If you’re dismayed at how upmarket Sprite caravans are getting, don’t worry – Swift has the answer. Practical Caravan reviews the 2016 Sprite Freedom 6TD
Anyone who has been into caravanning long enough will likely have a huge, fuzzy warm regard for the Sprite brand. It is, after all, the caravan with which many of us started off, either by trading up from a tent or trailer tent, or simply by opting for the cheapest, lightest and least complicated model we could find on the market.
In truth, many newcomers to caravanning want nothing to do with the unknown quantities on offer on secondhand caravan forecourts, preferring the peace of mind that comes with a brand new caravan backed up by a factory warranty.
The problem is, Sprite has come a long way since the heady 1960s, when you could almost buy one with your loose pocket change and tow it with a bicycle. The latest models have alloy wheels, for heaven’s sake. Fully-fitted kitchens. And five-star washrooms. Some are even hoofing great twin-axles. All very nice, but a far cry from the old cheap ‘n’ cheerful days.
So has Swift forgotten about where its grass-roots superstar originated? It would appear not, because when we visited the Swift factory shortly before the official trade launch, we found an unfamiliar new Sprite parked alongside a full-on standard Sprite. It’s called the Freedom. And it marks a welcome return to the concept of a cheap, lightweight caravan. But is it any good? And to see other Sprite caravans for sale, click here.
Pitching and setting up
That might have worked in the 1980s and 1990s, but the 21st century caravanner is not so easily fooled. So how does the new Sprite Freedom fare?
Well, at first glance, it looks like more of the same. The exterior looks pretty much the same as a standard Sprite, albeit with a single front window, no A-frame fairing steps and no hitch stabiliser. But since the latest Sprite is at least as well made as last year’s Challenger (the current model’s moved on to the Elegance’s SMART HT construction, of course), that’s a very good thing. And we always loved the way last year’s Sprite looked.
Elsewhere, the bright and breezy graphics are minimal, the wheels are steel and covered with plastic trims and there’s no window in the door. The other windows, too, have a paler tint to them than that used on the standard Sprite. Better still, all the services are ranged along the offside wall, with only the fridge vents to break up the nearside wall, and all four corner steady winding bolts are easily reached.
By night, lighting is provided by a couple of reading lights and a two-stage roof dome that, to be honest, looks a bit lost in that vast expanse of ceiling.
However, would you just look at the size of those settees? They might not be of equal length (the offside one is slightly shorter than the one opposite), but they are absolutely enormous. If a big family of six can’t socialise and dine in there without feeling like they’re on top of one another, then there’s something seriously wrong, somewhere.
Better still, like the Sprite Major 6 TD upon which it is based, the Freedom 6TD has another lounge out back, this one clearly designed for the juniors of the family. There’s a quasi-pullman dinette in the corner that can accommodate up to three, and there’s a TV point alongside against the rear wall. Pull the concertina partition across, and you’re left with a self-contained playroom. It fits in perfectly with this caravan’s youthful, family-friendly feel.
What’s really impressive about this new caravan, however, is that it doesn’t feel like a cheapie inside. The woodwork is of a good standard, the soft furnishings are every bit as comfortable to sit on as they are attractive to behold, and the windows are fitted with proper cassette blinds and flyscreens. Squint a bit, and this could almost be a Sprite...if that makes sense!
And that’s not to damn the Sprite with faint praise, either. Granted, the cooker fitted is basically a three-burner hob (the fourth burner is simply blanked off) with a grill underneath, but that’s at least one more hob than most tenters are used to, and as for the idea of a grill...
There’s a proper fridge with an in-built freezer, too, together with generous worktop provision and, in the absence of any new-fangled microwaves or stack fridge-freezers, more cupboards and drawers than you get in most caravans, including a whopper where the oven would normally be, and two more at eye-level
And yet, the Sprite Major 6 TD origins come to the fore once again to provide a centre washroom that wouldn’t have disgraced a mid-range foot soldier not so long ago, including a door that folds flat against the adjacent wall and doesn’t impinge on through-passage outside.
The first thing that will likely slacken your jaw is the presence of a wholly separate shower cubicle. Granted, it’s unlined, there’s a degree of wheelarch intrusion and there’s a clingy dividing curtain where, on pricier models, you’d find a bi-fold door, but this sort of provision at this price level is, frankly unprecedented.
The rest of the room is pretty good, too, with the same Thetford C260 swivel loo you get in a Conqueror, a couple of shelves and a washbasin/vanity, complete with mirror. There’s even an opening roof vent.
There’s even less effort required out back if you have a family of four; simply lay down the kids’ duvets and blankets (or, more likely, their sleeping bags), plus a couple of pillows, and they can crawl into their stacked fixed bunks straightaway. There is one small example of cost-cutting in here that we could perhaps have done without – only the upper bunk warrants a window, leaving the lower bunk area looking rather dark and gloomy – but we doubt this will be a deal-breaker in practice.
As for the fifth and sixth berths, they emerge simply by folding out the tried and tested cantilever bunk system above the rear dinette, dropping in a few tailor-made bed bases – and that’s it. Better still, the partition is there to give each bedroom a degree of privacy.
The nearside side single bed is 1.80m x 0.67m; the nearside side bunk is 1.76m x 0.59m. The side fixed lower bunk is 1.83m x 0.57m and the side fixed upper bunk is 1.83m x 0.57m.
Out back, the lower fixed bunk has a useful space beneath, once again accessible via an internal drop-down door, and there are more handy and good-sized voids beneath both of the dinette seats.
The wardrobe forward of the washroom is a little on the narrow side, but there’s plenty of hanging space in there, together with a low-mounted shelf for shoes. Factor in the large and mostly uncluttered roof lockers, and the only improvement we can think of in this respect is perhaps having a couple more roof lockers over the front windows.
In all honesty, we were fully expecting the new 2016 Sprite Freedom to be nothing more than a depressingly gutted standard Sprite. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. Yes, it shares its dearer sibling’s styling and build quality (a good thing) but it has a character all of its own and stands a good chance of attracting newcomers into caravanning.
- Terrific family layout
- Good build quality
- Impressive washroom
- Huge kitchen and lounge
- Quality feel throughout
- Lower bunk needs a window
- The blanked-off fourth burner looks odd