Practical Caravan reviews the Sterling Eccles Sport 524, an award-winning budget family caravan that revisits the side-dinette end-washroom layout
Swift Group’s launch of the Sterling Eccles Sport and SE ranges with its ‘Concept-based’ interiors for the 2014 season got off to a good start when the Eccles Sport 442 took the overall gong at our Tourer of the Year awards.
Changes for the 2015 Sport have been kept to a minimum: new one-piece doors and ‘Scorpion’ alloy wheels, refreshed worktops and wall coverings and, as with all Swift Group vans, Duvalay Duvalite mattresses for fixed beds.
One layout has now rejoined the range after a year’s hiatus: the 524. The return of this side-dinette, end-washroom four-berth was so successfully executed that it went on to be named the best caravan for small families in our Tourer of the Year Awards 2015.
Pitching and setting up
The 524 rides on an Al-Ko chassis, which comes with an AKS 3004 stabiliser, but it’s disappointing to see that Swift has dropped last year’s standard-fit ATC stability control, a safety feature that won’t be missed until it’s needed.
The Sport is Sterling’s least-expensive van, so the 524 misses out on external wet lockers and under-bunk external access. It does get satellite-dish points and waste-water outlets that are easy to access. The electrical controls are above the entrance.
The plain brown seats contrast well with the fixtures and fittings, and should hide the odd mark. There’s plenty of room for four in the lounge area, either to relax or eat, and a small unit between it and the offside dinette houses the TV, which can be either viewed from the lounge or the dinette.
The contrasting wall covering next to the side-dinette almost gives that part of the caravan a separate identity.
All three overhead lockers are side hinged for easy access, but the height of the digital-control microwave may make removing hot food challenging for some.
The wardrobe is in the rear offside corner. Despite its good size, hanging space is restricted by shelves in the lower half. Nevertheless, it should cope with a family of four’s clothes.
The basin unit sits between the wardrobe and shower, and has a large mirror above and good-sized cupboard beneath.
Ventilation is dealt with by an opening opaque window and a pop-up rooflight. Lighting is good, and operated by low-mounted switches, making them accessible to youngsters.
You get two bunks in the side dinette suitable for children into their early teens. The lower bunk is 1.8m x 0.61m and the top bunk is 1.76 x 0.61m. The cushions are unfolded to form the mattresses, so they are not especially thick. The top bunk occupant gets a reading light, but the roof lockers encroach on space. There’s no light for the lower bunk. A full-length curtain gives privacy.
The nearside front under-seat area is clear for large items, and has both top and front access. The one on the offside houses the water/heating system and mains electrics. However, both side-dinette seat bases would easily hold sleeping bags and pillows.
The 524 is a welcome addition to the Eccles Sport range. It’s well thought out, with an excellent kitchen. Only minor details such as pop-up rooflights and the lack of external lockers reveal that this is Sterling’s cheapest range.
The Sport 524 is a cracking van, and has an MTPLM that puts it within the towing abilities of a good range of cars.
- Good looking van
- Practical interior
- Good range of storage options
- We like the addition of a loose rug
- Al-Ko ATC is now a cost option rather than part of the standard specification