The Airstream is not so much an evolution but a revolution in British motorhome design. The new Ducato makes a perfect base for a stunning design and, because it’s a luxury two-berth, there are few compromises in a superb layout. Our 330-mile tour proved that the new Ace Airstream is as good as we’d hoped it would be and takes the level of British-built motorhomes to a new high.
Styling; fixed double-glazed glass panel on the front; quality of mouldings; stylish, practical kitchen carousel; stainless steel circular sink looks smart and is practical
Table seems too big for the space; limited kitchen workspace if you use the draining board at the same time; eye-level storage space limited if you fit optional microwave
Sitting on the forecourt at the Swift Group headquarters in Hull, the new Ace low-profile looks as mean as an eagle ready to pounce.
The design is so striking that it takes you by surprise when you see it. Motorhomes don’t usually look so sexy: practical and stylish yes, but never before sexy. Swift’s new Ace, Bessacarr and Swift low profiles are not your run-of-the-mill motorhomes, they are the vanguard in a revolution in British motorhome design that use the radical shape of the new Fiat Ducato cab to create ultra-low profiles. We have never been in a motorhome that turned so many heads. Everywhere we took the Ace Airstream during its five days with us there were approving glances and positive comments from people who usually never look twice at a motorcaravan. And that reaction was multiplied ten-fold by enthusiasts, who couldn’t wait to see it close up. We certainly got close up and personal with the top-of-the range fixed-bed model, the 680FB, which for £39,975 comes with the Fiat 130 Multijet engine as standard on its Ducato Special chassis. The ‘Special’ moniker refers to the ultra-low-line chassis produced specially for motorhome manufacturers by Fiat, which has allowed Swift to create an equally low-profile design that gives the vehicle such a remarkable stance on the road. Our mission was to see whether or not this stylish new exterior is matched by the driving performance and living experience – in the past, an area in which the Continentals have excelled and British manufacturers have had to play catch-up.
There is one drawback to the ultra low-line chassis and that’s the difference in floor level between the lounge and the rest of the ‘van: there’s an annoying 4in-high step. You get used to it, but it is easy to forget and trip up.
We’re a fan of parallel sofas and they work brilliantly here, in conjunction with the two front cab seats which swivel to make this a very sociable space. The seat cushions are deep are comfortable. However, we feel that the foldable table is too large for this space and makes access difficult when people are seated.
One innovation is in the shape of a small fold-out coffee table on a metal pole at the side of the sofa. Opinions were divided as to how effective this was but we found ourselves using it a lot during the tour when working on a laptop or writing notes. The table stores neatly away behind the driver’s seat.
In the bedroom area, the flatscreen TV bracket is a standard fitment. It extends outwards to allow the screen to be visible from the lounge.
The 680FB we tested has an auxiliary heater fitted as standard, so when we arrived on site wedidn’t have to endure that awful wait for the blown-air system to get working before the living space became nice and cozy.
The massive Heki rooflight, together with the front glass panel, make the Ace a lovely light place in which to sit, and the big side windows mean that you can enjoy a great view when relaxing. At night, the lounge is well lit by a central light built into the side of the skylight, and four halogen reading lights above the sofas.
The beige colour scheme with blue trim is modern but certainly not cold and gives this radical new motorhome a very British feel, which is no bad thing.
There is no doubt that Swift has upped its game as far as its interiors are concerned and the Ace is clearly a winner in this area.
There are some great touches in the L-shaped kitchen. One, the curved kitchen worktop extension, incorporates a stylish, practical storage carousel. You’ll even be able to get boxes of cereal into it.
Other delights in the kitchen include a 180-litre SES fridge (Smart Energy Selection) with digital controls and a neat wine-storage area. There’s a removable drainer on the sink, with it’s own dedicated storage place, and a food-grade nylon chopping board which fits over the circular sink. There’s also a Stoves dual-fuel hob with 800W hotplate and three gas burners. Space is provided for the (optional) microwave oven.
Worksurface area is adequate, given that you’ll only be catering for two people as a rule, but it’s not massive if you are using the drainer. The chrome-finish mixer tap is designed so that you can get a kettle under it.
As well as the kitchen window an extractor fan is provided, so cooking smells disappear fast.
The only drawback of the 630FB’s layout is that the washroom has had to be accommodated in the space at the back of the motorhome, along with the bed.
The shower is the middle of the area with pull-across doors that seek to prevent the Thetford toilet from becoming soaked. The arrangement is successful as far as it goes but it is a compromise – so, if you want a big, spacious washroom in which there’s room to get changed, the 630EW model is the Airstream for you because the entire rear of the vehicle is given over to a shower and a wardrobe.
The floor of the shower is lined with a wooden washboard so that you can stand comfortably on a flat surface while the water is allowed to drain easily away. Elsewhere in the washroom nicely fitted units are provided and there is one for toiletries, beneath the washbasin with its mixer tap. All the washroom fittings are chrome effect.
The washroom door is wide and opens outwards into the bedroom. It is notable for its domestic-style and substantial-feeling chrome handle – just one of the things that help to reinforce the impression that in choosing the Airstream you have bought a good quality motorhome. Features such as this do matter to buyers and are likely to stand the test of time.
The Ace is strictly a two-berth, and fulfils it’s brief perfectly. The deep, sprung mattress allowed a good night’s sleep during the test.
The breadth of the Ace allows the bed to be 1.32m wide, which is adequate for two adults. At 1.90m long, taller sleepers will not feel cramped.
The bed space has two well-positioned reading lights and the built-in headboard matches the upholstery in the remainder of the vehicle. There are also two spacious eye-level lockers in the bedroom area and an uncluttered wardrobe space which is adequate for two people.
There’s a skylight above the bed so the levels of daylight and ventilation are good. On a sunny morning, the daylight will not disturb you thanks to concertina blinds in the front cab, which are nicely fitted, work well, and appear to be high quality.
Given that this is a luxury two-berth motorhome you’d expect there to be enough space for its privileged occupants to keep their belongings. The Airstream certainly delivers in that respect with a substantial level of storage space beneath the fixed bed and an exterior-access locker door. There’s a hydraulic strut to help you lift the bed base to gain access to the storage space below, from inside.
More storage space is provided beneath the two sofas and there are six eye-level cupboards in the lounge area. The lockers are deep and the space-frame construction means that you can put a central shelf inside every cupboard.