Swift used to build a mighty fine value-for-money coachbuilt range, called the Sundance. Over time, there was some market drift, and in its latter years, it wasn’t what you’d call an entry-level offering any more.
Market drift is when – in an attempt to keep a range fresh – more and more kit is added and upgrades undertaken, so that in the end, the ‘van is no longer an entry-level product – and is not at an entry-level price. The Escape was conceived to plug the resulting gap.
The launch timing (for the 2009 model year) couldn’t have been better, because we were just emerging from another economic recession and in such recovery periods, the average spend on new vehicles is usually lower than it was before the recession.
Provided Swift got it right, sales were destined to be sky-high. They did get it right, and sales were even better than their wildest dreams – good news for readers looking to buy pre-owned, because there are lots to choose from.
Escape’s portfolio always included models aimed at young families, and it’s encouraging to see this market sector so well catered for.
The range kicked off with four models, all overcab coachbuilts on Fiat Ducato chassis-cabs, three with Lutons and one low-profile (664).Stretching the tape to 6.3m (20′ 8*) are the 622 and the 624. The 622 has a centrally placed kitchen and forward shower room, both ahead of the rear U-shaped lounge.
The 624 boasts a forward lounge, with an offside double Pullman dinette featuring two travel seats, plus a long inward-facing settee on the nearside. Completing the inventory are a rear corner shower room, plus a kitchen along the back wall.
Next up sizewize are the 664 and the 686. Low-profile 664 is 6.72m (22’1″) long, with a European-style permanent longitudinal rear-corner double bed, and a shower room alongside. The kitchen and wardrobe are midships, with the forward lounge consisting of a half-dinette (including two travel seats), a short inward-facing settee and swivelling cab seats.
You’ll need a driveway longer than 6.92m (22’8*) to accommodate the 686. Six sleeping berths and five travel seats are arranged as a forward double Pullman dinette on the offside, which converts into a longitudinal double bed, and a red U-shaped lounge, which converts into another double, this time transverse. Completing the sleeping accommodation is a high-level double above the cab. The latter can be left made up. Washroom and wardrobe are just ahead of the rear lounge, and the kitchen is opposite the dinette.
The early Escape models looked very purposeful, chiefly because they arrived with a stunning Imperial Blue cab. The elegantly minimalist Tanganica Walnut cabinetwork gave them a contemporary vibe, part of the plan to target the ‘Ikea generation’. Equine count was 100bhp in all except the biggie, which provided the larger 130 bhp motor.
The first make-over, in 2011, offered better graphics and a change to slightly darker Mali Acacia cabinetwork. Mechanically, the 130bhp/six-speed powertrain was specified across the range and the rear chassis extensions beefed up. The 696 – a rear bunkhouse model – joined the line-up.
The next significant change brought in a white cab (pity) in 2013. Fiat’s ComfortMatic automatic transmission became an extra-cost option.
The 2015 season saw the introduction of the X/290 Ducato and – yes, you’ve guessed it – market drift meant the Escape getting a hefty shove upmarket, with a price increase to match.
From then on, the Escape was more of a mid-market offering and we would have to wait for the introduction of the Swift Edge to have a tightly focused value-for-money range again.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR
Some early six-speeders were reported to suffer juddering when reversing uphill, although this was subject to a recall. If it is still a bit prone to this, fit newer (upgraded) engine mounts – they are not hugely expensive.
Although 100bhp might sound a bit parsimonious for a coachbuilt with a a Luton – and therefore the aerodynamics of a Croydon semi – trust me, they bowl along a treat. A mild power boost via a tuning box is available for those who habitually don’t leave home early enough! Check for a full service history and a recent engine drive-belt change.
Escapes are built using Swift’s SMART and SMART-construction methods, and therefore should be less prone to unscheduled interior ‘water features’ than previous entry-level ‘vans.
That said, and as with any coachbuilt of this age, insist on a full inspection for water ingress/damage.
Family ‘vans have a harder life than those owned by empty-nesters, so just make sure all of the cupboard and locker doors operate as they should.
If you plan on fitting a towbar to an early model, you’ll have to budget for meatier rear chassis extensions.
Finally, and easily overlooked, is the fact that early 622s have four sleeping berths, but only two travel seats.
There are loads of them about, so wait for a minter. The author’s personal favourite is the 686, although all of the models in the range feature layouts that are both practical and well-proven.
WHAT TO PAY
Pre-Covid, early ex-hire high-milers were plentiful for around £20,000 but they are currently north of £25,000… and that’s if you manage to fine one! The cheapest Escape I could spot was a privately-owned 2010 626 at Emm-Bee Motorhomes, for a sharp £28,995.
Oaktree Motorhomes has an Escape 644 from 2012, with extremely low mileage, the more powerful engine and many useful accessories. Asking price is £35,995.
Today, the equivalent new Escape model would set you back £62,400 – so be quick!
OR YOU COULD TRY….
Auto-Trail Imala on Fiat Ducato and Auto-Trail Tribute on Ford. For those challenged at bank balance/purchasing interface, try Swift Sundance models on the previous generation of Ducato 1995-2006, from £10,000 on eBay.
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The elegantly minimalist Tanganica Walnut cabinetwork gave them a contemporary vibe, part of the plan to target the 'Ikea generation'