When you look at Swift’s vast number of caravans through its three ranges you could be forgiven for becoming bewildered by the amount of choice. But when you start to look more closely, you see there’s a pattern. The same layouts appear in several ranges, sometimes with different spec and always with different fabrics.
Our test Sterling Eccles SE Wayfarer is the same layout as the Swift Challenger SE 645 and Sterling Elite Explorer. All have very specific visual appeal and character. They’re all tourers for your shortlist if you’re looking for fixed-bed luxury, a large fridge with separate freezer and a kitchen with a good amount of lower storage, all on twin axles, which enhances tow stability.
The Wayfarer’s layout gives you a transverse island bed and a full-width rear shower room. Its equipment includes a 30-litre on-board water tank, under the offside settee, an extractor fan and chassis-maker AL-KO’s ATC electronic braking stability system. And the presence of the on-board water tank in the Wayfarer makes this caravan suitable for year-round use.
So what distinguishes the Wayfarer from the other models in Swift’s portfolio that are the same layout? It’s mainly down to styling. And that’s something the Sterling range has done outstandingly well for several years. Sterlings have been distinguished over the last few years by extremely pale woodwork, by curtains that were half voile, suspended from café rods, and always by a certain stamp of quality.
This year’s Sterling Eccles range earns its keep among Britain’s distinctive-looking caravans by reason of its cleverly designed fabric combination. There are four patterns in the upholstery – a plain chocolate colour, a slub-weave cream, a white slightly patterned fabric, and a bold floral design for the cushions and backrests. We often hear caravan owners say that browns are boring; This combination proves that the current fashion trend for browns and creams can be used to create something that truly isn’t boring.
If you’re looking for plenty of showering space, you’ve found it here. The rectangular shower measures 77cm by 58cm. Two cabinets and five shelves adequately accommodate pampering paraphernalia. And there’s a heated towel rail to keep the shower room warm.
There’s a towel loop and two hooks on the forward wall of the shower room. An additional towel rail or loop directly above the radiator would have been the ideal place to ensure towels dried swiftly; that’s something your retailer could probably have fitted for you. At 72cm deep this isn’t the largest shower room you’ll find in a caravan but there is enough space.
This is where the big Wayfarer really scores highly. Its bedroom is a delight, with a sliding door at the rear, forming a complete woodwork wall that somehow creates a very domestic room-like feel; over-bed lockers, and a large triangular dressing table add to the house-like image.
Two mains power sockets, a 12-volt socket and an aerial point are here to enable you to watch TV – and the dressing table top is amply large enough for your television plus plenty of other stuff. There’s a large triangular cabinet containing three shelves; its door is a mirror. The cabinet beneath is large, although a shelf in here would have doubled capacity.
Wardrobes are on each side of the bed. We have yet to be convinced of the wisdom in having one wardrobe twice the size of the other; in his-and-hers terms we can only envisage a conflict arising from shoe and garment stowage, especially as the narrower wardrobe (his?) has the cabinet below that’s best suited to shoes (stereotypically, don’t women take more shoes and clothes on holiday than men?).
The wider wardrobe has two shelves beneath it, plus a positive-catchsecured drop-down-front cabinet. Two large lockers are above the bed. In total, the Wayfarer’s bedroom offers more clothing accommodation than most by a long way. How you organise and divide the space could be interesting and amusing!
At 1.56m long the settees would make beds for children. Keeping in mind that most purchasers of caravans of this layout are couples intending to holiday without children, it’s worth saying that this lounge is more than adequate as a bedroom for grandchildren who may occasionally join you.
With bedroom storage established as excellent, and given the length of the Wayfarer, it’s no surprise that we found ourselves heaping general praise on the Wayfarer when we came to analyse the subject of storage elsewhere. The area under the bed is easily accessed from three sides; that’s the advantage of an island bed configuration.
Even though there are longitudinal and lateral metal supports across the top of the bed base, getting stuff in and out would not be difficult. Under-lounge storage space is mostly taken up with the water tank on the offside but that’s a compromise well worth tolerating because of the advantage you get in having water that can’t freeze when you’re caravanning in winter.
Top lockers are generously sized and the mini-dresser on the offside alongside the door gives you two more cabinets.
The table is stored in the larger wardrobe. But for meals for two the pull-out section of the central chest of drawers is fine.
Put your feet up and turn on your television… You can put the TV on the mini-dresser, where there’s a mains and 12-volt socket plus aerial and satellite points. The slightly squashy bolsters make comfortable supports when you nestle into the corners. And if you want to watch television in total relaxation, you can put it on the dressing table; power points are here, plus aerial point, but no satellite socket.
The kitchen’s lower storage capacity is superbly large, with two cabinets containing four metal pull-out shelves and space for tall items below them. There are two cutlery drawers, one 31cm wide and the other 42cm wide.
Lockers above, on each side of the microwave, are fitted for plates and mugs. The surface to the left of the sink is only about 36cm wide (it curves around the sink so varies in width, but can be extended by 36cm when you hinge up the extra surface. The sink is large and circular, made of the sort of substance that gives us the impression it would be durable and not prone to scratching.
So far so great; this kitchen is well up to the task of easy food-prep. But perhaps its greatest appeal is opposite – the huge fridge and separate freezer, with a smart black front. There are cabinets both above and below it. And the mini-dresser TV area gives you another two cabinets.
In total, this kitchen has as much storage capacity as many a small domestic kitchen. It’s definitely a caravan to consider if making meals is high on the holiday importance agenda.
With twin-axle ease of towing and enhanced stability capability, plus the bonus of AL-KO’s electronic braking stability system, the Wayfarer’s test tow was, in theory, going to be a relaxed task. In practice, it easily lived up to expectations behind our Kia Sorento, over Lincolnshire lanes and some straight stretches of A15 that enabled us to get up to 50mph. And when it came to positioning it back on its pitch, again we found ourselves appreciating the twin-axle geometry; twins are always slower, and more accurate, in their response to steering wheel movements. All in all, a superb test tow!