Swift Sprite Major 4EB Review

Swift Sprite Major 4EB Review

If you’re looking for a caravan that’s big on precision construction but low on sheer weight, Paul Owen found a pair of Sprite Major caravans in Nelson that could be just the job.

Do you remember the old Remington shaver ad, where the bloke who owns the company liked the shaver so much that he bought the business? Well, Vern Walker was already such a satisfied Swift caravan owner that when the opportunity came up to buy the Nelson dealership for the British caravans, it was an “absolute no-brainer” for him to do the same, and become the owner of Nelson Caravans.

Vern brought with him 35 years of retail experience in the motor industry, and had already established a number of good customer relationships during his time as a well-known Holden dealer. He sold his share in the car dealership in August 2018, well before GM suddenly closed its Australasian operations, and in a stroke of good luck and good timing, brought Nelson Caravans just as interest in all things RV-related was about to reach fever pitch in February 2019.

“I guess you could say that the stars really lined up for us,” says Vern, whose wife, Julie, is also involved in the daily running of the South Island dealership. “We left one franchise just as it was about to exit the New Zealand market, and picked up another just as it was about to experience a big upswing in sales.”

Their first year in the caravan business was a strong one, but things really took off from a professional point of view once the pandemic reached New Zealand. Vern and Julie got as many Swift caravans from the factory as they could during the lockdown, but, like many people, found subsequent shipping delays a bit of a challenge.

The Sprite Major 4EB and its 4SB sibling quickly established themselves as the best sellers of the Swift caravan range for the Walkers, mirroring their popularity in their British market of origin. It’s thanks to these mid-sized single-axle models that not only is Sprite the best-selling sub-brand within the Swift family, but also the UK’s best-selling caravan brand period.

There are several factors behind the popularity of the two Majors. They are relatively affordable at $67,990 for each of the two interior layouts (SB stands for side bed while EB stands for end bed) yet have a spacious ambience that belies their actual size inside thanks to the panoramic front windows that curve upwards into the roofs of both models. These caravans are also light in more ways than just natural cabin illumination, as they weigh in around the 1320kg mark when unladen, making them a doddle to tow.

Swift Sprite Major 4EB Review
Big on precision construction but low on sheer weight – this caravan ticks all the boxes

Laser-guided build precision

When travel restrictions allowed, the Walkers travelled to the UK to visit the huge Swift caravan factory at Cottingham in Yorkshire, and the pair were amazed by what they saw. Swift has invested heavily in new laser-guided CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machinery over recent years, which allows them to build caravans with more precision and less waste. The CNC manufacturing process allows pre-programmed computer software to move factory tools and machinery, providing a level of accuracy and consistency that can’t be achieved any other way. “The machines can cut an entire caravan side in one piece, including the mounting points for the aluminium plates that join everything together,” explains Vern.

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Swift uses a SMART construction with GRP body panels. The side walls are a robust panel with GRP outer and inner skins. The sandwich floor construction has a GFRP outer skin and ply upper. The roof is a hail-resistant GRP roof, fully bonded for extra strength and flatness.

“Grade Three means that when it’s -15° outside, the cabin of the caravan can be warmed to 20° inside. The Majors come with a Truma boiler, providing blown cabin heating and water heating.”

The British manufacturer has also pushed the caravan/motorhome construction envelope with window supports that are bonded into the Major caravans’ composite walls. They’re made of a ‘top secret’ composite material that is uber-strong while being far lighter than any wood or metal. They’re key to the low overall mass of the Majors, and also to their ability to be loaded to a Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) of 1500kg.

As a Swift caravan, a Major comes with a 10-year water ingress warranty, along with a three-year warranty for anything on the body and appliances.

Not many caravans come with rear bike rack mounting points already included like a Major does, although Vern does recommend that owners don’t exceed the 35kg maximum load rating of many popular rear mounted bike racks.


“We often see problems develop with caravans travelling to the Nelson region where the rack has begun to pull itself out from the rear wall because it has been loaded with two e-bikes,” he says.

This sturdy yet lightweight structure sits on a conventional AL-KO chassis fitted with mechanical override brakes (no ATC) and an AKS 3004 hitch which provides mechanical anti-sway control.

Swift Sprite Major 4EB Review
The front compartment can easily accommodate an extra gas bottle

4EB OR 4SB?

When the Walkers took on Nelson Caravans three years ago, the 4SB version accounted for 60 per cent of their Major sales. The two models now have a 50/50 split in sales volume, and Vern says the 4EB is now on a trajectory that will see it soon become the dominant Major model.

A lot of the increased interest in the model is due to the extra spaciousness of the bathroom. Where the SB offers slightly more floor area thanks to the relatively narrow bathroom positioned at the rear of the van, the EB devotes more of mid-van floor space to a larger facility that appears more opulent. In other words, one Major hides the private area for cleanliness and comfort away, while the other showcases it with a huge mirror mounted on a middle wall that reflects into the living area. There’s also an extra bathroom cabinet inside the EB, increasing storage, while
the right-side toilet sits next to a wheel well locker that is perfect for stowing a large stash of toilet rolls.

The comparative sizes of the shower cubicles are a further reason to opt for the EB, as you get a nice cylindrical unit that offers more elbow room than the smaller rectangular space found in the SB.

To all of the above, add the longer 1.9m x 1.33 bed of the EB, located longitudinally at the rear of the van, where it can be sealed off for extra privacy by three doors (one hinged and two sliders). Master sleeping quarters for the SB are an east/west mid-mounted split double mattress of the same width that extends to 1.85m in length. There is no opportunity to close a door between the living area and the master bed of the 4SB. Although you can leave that split mattress bed made up during the day, the extended length of the mattress will require a bit of sideways shuffling to get past it to access the bathroom area of the 4SB.

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Both models have quite a bit of storage beneath the main double beds, accessed by lifting the aluminium tube bed frame, a process made easier by the two hydraulic struts. Anything stowed under there will share the space with the spare wheel/tyre that comes with both Sprites, and while some will consider that this replacement wheel is placed in an inconvenient position for easy access, it’s a hassle that’ll only become apparent when one of the Major’s wheels gets a puncture – and realistically, how often does that happen these days?

Swift Sprite Major 4EB Review
The master bedroom will be instantly familiar to Swift Escape motorhome owners
Swift Sprite Major 4EB Review
The EB’s bathroom features a centre washbasin and a toilet on one side
Swift Sprite Major 4EB Review
…with a cylindrical shower cubicle on the other

Let there be light

Essentially, the living areas of the two Majors are the same, meaning that both enjoy a wealth of natural light, complemented by four spotlights over the U-shaped seating area and two overhead lights. Large overhead lockers run across the front and down the sides of the cabins, creating lots of storage although there are no internal shelves. Further stowage can be found under the side seating of the lounge, and the squabs and cushions can be combined to create a 2.02m by 1.59 double bed when required after first pulling out a section of slide-out slats for the middle section.

The kitchen area of the Majors is comparable to that of the average motorhome in size, although those downsizing from a larger caravan might find it a little compact. That said, there’s an extension to the slate-grey finished bench that can be folded out when required, as well as a sideboard area on the other side of the vans. The Majors come with a Thetford stove with a three-burner hob and full oven/grill, 175 watt solar panel, 120AH battery, full gas bottle, power cable, step, and 40L Fiamma fresh and grey rollaways. The 98L Dometic Series 10 fridge comes with
a decent-sized 12L freezer to keep all the essentials on ice, and there’s also a free-standing table to fold out when it’s time to serve up.

Swift Sprite Major 4EB Review
Cooks will appreciate the fold-out bench extension

The major major

The two Major four-berth models major on value, offering exceptional value for money as recognised by their popularity in the United Kingdom, arguably the toughest caravan market in the world. Meanwhile, it’s nice to know that there is strong dealer support on offer in New Zealand, and not only in Nelson, for Swift caravans. Nelson Caravans recently won the best small dealership prize in the Buyer Score Motor Central ratings, which are judged by consumers across the entire motor industry. It also finished in third place overall, a stunning result given that Kiwis buy a lot more cars than caravans.

Swift Sprite Major 4EB Review floorplan

Swift Sprite Major 4EB Specifications

Chassis

Zinc-plated AL-KO trailer with mechanical brakes

Overall Dimensions

7.54m long x 2.25mW 

Berths

4

Fresh/Grey Water

Rollaway tanks

MRO

1275kg

MTPLM

1500 kg

Price as reviewed: $67,990

Find out more at www.nelsoncaravans.co.nz

Looking for motorhomes or caravans for sale in NZ? Browse our latest listings here

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