Iconic Bolero 684FB

By: Lawrence Schäffler


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Swift’s 2012 Bolero 684FB (fixed bed) offers buyers improved energy efficiency, a cosier interior and better handling. Effectively, writes Lawrence Schäffler, the UK manufacturer has made a great product even better.

Iconic Bolero 684FB
Iconic Bolero 684FB

The Bolero 684 is one of Swift’s most popular models, and it’s a safe bet that with the modifications the latest model introduces, that popularity will grow.

The obvious change from previous 684s is the layout – and while it isn’t exactly new, it’s very welcome. Swift has simply transferred the interior design from its earlier Voyager line of motorhomes (now phased out) to the new Bolero.

That sees a north-south fixed bed at the rear, an en suite bathroom, a split kitchen and a dinette up front, just behind the cab. The vehicle’s aimed at couples but it will accommodate a family of four (the dinette table collapses and the squabs deployed to form a second, east-west double bed).

For me though, there are other, more significant changes. Chief among them is the introduction of an Alde radiator-based central heating system. Where its predecessors were fitted with the conventional gas-heating-and-blower system, the new 684 reticulates heated water in a closed loop around the motorhome.

It sees slim-line radiators mounted discreetly in various parts of the vehicle (in lockers) – you wouldn’t even know they were there. Radiator-based heating systems are typically fitted to higher-end motorhomes and offer a number of advantages over gas-based systems. Unlike the latter they don’t promote condensation, so you benefit from a drier heat. There is less likelihood of your upholstery and clothing becoming damp and developing mildew.

In addition, radiator systems (filled with water) retain heat for longer and thus operate more efficiently. The Alde system runs off electricity or gas and comes with a sophisticated programmable timer. It’s also fitted with a DriveSafe regulator, so it can be used while you’re on the road. This technology complements the Bolero’s top-quality thermal insulation and double glazed windows.

Another noteworthy change to the new 684 is its chassis and engine. Previous Boleros were built on the standard Fiat Ducato chassis. This one has the upgraded variant – the AL-KO low-line chassis. Its advantages include a lower centre of gravity and a more rigid construction, so it carries a heavier payload.

The combination of a lower centre of gravity with the Bolero’s aerodynamic styling improves driveability and handling, something that’s enhanced with the new Euro 5 engine – reportedly 15 per cent more powerful and 10 per cent more efficient than the earlier Euro 4 engines, and with lower emissions.

The 684 offers a choice between a 130hp and a 150hp engine (both 2.3-litre, turbo-charged units), and between a manual or auto transmission. With the auto option – a six-speed Comfor-Matic – there's a real sense of no-fuss, car-like driving.

I also like the new Vogue electronics package. It comes with an upgraded radio/CD player that's equipped with controls on the steering wheel. Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity, a USB iPod/MP3 socket and a twin-view colour reversing camera (which can be used en-route) completes the deal. A neat feature is the new TomTom GPS docking station on the dash – an easy, plug-n-play fitting.

Other changes are largely cosmetic. There's the Burr-wood trim around the dash (it's actually plastic, but looks pretty good), a slightly darker woodgrain (Mali Acacia) for the joinery and a new range of fabrics for the upholstery.

Accommodation

Perfect for a couple, the 684 layout is nicely divided between the rear bedroom/en suite and the kitchen/dinette/lounge. The fixed bed (190cm x 130cm) may be a problem for the longer-limbed – the bottom corner is tapered to facilitate entry into the bathroom, so sleeping in the foetal position may be a requirement.

Plenty of thought has gone into the bathroom lay-out – it features a separate fully-lined shower area for a wet/dry division. Extensive use of LED lighting provides for a more stylish presentation – particularly in the bathroom but also in the kitchen, where the designers have incorporated over-locker lighting and back-lit panels. If that setting doesn't get your culinary juice flowing, nothing will.

It's a split kitchen, with a hob and oven/grill on the far side, and a 175-litre fridge-freezer opposite. The hob is dual fuel – one single electric hotplate coupled with three gas burners, and it's supported by a microwave oven immediately above. Storage is plentiful, and one of my favourite Bolero features is the carousel storage below the workbench. Simple but hugely effective.

I like having the fridge on near side – purely for "thermal" reasons. Located on the same side as the large Fiamma awning helps to keep the fridge's duty cycle a little lower (easier on the batteries) on hot days.

While the motorhome lifestyle is all about getting closer to nature, many will nevertheless aim to maintain an element of decency, and the Bolero caters for it well. Each of the windows – including the windscreen and those in the cab doors – are fitted with concertina blinds. In addition, there is a neat, concertina door between the rear suite and the rest of the motorhome – perfect when travelling as a family.

With the two front seats rotated through 180o, the Bolero offers a comfortable, intimate lounge area, more than adequate for entertaining four or five guests, and with the large sun-roof there is plenty of light. The sun roof's equipped with a blind if the sun's too hot. The adjustable reading lights above the seats are a nice touch.

Other than the fixed bed's shape, I can't think of anything to fault the new 684 – it's a great piece of design with plenty of style and flair. It's fun to drive and easy to use, and is presented with a vast range of standard, convenience features such as the Fob for remote control central locking.

For a couple seeking a bit of adventure garnished with plenty of fun and perhaps a little romance – you could do worse than an escape in the better Bolero.

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