For 2013, Swift’s Challenger SE range has adopted the Challenger Sport bodyshell, which has meant big weight savings without losing any strength and rigidity. Indeed, these vans appear to be as solid as ever, and it’s not as if any of the striking looks of the Swift brand have been lost either, for they are great looking caravans. The 625 is the heaviest in the range, with an MTPLM of 1750kg, so it’ll need something like a large MPV or 4X4 to tow it.
Sporting an unusual layout that has a side dinette and a fixed bed (almost a combination of two popular layouts), could the Challenger 625 be a spacious and comfortable van for families, or ultimate luxury for couples? We’ll have a closer look.
Pitching and setting up
The ubiquitous Al-Ko running gear in twin-axle guise provides the platform, and comes with a buttonless handbrake, the ATC anti-snaking system, AKS 3004 hitch stabiliser, alloy wheels and a spare wheel. The front locker lid is held up by a central gas strut, giving easy access. Heavy duty steadies are fitted, and all are readily accessible; the rear ones have extended guide tubes. The nearside has an external gas point and a mains socket, together with a couple of under bunk/bed hatches, whilst on the offside there’s a pair of water inlets (one for the on-board water tank), the battery/mains locker, and a pair of easily reached waste water outlets located behind the wheels. The electrical control panel is within easy reach above the entrance door.
With long front seats, and the side dinette, there’s room for a family to lounge in comfort; the side dinette gives a couple of youngsters somewhere to play games, whilst the rest of the family relaxes up front. Family TV viewing could be more of an issue, though, as one TV point is on the front chest, and the second is a swivelling bracket mounted high up at the foot of the fixed bed, a heck of a way from the lounge area. Dining certainly shouldn’t provide any problems, though, as there’s about enough room for six to sit at the front using the pull-out occasional table together with the main table. However, there’s also that side dinette if you want to spread out more.
Despite having a long kitchen unit, work surface is very much at a premium in the Challenger SE 625. The sink with removable drainer is at the front, with the dual-fuel cooker right next to it. Towards the rear, there’s a small surface (0.34m x 0.57m), which would be of much more use if it was between the sink and the cooker. There’s a table on the offside, but we can’t help thinking that Swift has missed a trick here. Equipment-wise, everything’s there: a Dometic 110-litre fridge/freezer, a digitally controlled microwave at a sensible 1.45m above the floor, the dual-fuel cooker with separate oven and grill, and an Omnivent to get rid of unwanted smells. Plenty of storage, good lighting and a couple of mains sockets complete kitchen proceedings.
This is where things perhaps let the side down a bit. However, that’s not unusual in any caravan with a combined toilet/shower tucked into a rear corner. Whilst the cubicle is fully lined, it’s more likely that this caravan will be used on full-facility sites, especially with a family on board. If the shower is used, a bi-fold door separates it from the toilet behind. There are also a couple of coat hooks on the rear wall above the toilet, and Swift’s useful high-mounted towel rail. Lighting in the washroom isn’t brilliant either, with only an opaque rooflight and a small dome light. The sink is to the rear of the wardrobe, next to the bed, and above a small cupboard. Overall, the washroom is adequate at best, but not brilliant.
The fixed bed in the rear nearside corner of the caravan measures 1.88m x 1.3m, tapering to 1.02m at its foot, and should provide a comfortable night’s rest. Each occupant gets a reading light and a small shelf for the morning cuppa. Up front, the lounge provides a couple of single beds (1.76m x 0.71m nearside; 1.86m x 0.71m offside) or converts to a double (2.02m x 1.33m). Again, whether used as singles or a double, each occupant gets reading lights, and there’s the centre chest on which to put things. The side dinette converts into a pair of bunks (1.73m x 0.59m upper; 1.8m x 0.7m lower), with a sturdy ladder giving access to the upper one. There’s no light for the lower bunk occupant however.
There are 14 overhead lockers in this van, such is the abundance of storage space. Moving to floor level, only the front offside bunk has anything in it (water tank and electrics); all the others, including the fixed bed, are completely empty and have front access. Add in the lower cupboards in the kitchen together with the cutlery drawers (yes, there are two) and pull-out racking, and you’ll see that it could be quite easy to exceed the MTPLM if not careful. The main table is stored at the rear end of the kitchen, but is easy to get at. The wardrobe is perhaps a bit on the small side, though, especially if there were six occupants.
Does this layout work as a family van? In a word, yes. Only the washroom facilities are questionable. We think the kitchen arrangement could be tweaked a bit to offer more work surface, but any caravan accommodating up to six people is going to have compromises somewhere. Although no doubt designed for families, in the Challenger SE 625 Swift may have accidentally built a caravan that’s almost perfect for touring couples. There’s a spacious lounge up front, with plenty of room for stretching out and relaxing. Further back, midships, there’s a dining area opposite the kitchen with comfortable seating for two, and at the rear, a fixed bed and washroom facilities. In conclusion, this is an excellent caravan which may appeal to more people than its designers originally intended.