There’s little doubt that the 2016 Conqueror makes a whole lot more sense than the 2015 equivalent. Its distinction from the cheaper Challenger is now much clearer-cut thanks to the Elegance-alike styling and adoption of SMART HT construction, and yet the fundamental basics of the layout and equipment remain as impressive as ever. Ironically, the question we now have to consider is: why go for the dearer Elegance when the new Conqueror is so impressive?
Looks and feels more upmarket, and has a stronger identity
An excellent layout – great for families and couples
Its price and weight
There’s no exterior access to the offside fixed single bed storage locker
When we tested the 2015 Swift Conqueror 645, a couple of months ago, we could find very little in the way of criticism to aim at the caravan itself. It looked great, it was well-equipped and the layout was pretty much spot on for couples.
However, we simply couldn’t avoid the elephant lurking in the room: the Challenger SE 645 had an awful lot of the Conqueror’s appeal, but for £2000 less. As such, while our verdict reflected the Conqueror’s many strengths, it also begged the inevitable question: what, exactly, did the Conqueror offer that the much cheaper Challenger SE didn’t?
Well, it would appear that Swift Group has been asking itself that very same question for some time. And to Swift’s eternal credit, it seems the answer it came up with was: ‘not a lot’. To its further credit, the manufacturer has come up with a pretty definitive solution to the problem: a seismic shift within the entire Swift caravans line-up.
To wit, Challenger SE and Sport are no more, with the range once again consolidated into one, simple Challenger line-up. This in turn has allowed Swift to take the Conqueror further upmarket, giving it the dearer Elegance’s beefier styling and, more importantly, its SMART HT timberless construction, complete with composite floor.
Come bedtime, this caravan’s layout really comes into its own, since it serves couples and families equally well
Pitching & Setting-up
Spotting the external differences between the 2015 Conqueror and its Challenger SE sibling was always a stern test of eyesight and attention to detail. In fact, rear panel (and associated lights) aside, the two were virtually indistinguishable from one another to the casual observer.
Not any more. Challenger has its own new look for 2016, but Conqueror now bears an extremely strong resemblance to the range-topping Elegance, complete with the distinctive, solid-looking front panel and wide-access gas locker. Factor in the new, curvier rear, one-piece door, flush-fitting awning rails and heavily revised graphics (some of which cleverly disguise the adjacent windows), and there’s no danger of your new caravan ever being mistaken for a Challenger.
It feels different, too. The old Conqueror hardly felt flimsy, but its employment of SMART HT construction has really added a welcome dollop of solidity to everything from the flex of the panels to the thud of the doors.
In practical terms, nothing much has changed – and that’s a good thing. The toilet hatch, battery/hook-up locker and main water inlet are still on the offside wall, away from the awning. Over on the nearside, however, you’ll find an external gas barbecue point and a weatherised 230V power socket, together with exterior access to front and rear bedding lockers. We were pleased to note that all four corner steadies – those at the rear in particular – were easy to reach.
There’s no question at all that the Swift Conqueror 565’s lounge is mighty impressive for what is, after all, an average-sized single-axle caravan. The settees are noticeably longer than last year and could probably accommodate four people each at a pinch. Furthermore, Swift reckons you can leave the forward bolster cushions in place to serve as a sort of padded headboard for those all-important post-prandial snoozes.
Factor in reprofiled back boards (for, Swift says, a better cushion angle) and a panoramic rooflight that’s even wider than last year’s (hardly postage stamp-sized) affair, and you’re left with a genuinely spacious and welcoming lounge area.
Elsewhere, two-tone glossy woodwork predominates throughout, while neat design touches such as the speakers and additional lights sunk into the rooflight surround remain, as does the rather sudden-looking pod on top of the central chest of drawers, containing a pair of power points.
An additional opening rooflight further back further floods the interior with daylight, while four adjustable reading lights and hidden ambient strips combine to keep everything well lit after dark.
And unlike some Conquerors last year, this latest 565 does have a dedicated TV mounting point. It’s close to the main entrance door and there’s a handy little unit beneath to mount a digi-box and stow DVDs.
The 565’s central galley looks a little on the small side at first glance, with worktop space in particularly appearing to be at something of a premium. However, only the 530 makes do without some sort of extension flap, and the worktops themselves are made from a new ‘Fenix’ laminate that promises greater scratch resistance.
Fitted equipment is, as you’d expect, on the lavish side, with last year’s Thetford Aspire 2 cooker retained, complete with dual-fuel hob and separate oven and grill areas. There’s a high-level microwave oven, too (which does rather dominate roof locker storage space) and the new tall slimline fridge opposite is a good size (149 litres in all) and allows for additional storage above and below.
Two horizontally-mounted power sockets are provided well out of the way of liquid overspills, and last year’s backlit window surround adds a welcome dash of style and illumination.
The full-width end washrooms in Swift caravans have been pretty impressive for some time, now, and this latest 565’s is no exception. There’s ample floor space for getting dressed and undressed and plenty of room around the swivel toilet. The only window in here is frosted, too, which improves privacy, but not at the expense of available light.
The rear wall is filled by the double-fronted wardrobe and a central washbasin/vanity unit, complete with large backlit mirror and a good-sized basin, while off to the right is the large separate shower. Access is via a large bi-fold door and the area within is fully lined and kitted out with a dedicated light, large shower head and a handy shelf.
Unusually, too, two shower tray drains are fitted, but longitudinally – surely transverse drains would better serve a caravan that’s not quite level side-to-side on its pitch?
This is one key area where this caravan’s layout really comes into its own, since it serves couples and families equally well.
Treat it as a caravan for couples, and the benefits of the twin fixed single beds beyond the kitchen area are pretty obvious, allowing each occupant plenty of wriggle room and the ability to visit the washroom at night without disturbing the other person. Each gets a large window, a padded headboard, a reading light and small shelf, too, while Swift has thoughtfully provided a second fixed TV station in here, complete with mounting bracket and power/aerial sockets.
But this is a caravan suited to small families, too. Bunks are all well and good, but children can outgrow them at a frankly terrifying rate. If you’re planning to buy for long-term ownership, then a caravan with twin single adult beds is a better proposition, as they’ll accommodate your ‘little’ ones well into their teen years and beyond.
Better still, there’s a pull-across privacy screen between the beds and kitchen area, so adults can stay up long after the children have gone to bed. And making up the good-sized front beds is child’s play – depending on how tall you are, you can choose from either twin singles or one big double.
The provision of a panoramic rooflight up front rather precludes the wraparound roof lockers fitted to more traditional caravans, but the twin lockers provided are a good size, and completely uncluttered (bar the stereo DIN slot on the offside).
Moving back into the kitchen, high-level storage space is rather dominated by the fitted microwave oven, but the cutlery drawer beneath the sink is massive and the doors lower down open to reveal a pull-out wire basket and additional adjacent storage space.
The bedding lockers, meanwhile, are a bit of a mixed bunch, with the clutter-free nearside example accessible from within and without, but the one opposite largely filled with electrical and plumbing equipment.
Further back, both single bed lockers are largely empty, and the nearside one affords exterior access, too. The washroom, meanwhile, sports a double-fronted wardrobe that might contain the header tank for the Alde ‘wet’ central heading, but still offers ample hanging space and an assortment of shelves. There’s a large shelf above the vanity unit, too, and a small cupboard lower down.