Layout: Twin fixed singles rear washroom
Dimensions: 7.25x2.25x2.60m (LxWxH)
Swift Challenger Sport SR 564
Twin beds have almost become a caravan fashion statement, like leggings or Ugg boots. But will this layout become a timeless classic, like Barbour jackets? Will we still be seeing twin-bed caravans in 10 years’ time or will they fade into near-obscurity, as did the idea of triple bunks in a stack?
Judging by the high numbers of them being sold, and the wide range of them on offer (every major manufacturer has at least one in their ranges and some have several), twin beds are here to stay. There’s a school of thought that the majority of buyers of twin-bed caravans are those of senior years. Front lounge for eating and entertaining; single beds doubling as feet-up daytime retreats. But don’t only file this layout under “Couples”, for there is much more than initially meets the eye about these caravans.
For families, think of those twin beds as a teen zone, the lounge as a double bed for parents, and you are getting somewhere near to the adaptable nature of this layout. And the Swift Challenger Sport does it better than many. That’s principally because of one single feature: the demarcation between bedroom and kitchen/dining/ lounging region is bolder, bigger and better than more open-plan twin-bed layouts.
The wall to the rear of the wardrobe on the nearside, and the wall to the rear of the kitchen are both prominent features; the kitchen end curves towards the centre, creating a doorway-width space. A pleated partition tracks across this narrow opening when privacy is required. The effect is that the bedroom feels like a separate area of the caravan and that element of the 564 makes it suitable for families with, say, two teenage girls, who still enjoy holidays with mum and dad but are happiest when they have their own space.
The shower room is pretty standard stuff: shower (rectangular) on the nearside, washbasin in the centre (with cabinet beneath) and loo on the offside. This loo area is only 60cm deep, compared to 93cm at the shower room’s deepest point, in the centre. Some will say that 60cm makes the loo area too small. But there’s a good reason for lack of space in the little room at this point, it enables the offside bed to be longer than the nearside one…
The offside bed is 1.92m and 71cm wide; the nearside one is 1.83m long and 75cm wide. The mattresses are sprung and feel firm. Both beds have small triangular shelves at the pillow ends for phones and watches. There’s an endearingly chunky television mounting bracket on the rear wall of the wardrobe. It has solid industrial appeal that gives a solid “thunk” sound when you lock it into position.
A 12-volt socket, aerial point and mains socket are in the corner nearby. And that’s important, in the light of the 564’s possibilities as a caravan for a family with two teenage girls, because this socket is directly beside a good-sized mirror, on the nearside wall at the foot of the bed.
So, the TV zone is also the hair appliance zone – and the extending TV bracket enables you to turn your TV to face the lounge if you should wish to. But in this position it would be all too easy to collide with it; the advantage of the narrowness of the corridor as a clear division between the two rooms is also a disadvantage if you occupy most of it with your TV!
Bedroom storage is well planned, with three top lockers on the offside and two above the nearside bed; importantly, all five have shelves, so their capacity (and their ability to contain clothes tidily) is huge. Below-bed storage is predictably excellent. The bed bases rise easily on gas-filled struts but there are no front access hatches.
There is exterior access to the nearside bed storage area. The under-settee storage areas have hinge-down front doors. The offside area is almost entirely occupied by the Truma Combi heater unit, inevitable plumbing, and the battery charger.
There’s a small area alongside the charger but the main lounge lower storage area is on the nearside, although it has to be said that the heating duct running alongside the forward edge of this locker means that the depth of gap to stuff duvets and pillows in and out is only 18cm deep. The two lounge top lockers are more capacious than the size of their doors would suggest. Both cupboards reach to the front line of the caravan, alongside the sunroof.
The 564’s wardrobe, opposite the kitchen, gives you a hanging width of 57cm and full garment depth. Beneath it is a cabinet that’s an advantage gained by the arrival of the Truma Combi heating system replacing the bulky convector which imposed itself upon the layout before Combi arrived to give us not only increased storage space but, in our experience, a more efficient, rapid-warm-up heating system, too.
We began this review discussing layout fashions. There’s another fashion going on in caravans this year. It’s for storing dining tables horizontally under beds and sometimes settees.
The 564 has a cradle for its table in the base of the nearside bed. We have yet to find a table stored horizontally truly easy to lift in and out; but few are really difficult and the 564’s is certainly in that category. But none is as smooth and effortless to remove and replace as a table stored vertically in its own slot or cabinet.
The pull-out extension to the centre-front two-drawer cabinet creates a table large enough for two to dine. Lounging At 1.6m, the settees make good seating for two on each side. Wedge-shaped armrests create good support when two want to relax, feet-up style. And there’s something interesting about the construction of these armrests; they’re made in two sections, which can be separated; they are held together by a Velcro strip and a zip, though quite why you’d want to separate the two halves has so far escaped us.
The lounge look is fawns and browns, in a subdued sort of way. Curtains are plain brown with ties of a lighter colour that match the fabric that covers the seat bases. The interest is in the seat backs, the top halves of the armrests and two scatter cushions, which have a bold flower and leaf pattern. We think it’s smart but if it’s not to your taste, an alternative fabric is available, at an extra cost of £285.
The 564’s kitchen gives you 1.11m of surface length when you open out the hinged extension; but that interrupts seating possibilities in this area, so it’s best to confine its use to meal prep times. The sink is large and circular, made of a scratchresistant granite-look substance.
Cooking equipment includes a microwave and a hotplate. Between the fridge and the oven a slim cabinet gives you two wire basket pull-out shelves and a small cutlery drawer. It’s only 14cm wide, with two recesses for equipment – not enough space for both cooking utensils and table cutlery. But in this model that’s what one of the two front-central drawers would be used for; cutlery trays of suitable size can be bought from large supermarkets.
The pull-out shelves will be insufficient for the storage needs of most buyers – but turn around and you find the answer to those needs. The cabinet below the wardrobe is 60cm wide. The top shelf space is generous, at 64cm deep; the lower space is compromised by the wheel arch but is still good, at 37cm deep. So, overall, with a little help from a drawer at the front and a lot of help from a cabinet, the 564’s kitchen storage is practical.
Sports are equipped with chassis-maker AL-KO’s ATC electronic braking stability control system. The conditions which prevailed during the whole of the 564’s week on our test fleet, with 20mph winds and gusts considerably higher than 20mph, frustrated any attempt at relaxed towing.
If you could avoid it, you’d not be towing in these conditions. But we all know that sometimes caravanners can’t delay journey days. That’s when the presence of ATC is at its most valuable.
When sense makes you keep the speed down but sense equally tells you that your extra care could do with some technology to help keep you safe, you’re glad of that little box of gadgetry sitting within the A-frame, ready to apply the brakes of one wheel or the other to keep you going straight. Braking amounts are usually so infinitesimal that the driver’s not aware of it, as was the case during our test tow.
As more and more caravans get the ATC system as standard equipment, it’s fast becoming an industry standard for mid, as well as top range caravans. We’d like to suggest that some day all caravans will have ATC.