Switft Voyager 540

Review: Swift Voyager 540

For many motorhome buyers, a permanent island bed is a box that must be ticked. However, Paul Owen discovers that the Swift Voyager 540 is an excellent showpiece for creating extra living space by swapping that island bed layout for a rear bathroom.

A rear bathroom can be a godsend to a motorhome of just seven metres in length. It promotes the impression of space on both sides of the dividing door between the facility and the rest of the cabin.

Plus, the shower is usually roomy enough to indulge in callisthenics while washing, the towel cupboards are cavernous and well-sorted with shelves, and there’s enough mirror acreage to satisfy any narcissist.

The area forward of the bathroom is usually just as blessed with more of that ultimate luxury – space. The seating around the large folding table of this $187,995 rear-bathroom Swift Voyager 540 could accommodate eight people (if side bench occupants are prepared to share elbow room), and the kitchen isn’t crowded into one side of a narrow aisle with a bathroom on the other – like a lot of motorhomes. There’s room for the chef to dance while cooking inside the 540 should the music and the mood encourage it.

Naturally, something had to be sacrificed to create all this lebensraum inside a floor plan measuring seven metres long. It was a permanently-sited main bed, and the 540 offers two shape-shifting alternatives – a powered 1.9 x 1.5-metre drop-down double that deploys from the ceiling above the lounge and/or the conversion of the lounge seating into a makeshift 1.94 x 1.65-metre double. The two seat-belt-equipped travel seats that emerge from the bench seat bases complement the maximum sleeping accommodation. The 540 can carry four and sleep four, so let the games begin about who sleeps and travels where.

Coin toss winners will grab the drop-down double and enjoy a proper Duvalay mattress and slat support. Ditto, happiest travellers will be those up front in the cab seats, enjoying Ford’s more ergonomically correct swivelling captain’s chairs rather than the pop-up part-time pews of the second row. Such is the potential for squabbling over who gets banished to the second-row facilities, I’d be tempted to let the Voyager 540 do what it does best: be a highly effective and comfortable motorhome for a couple.

It’s a strategy that would put a halt to all the rigmarole. The drop-down bed could be positioned as low as it could go, with the help of the telescopic lounge table leg, making access and egress easier and giving plenty of sit-up-in-bed clearance.

If the lounge seating needs to be converted into a double bed as well, it’s a fine thing to judge whether the dropper is giving the other couple below enough head space while reserving enough of its own. As for pop-up travel seats and the five minutes it takes to rearrange the lounge and erect them, who needs that faff when you’re keen to hit the road? The ability of the 540 to be a four-berth is an asset that will promote its appeal at resale time, but I suspect most owners will keep it configured as a two-berth for the majority of their travels. It simply works better if the lounge remains a lounge.

Trusty Transit

Switft Voyager 540
Like most Swifts, the 540 is fitted with bike rack mounts at the factory

The Ford Transit is older than the writer of this review, the name badge having first been attached to the Ford Taurus van, made in Germany back in 1953. Since then, radical changes to the specifications of the popular Ford van have mostly arrived on wings of gossamer. There have been only four comprehensive revisions during the seven decades that Ford has built Transit vans, and even the current model mostly dates to 2014, when designer, Paul Campbell, first sculpted the guppy-like front end that has been Transit’s identifiable face for almost a decade.

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A mid-generation update in 2020 freshened the design, saw the introduction of the present two-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine and expanded the electronic architecture so that more driving aids and a touchscreen control interface could be added.

The Voyager 540 comes with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto-ready nine-inch screen that displays views from the reversing camera that also show grid lines, cruise control, curve control – where the steering wheel cues the driver that a vehicle is just about to enter a corner – electronic stability control, load adaptive control, automatic stop/start system to save fuel, roll stability control, and emergency Brake Assist and Control.

The 1995cc ‘EcoBlue’ engine delivers 160bhp of power and 405Nm of driving force and feels a willing unit when propelling a seven-metre motorhome capable of weighing 3550kg when fully laden to the max. Equipped with a cast-iron engine block for increased durability, the EcoBlue four enabled to Ford to boast of fuel savings in the region of 13% when it was introduced and meets Euro 6 emission standards.

The 2020 upgrade has enabled Transit to remain on par with other European vans, but the front-drive Ford does run the risk of being labelled ‘old-school’ via the retention of a six-speed automatic gearbox. It’s nothing that should dull any aspiration to own a Voyager 540. A six-speed automatic has one less shaft and between two to four fewer cogs than the eight-, nine-, and now, 10-speed automatics that drive most rival vans, which means it’s quite a bit lighter than transmissions that are stacked with more ratios.

That mass saving can be banked as increased payload, and although Swift doesn’t quote an official figure for the Voyager 540’s maximum carrying capacity, some UK dealerships have estimated it to be 515kg, which is more than enough for most couples but might be a little tight to accommodate the needs of a travelling quartet of full-size adults.

Let there be light

Switft Voyager 540
There’s plenty of seating room around the large folding table

As a former owner of a Swift Escape 694, I found the interior design of the Voyager 540 to be more modern and uplifting. The Voyager’s use of darker colours for taps and light controls contrasts nicely with matt and gloss white finishes and the tasteful use of grey in some areas. It helps that Swift has designed large side windows and numerous skylights, which allow the interior to pop as soon as you enter the cabin (via the 600mm-wide entry door), giving a strong favourable first impression.

Changes for the MY2023 versions add useful touches. The Transit cab now gets concertina blinds and window screens. Setting the Ford-based Voyager up for the night is now as quick and easy as in one of the Fiat Ducato-based versions.

The spaciousness of the cabin is the best surprise of all though. This Voyager can get a bit more adventurous with its décor simply because it will always look roomy no matter what materials are chosen. Then, when you look past the presentation and start delving into more practical concerns, you find there’s a satisfyingly huge amount of storage available.

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Take the bathroom storage cupboard mounted across the rear wall of the van as one example. It’s accessed via a pair of doors, which open to reveal plenty of nicely made shelves for towels, linen, and clothes. It more than makes up for any formal bedroom wardrobe storage and has a hanger rail (also new for 2023) so that jackets and dresses can be hung without fear of creasing.

Below the cupboard is a hatch that opens into the rear garage, adding a third entry point to the exterior doors located on either side. The garage door on the ride side of the van is narrow and high, almost reaching the roof line. It opens to reveal a high area where long items, such as fishing rods and kayak paddles, can be stowed, backed by a handy pair of shelves for smaller items.

The call of the wild

Switft Voyager 540
The multifunction cooker has three gas hobs and a powered hotplate

As a motorhome made in Blighty, the Voyager 540 is tailored towards British/European conditions, where there’s more emphasis on staying in commercial camping grounds and less opportunity for freedom camping. That doesn’t mean that remote independent camping locations are off-limits to the Swift, however.

With 110 litres of freshwater storage and an 85-litre greywater catch tank, along with a gas locker that fits a 9kg bottle with the back-up of a 4kg reserve, and a 100-watt solar panel trickling captive energy into an 100Ah AGM battery, it has enough power, gas, and water storage to contemplate the odd night or three of freedom camping at times.

However, spending a week in that one location without moving might be asking too much of these modest reserves. An hour-long tour of the surrounding region in the Swift might be required to keep that battery charged and the lights and the TV on.

Fortunately, the kitchen can run on gas alone, although, both the 131-litre fridge (with its neat, detachable 12-litre freezer unit) and the cooker can also use electricity when required. The cooker has three gas hobs along with an electric hotplate for use in times when the motorhome is plugged into mains power, while the Dometic fridge can draw electricity either from the 12-volt battery or 240-volt hookup supply as required.

The Swift Voyager 540 comes complete with a 24-inch smart television, an auto satellite dish, and 12 months rego.

Switft Voyager 540
Longer items can be stowed upright in the garage

If the weather takes a turn for the worst, the dual-fuel Truma Combi boiler will have no problem heating the cabin and the hot water. Like all Swifts, the cabin of the Voyager 540 is made of GRP (Glass Reinforced Polystyrene) sandwich panels with thick layers of insulation as their core. The cabin, therefore, meets the Grade Three insulation standard in the UK, which is the highest level of thermal heat retention there.

This Voyager 540 is supplied by RV Direct NZ, based in Wellington. The Swift bits come with a five-year body warranty, while the Transit platform is covered by a three-year warranty from Ford.

RV Direct NZ ensures the motorhomes have full gas and electrical certification, along with a self-contained certificate. They also ensure that the vehicle has a new Certificate of Fitness (CoF) and has 3000km of Road User Charges paid.

Switft Voyager 540
Swift Voyager 540 floor plan
Make and modelSwift Voyager 540
ChassisFord Transit
Overall length/height/width7.01m/2.87m/2.37m
Fresh/grey water110L fresh/85L grey
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