The 2012 Sprite Quattro is an extraordinary caravan. It costs only £14,621; it weighs only 1571kg if you load it to its maximum, yet it’s almost eight metres long and sleeps six.
The layout is repeated several times in Swift’s ranges, ascending through the mid-range Challenger 625 and on, to Sterling Eccles Amethyst at £20,749. There’s a fixed bed on the nearside, alongside a shower-toilet room; two bunks make from an offside dining area amidships, and two more full-length singles or a double can be created in the lounge.
There’s a strong case to say this layout is ideal for those who caravan as a family: a fixed bed for the parents; a dining area for two children to colour in, draw in or play computer games in; and a lounge that’s large enough for everyone sit around together.
So far so great – but there’s one area that won’t suit everyone…
The shower and the toilet share a room. Amid an increasing number of family layouts that give you a separate shower, the Quattro’s keeping-clean department seems a little dated. You step into the shower tray to reach the toilet. In practical terms, having to wipe every bit of moisture out of the shower tray each time it’s used can be a nuisance. There’s only a curtain to confine the water to the shower tray area; again, this looks archaic compared with the folding plastic doors we see in most caravans. And the shower room is wall-boarded, rather than lined
with plastic walls.
But this shared shower-toilet room needs to be seen in context: The Quattro is primarily about being a big family caravan that’s exceptionally light in weight for its length. With six aboard, the chances are that everyone will make for the caravan park’s showers; there’s no water heater in any caravan that’s large enough to deliver hot water for six consecutive showers.
The washbasin is forward of the shower room; it’s a vanity arrangement alongside the bed, with two shelves and a cupboard nearby. You’ll notice the lack of mains socket near the mirror; most Quattro buyers will be asking their dealers to fit an extra socket here for a hairdryer, we’d guess. The alternative is to stretch the hairdryer cable across the bed and plug it into the socket designed for a television (of which more later).
The keynote to this layout’s popularity is its flexibility. There are beds for six – and the only bed that has to be constructed is the pull-up bunk on the offside. So if you are a family of five, no one needs to do more than roll out duvets and sleeping bags at night. If there are only four aboard, you have a choice: You can make single beds on the lounge settees (they’re 1.8m long, so perfect unless you’re more than six feet tall). That means you have a two-person dining area in permanent day mode. Or you can leave the lounge in day mode and use the dining area as the sleeping area. The bed length here is designed for tall people, too, at 1.83m.
Can the bedroom arrangements in the Quattro get any better? In a caravan that fits inescapably into the budget category, it’s a delightful surprise to find a touch of bedtime luxury. You can watch television in bed; there’s a bracket attached to the wall that divides the bedroom from the kitchen. Mains, 12 volt and aerial sockets are here.
The TV bracket is solidly constructed and its swivel mechanism runs smoothly. You can turn your television to face the lounge and dining area – but it would be too easy to walk into the corner of the television as you walk down the corridor. That’s a common problem with eye-level rotating TV brackets. We think most buyers of this caravan will take their TV off its bracket and pop it on the chest of drawers in the lounge; there are two power points here but no aerial point – most caravan retailers can have one fitted for you.
At 210kg the Quattro’s payload looks generous; only a few caravans, some Adrias among them, can match this. But the storage opportunities in this caravan are so enormous that there’s a real risk of overloading it just because the space is there.
The area under the bed is easy to reach into and load items, because there are no cross-members to get in the way. The bed rises smoothly on two gas struts. An exterior opening is there to make it easier to lift in folding tables and chairs. Only the presence of the spare wheel, secured by a central nut, interrupts this vast space.
There’s more space under the dining area; you lift the slatted seat bases to gain access here. And in the lounge those lovely long settees give you loads of space underneath. Surprisingly, given the Quattro’s budget status, there are full-length hinge-down doors to these lockers. This is one of many features that belie the entry-level status of the Sprite range.
Another is the positive catches on the top lockers. You push in a button to release them with a resounding “clunk.” There are 11 eye-level lockers around the living and bedroom areas; that’s more than sufficient for the needs of six people, we think.
A high mark again here. This time it’s because you have two dining areas – and the front one is larger than in most caravans. It might have been 10 points here but for one aspect of the side dining area. The depth between the table and the seating is too great for comfortable use of cutlery – and laptops, too. That’s because the height of the table is governed by the position of the bunk that folds against the wall here. It’s a problem we’ve encountered in other Swift Group caravans that have wall-mounted bunks. In the Quattro, though, we discovered an easy cure. The seat bases and backs are constructed in two sections, so that they can be folded up for daytime use, and unfolded to create a mattress at night. We unfolded the seat backs and put them on top of the bases. This raised the seat base by
7cm – and that transformed the eating position.
The table for the lounge stores in a slot alongside the oven. There’s no door on this area, where convention teaches us to expect one. But this is a lightweight caravan and it’s easy to forgive the absence of a door in the interests of keeping the caravan down to 1571kg all-up weight.
Two things ensured a high mark here. One is the length of the lounge. At 1.8m the sofas are long enough for three to sit on each side. Or the two lucky members of the family who get here first can lie full length to relax, though we think in this layout that the bed would be the favourite place for putting your feet up and chilling out.
Another delightful aspect of the lounge is the one-piece front window. Light floods in – and your view is uninterrupted. Panoramic windows are almost always associated with budget caravans; we think they’re such an asset that manufacturers ought to fit them in caravans higher up the price chain, too.
Nowhere more than in the kitchen is Quattro’s efficiency in catering for a family of six demonstrated. The working surface is 1.24cm long, interrupted only by the large circular sink. There are two cupboards, one each side of the fridge. The forward cupboard easily passes Caravan Buyer’s standard capacity test; tall cereal packets and two-litre fizzy drinks bottles will easily fit in here. The second cupboard’s capability is compromised a little by gas taps, the wheel arch and some sink piping – but there’s still enough space here to be useful. A pull-out wire basket is good for small items and there’s a clip alongside it to hold the removable drainer. The three compartments in the cutlery drawer are barely large enough for the usual cooking utensils plus cutlery for six. But you have two drawers in the lounge for that.
Four top lockers give you ample space. One contains racks for mugs and plates, one has a shelf and the other two are open spaces. Shelves here would have been useful but every gram counts when designers are creating a large twin-axle caravan that’s under 1600kg.
The Quattro’s excellent road characteristics were apparent from the start of its test tow. This model’s light weight means its power drain on our 2.5-litre Kia Sorento was minimal; it was obvious to us that the Quattro would be an easy tow, too, behind less powerful, lighter vehicles. Importantly, it felt exceptionally stable, especially on cornering, when twin-axle geometry shows its advantage.
All Sprites come with a spare wheel. It’s part of the Diamond Pack that also gives you an AL-KO Secure wheel lock receiver, niceties like scatter cushions and, crucially, a hitch-head stabiliser. The price of the caravan, though, is listed minus the Diamond Pack that adds £499 to the bill, although in practice all Sprites are equipped with it. Even when you add in the £499, the Quattro looks excellent value for your money.