If you pack reasonably light, the Select 184 makes a practical four-berth with relatively few real rivals. Its washroom and, especially, the kitchen are both highlights. The new overcab sunroof makes for a much more spacious feeling in the forward lounge, too, but we’d like a taller wardrobe and larger water tanks. Lux and Drivers Packs are essential, making this a £55k campervan.
Price from: £50,650 Base vehicle: Fiat Ducato Berths: 4 Travel seats: 4 Length: 6.36m Width: 2.26m Height: 2.72m Gross weight: 3,500kg
Whilst a pop-top roof endows most VW campers with four-berth capability, few larger van conversions have as much sleeping capacity. One answer, of course, is the VW-aping elevating roof (as now seen on Auto-Trail’s Adventure as well as various imports). But do you really want all your heat disappearing through canvas in midwinter?
There are other options featuring bunk beds or drop-down beds, but a favourite UK layout – in both vans and coachbuilts – is one that combines front and rear lounges with central washroom and galley.
That’s all very doable in a seven-metre-plus motorhome but squeezing it all into a slimmer, shorter panel van is no mean feat, especially if you want four proper berths, too.
Yet the Swift Group has been doing exactly this since 2012 and this Select 184 is the latest version of a campervan that was born as the Autocruise Forte.
Just as the layout isn’t hot off the press, Swift can’t claim to be first in this class with an overcab sunroof, although the UK’s number one motorhome maker has beaten every other British brand to the party. It’s a concept that debuted on Adria, Dreamer and Malibu models a season ago and here it’s in laminated glass.
On the outside, it blends in well with the optional metallic grey paint, while it adds daylight – not views – for the driver (Adria and Rapido sunroofs are more obvious from the pilot’s seat as they appear to have less bodywork between sunroof and windscreen). Rear passengers (on the half-dinette bench) will get more benefit when motoring but, as soon as you stop, the glass panel really transforms the spaciousness up front. Usefully, too, the deletion of the usual overcab shelf means it’s an easy stoop-free walk from living area to driving quarters.
The basis of the Select 184 is the extra-long Fiat Ducato panel van. It’s the Lux Pack (£1,595) that adds the alloy wheels here, while the Drivers Pack (£1,995) includes the LED daytime running lights, body-coloured front bumper and black headlight bezels, grille and skidplate. As these packs also include essentials such as passenger airbag (Drivers Pack) and cab blinds, TV aerial and reversing sensors (Lux), it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever see a Select without both options packs.
We’d willingly opt out of the Lux Pack’s Techno (silver) dashboard trim, though, as it reflects badly in the windscreen. And why is there no option to add a leather steering wheel with remote radio/phone switches or a high-end head unit with sat-nav and reversing camera?
What you can upgrade is the engine. Standard spec is the latest 120bhp Euro 6d motor, which seems smoother than its Euro 6b predecessor and will be adequate for most customers’ needs. However, it would be very tempting to go for the 140bhp unit with the slick new nine-speed automatic gearbox, even though it adds over three grand to the list price.
The rest is familiar Fiat and the firm ride elicited surprisingly few rattles here, while the extra length of the 6.36m van was only really noticed when I tried to use a town centre car park. Looks-wise, the Select attracted positive comment, although I found the orange graphics a bit harsh and the caravan-style windows that sit proud of the body give a slightly entry-level vibe.
Inside, the Select more convincingly matches up to the expectations of a £55k price tag. Furniture mates Swift’s established Aralie Sen woodgrain with new Oyster Grey panels on the top locker doors (the only other new feature for 2020). Chromed positive locking handles are employed throughout. All the windows have pleated blinds and the side and rear doors are trimmed with automotive-style moulded panels. It’s a shame some cap-covered screwheads are on show, though, and the removable (in sections) carpets do feel thin.
The proven layout holds no big surprises. The cab seats swivel easily to join a half-dinette, while in the stern are a pair of side-facing settees.
In between, the washroom, wardrobe and fridge occupy the offside, while the long kitchen unit stretches down the nearside and, with no tall cabinets on this side, there’s through vision for a more spacious feel (there’s no centre mirror for the driver).
As well as the cab sunroof and plenty of large windows (even in the kitchen), there are Heki rooflights over both lounges (large up front, medium at the rear and both of the simple push-up variety).
Also impressive is the artificial lighting, with LED strips above the top lockers and dimmable spotlights in each seating area. There are flexible wand reading lights over the cab chairs, too, and these (along with the over-table spotlight) still operate when starting the engine kills the rest.
The front lounge has a raised floor (under which is a useful space for a mains lead, hose, etc), so all the seats here are on the same level. The wall-mounted table has a swing-out section to enable it to cater adequately for four diners (and be reached from the front passenger seat) but, whilst it’s removable, there’s no provision to store it elsewhere or to use it in the rear lounge. The half-dinette bench is rather flat and upright, but that’s because it also converts into a bed.
The rear lounge is comfortable although not quite as luxurious as you’d hope. The seat height favours those with longish legs and there’s enough room to put your feet up. With armrests, opening windows on three sides and twin Kenwood speakers in the ceiling, it’s an inviting area in which to chill, especially once you’ve extricated the tabletop and its leg from the adjacent wardrobe. The small, round table here is definitely more coffee or cards than full-on feeding but that adds definition to the design – eat up front, relax in the rear.
Except, that is, if you want to catch up on the soaps. Each area is fitted with basic TV brackets – a metal plate on the wall – and the cab seats offer the best position in relation to enjoying the telly.
It’s rare for a van conversion of this size to offer much in the way of worktop space beyond the closed lids of hob and sink. Here, however, there’s a more than a metre of speckled charcoal surface stretching forwards from the sink. Never again will you be forced to prepare meals on the table, though the real reason for the extra worktop is revealed at bedtime.
What isn’t so generous is the aisle width – 435mm at its narrowest point, by the sink. If you can live with that, the remainder is all positive. The Thetford Triplex cooker has three gas rings and a combined oven/grill that cooked my fish pie perfectly.
There’s a large floor-level cupboard for pots and pans, while top lockers include plate and cup racks.
A single drawer caters for cutlery and utensils but has no tray to separate spoons from forks.
Opposite, the 86-litre Dometic 8-Series fridge not only has a removable freezer section but automatic energy selection, too. That’s a big plus, as is its super-practical waist-height position.
The only downside of this cooler is that it forces the wardrobe to live below – not an inconvenience in itself but the hanging height of just over 700mm means that shirts and jackets fail to hang neatly.
The mint green splashback stops the washroom from suffering the clinical all-white look, while plastic lining for everything but the door strikes a chord for practicality.
I liked the fixed basin, too, although if you’re of larger build you might find it restricts room on the loo. You’ll need long legs to sit comfortably, too, as the swivel cassette unit is mounted above the floor.
While there is a shower curtain fitted, because it only really needs to cover the toilet roll and wooden door, users will avoid entanglement and enjoy lots of room for a really good shower with plenty of pressure. The water also drains away well, too, but remember this is a campervan so the fresh tank holds just 59 litres and the waste tank is smaller still. Emptying of the tanks is done from the main control panel – no more grubby hands from muddy waste taps. Hurray!
You’ll need to find alternative accommodation for your shower gel, etc, outside of the washroom, though, as the sole cupboard in here (hidden behind the mirror) is small.
It was noticeable, too, that the gas/mains 6kW Truma Combi has favouritism in dishing out its heat, making the rear lounge really comfy, the front lounge a touch cooler and the washroom like a sauna – and the heater outlets don’t have the usual flaps to close them off and regulate warm air distribution.
It’s a simple job to convert the rear lounge into a bedroom. Slatted supports slide out from each side and backrests slot in on top. Job done.
The mattress is flat, although the bed did feel a little shorter than my tape measure’s figures because there are walls at each end.
The front bed is close to the same width but its length may be an issue for some adults. It’s also a little more complicated to turn a half-dinette bench into a transverse double bed. Now the reason for that expansive kitchen worktop is revealed, as below the forward end are stacked three large infill cushions.
Before you deploy those, the table is lowered to seat height and there are slide-out supports attached to the half-dinette’s base and by the sliding door. The inverted seat squab and trio of infills make up a surprisingly flat mattress, although slotting the cushions into the right positions seemed fiddly. No doubt it’s one of those jobs that would become second nature after a few trips away.
The downside to this arrangement is having to store three large cushions, but Swift has overcome this by providing them with their own specific home, instead of cluttering up the wardrobe or under-seat space, as is so often the case. Standing room to get undressed, is also limited with both beds made and rear and side doors are blocked.
If you plan to use the 184 as a four-berth, you’ll need to consider storage. Your duvet for the rear bed can go under the nearside settee and this area is easy to access as the lid is on gas struts and there’s a drop-front door, too. There’s no such stowage opposite as the power supply unit and boiler are here, but you’d be able to put sleeping bags and pillows for the front bed under the half-dinette.
There are four top lockers in the end lounge and a further pair up front, which will have to house your clothes and other essentials, and outdoor gear will probably have to live in the washroom while you travel.
Neither table is free-standing for use al fresco, though you could purchase a simple tripod base for the round coffee table – or maybe you’ll simply sit inside and fling open all the doors for an outdoorsy feel when the weather’s warm enough.