LHD ‘2000 model’ on Fiat 2.8TDi - bought
new on 29/03/01 in Germany.
The CS544K - An Introduction: We chose this particular Hymer following quite a long search both in
UK and in Germany. We decided that our needs were; a family van with
rear seat belts, a fixed bed, a good bathroom, adequate kitchen, enough
space and good light for relaxing for all when not outside, good low level
storage for our outdoor kit and it had to fit in an 18’6" parking
space! This would be a Tardis indeed! In practice there just aren’t
any motorcaravans completely meeting the spec in the required length, so
as usual, compromises were required, something had to give - in our case
it was the kitchen (rather to my surprise I might add!)..
The Camp Swing 544K is one of Hymer’s ‘entry-level’ coachbuilts
having a classic dinette and side couch layout with end kitchen and corner
bathroom. Being at the budget end of their range and also rather shorter
than usual, it’s a bit of an ugly duckling with none of the modern
aerodynamic styling of the dearer vehicles. Hymer’s graphics do a
fair job of concealing the boxiness without being gaudy and the very square
rear end looks much better with the optional bike rack fitted. Hymer quality
is apparent however in much of the construction - still their PU/Aluminium
sandwich walls with a six year water ingress warranty for example.
Driving: Apart from being LHD the cab is standard Fiat.
a German ‘van
the cab is pretty bare too - rubber mats, original Fiat seats, no radio
supplied, standard dashboard, manual windows, etc. The optional 2.8TDi
engine (larger engines are greatly favoured by The Germans) makes driving
this motorcaravan much more of a pleasure with instant starting and plenty
of power and control right from cold. No more struggling to keep up with
trucks on long inclines, no more struggling to get off wet grass on choke,
and 26/7 mpg even with that huge over-cab Luton - heaven. It does come
with a cost however, the noise from the bigger diesel is pretty overpowering
at speed and of course always very loud compared with a petrol engine.
A sound-proofing kit fitted by BJ Acoustics helped quite a bit with engine
noise but tyre roar from the big Michelin Camping Tyres and also wind noise
above 60 mph is still very intrusive. (And now at 14,000+ miles the engine
is just loosening up nicely).
At lower speeds the driving experience is really quite civilised, the
power steering and excellent turning circle along with that 2.8 engine
make for an almost car-like drive. Visibility is relatively poor as it is
with all coachbuilts but Hymer have specified the extended twin mirrors
which do help. Rear visibility is very poor indeed and a camera is needed
for comfort and confidence in tight spots. The short wheelbase chassis
makes this a very manoeuvrable vehicle but also leads to less stability
on motorways where the draught from other traffic does tend to knock one
off course somewhat, roll is also noticeable but not unmanageable. This
short wheelbase is forced on the designer as a consequence of a rear door
layout in a 5½ metre ‘van; having a medium wheelbase base
vehicle would force a mid door layout which we didn’t want. This
is a very good example of the compromises that have to be faced with such
a restrictive spec!
The Fiat cab seats seem a little unyielding at first but are very good
on long journeys with good support where it’s needed. Rear passengers
fare less well, though the 2x3 point and 2x2 point crash tested seat belts
fitted to the dinette are very welcome giving six approved seats. (on later
models there are 3x3 point + 1x2 point belts ). The dinette seats are nowhere
near as supportive of course, and the ride is uncomfortable for some. This
is a problem with many dinettes, the front portion offers only ‘back
to engine’ seating and the rear portion is often over the rear axle;
some travellers won’t be bothered by any of this, while others might
feel quite nauseous! Rear travellers can open and secure the side window
just a fraction to get some air while on the move but they do rattle somewhat
when secured like this on the move.
Relaxing: This particular layout offers both the dinette and a side couch for relaxing.
dinette with its generous table is excellent when you want to use a laptop
or spread out some magazines, maps and guidebooks while the couch beckons
rather more for lounging. We have been somewhat surprised that we haven’t
used the couch as much as we expected - how much that is due to lack of
comfort isn’t yet clear. The foams and fillings used in these areas
are rather firm for British taste and not of sufficiently high quality
for real comfort. This is partly a consequence of the budget ‘entry
level’ spec of course and in practical terms it’s cheaper to
upgrade the fillings than to buy a higher spec ‘van! This is not
a difficult process since all the covers unzip for easy cleaning - or filling
changes. Back cushions are wedge shaped but the seat cushions are dead
square, this makes for a good flat bed but offers little thigh support
for those of us with longer legs. We solved the problem by having long
foam wedges made up to Velcro easily to the underside of the front edge
of the cushions for seating and to be easily removed for sleeping. We’ve
also added some quite large scatter cushions to improve lounging comfort.
In our second year we've replaced the original Hymer firm and rather 'dead',
foam with some softer more resilient stuff from SM Upholstery of Cardiff
and are much happier now with both seating and sleeping comfort.
The TV cupboard positioning means viewing is easy from the dinette and
possible from the over-cab bed but near impossible from the couch. Heating
is provided by a Truma fire plus thermostatic blown air system with
controllable outlets everywhere they are needed, especially the bathroom and
even one into the front cab plus a heated duct under the over-cab mattress.
Gauges to check on fresh and waste water levels plus leisure and vehicle
battery voltage are provided on the wardrobe wall over the couch. The
adequate wardrobe is over the boiler installation so pre-warmed coats are a
bonus in winter - but make sure you don't leave chocolate in the pockets!!
The choice of interior fabrics is a very personal affair and some of the
Hymer offerings have been a bit severe of late but we’re very fond
of the abstract grey & blue scheme in ours. Voile curtains to soften
the look of the standard fly screens & blinds are a nice touch in a budget
'van. The lighting is generally very good with two semi-spots serving the
dinette and another
pair at roof level for more general lighting if required, there’s
also a fluorescent over the couch that is really quite unpleasant by comparison.
Daylight is available in plenty thanks to the two big side windows and
the large ‘Heki style’ vent overhead. This was one of the selling
points for us - there really is a very light and airy feel to the living
area. These top-hung windows feature single handed opening despite their
size and have four retaining positions from just ‘cracked open’ to
almost full open with the window itself near horizontal - excellent. Another
thing we like is that these windows are barely tinted - we know tinting is
fashionable but we like to feel as if we are actually in the country rather
than just looking at it! In contrast the window catches are slightly vulnerable
- the self-locking mechanism is easy to break if you forget to press the
release catch at the right moment. Breakage would leave the vehicle
poorly secured but since the catches are very easy to replace we now carry
Eating: Eating obviously uses the same dinette seating as referred to under relaxing
so many of the same comments apply. The table is of generous proportions
so that four can dine with relative comfort and two can spread out in French
picnic fashion. A table extension would be needed to enable another one
or two people to eat comfortably from the couch, Hymer offer an extending
table as an option. The table is much lighter weight than it appears, being
hollow. There’s no dedicated storage space for it but owners seem
to use the space behind the passenger cab seat (restricting the full seat
movement) or the wardrobe or quite commonly they simply leave it in position
the overhead lockers on the table side are used for lightweight crockery
and acrylic ‘glassware’ and so on, the whole arrangement seems
quite convenient with at least two people being able to contribute to mealtime
preparation without falling over each other. The shaped work surface at
the back of the dinette links the kitchen and dining areas well and serves
as a very useful transfer and/or dishing up area. In many of our favourite
remote spots the ability to eat by a giant picture window has been a great
pleasure. It is also very useful fully open if ‘serving’ to
outside hordes! I can however imagine others who would see this feature
as a lack of privacy and would hate it!
Sleeping: There are lots of possible variants here so perhaps I’d better deal
with them individually and also confess that we haven’t personally
tried them all!
over-cab bed is both large and permanent and is normally our preferred
spot. The optional ‘Federkernpolster’ like all the furnishings,
is a bit on the firm side and we have softened it with some quality 'egg-box
foam'. The bed base is ribbed to give some ventilation to the underside
and we have not experienced any moisture problems. Fittings include a single
5W) and window at one end plus a compartmentalised plastic moulding that
runs along the leading edge of the Luton. I guess this acts as a reinforcement
for the Luton but is also a very useful retainer for night time requisites
like water and an alarm clock - especially with some slip-stop fitted when
except the water can be left in place. We’d like to add a second
window and lamp at the other end so that I can always sleep with my head
above my feet even if there are other reasons to park the ‘van the ‘wrong
way round’. There is a safety net if required and curtains for privacy
or simply to keep out that very early morning light. This has turned out
to be our grand-daughter's preferred sleeping area too - so we now have
fuller experience of the other beds!
Headroom is always an issue in over-cab beds and although one of the best
in its class the Hymer is restricted at about 60 cm at the front, falling
away only a couple of cm or so for the first 90 cm where the curve at the
front of the Luton begins. This means it’s not possible to sit up
in bed and read though you can watch TV from bed, semi-reclining, should
you wish! The person sleeping nearest the front of the ‘van gets
the worst deal since they have the least headroom, have to clamber over
their partner to get in and out and also have to stretch a little if trying
to watch TV. Some unexpected features were discovered one night in Galloway
in a December storm - first the sideways movement of the van in gusting
winds feels huge 'up top' and second the noise of heavy rain on the roof
just inches away can be deafening! Getting in and out is reasonably easy
by over-cab standards but anyone less sprightly might find it all rather
The thing I would say at this point is that many of the alternative ‘vans
we looked at were worse with less headroom still! The supplied access ladder
locates securely on the bed edge but is rather hard on the feet - wider
treads (or some attached carpet perhaps!) would be a help here. It would
be impossible to use the ladder if all the downstairs beds were all being
fully used simultaneously. No wonder so many people use the over-cab as
a bed for children or simply for storage. In the end the choice is yours
- there’s no hassle with bed making but getting in and out is plainly
more difficult. For us the ready-to-fall-into bed is the big attraction
and worth the effort - though we now make up the dinette bed if a major
storm is brewing!
The dinette bed is a reasonable size considering the compactness of the ‘van.
It can be made up as a three-quarter double or large single by removing
the head restraints and back cushions, dropping the table into position
in the middle and re-arranging the cushions including one special infill
that we normally keep in the Luton. This leaves the normal aisle and ladder
access to the over-cab untouched. A larger bed is made by pulling out two
substantial side extensions and adding the long cushion from the couch
backrest. This long infill has its own rigid base built in. Plainly there
is no headroom problem here and access to kitchen and bathroom is easy,
as it is to the big side window should you want to see as well as hear
the early birds! We've replaced the cushion foam as mentioned
earlier and decided to create a new larger infill in the process, this
means that the dinette backrests are no longer required as part of the
now be filled with something much softer for lounging comfort. When not
in use overnight they are stored in the cab .
The long side couch can also be used as a short single bed by simply removing
the backrest cushions from their Velcro attachment. The base also slides
out to make a wider three foot unit with the addition of the other half
of the backrest - though this again encroaches on the aisle and ladder
space. Finally you can make up both the dinette and couch to their fullest
extent and use them as one giant double! So we can have one large double
in the Luton plus a small or normal double downstairs plus a side single
double - adaptable or what?
Shutting up shop at night is very easy, the cab/lounge dividing curtains
are drawn across and fly screens and/or blinds are closed on all the windows
and roof vents. The cab curtains really should have more overlap at their
ends to close off light and cold air more efficiently and as previously
remarked all beds would benefit from better, more resilient foams and fillings.
Maybe manufacturers should offer this as an optional extra as part of a ‘comfort
There's a slight problem with the 'van rocking in wind or if one of the
occupants gets up in the night. I think this would be true of all designs
with a large rear body overhang. Wind-down rear stabilisers would be a
great help here.
was the area we ‘sacrificed to get everything else in, it’s
a very small kitchen with minimal facilities - in particular no grill and
no oven and just two rings (3 on later models). Despite this, the design
has been carefully thought out and does work well in practice, particularly
if the cook is adaptable - see Dilys’ recipes! Our cooker is simply
a two ring gas hob built into a draining board alongside the sink. The
whole thing is covered with fold up worktops and a folding heat shield
and is illuminated with a diffused eye level fluorescent. The worktop over
the sink is ingenious in that can be folded out to three different positions,
one of which gives an additional elevated small work surface. The fold
out heat shield is rather over-long and is a bit fiddly too but it has
been modified on later models. Over the sink is a peg board to which we’ve
added an accessory spice rack and row of hooks.
Under this working area there’s an 83 litre 3-way fridge and combined
cupboard with general storage, slide out wire tray, cutlery drawer, small
waste bin, gas taps and even access to the plumbing. There’s no room
for a conventional oven. Clever though all this is, it wouldn’t be
enough without the cupboard opposite, which is built onto the back of the
dinette with a curved front and additional work surface. This cupboard
swallows a vast amount, everything from wine, water, jams, herbs & spices
to tea, coffee & cafetières and provides an essential worktop
between the cooking and dining areas. Posher models also have a chrome
pole extending to the ceiling supporting elevated chrome trays - another
clever use of height and layer to solve the space problem. Later models
have a much modified cupboard here, it looks a much less useful item but
I'm not sure how it compares in practice.
Ventilation is possible via the back window (but very awkward to reach
over the cooker and folding bits), the main door and via a roof light over
the cook’s head. Draughts from the door can be a problem to the two
gas rings though the fly screen can help there, Dilys fancies a stable
door in place of the standard one piece door. Worth mentioning here is
the convenient location of the electric step and access light switches
next to the door. Sensibly, they are live even when the 12V leisure system
is off and they are easily reached both from inside the ‘van and
outside when one is at ground level. The kitchen roof vent is rather Teutonic
in that you need to be 6 foot plus and have a strong grip to release and
push open the vent. When will manufactures give us a electric vents that
open via a remote push button? An extractor over the hob would have been
an excellent addition too but I think it’s only available on the
dearer models. Other criticisms are that the eye-level fluorescent should
be properly baffled not just diffused and that the small waste bin is rather
a waste of time - perhaps it would be better to build a decent one into
the main door as on some Italian ‘vans. But perhaps that would interfere
with the fly screen - compromises again! Criticisms aside it is remarkable
just how well this very small space does work.
Washing: The 544K’s excellent bathroom was another of its selling points
for us. It
is virtually all moulded curvy plastic in white and blue with three large
mirrors giving a light and airy ‘Tardis effect’ but
with plenty of dedicated dry areas for toiletries, tissue and the like.
There’s no loo roll holder but then what would be the point in a
shower area?? There are dry cupboards for that. Some people won’t
like the plastic of course but it is immensely practical being clean, fresh
and waterproof and of course it is light in weight as well as appearance
and so helps the payload and in particular the back axle loading. (Heavy
weights this far back can add more than 1.5x their own weight to the back axle).
There’s no bathroom window but there is a good roof vent and the
shower and wash area is combined along with the fitted swivel cassette.
This suits us fine, we’re not great fans of separate areas because
they take up too much room and each area becomes too small in any case.
Lighting is tungsten again but fairly powerful as it should be here and
a nice touch is the blown air outlet by the toilet - wonderful if you’re
a winter camper!
The shower is very good though the new combined sink tap / showerhead
design is not quite as good for tall people as the old one, water is delivered
on-demand by a 12V pump submerged in the 120 litre fresh water tank under
the front dinette seat and heating is provided by the now ubiquitous Truma
boiler which is electronically started and controlled. The shower tray has a shaped channel
to assist run off into the 100 litre waste tank but as usual the designer
has assumed a level ‘van whereas in practice many people will park
on a slight tilt to ensure their heads are higher than their feet while
sleeping and that tends to be in the opposite direction to the designated
shower run-off! Being at the back in that critical overhang area the waste
tank should be emptied at every opportunity and Hymer have made this very
easy with a substantial remote ‘tap’ and 40 mm piping. (Some
early signs of the water pump failing have suggested to us that this would
be another very useful spare to carry in the 'van!)
Storing: This is always tricky in a small ‘van but Hymer have worked wonders
here. There are good storage cupboards at high level on both sides and
at the back of the ‘van. Hymer’s judgement about the balance
between capacity and visual dominance is just right with nothing feeling
oppressive but offering substantial capacity for lighter items like underwear,
shirts, gloves, etc. The cupboards are cleverly shaped and trimmed to disguise
their bulk. Not all came with internal shelves so we’ve added some
ourselves - be warned that the Hymer genuine spares are very expensive!
Virtually the whole of the rear dinette seat base is available for
storage as is the couch base and both are amidships at floor level so are
ideal for this. Access in both cases is via a lifting lid which is not
as convenient as slide-outs but does make every inch of space available.
Temporarily removing cushions allows free and unhindered access to both
areas and in the case of the couch there is external locker access too.
I’ve not seen this on UK ‘vans but it is very popular in Germany.
There are other external lockers including the cassette service hatch which
also has plenty of room for fluids, tissue, waste pipes and more. Nearby
is a skirt level drop-down door used to store a spare cassette (extra).
On it’s bigger cousin the 544M this is a very useful full body width
storage space - ideal for picnic stuff, parasols, skis, etc!!.
Further towards the front is the gas locker with the Triomatic automatic
change over system. We’ve kept the German gas system and regulators
and added UK adaptors to take 2x 11 Kg Propane bottles. These only just
fit and so far we’ve only been able to get them from Alta Gas, FloGas
and Budget Gas, everyone else wanting to give us 7 or 13 Kg bottles. All
catches and the water inlet
use a common key and locker catches have a neat arrangement whereby you
pre-lock them while open, continue to use them in that state and finally
lock them with a sharp tap once properly closed. The spare wheel is somewhat
inaccessible mounted under the rear floor but where else would you put
it? And anyway I’m not planning on using it much!!
All this storage is no use of course unless you have the payload to cope
and the 544K on its 3.4 tonne chassis scores well here with a claimed 810
Kg payload. This figure is fairly generous even for a 5 berth ‘van
where about 700 Kg would be reasonable - but unfortunately not all manufacturers
get it right, one famously has a 4 berth model with less than 300 Kg available
Problems? There have been very few really, the trim around the big roof light cracked,
the bathroom tap ceased to be very controllable and the leisure battery
failed very early. All have been dealt with under warranty by our German
dealer who has been helpful and efficient throughout, even lending us a
car while the work was done. Unlike the UK importers who are equally helpful
but seem(ed?) to have inefficiency, delay and cock-up as their middle names.
Other than that there have been a few minor issues of our own making
- like the curtain
hooks being too frail for us so we have to keep replacing the broken ones,
the broken window catch mechanism, and now a broken long bed infill when
we simply put too much weight on its middle. We will replace this lightweight
base panel with stronger but heavier plywood. You could argue that these
items should be more robust or that we should be more careful - take your
A niggling problem was the tendency of the TV to drop out when other electrics
were used - in particular any motor like the water pump. This was originally
put down to the poor condition of the failing Gel battery but persisted
when we installed the twin Elecsol leisure batteries. Needless to say neither
grand-daughter nor I were too pleased if a favourite video dropped out
just because someone washed their hands! We took advice from knowledgeable
'sparkies' and decided that the wiring to the TV was too thin. I installed
a run of heavier gauge twin wires direct from leisure batteries to TV and
the problem was solved. To maintain the convenience of the single all-off
switch I wired the new run via a relay and a substantial in-line fuse.
Extra 12v outlets, one DIN and one cigar-lighter socket, were added under
long couch at
the same time. I
might get round to replacing the wiring to the water pump as well since
running one of the taps does still dim the lights!
There is a general problem in very hot weather with fridges struggling
to keep up. We've only seen this abroad when temperatures are in the upper
30s in relatively still air. This problem is not unique to Hymer and
the fact that these fridges often work better on 12v while travelling gives
a clue to the cause. Extra
air circulation is
needed in the fridge vent to get all that heat away from the back of the
fridge. Companies like CAK sell thermostatically controlled 12v cooling
fans for just this purpose so we might soon solve that one.
And the verdict? Well overall we’re very happy with this little
Hymer and believe that sensible compromises have been made trying to get
proverbial quart into a pint pot and at entry level prices too. Of course
suit everybody but it suits us and our extended family at the moment and
in the same circumstances we
the same again. In practice of course circumstances are never the same
we’ll go for next time!
Neill King firstname.lastname@example.org
is the first of our ‘owner reviews’ where we hope to see
some real feedback from real owners about real life experiences.
I’ve tried to make my comments objective and to take into account
that our lifestyle and preferences might not suit everybody. In some
ways this might be the essence of a good review - not simply saying "I
think this is best” but rather a broad view of the pros and cons
of the various features.
Anyway let me know what you think of it, we’re
open to suggestions and will incorporate them into a general guide for
anyone who wants to submit their own review. Click on
comment submit or just enquire.
These reviews are all presented as long pages but at least you
can read or print the entire article without having to follow several
Coach-built; a 'caravan' style body added to a light commercial chassis
with original cab. Often has an over-cab bed or store commonly known
as a 'Luton' in the UK.
Camping tyres; commercial grade tyres specially designed to cope with
long periods of inactivity while still carrying about 80% of their design
load plus use at sustained
continental speeds while fully loaded.
Slip-stop; a semi sticky and rubbery, open weave, mat obtainable from
accessory shops. Has amazing anti-slip properties, try a small square
of it on
your dashboard to hold loose items in place while driving!
Dinette; a simple couch and table arrangement normally accommodating
2 or 4 people. More popular on continental vans but becoming more
common as a UK option - mostly because it offers an easier design route
for fitting seat belts I think.
Heki; a brand name for a very large opening roof-light which usually
has a clear cover too.
3-way fridge; one that works on 230v 'mains' when 'hooked up', on lpg
gas when no mains is available and on 12v from the 'van while travelling.
Payload; the amount of carrying capacity remaining for your own possessions.
These are commercial vehicles with laid down weight limits so the manufacturer
has to get
all the furniture and appliances into the 'van while still allowing
you sufficient payload for all your gear - to say nothing of the cases
of wine you'll want to bring back from La France!
Payload postscript: the latest payload figures quoted by manufacturers
follow a stricter code than previously so now the weight of the driver
plus some gas and fresh water is taken into account before arriving at an
available payload figure. This of course makes a marginal 300 Kg payload
rather less marginal than before! Do note that everyone apart from
the driver must be covered within the payload figure.
A Wish List
Things we now know that we would really like to add to cope with
our needs and those of the family too, are ...
A reversing camera.
A roll-out awning for added shade - both personal and to keep the 'van
itself rather cooler.
A thermostatic fridge vent fan to improve fridge efficiency in really
An exterior gas and water point for barbeques and hose downs.
Stabilisers to keep the 'van still if someone gets up in the middle
of the night.
A roof rack for those family holidays that include tents and kitchen
Air-conditioning for those hot breaks abroad.
A bit more bed comfort still.
Possibly solar and/or wind power to keep us going longer in wild places.
All conversions are approximate.
Ducato 14 chassis rated at 3400Kg MPLM
Fiat 2.8 TDi engine rated at 90kW, 122PS
Length 5.54m 18’ 3”
Width 2.27m 7’ 6”
Height 2.88m 9’ 6”
Payload 810 Kg
Fridge 83 litre
Belted seats 6
Berths 5 (4+1)
212 x 145 7’ x 4’ 9”
190 x 125 6’ 3” x 4’ 1”
(or 3’4” without
175 x 90 5’ 10 x 3’
Note: In our experience most bed lengths are slightly exaggerated, often incorporating
structural woodwork too. In practice the 544’s are about 6’ 2” and
Twin 110 AHr
(our own addition).
2 only, one in TV cupboard one in bathroom.
only, one in TV cupboard and one in kitchen.
To access the
Modifications & Additions:
Softer Upholstery Foams.
Refillable gas bottles.
Exterior BBQ Point.
Roof TV Aerial plus
integrated audio + amp + cd player + tv.