Mountain high

Rob McCabe takes a peek inside the well-designed, towcar friendly and reasonably priced Sprite Alpine 4

The days when you could describe any new entry-level caravan as ‘cheap’ have long gone, but the refreshed 2023 Sprites look like canny buys. Our test of the Alpine 4 fixed-bed four-berther will see if that promise holds good.

Build quality – 94%

The custodian of the Sprite brand since the early 1990s has been the Swift Group, which builds all its caravans using its ‘Smart’ construction technique. The impact-resistant GRP shell is hung on a timber-free frame that promises complete imperviousness to moisture, backed by a 10-year bodyshell warranty.

Our test vehicle put up a very good showing, displaying conscientious attention to detail; I found much evidence of tidy finishing-off and pin-neat joinery work. Lockers, blinds, flyscreens and bed slats were all seamless in their operation. Smart by name and by nature.

Towing – 94%

This is where the Alpine will win a lot of friends – it’s a caravan with the sought-after fixed bed layout that can be matched to a lengthy list of potential towcars thanks to its relatively modest sub-1,300kg MTPLM. And in an era during which 8ft-wide caravans are seemingly on a quest for world domination, many caravanners will find the Sprite’s slimline 7ft 5in width a much more user-friendly proposition for easier manoeuvring and towing.

Al-Ko’s ATC electronic trailer control system is absent from the spec sheet, but you can request it as a £475 factory-fit option when placing your order – worth the outlay if you can stretch to it.

Daytime – 91%

The new, subtle grey and pale blue interior colour scheme provides a bright, modern feel in the compact lounge area and, because it’s so unfussy, it’s highly unlikely to look dated a few years down the line.

If the flip-up shelf in place of a front chest might seem like a cost-cutting measure, the addition of a high-spec, Bluetooth-equipped fitted JVC stereo is anything but. There are also eight (yes, eight!) USB charging sockets throughout, while your on-board TV location is the shelf twixt bedroom and kitchen, allowing you to view from either the comfort of bed or the lounge. (There’s a mains socket in the lounge, so you could place the set upfront and run a coaxial cable to it if required.)

Considering many will use this caravan as a two-berth, storage provision is excellent. The mini-garage under the double bed is the highlight, especially as you can also get to it from outside; the spare wheel is stored here. The wardrobe is a generous size, and both under-seat lockers in the lounge have full-width opening hatches.

It’s worth mentioning that a roof-mounted solar panel is a dealer-fit option for £275, which sounds like a no-brainer to me.

Night-time – 90%

The layout – double bed taking up most of the rear, a compact loo/shower in the corner and a wash basin/vanity unit in the bedroom itself – may seem a bit of a throwback these days. But the toilet room can be shut off when needed and there is a palpable feeling of space around the vanity unit that boosts the credentials of the bedroom as a dressing room.

The 6ft 2in-long bed has a good-quality Duvalay mattress that gives lots of comfort and support. Little over-the-shoulder shelves will accommodate your overnight glass of water or morning cuppa. Just one negative back here: the curtain that shuts off the bedroom from the rest of the caravan was ill-fitting in this example, and not very inspiring in terms of colour.

The front sofas’ upholstery pieces make up a pleasantly flat mattress to create a huge double. If this were the only bed on board, I’d be very happy with it.

Kitchen – 91%

Okay, the hob doesn’t boast an electric hotplate and there are only three gas rings, but even when catering for a family of four in the days of yore, I don’t think I ever felt the need to press four gas rings into simultaneous service. You do get a separate oven and grill, which is certainly more of a benefit than a four-ring hob. There’s a very neatly fitted flatbed microwave and the work surface – boasting an attractive, slate-look finish – is boosted by a fold-up extension, highly beneficial at serving-up time.

Washroom – 88%

If you’re considering owning a Sprite Alpine 4, you’ve already decided that a washroom with a big, walk-in, separate shower cubicle is a waste of precious caravanning real estate. Sure, you’ll have an on-board shower every now and then – and you’ll appreciate the bespoke mixer tap and the jet of water from the fat head – but the site facilities will take most of the strain.

And, actually – as already mentioned – you quite like having a vanity unit that doesn’t feel in any way hemmed in. You could indeed argue that this set-up is a very good use of space. 

Lighting – 93%

Fair play to Swift for endowing the Alpine’s lounge with a reading light in each of the four corners – by no means a given in entry-level caravans. If you need reinforcements, the sunroof binnacle contains two more small but powerful flush-fitting lamps. You also get a touch of bling, courtesy of the above-locker ambient lighting that wends its way back over the kitchen and, on the other side, the wardrobe. 

The bedroom has the warm glow of all-round ambient lighting too, plus two reading lamps serving the bed and two more lights over by the vanity unit – including one right above the big mirror. The kitchen and the loo/shower are both very well illuminated. Good job all round.  

Verdict – 92%

Thoughtfully equipped and a lovely-looking vehicle inside and out (curtain aside), the Alpine 4 is a pleasure to be in. In today’s market, it’s very fine value.

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