The attractive 2014 Swift Elegance 570 caravan boasts a water-resistant Smart HT bodyshell, but Practical Caravan's tester wants more kit and less weight!
During 2014, Swift celebrated five decades of manufacturing caravans and began the year in style with the launch of one of its boldest projects yet: the Elegance. The new flagship range consists of four models, one on twin axles, and is more expensive than the Swift Conqueror.
Practical Caravan's expert reviewers ran the single-axle Swift Elegance 570 for a long-term test and had three great months with it. The four-berth caravan features a fixed double bed and an end washroom.
The luxurious Elegance range is one of the first caravans to benefit from a major step forward in how caravans are made. Along with all 2014 Swift tourers, the Elegance line-up is constructed using Swift Group's Smart HT system, which replaced timber in the caravan walls with polyurethane battens.
This closed-cell material is impervious to water, accepts screw fixings and resists compression when bearing loads. The material had been used by some German brands and Swift conducted its own tests on the new method.
Swift took this development a step further for the Elegance models, by unveiling Smart HT, which stands for ‘high-tech’. The bodyshell is built with absolutely no timber. Instead, the sidewalls, rear and roof panels, and the floor have tough GRP skins inside and out, with styrene insulation in between.
The panels are slotted into a system of aluminium extrusions that appear to have taken their cue from Bailey’s Alu-Tech method, but with significant differences.
There’s a sole rail, where the floor is sandwiched between two jaws, and the sidewall slides into place. This is bonded using a sealant adhesive rather than bolts, while dedicated cold bridges reduce the build-up of condensation inside during winter.
In the corners where the walls meet the front and rear panels, the joints are made stronger and more rigid using injection-moulding technology. Polyurethane blocks in the floors and walls act as fixing points for the furniture.
Does the Elegance represent value for money? Is it really, as Swift argues, the caravan of the future? Our testers take a look.
Pitching and setting up
The front windows are flush with the moulded panel and the awning rail does not stand proud of the sidewall. More significantly, thanks to the rounded rear panel, Swift can claim an 18% reduction in drag on tow and a fuel economy that is up to 10% better than before.
It’s hard to measure such factors accurately, but towing it with a SsangYong Rexton returned 22.1mpg. That’s not the highest result; although the shape may be aerodynamic, 1688kg is very heavy for a single-axle van with an overall length of almost 7.5m.
The new construction method has enabled Swift to reduce the depth of the gas locker and increase interior space within the living quarters. The locker gets a new opening handle, the rooflight is larger than in earlier models and a small spirit level inside the front window will help you get the van on an even keel.
The chunky new grab-handles are sturdy, and the LED road lights get flush-fit lenses. The alloy wheels are attractive,
and the one-piece entry door has a solid, chunky locking mechanism and a magnetic stay when opened. The heavy-duty corner steadies are simple to use.
It’s brimming with external features, such as 230V, gas and shower points, while the battery box also hosts a connector for
a portable satellite dish.
On the offside are two water inlets: one for an external pump and Aquaroll or other storage barrel, and the second for filling the 30-litre onboard tank. This could be coupled directly to a tap on a full-service pitch, although our testers found the onboard tank and Aquaroll together held more than enough water for two hot showers. The drain taps are just to the rear of the axle and you get the usual stretch of flexible hose to link the outlets to a waste-water container.
For safer towing, it has Al-Ko’s AKS stabiliser and ATC trailer stability system as standard. Security equipment includes a passive infrared alarm system, which is operated by the key fob, and a Tracker retrieval system. We were surprised to see the Al-Ko Secure wheel lock isn’t thrown in as standard at this price point; the wheel lock costs an extra £255.
The roof is topped with a 40W solar panel; this seems stingy when compared with the 80W collector provided by Coachman and other rivals with their premium luxury tourers.
The sunroof is larger than any the manufacturer has fitted before. At night, the lighting options are all LED, among them reading spotlights that you can dim, and pillar lamp bars that diffuse light to create an appealing and relaxing ambience.
Instead of bolsters, you get fixed cushions against the front bulkhead; there’s no need to stash them away when you make up the bed. Behind the backrests are new moulded backboards that improve air circulation.
The overhead lockers get the same high-gloss finish as those in the Swift Conqueror range, while drawers are soft-shut.
A USB charger at the front joins a pair of mains sockets, plus 12V and aerial points.
There’s also a jack for plugging in an MP3 player and routing it through the built-in music system, but we had problems getting it to work. Otherwise, the sound system is good, and better than you’ll find in most vans. The Blaupunkt speakers are fitted in moulded panels that flank the sunroof, and there’s another pair of speakers in the washroom.
Alongside the attractive drinks cabinet are controls for the Alde wet central heating system, which you’d expect to find in a premium tourer. As well as having a GRP skin, the 570 boasts an GRP interior wallboard, which is covered by printed wallpaper.
The lockers are finished in cream veneers to differentiate the kitchen from the lounge. The Omnivent fan can extract cooking odours or blow in fresh air, and the acrylic splashback along the offside wall is easy to clean and an attractive addition that is backlit to create a lovely ambience.
More interestingly, the worktops are made of a stone-like acrylic material called Hi-Macs, which looks and feels like Corian. Scuffs and stains
are easily removed from the surfaces. A circular, stainless steel sink is recessed into this, and comes with Swift’s usual clip-on plastic drainer and chopping board.
Space is a little bit tight, even with the flip-up work-surface extension. Across the galley, though, you could use the dresser top as a kitchen worktop at a pinch, although it’s at a much lower leve than the rest.
Chrome fixtures and fittings include a toilet-roll holder, towel rings and clothes hooks. We were pleased to see that Swift provides a sensible, frosted window on the offside to let in daylight.
Perhaps the star feature of the washroom is the domestic-style heated towel rail style radiator. It is part of a heating system that effectively distributes warm air throughout the caravan, using radiators under the front seats.
The washbasin is fitted neatly into a handsome vanity unit with a rounded leading edge. The cabinet below has plenty of storage space, and a tall mirror behind it is neatly integrated, with strip lights on either side. The large, fully lined shower cubicle boasts an Ecocamel showerhead on a riser bar.
The large double bed has Duvalay’s comfortable Duvalite mattress, which uses memory-fibre technology. Over the three months that we used the Elegance 570, it gave us some of the most comfortable nights’ sleep we have ever experienced in a caravan.
There’s a large, padded headboard and an upholstered board against the nearside wall to keep occupants from being in contact with cool GRP in chilly weather. A pair of small shelves for reading glasses or a mug of tea are a welcome addition here, too. There is a pair of LED reading lights but, oddly, they’re not at either side of the bed.
When guests stay over, the front lounge can be made up into a roomy double bed.
As we expected, the main storage space is beneath the fixed double bed. It can be accessed from the outside via a locker door, or easily from the inside thanks to gas struts that support the bed when it’s raised.
Another neat storage feature is the sliding wardrobe door. Unlike a hinged door, this won’t block access past the double bed to the washroom when someone else is deciding what to wear.
If the launch of Smart construction in 2013 was a step toward building the caravan of the future, then the Swift Elegance 570 can be considered a giant leap.
However, we are not ready to go that far. Although it sits above the existing Swift Conqueror range on price and competes with the likes of the luxurious Buccaneer from the Explorer Group, it doesn’t boast loads of extra kit.
While it gets Alde heating and a solar panel, it’s short on other baubles, such as a flat-screen TV. Although the receiver for the Al-Ko Secure wheel lock is standard equipment, you have to pay extra for the lock itself. Buyers will decide whether they’re happy with the level of luxury at this price.
Similarly, the 570 is very heavy. You’ll need a serious 4x4 to tow it, and while that’s not too big a concern in the luxury sector, if Smart HT really is the future of caravan construction, and will be introduced to lower ranges in years to come as we suspect, then this is a hurdle that will have to be overcome.
We believe that if you’re in the target market for the Swift Elegance 570, none of these considerations will stop you from falling in love with what is arguably one of the prettiest tourers on the market.
- It's one of the best-looking tourers on the market
- We're impressed by the SMART HT construction system
- Timber-free construction means more space inside
- Storage is generous throughout
- The full-width end washroom is excellent
- It's heavy and long for a single-axle van
- We'd like more upmarket kit for this price
- There's no flat-screen TV
- The Al-Ko Secure wheel lock costs extra