If the new Escape has moved from the value range to Taste the Difference, then the Hi-Style adds the icing to the bigger, tastier gateau. In 674 guise, it’s now a very spacious, but also very large, motorhome that maximises lounging room while also adding a separate shower and a garage. It has all the spec you could wish for but we’d like to see more varied lighting, bigger water tanks and a second drop-down bed at the rear.
Base vehicle: Fiat Ducato Al-Ko Price from: £75,285 Berths: 6 Travel seats: 5 Length: 8.22m Gross weight: 4,500kg
Words and photos: Peter Vaughan
Swift’s Escape debuted in 2009 as an all-new entry-level coachbuilt, with a starting price of around £30k. Over a decade on, how things have changed. While the Edge took over a couple of years ago as the company’s most affordable motorhome, there’s a completely new Escape for 2022 and it’s definitely bigger and better – as well as being both more continental and more contemporary in style. It’s so different, we wonder if it deserved a new name.
Well, here, it does have an alternative moniker – Hi-Style – because this is Lowdhams’ exclusive version, which claims over £6,000 of extra kit. It’s also the only dealer special based on the 2022 Escape, so we were thrilled that the Nottingham dealer came up trumps with a motorhome for review when the factory couldn’t.
Apart from added toys, only the upholstery and fabric on the walls differ from Swift’s standard offering. This is the Hi-Style 674 – the largest of five models, measuring a surprisingly generous 8.22m in length – and boasting two lounges, a garage, and a 4,500kg gross weight. It’s the only one that requires a C1 category licence, even in manual gearbox form, but it does provide a 1.2-tonne payload, six berths and five travel seats. Once upon a time, this would have been Kon-Tiki territory...
Like many new motorhomes in 2022, you might start with a sharp intake of breath at the price, but soon you’ll be admiring the spec list instead. For a start, this is the first of the new Series 8 Ducatos we’ve tested with the smart new fully digital dashboard. The Hi-Style also benefits from Fiat’s 10in central touchscreen with radio and sat-nav, rather than a cheaper aftermarket unit, although regrettably the rear view screen is separate (replacing the centre mirror and not yet fitted on this example).
Below the central tablet, a third digital display looks after the air-con – upgraded on the Hi-Style to automatic climate control.
Hard scratchy plastics notwithstanding, this Fiat feels more like it’s had an update – doubly so when you spot the latest shifter for the auto’ gearbox and the new design of skid plate on the front bumper.
You get heated cab seats and a leather steering wheel here, as well as stop/start, Traction Plus and hill descent control, but we can’t tell you how the Hi-Style performs on the road because this example was awaiting attention for an ESC recall. What we can say is that, with the long ‘n’ low Al-Ko chassis, it should feel super-stable and the nine-speed automatic option is as desirable as ever. The new 2.2-litre 140bhp engine doesn’t sound very potent for such a large (and, when laden, potentially heavy) motorhome but, as the 160 motor has become almost mythical this season, perhaps that’s a moot point.
The styling certainly seems up to date, from the Lanzarote Grey cab to the LED tail lights with swiping indicators. The long body has a swoopy roofline, bold graphics and the whole sits on a set of 16in alloy wheels. The external features cover the full gamut of outside shower and barbecue points, a 100W solar panel and even an external 230V socket, while the wide habitation door offers a low entrance without the need for an extending step – it’s linked to the remote central locking, too.
The bodywork is timberless, using Swift’s SMART construction, which features GRP inner and outer skins on the roof and walls and comes with a 10-year warranty. Make sure you keep a close eye on that reversing camera, though, because the attractively styled rear panel is a one-piece moulding, with no separate bumper section.
At the back, all the new Hi-Style layouts benefit from a garage, which is a particular bonus with a floorplan like this that eschews any form of fixed bed. It’s not the biggest locker, though, at 640mm wide and 900mm high, so check that it meets your needs – and note that it has just two fixed tie-downs to secure your gear. On the plus side, it is heated, illuminated, comes with USBs, 12V and 230V sockets and, most importantly of all, is easily accessed from inside the motorhome via a sliding door. There’s also a second outside storage space beneath the offside rear settee, with its own bottom-hinged flap for access.
While we’d certainly caution anyone not used to driving a motorhome of this size to consider carefully that it’s not a bit bigger than ideal, the appeal of its extra space inside is sure to give the 674 a head start in wooing buyers at shows and in the showrooms. Remember that this is a motorhome with six berths and five travel seats and, if you’re a family with teenagers, it could be just what you’ve been looking for.
It’s quite unlike the previous 674 layout, having gained 81cm in overall length and replaced the previous half-dinette lounge with more on-trend side sofas. Indeed, the new front seating area feels huge. The offside settee is over six feet long, there’s an overcab sunroof to flood the area with daylight, and headroom in this motorhome is as much as 2.11m (even the 1.93m below the drop-down bed is quite impressive). Add a table that folds in half, so as not to be obstructive, and you’ve got a lounge that could perhaps seat nine people – certainly seven with space to spare. Because the table is electrically height-adjustable, you can set it at a comfortable level for the cab seats or lower it a tad to better suit the sofas (where the floor steps down by 130mm). The table also (manually) slides and twists, after releasing a handle that seemed rather stiff and awkward to use.
The tabletop is plenty big enough for four place settings but would struggle to cope with more. Under the table, you’ll spot a trapdoor (for water tank maintenance) but this panel is much thinner than the rest of the floor, giving rise to an unfortunate cold spot.
The rear lounge is smaller and feels almost private, with the fridge on one side and washroom opposite giving it a sense of seclusion from the front of the motorhome. Here, there’s no conventional table but instead a slide-out surface (540mm by 760mm) that is ideal for drinks or snacks, without impairing the comfort of a cosy space for four but no more.
The inclusion of a garage in the layout means that this isn’t a conventional U-shaped lounge, alternatively featuring just a pair of side settees, while the rear window is set at a distance with a large shelved area in front and corner wardrobes on either side. There are 12V and 230V sockets back here, while a plethora of USBs (I counted eight in this lounge alone) will keep the kids happy.
I don’t own enough gadgets to appreciate that feature, I did like this zone, although it could be enhanced with the addition of reading lights. Both lounges have a good array of ambient LEDs, but the only spotlamps are those fitted over each cab chair.
In the back of the motorhome, you can lift the seat bases to access quite deep lockers (the offside one also housing the Truma Combi boiler), but start rooting under the front settees and, rather than storage, you’ll discover the Aguti travel seats.
Impressively, not only do these reuse the lounge cushions, rather than needing separate sections of upholstery, but they also include Isofix and, best of all, this means that all five passengers face the front and have three-point seatbelts. That’s achieved by including two Agutis, one behind the other, on the offside.
With five travel seats, you need beds for all the family, too, and it’s no surprise in a brand-new low-profile motorhome to find an electric drop-down bed. After all, that sweeping roof allows it to glide up, out of the way during the day, even if it doesn’t hide in the ceiling like some.
You need to release a seatbelt-style clasp, turn a key and press a button for this bed to glide down to its recommended position about 1.40m off the floor. Here, the one-piece Duvalay mattress offers the widest bed in the motorhome, decent headroom and no wobbles, as it is supported on rails as well as straps. The bed narrows very slightly at the foot, so as not to restrict access through the habitation door, while access to the land of nod is via a ladder. Pity there are no reading lights again, though, and maybe there should be the option of a longer ladder (to use with a higher bed position), so that kids could be put to bed while retaining use of the lounge underneath.
What you can do, however, is either bring the electric bed down to just 990mm off the floor or turn the seating below into a second double bed. The lower bed is longer but a tad narrower and, of course, cannot offer the same level of comfort as it has numerous joins.
Probably better, simply because it’s made up of fewer cushions, is the third double bed, created in the rear lounge area – where you might have hoped for a second drop-down bed (as in some Benimars, Bürstners and the Bailey Adamo). Here, the seat bases slide out and have folding legs to support them but, as with the front lounge bed, you’ll need to turn the cushions over to make Fenland-style topography for your mattress.
The drop-down bed has the requisite retainer nets to stop youngsters skydiving in their sleep but there’s no privacy curtain. If it’s a bit of seclusion you’re after, the rear bed’s concertina screen suggests this will be the parental quarters.
Should the summer of ’22 emulate the one of 1976, you’ll be pleased to see that, at last, the Escape (or Hi-Style) now comes with a proper separate shower in its washroom. It’s not the roomiest of little rooms, but it has all the essentials, from worktop alongside a basin to a towel ring and even a pair of roof vents. The marble-effect walls in the shower add a bit of pizazz and there’s commendable headroom of 1.98m in there, along with an Ecocamel water-saving showerhead. You’ll need that as the water tank capacity is a below-par 90 litres, while the 68-litre grey tank suggests rather frequent trips to the emptying point.
As you might expect, while the washroom is a big step forward, it’s still the kitchen that will have you declaring ‘You’re the Best Thing’. Its L-shaped format might look slightly light on worktop but that criticism is soon batted away by the extension flap that overhangs the offside settee. A couple of three-pin sockets allow for appliances to sit there, too.
Then, there’s the thoroughly British kitchen spec, which includes an eye-level microwave as well as a mains hotplate alongside the trio of gas rings. There’s a chopping board cover for the sink and a removable draining board, too, while deep pan-friendly drawers are sited under the oven and below the fridge.
The cooler ticks all the latest boxes with a tall/slim design, super size, automatic energy selection and a door that opens from either direction. That just leaves us to nitpick over the tiny cutlery drawer hidden away in the cupboard under the sink and the lack of soft-closing mechanisms on any of the slide-out storage.
Motorhome supplied by
Davan Caravans and Motorhomes
Tel: 01934 510606
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