Swift Kontiki vs Frankia Platin

Discussion in 'Motorhome Chat' started by bladerunner, Oct 21, 2015.

  1. bladerunner

    bladerunner Funster

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    I penned this comparing the two vans I have owned.
    Please don't flame me for excess purchase - they were bought after a life working long and hard!

    p.s. It's quite long:


    Upgrade?



    Swift Kontiki 669 vs Frankia Platin Plus




    Bonus, inheritance, retirement – I’m guessing at least one of those allows many of us to buy our first motorhome. For me the first two came close together and my wife and I were finally able to buy ours – a Swift Kontiki 669, ex demo £60,000. The second came four years later, enabling me to upgrade as I reached retirement – a new Frankia Platin Plus QD7400, a snip at £135,000.

    So, is the upgrade worth the extra?


    Firstly, let me say if you are thinking of buying your first motorhome, of whatever cost, just do it. Sadly at the time of our lives when we have small children and would love the freedom of a motorhome, many of us cannot afford one. When the opportunity did arise, our girls had left home and were far too cool (or is that kewl) to join us. Still, my wife insisted at least a four birth-er to accommodate the eagerly anticipated grand children. She also insisted on a fixed double bed.


    A good friend rags me endlessly about the image of a motorhome and says, of course, he could go to, for example, Brugges, in his Porsche, and stay in a fancy hotel. Two reposts – firstly, he could, but he never will; and secondly, the motorhome is not what it is, it is what it allows you to do. We are fortunate enough to live near Cardiff and have had scores of fabulous weekends in the Brecons or Pembroke coast as well as longer breaks in Europe including Norway. Now I have retired, I take it skiing for anything up to 6 weeks then continue South to find some early sun.

    Thinking of getting one? – Do it, you will not regret.


    So, Swift at £60k or Frankia at £135k – can one be worth more than twice the other?


    Appearance:


    The ubiquitous Fiat Ducato sits proudly at the front of seemingly most of the motorhomes on the road and on the sites. In the Kontiki guise it has been married to a huge 8.5m caravan perched on top of a tag axle. The whole effect has the appearance of a queen termite – cute and familiar up front, massive bulk behind. In the more recent Swifts they have at least tried to merge the cab with the body with a black paint job.

    It must also look long, because as I pass lorries, they flash me to let me know I have space to return – not the case in the Frankia.

    The Frankia looks more a “whole” and the gold paint sets it apart, although the front grill makes it look like a character from Trumpington and the rear wheels, despite being 2 abreast, do look a little narrow from the rear. The windows ooze class, being flush with the body and of sterner stuff than is the norm.

    The Fiat comes with alloy wheels – not unattractive. The Mercedes with steel wheels covered by chrome decals – all very nice until one bounces off down the autobahn.

    Walking around, the quality of the Frankia becomes clear. There are cleverly placed lockers, including large rear garage, which allows for easy storage of two bikes. For the Swift we had a rear bike rack – with the muck and security concerns that brings.

    The locks on the Frankia are of the German black oval design, which close with a reassuring turn. Those of the Swift are a joke, and the catches so ineffectual that I believe you can tell a Swift owner by the scars on his nose – it is inevitable that the locker will swing down and clout you at some point.

    Inside the lockers you can see the industrial size connections and tubing of the Frankia: compare and contrast these with the penny pinching micro thin wires in the British built Swift. VW Golf versus Leyland Metro. I have no doubt which will stand the test of time best.

    The Frankia also has the neat service hatch whereby all the three connections (electricity, water and grey waste) are already in place and exit via a lower portal.


    Permission to come aboard?


    So let’s enter and see what else is different.

    Well here, surprisingly, the Swift scores some points as the habitation door is a solid affair, which centrally locks. Indeed, I think it was the substantial nature of this door, which converted me to the Swift in the first place. The Frankia door is not too bad, but has a worrying tendency to centrally lock whilst you are outside! I am told this is a known fault and something to do with the Mercedes locks – very comforting if you are stranded outside in your jimjams on a ski field!

    This (or is that next) year’s model, seen recently in the NEC, has reverted to the same door manufacturer as used by Swift, and now features friendly central locking. Nice to know 10 months after such an investment! Did I tell you it cost £135,000?


    Both vans have steps, which retract once the engine is started. Entering the Frankia there are an extra two steps to take you above the double floor and into a leather scented cocoon. My wife considers the Frankia to be a New York Penthouse against the Swift country cottage.


    There is less room in the Frankia (that’ll be the one metre difference Simon) and the customary Frankia table, which is permanent, (albeit it can be moved fore and aft and side to side), exacerbates this. The Swift table can be stored under the large rear double bed – but it is worth booking the osteopath early before you reach back to extract it again. Both van have useful storage space under the seats for the many cases of duty free wine for the sports equipment.


    The Frankia has leather bound seats – easier to clean and give that classy smell ( catnip to an autophile ) – and we were able to choose one of dozens of colours (a rather tasteful dark moss green/brown since you ask). Hymer please note – not everyone wants Saudi-playboy white settees. The Swift has beige swirly fabric covers and beige carpets – these stayed in pretty good condition over 4 years, but if there is one thing the camping and caravanning scene does not need it is more beige.


    Both vans had good cooking facilities and good sized fridge/freezers. The Frankia has a top quality gas oven below 3 gas ring/one electric hob.


    [I cannot understand why the Hymer, and many other continental manufacturers do not fit decent ovens. Surely if you are using your van for a lengthy trip, you will want to cook proper food. It was this lack of cooker, mainly, which stopped us buying an equivalent Hymer - £145k purchase blocked. (Apologies to Travelworld - who were superb throughout.) The Hymer also did not have an extractor fan].


    Both vans have good bathrooms, but again the Frankia scores with qual-i-ty fitments and the clever door, which can close the toilet or the full rear of the van (so no wet doggy noses wake up calls!) The Swift had a flimsy curtain, which is no match to a fully grown Retreiver. In addition the Frankia has twice as many shower drain holes and a classier shower-head behind superb glass doors.


    At the back both have island beds, which are ridiculously comfortable for camping. Ridiculously! – My days of small tents may well be over. Waking well rested in a warm double bed before a hearty long walk has to be one of life’s pleasures. The Frankia bed must be bigger as our Duvalay cover (excellent by the way) now has 4cm or so each side and base free from the mattress.


    The Swift has a useful storage area under the bed – but the surround is thin plastic and is just crying out to be cracked at some point. Also, as I have said, loading and removing items from the space (with the bed hinged and resting on you) is a direct route to the back clinic.


    Heating:


    Again the Frankia scores here with real live radiators and, oh my word the luxury if you have not tried it, under floor heating - toasty warm luxury whatever the weather. The Swift has blown air heating, which was pretty good (though not thermostat controlled) but, as the you-tube video says, does dry the air.

    One word of caution though, in Germany and Austria they charge by the unit electricity and a week of camping mid winter can lead to an eye watering extra bill.





    Driving:


    The ride of my life:


    Both vans drive well at motorway speeds and, although clearly affected by cross winds, are manageable. Also, it is amazing how soon one gets used to such a large vehicle. I have yet to prang either, though I’m not sure why my 3m car has parking sensors and my 8m truck (without rear view window) does not. Where we live the roads are single track with passing places, so I have usually driven the hardest roads of any trip in the first 2 miles.


    The Swift drives like a van - a van connected to a very large caravan. Occasionally this join is more obvious than you would like and the creaks and rattles above your head remind you of this fact. The Frankia, as an A class, sits you way back from the windscreen which can be a little disconcerting at first, but as you get used to it, the effect adds to the sense of vacation and road trip as the tarmac unfolds beneath you. There is also solidity to the whole.

    The front windows are double glazed for heat and sound insulation, but they have an irritating ability to reflect what is in the opposite window rather that what is behind. In strong sunlight this can be verging on dangerous.


    The Swift is front wheel drive – VERY front wheel drive. Hills starts on wet French cobbles can be “interesting” especially if a local has stopped mm from your rear. We have twice been stranded – albeit on very muddy pitches – and needed towing out. The rear wheel drive of the Frankia (two wheels abreast rather than tag axle) was one aspect that attracted me – I have taken the vans out skiing and there is no doubt that rear wheel drive is comforting on slippery mountain roads. The turning circle benefits also.


    The gear-box of the Fiat is an odd robotic manual which I do not fully understand – it certainly does not like being reversed up hill and the first time I smelt clutch from an “automatic” confused me. It can also change up or down at inconvenient times (such as going around a roundabout). The Mercedes 7 speeder is far preferable and super smooth.


    Both vans have cruise control (useful on empty autoroutes, less so on the M25) but the Fiat will cut out on a long hill – (either lack of engine power or that gear box again?) whereas the Mercedes will buckle down and charge up the incline – passing whatever – paying no head to the cost of the diesel it is burning.

    There is no doubt also that the V6 3l Mercedes engine beats the Fiat 4 cylinder hands down for perceivable power and smooth running. Both return around the low 20’s on long cruises, less in town obviously.


    To say the Swift rides firm and the Frankia soft is to compare a 5 ton skate board with a 5 ton space hopper. The Fiat based Swift can be surprisingly, er, swift on country A roads and it can be all too easy to forget that you are followed by 8.5 metres of home. But there is a penalty to pay as the wheels crash over minor road imperfections (and which road in the UK does not have these?)


    On the other hand, the Frankia can be sublime, like an ocean liner imperiously floating over the ripples. However, at odd times (say a speed hump taken at an angle) the suspension can wallow and set up a propagating wave that seems to last for minutes. Similarly, if your wife and two large dogs all exit at the same time and the water tank starts rolling in sympathy, you can be lying in bed wanting to be tied to the mast and regretting that third glass of wine.


    On a cross country run the Fiat would be the quickest A to B whilst the Frankia brings up the rear rolling and yawing like a big old Hector. I could “invest” in air suspension, yet another £5000, but have adjusted my driving style instead.



    The advantage seems to be that I am using levelling blocks far less often now, the van rests in a perfectly acceptable pose on most sites – I am not one of those whose OCD demands a perfectly level truck.



    Toys:


    As you would expect from a premium van called Platin Plus (I couldn’t quite afford the “um”), there are toys aplenty. Four (count them, 1,2,3,4) solar panels and a nifty display to show how many pixies you have made each day. I have no idea what they do or whether they are any good, but I do know I have made nearly 2000 of them in the last year! A fellow camper in Austria said if I have solar panels then I really should have two leisure batteries. “Oh dear” I said, “I’ll need to take one out then”.

    I could have added a fuel cell for a snip at, guess what, £5000, but then again I don’t know why I’d need it – and I do have a Honda generator.

    We have wild camped for a night or two on the trot so far and certainly never gone below 80% battery level.

    The batteries and inverters are all stored in a side locker. This latter has to have been designed by a man as the sparkling silver boxes all have twinkly lights and are stacked behind a mesh grill as if tethered to stop them escaping. This is all set off by an electric blue lighting to give the full Enterprise/Tardis lithium crystal effect. Serious bragging rights down the pub!

    Of definite use is the heat exchanger, which allows the heat of the engine to warm the habitation area (and can warm the engine in case of a cold start). So when driving there is none of the cold neck draughts. Also the inverter allows for the fridge etc to be run from the engine – so far we have yet to use one single cylinder of gas in over 18 weeks of travel.


    There is an Oyster satellite, which is a peach to use. It gets a good signal down to the South of France and I must resist the temptation to fiddle! We had installed an “in-motion” satellite to the Swift – the “in-motion” bit being an extra £400. The dealers West of Cardiff wanted to demonstrate it once fitted and so plugged the truck into the mains. I pointed out that wiring it to the battery might have been more helpful, as I had only a limited length of electric cable! The other satellite dish went West when I didn’t notice the green netting over the pitch and burnt out the motor trying to raise it against resistance (da- yum and blast!).





    Niggles:


    I guess you can forgive a “cheaper” (hah, who am I kidding?) motorhome for foibles and errors more than a “premium” one. The Swift needed water ingress therapy under warranty after one year and a few bits and bobs that needed an extra screw or super glue. In addition, some of the trim was looking scruffy after just 4 years.

    But the Frankia has not been without some niggles – chief amongst was the ability for the main large drawer to leap out onto the floor whilst I drove mountain hairpins, scattering pots and pans at a time when the last thing I could do was stop and correct it. A few other things I hope will be sorted at its first service. It seems that motorhome ownership always includes factoring in regular repairs – something that would be unacceptable in a car.



    Conclusion:


    There is absolutely no doubt the Frankia is the better truck and of course (when in ear shot of my wife) I consider it to be a fine investment and worth every penny. Whether it proves to be or not, time will tell. It was certainly a dry mouth hyperventilation moment when I signed over the cash. It is certainly more “complete” and solid and fulfils my need for a ski chalet on wheels better. But worth more than twice a Swift?


    Now I just need to get over the colly-wobbles of driving such an investment amongst today’s traffic!
     
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  2. funflair

    funflair Funster Life Member

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    Well I skipped to the end and got the result I expected, laws of diminishing return vs expenditure will apply I am sure though.

    Got to go out in 5 minutes so will read and digest your points later and possibly even add my own thoughts.

    Martin
     
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  3. StefAndDi

    StefAndDi

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    A very interesting read. Thank you @bladerunner.
    Now I'm off to check out the Frankia website.
    Stef.
     
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  4. Judge Mental

    Judge Mental Funster Deceased RIP

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    Me to:D
     
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  5. Cavs

    Cavs Funster

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    We're on our second Frankia having originally been directed to one for the layout we sought. They're not perfect, but they are for the most part solidly built. IMO, they have excellent design features, such as the service locker mentioned above.

    (BTW Stef, our first Frankia, an i680 Holiday Class, will be up for sale shortly ;))
     
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  6. deanroofing

    deanroofing Funster

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    Enjoyed that, good read.
     
  7. Cat53

    Cat53 Funster

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    Gulp! Is all I can say. That's a hell of a lot of money. Enjoy every moment of your dream though! (y)
     
  8. funflair

    funflair Funster Life Member

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    @bladerunner Thanks for that, good honest comparison, of course you like the Frankia better now you have spent your cash (only kidding).
    Your comments about the Mercedes chassis seem to be opinions shared by most people that have these underpinnings, we have the IVECO chassis under our Flair which to be fair is now getting on a bit at 10 years old but it does not wallow as people suggest the Mercedes does BUT it can be a bit harsh over our pot holed black top.
    Your comment about sitting so far back from the windscreen and the narrow rear axle is something that puts me off the Mercedes chassis as opposed to the IVECO as these are now very close to the glass and a decent wide stance as long as it not the 5t chassis, your reflection comment in the double glazed windows is something I have not experiences so I wonder if it is a function of sitting that bit further back and looking through the windows at an oblique angle.
    I understand what you say about the oven and assume you have a proper oven not he TEC tower, we don't have one at all being the typical German build and I don't think we miss it, I say I don't think we do as its not me that does all the cooking, we do have a microwave which we use a lot but everything else is either done on the cooker top or outside on the BBQ, when we are away for a long time we are certainly aiming for nice weather so outside is OK and when we are away for just a week or so we have quite a few meals in the freezer as all our left over from when we are at home get frozen and taken away, would we have an oven I the next one? Don't know, you had better ask the boss.

    Martin
     
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  9. bigtree

    bigtree Funster

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    Good choice,I'am happy with my i7900bd.Can carry all my toys as it has a quad+ garage. IMG_0010.JPG IMG_0009.JPG
     
  10. maison

    maison Funster

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    Enjoyed the read.

    Would love the Frankia but cannot contemplate the additional cost. Totally eye watering!

    I envy you too much to make any other comment than "enjoy. At that price you deserve all the fun you can get"(y)

    Now. Where is that rich elderly uncle of mine?:whistle:
     
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  11. DuxDeluxe

    DuxDeluxe Funster Life Member

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    Would have liked the Frankia but settled for a Pilote (same company) instead.

    Thanks for such a good write up. Much appreciated by all of us (y)
     
  12. Vlad The Impaler

    Vlad The Impaler Funster

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    I should imagine the happiest Frankia owners are the ones driving older vans that smugly know that the previous owners have suffered the financial loss whilst they enjoy the quality .


    Vlad
     
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  13. Reevsie

    Reevsie Funster

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    Excellent read.
    Bought a Swift 649 this year 2015 model. Loving every minute of it.
    Went to the NEC and looked at a £175,000 Motorhome. Loved every part of it. Except the price.
    You can see where the extra money goes. If you have it, get what you want and enjoy it. Spend the kids inheritance while you can.
     
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  14. Judge Mental

    Judge Mental Funster Deceased RIP

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    You can get a used lhd 2014 platin under £90k
     
  15. funflair

    funflair Funster Life Member

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    But if you want new and can afford new, why accept second best.

    Martin
     
  16. DavidG58

    DavidG58 Funster

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    Really good honest report, thanks. I have been through the same financial trauma you have put yourself through, but in my case I came to the conclusion that doubling the value could not possibly double the experience

    We are in a slightly different position where we bought a used Hymer S class at around half list price at 3 years old, then looking at a brand new MH similar to yours, so we already have the quality :whistle:

    What really swung me was the fact that we had only a year before more than doubled the financial investment in our MH, moving from our first purchase which was already over budget, to one more than twice the price, although still way short of the figure you have spent.

    Doing the same again just didn't seem right, you didn't put a value on your traded in Swift, but presuming around half original price, you would appear to have added £100K, but it is your money and your choice, I do find that most people having made that kind of investment tend to convince themselves and try to convince all others that they have done the right thing

    Now have fun parked alongside all sorts from £3K upwards (y)
     
  17. Chipster

    Chipster Funster Life Member

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    They're top of our list at the moment when it comes to change time.
     
  18. Judge Mental

    Judge Mental Funster Deceased RIP

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    Fine....but I don't consider a van with 10,000 miles as being particularly used. Different strokes and all that:)
     
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  19. funflair

    funflair Funster Life Member

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    When you buy new you get the exact spec that you want, even some bespoke customisation with some brands, and it won't have been used by anybody else which some believe is worth paying for.

    Martin
     
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  20. Popeye

    Popeye Funster

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    Interesting read and I agree with much of what you say. I fitted the air suspension to my Frankia Platin Plus just three weeks ago and I have to say the result is astounding. I also fitted the Hydraulic self leveling because my other half measures the degree of incline with the fridge door so it has to be spot on.

    I went for the larger one so that I had room for eight around the table and the increased wardrobe space, but my initial order was for the 790. The 8500 just happened to be ready for delivery before the 790 had even been built.


    What I cannot understand is why the "Silver paintwork" is an additional £4250, can you answer that? I too have the Gold.

    [​IMG]
     
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