Sterling specification includes Alde heating – but, until the 2012 model-year, Swift didn’t take full advantage of this system in the washroom; unlike most manufacturers’ Alde-heated caravans, there were no heated towel rails. Now, though, these have been introduced – a great, practical plus-point, we think.
There’s more to mark out the Opal from its 2011 equivalent, the Solitaire. If you’ve been tempted by the Solitaire in the past you might remember a wardrobe that hung over the end of one of the twin beds and a second, slim wardrobe, on the washroom wall. Neither was large enough and the one over the bed looked ugly. In the Opal they are replaced by one proper wardrobe.
The Opal’s main defining feature may be its twin beds – but don’t just think of this area as a bedroom. Load the beds with cushions by day and you have a great feet-up-and-relax area.
For several years Sterling cabinetry has been a delightful, unique pale shade. Now, Sterling woodwork is a shade darker – and, much as we heaped praise on the lighter wood, we like this new shade even more. Sterling’s appeal for 2012 isn’t all about appearance – although, with enormous blue and grey graphics, they’re exceptionally eye-catching. There’s something less obvious: Sterlings now have the AL-KO ATC (Active Trailer Control) stability system. With the powerful AL-KO hitch head stabilisers, that we all now take for granted, some say the ATC system is unnecessary – and they may well be right. But we’d say anything that enhances safety is welcome. And insurance specialists offer you a discount on caravans that are equipped with it – so that’s another plus-point.
The Opal’s kitchen lacks lower storage space – there’s only one cupboard with two small wire pull-out baskets and one slim drawer.
But if lower kitchen storage is small, top storage is quite the opposite. On both sides of the microwave are deep cabinets fitted for tableware. Style is evident everywhere you look in the Opal; these cabinet doors are cream, creating a distinction between the kitchen and the living area. And the microwave housing is cool grey plastic. Plastic? Yes – but this has a quality look. There’s more plastic in the Opal, though, that has a less quality look. It’s an irregular shaped box under the front side windows with a cut-out to accommodate the edge of the blind casing – and the screws that hold it on have no caps to disguise them. We’d put a cushion in each corner to hide them. There’s so much to like about the Opal that a few screw heads and a bit of plastic casing shouldn’t detract from the total package.
The power point count is usefully high, at six. Two are in the kitchen, two are in the console in front of the central drawer unit, one is near to the bedroom TV bracket – and the sixth is on the base of the offside bed. At first glance you’d think this is too far from the mirror in the washroom to be used for a hairdryer. Which it is. But look closer and you’ll find a large mirror on the nearside wall beside the window – within power lead reach of the socket. The presence of this mirror has been made possible by the new wardrobe arrangement – giving the Opal another advantage over its 2011 predecessor.
Although single-bed caravans are often thought of as chiefly for couple-appeal models, in four-berth mode, they can make a good choice if the offsprings are of adult proportions – too tall for bunks that make from side dining areas. In this scenario, the young people take the single beds and parents can make up a double bed in the lounge; there’s a pleated partition to pull across just forward of the single bed area. There’s more to the Opal than may first meet your eyes!