockers and in the washroom
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