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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.