Mike Le Caplain

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Read the Practical Motorhome review of the 2015 Swift Escape 696, a very practical six-berth 'van with a good sized overcab sleeping area

Overview

When it comes to affordable, yet stylish and well-equipped motorhomes for a big brood, Roller Team tended to be the choice of budget-conscious families. Swift clearly decided it wanted a share of this end of the market, and launched its own contender – the Escape – at the NEC show in February 2009. This was a bespoke budget ’van with a singular style inside and out. Those core values haven’t changed, although customer demands have seen spec increase.

Design

A new gloss-white exterior colour scheme broken up by dark blue graphics gives it a more modern look than previously, while timberless SMART conversion construction ramps up the build quality and looks set to make water ingress body damage a thing of the past.

On the road

For 2015, the Escape gets the new generation Fiat X290 base vehicle, powered by a Euro 5 2.3-litre 130bhp engine bolted to a standard six-speed manual gearbox.

We put 400 miles on our Swift Escape 696 and subjected it to all road types, from motorways to twisty country lanes. With oven and microwave shelving removed, on-road noise was muted.

The 2.3-litre engine feels brisk and willing, while cruising in sixth gear at motorway speeds is quiet and refined. Fuel levels tended to drop alarmingly during our drive, but ‘ours’ was an early example with very few miles on the clock.

Handling is as impressive as ever and while the ride is on the firm side, this bolsters stability. Better yet, there’s little disruptive nocturnal suspension bounce whenever someone turns over in bed or visits the loo.

Lounging & dining

You enter the 696 straight into the main lounge area – a full offside dinette and a settee opposite that can comfortably seat two people. The passenger cab seat doesn’t swivel.

Lighting is ample throughout, with four individually switched halogens and three bigger roof-mounted dome lights, one each over the lounge, kitchen and rear bedroom areas. Each fixed bed has a reading light, though there are only two power sockets.

Kitchen

The kitchen packs in a spark-ignition combination oven/grill and a three-burner gas hob, plus an upgraded microwave. Worktop space is extended via a flap to the right of the hob.

Storage is good in the Swift Escape 696, with a cutlery drawer and floor space beneath the sink, a drawer and more floor space beneath the hob, and two roof lockers.

Sleeping

Sleeping berths comprise a 2.08m x 1.37m overcab double, twin fixed rear bunks (the upper is 1.65m x 0.76m, and the lower measures 1.62m x 0.74m and folds up to take bikes and the like) and a double – 2.08m x 1.37m – that makes up from the dinette and settee. This latter is most likely to be used as an occasional bed, since it’s a bit of a faff to make up, and storing the infills requires storage space. The upper bunk is accessed via a solid ladder attached to the washroom wall.

The overcab bedroom is surprisingly accommodating, with an opening window positioned at the foot end, and a narrow, but full-width shelf for phones, spectacles and the like. Headroom is reasonable, and, as with the rear bunks, privacy is assured by a pair of curtains.

Washroom

The washroom is an all-in-one affair with a central shower tray and pull-round curtain. Ralliers might splutter into their coffee at such apparently outrageous corner-cutting, but since in reality the Escape 696 will spend 99% of its time on full-facility sites, the shower is there for emergencies only.

Similarly, some may think that 60-litre water tanks are on the small side for up to six people on tour, but this is less of an issue if site facilities are being used.

Equipment

The standard model keeps costs down by omitting some kit. But most buyers are likely to opt for the Comfort Pack, which comprises cab air con, a passenger airbag, an auto-retract electric entrance step, a door flyscreen, a pleated windscreen blind, a Status 550 aerial and a winter pack. A sixth belted seat is a further option, and ups the MTPLM from 3500kg to 3650kg.

Technical specs

Sleeps6
Travel seats6
MTPLM3650kg
Payload598kg
Length6.92m22′8″
Width2.31m7′7″
Height2.94m9′8″
Fresh/waste water60L / 60L
Leisure battery75 Ah
Gas tank size7kg
Number of gas tank compartments2
Kitchen Equipment
3-burner gas hob, Combined Oven/Grill, Microwave

Verdict

If you’re looking for a practical six-berth 'van, then the Swift Escape 696 should be top of your list – it’s smart, spacious, good to drive and well designed. The optional Comfort Pack should help re-sale values, too.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Both the fixed bunks are a good size, as is the overcab double
  • Swift Group's SMART construction
  • Kitchen storage space is good

Cons

  • The worktop extension obstructs the entrance door
  • Access to the overcab might be tricky with the lower bed made up
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