Peter BaberSee other caravan reviews written by Peter Baber
The fashionable island-bed, central-transverse-washroom layout has made it into one of the longest-standing British caravan ranges – was it worth the wait?
If there is one layout that could be said to be a top trend for the past couple of years, it’s the rear in-line island bed with a central transverse washroom and, in particular, one with a central pillar and a large mirror.
People have taken to the idea of washroom space that can be accessed easily from the living area and the bedroom.
And they like that the central pillar can hold a TV bracket on the other side.
Challenger buyers have long enjoyed the comfort of fixed and island beds, but to get this layout they would have had to move up to the Conqueror range until this year.
For 2017, the Swift Challenger 560 provides just such a layout. So, is it a case of answered prayers?
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Pitching and setting up
The inwards-facing corner steadies are all easy to reach. Our test model was fitted with the Lux pack (a £595 option), which includes a barbecue point and external mains socket.
You also get external access to the nearside locker but, as we’ll see, this isn’t quite the plus point it first appears.
And our test van had the optional Alde heating fitted, costing another £995.
The angled armrests at the front provide a headrest if you want a doze, or you could loll and watch the TV on the small shelved unit by the door, which has 12V, TV and mains sockets above it, or lie back and listen to music coming out of the speakers above you from the standard stereo.
The trouble is, you’ll have to watch your feet if you do: because of the length of the van, and what it has to include, the sofas aren’t long.
They could seat four, but invite guests and someone might have to perch elsewhere.
For dining, you have to go to the nearside wardrobe flanking the island bed to retrieve the table – and it’s heavy, so that’s not too convenient.
There is a pull-out table option from the chest. Swift has created a clever system to ensure that the flap comes out without a jolt. But the plastic catch you use to keep the upper section level seems flimsy.
Behind the chest are two mains sockets, but one thing this van lacks is USB points – you have to go up a range to get those as standard.
The lounge is well lit, with three large windows, a sunroof and a rooflight. At night you have four directional spotlights.
Lit by a central striplight, with three LED lights higher up near the microwave, the kitchen in this Swift caravan includes a round sink and a four-burner dual-fuel hob.
There’s also a mains socket positioned sensibly near where there is space for a kettle.
So far, so good, but it’s more of a challenge finding space for larger items.
There is a cutlery and a utensil drawer, but only a small pan locker below the Thetford Aspire 2 oven and grill, and that’s partly taken up by the wheelarch.
There’s pull-out wire shelving to the left of the oven and you get two overhead lockers, one of which includes a crockery and mug rack.
In addition, you get a 110-litre, three-way Dometic fridge with a removable freezer.
Outside the cubicle, things get better. A central rooflight will bear away steam from the large mirror behind the oval basin that’s nicely illuminated from above. There’s a small cupboard underneath it, too.
The offside toilet sits in front of an opaque window. On the nearside next to the shower cubicle is a towel ring, a small shelf and a heated towel rail – courtesy of the Alde system.
Swift has made the pillar TV-ready by including mains, TV and 12V sockets here, while the headboard is LED-lit, as is the area around the TV.
Above the headboard are spotlights, and a rooflight will let in the morning sun.
Because of the size of the settees, the easily assembled front double bed is quite narrow (2.02m x 1.56m).
As singles, they are just 5ft 1in long, so probably only suitable for children.
Also in the bedroom you have the two wardrobes, although one houses the freestanding dining table.
Over the lounge there is a locker on each side, but there is a cavity at the front of the caravan that could be used if it wasn’t so tricky to reach.
All locker doors come with posi-locks and stay up when you open them.
The nearside seat base is also clear, but the external access is partly obstructed by the bed frame on the inside, which could make loading and retrieving bulky objects awkward.
The offside under-seat area is partly taken up by the boiler and consumer unit, but in the front corner you get a removable panel to reach the Alde heater.
The Swift Challenger 560 brings one of today’s most popular layouts into the longstanding Challenger range for the first time.
It’s a four-berth, but this floorplan might be more suitable for couples who occasionally go away with grandchildren, because there isn’t a huge amount of storage outside the rear bedroom.
Living space is at a premium, but this is a common complaint with this layout on a single-axle caravan.
Adding the Lux Pack and Alde heating makes this Swift caravan slightly pricey, too.
- The island bed is large and comfortable
- It has a well-lit interior
- There's a good spec in the kitchen
- The external access to the under-seat lockers is rather awkward
- There's no ATC
- Storage provision for large items in the kitchen is poor