Peter BaberSee other caravan reviews written by Peter Baber
For flexible family fun without breaking the bank, try our Tourer of the Year 2018! We hit the road to put the Swift Sprite Major 6 through its paces
The 2018 season will go down as the time when Swift Group brought all its various brands under the same umbrella.
From now on, all vehicles rolling off the Cottingham production line would have the Swift name prominently displayed – mostly above the front windows in the case of caravans.
With the second phase of its management buyout in progress, bigging up the Swift name made sense, and it also apparently means that Swift is now the largest single-brand leisure vehicle manufacturer in Europe.
The brand consolidation has led to some Swift-owned names being retired (Sterling caravans, for example), but it is testimony to the heritage and success of Sprite that it has survived, albeit as Swift Sprite.
And this entry-level brand is in rude health right now, thanks to a comprehensive revamp for 2018, with a new look inside and out, and a compelling new spec level.
Then, in the middle of the season, Swift decided to launch two new Sprite Super models.
These finally brought something that other manufacturers have been offering near the entry-level end of the market for a couple of years, now: eight-foot wide vans.
This all proves that Sprite is firing on all cylinders, providing a route into the pastime for various types of buyer, especially those shopping on a tighter budget.
To see how well our Tourer of the Year works in the metal, we took it for a little jaunt across the South Downs in East Sussex.
You remember how when Sprite was still its own company, you could always recognise one of its vans by the slightly more curved profile, particularly in comparison to the angular vans of the 1980s and 1990s?
Well, in all the time Sprite has been under the auspices of Swift Group, it has never really lost that shape.
The curve is still there, and now, in Sprite’s latest revamp, it has come to the fore, providing a sophisticated edge to a front panel that now has three separate windows – not something you would expect in an entry-level caravan.
The gas bottle locker has also been remoulded for a sleeker look that fits in with this curved profile.
Our test model had been fitted with the £365 optional sunroof, as well as the £495 Diamond Pack that gets you alloy wheels, among other things, so it does perhaps look a fair bit smarter than the standard Sprite Major 6 might look.
But even without those additions, the decals down the side help set off the curve of the front profile.
The rear panel is already fitted out for a bike rack and has exclusive new design light clusters.
And to see other Swift caravans for sale, click here.
Pitching and setting up
That said, we didn’t really experience much difficulty towing the Sprite behind our Ford Galaxy (an 80% match).
It did protest a little in strong crosswinds coming down a steep dual carriageway, but then so would most caravans of a similar size in such conditions.
We also had no problems taking it up a steep, single-track road to the top of the Downs.
Those rear clusters on the back include a high-level brake light as an added safety measure.
All the changes are not just about looks, however. Practicality is important, too. We found the corner steadies on the Major 6 easy to locate and deploy.
You get a door handle that is easy to operate – on both sides – and there is even external access to the area under the lower bunk at the back.
So taking the outdoor furniture out quickly to catch the last of the afternoon sun should be no problem.
All the service points are on the offside, out of the way of any awning you might want to set up.
It’s just a pity, then, that while there is an awning light on the nearside, you won’t find any corresponding service light on the offside to stop you fumbling around in the dark.
Gone is any trace of beige or brown. Instead you get brilliant white overhead locker doors, two-tone grey padded upholstery and blue curtains with striking hexagonal patterns.
There is a branded doormat as you enter, as well as the Swift Command control panel and a small wall pouch.
All the windows have cassette blinds and flyscreens. The spotlights are enclosed within the locker bases and are non-directional, but each pair of lights can be switched off independently, and there are three LED lights within the housing for the sunroof, as well as a pair of speakers that play music from the stereo fitted in one of the lockers as part of the Diamond Pack.
All in all, as long as you go for said pack, this interior really does not shout “entry-level” at you.
Perhaps the only downside is that the sockets for the TV are all up at the front, so you would have to put the set on the central chest. There’s also an extension flap, which is handy if you are only having a quick snack.
Although the side dinette on the offside is right next to the kitchen, the dinette itself and the clip-on table that goes with it are probably only large enough for four small children or two adults.
If there are six of you, with more than two adults or with children who are growing up fast, you will probably have to use both tables for dining because the main foldaway table for the front lounge isn’t big enough to accommodate all six at once.
You have to go all the way back to the wardrobe at the rear of the caravan to retrieve it, too.
The side dinette does at least have a further two spotlights to lighten up your kids’ evening. It doesn’t, however, have a heating vent under the table to keep their toes warm on a wintry night.
Instead, as far as heating vents go in the living area, you get one by the entrance door, one in the front lounge and two coming out of the offside settee in the front lounge to warm the kitchen.
This shelf could hold a portable radio or your mobile phones, but is probably too small for a kettle.
But then there is plenty of space for a kettle and more in the workspace underneath. This is mostly well lit (except possibly under the curved section itself) by three LED lights that go right over the three-burner hob and the round sink.
The large window also provides a good spread of light during the daytime, and the light isn’t obscured because the hob cover is transparent.
Above this are two overhead lockers, one with a crockery rack. Immediately underneath the hob is a Thetford oven with a separate grill, and there’s a small locker beneath that.
A cutlery drawer sits between the oven and three-way fridge, with a large cupboard beneath it, some of which is taken up by the wheel arch. This cupboard also contains a wire rack for sponges and small household items.
Why? Because the shower cubicle is huge. You could probably fit two kids in there at a time. It comes with its own light, operated via a pull switch, although there’s no roof vent.
There is a roof light, as well as three more LED lights, in the washroom proper. You’ll also find a medium-sized Belfast-style sink with a large shelved cupboard underneath it, and a circular toilet in front of an opaque window.
You also get a toothbrush mug holder over the basin, a robe hook by the door and a shelf above the window.
There is a large mirror on the forward bulkhead, but there is also an even larger one immediately outside the washroom, on the adjacent wardrobe door.
So two people can be doing their hair at the same time – another nod to the needs of families.
That’s a small sacrifice, however, when the bed is as easy to make up as the one here, with split backrests that allow you to turn everything over quickly onto the pull-out slats.
If you want an even bigger bed, wraparound seating is a dealer-fit option with this caravan: adding that would also get rid of the obstacle of the front chest at night.
That front make-up double bed is 2.02 x 1.7m, or use the sofas as 1.8 x 0.83m single beds.
The fixed bunks at the back measure 1.83 x 0.57m, so are long enough for teenagers, but they are a touch on the narrow side. Our guinea pig teenager, who is average-to-large size for a 14-year-old, found curling up into the top bunk a bit of a squeeze.
That said, each bunk gets its own light and a little cubbyhole where they can rest glasses or mobile phones (although there are no USB sockets here).
Each bunk gets its own window, which they can admire the morning view through (but not fall out of) without disturbing you.
The final pair of beds is made up from the side dinette for the bottom bunk and the pull-out bunk on top – they are 1.76 x 0.56m each.
The bottom bunk involves a slightly unusual arrangement of the cushions, but is wide and comfortable. The top bunk is also fine, although on our test model the catches for the side barriers were fixed too close together.
It also has a maximum weight capacity of 60kg, so you certainly couldn’t put a burly teenager up here. And it’s a shame that putting it up deprives the bottom bunk of any night-time reading light.
Not only do you get external access to the totally clear area under the rear bunk, but you also get access flaps to both the areas under the front settees.
That’s even though you can access them anyway by lifting up the slats which support themselves on gas struts.
That said, the offside area is mostly taken up with the Swift Command system and the heater. The nearside one is clear.
Family considerations have also clearly gone into wardrobe provision, because although the one immediately next to the adults’ bed is only half-height, it is adequate for two and you still get a huge full-height wardrobe at the rear.
It might have the table stored in one side of it, but on the other, it has a useful set of shelves for socks and underwear.
Both areas under the side dinette seats are clear, although you have to roll back the slats to reach them.
Only the three overhead lockers over the side dinette are shelved. But the six over the front lounge are still a good size and the two front ones make the most use of the space by flowing into the top corner of the van.
In terms of equipment, the Diamond Pack lifts the spec on this van well above basic, but it is well worth having because it seems very good value.
You get stabilisers, alloy wheels, a wheel lock receiver, a spare wheel, a microwave, a stereo, a door flyscreen and scatter cushions, all for just south of £500.
You would be hard pressed to buy all those things individually on your own and get much more change out of that, once you also take into account the extra hassle.
But even the standard spec on here isn’t to be sniffed at. Because of the size of the van, you get a mighty Truma 6 Combi boiler and a Status TV aerial.
True, the hob is only a three-burner single-fuel variety, with no chance (at least from Swift) of an upgrade to dual-fuel. But all windows, even at this price level, come with cassette blinds.
If you are a family with young children, perhaps the only thing you might like to add, along with ATC, is a bike rack – and the rear is already fitted out for a cost-optional one.
Given the size of the heater, we would like to have seen one or two more heating vents. A TV bracket linked to sockets in a different position might also have been good. But these are minor quibbles.
Sprite caravans were already good value before, but this latest revamp seems to have put them into a higher league.
This Major 6 provides you with a very reasonably priced and well-designed base for a long line of family holidays.
In fact, we think that the Major 6’s main rival isn’t from another manufacturer, but from within the Swift stable.
With Swift Sprites looking this impressive, what next for the Swift Challenger? We do wonder.
- It has a great family washroom
- Storage is impressive
- It doesn't feel like an entry-level caravan
- You might well want to add the Diamond Pack