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Buying decision advice sought! Swift Kon Tikis

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We are a couple expecting a baby in September (with a dog too). We've looked at a variety of layouts of motorhomes, and the one we keep coming back to is the Swift Kon Tiki 645, because we like the flexibility and the open, spacious feel to it. I've always had a soft spot for Kon Tikis although I've never owned a motorhome myself before.


I'm currently looking at two for sale and we are really struggling to know what's best to go for.


The first is a 2004 Kon Tiki 645 on the 2.8L Fiat chassis. It's apparently in good condition (just being prepped at the moment so we've not seen it, but we've seen plenty of identical models, so we know what to expect). It's done 24K miles, has a reversing camera, cab & hab aircon, etc. The one thing against it is that it has had 6 prior owners! I can buy it for under £29K with a 3 year warranty.


The second is a 2008 model on the 160HP new style chassis with the grey & white body. Again it's in VGC and has only done 5,000 miles. It's got the standard Vogue spec but no hab aircon. It's being traded in against a brand new Kon Tiki by its first owner. I can buy this one for under £39K, again including 3 year warranty (chassis & body, parts & labour).


Both seem reasonable deals to me. However, the 2008 is ten grand more than the 2004, which is a not insignificant amount of money; whilst we have the money to spend if we want to, that's £10K less of a buffer in our bank account if our circumstances change, what with new baby on the way. For this reason, my wife favours the 2004, whereas I am finding it hard to see past the newer styling and more modern chassis of the 2008.


Can anybody with experience of either or both throw in any arguments which might help us to decide either way? It's worth noting that at these prices I'd rather move quickly than chance waiting around.


Many thanks in advance!

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There is so much you need to consider before making a decision as this seems to be your first purchase.


Better to lose the deal than make the wrong decision. Motorhome deals come along in regular quantities so continue to resist the urge to go for what look attractive deals until you are sure.


Check out the warranty and whether it is worth anything. Stories abound of worthless warranties although there are some good ones about. I would also check out the 6 owners. There may be a valid reason but I would want to know for peace of mind.


I bought my motorhome new six years ago. I get the same joy out of it now than I did when it was new. Many people happily motorhome in older vans so do not be swayed too much by the age. Whatever you buy must be in good condition [not just in looks] and dry - no damp. Newer may mean it has better crash protection.


I have bought five motorhomes and a caravan plus several cars over the years. In every case, I have sat down with my wife and agreed a series of 'must haves' and 'wants'. The most important thing in this discussion is setting the budget. Once we agree to our 'musts' - including our budget - we do not stray and only look at vans that meet the criteria. This means we have always made the right decision and never needed to look back and think, "If only ..." Looking back may be more problematical if you did not agree the parameters at the start. We have accepted some compromises on our 'wants'.


One of the 'must haves' is around the dealer. Do I trust it? Is it convenient to visit [important if you work full time]? What is its reputation etc?


One thing I would check out on whatever you buy is whether you can actually fit whatever baby is using for travelling. The design of Swift passenger seats make them good for adults but not so easy to fit child seats. It is just not a problem with Swifts but with virtually all travel seats designed for seating and sleeping.


I would buy neither until I had sorted out the budget. Sorry.

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Welcome to the forum.


It's very difficult to advise without seeing the actual vehicles, but a few points to watch out for.




Both vehicles will be over 3500kg, so check that your licence (and your wife's?) allows you to drive such vehicles.


If you have a baby on the way, consider what you are going to do with any baby seat whilst travelling - they are notoriously difficult to attach safely to passenger seats in the back of motorhomes (they tend to wobble around) and I've lost sight of the legislation on carrying children in the front.


If your circumstance do change dramatically, you will have an asset you can sell anyway, whichever 'van you buy.


2004 vehicle


Whilst some motorhomes do tend to have a large number of owners (people change their mind over what they really want once they have experience) an average of one a year would raise a few concerns in my mind.


At that age, my previous 'van was getting a bit tatty underneath (the Fiat bits). Much depends on the particular 'van, and whether it has been used on salty roads in winter, but I would take a very careful look underneath for signs of rust (the PVC-like underseal along the seams around the wheelarches was very badly applied at the factory on some of these vehicles, and simply peeled off).


Check whether the cambelt has been changed - opinion varies on whether it is required at 4 or 5 years, (my Fiat manual said 4) but it could be coming up for a second change (or even worse, the first may not have been done). Not a cheap job, and not one you would want to shell extra money out on having just bought it.


At that sort of age, it is essential you get it damp-checked, and see the results.


2008 Vehicle


Whilst the older Ducato is not a bad drive, this one will (by all accounts) be in a different class, and much more enjoyable.


The 160 engine is chain cam (so no belt to change) and may well have the confortmatic semi-auto gearbox fitted.


The three years, one-owner aspect would give me much more confidence (especially if it really is being traded in against another Swift, which would indicate to me that the current owner hadn't got any major issues with the brand arising from its ownership). I know a good few people who change at three years in order to avoid having to MOT test.


It's all very well having a 3 year warranty, but getting parts and fitting always means time off the road. Assuming it has been well treated, a one-owner, 4-years-younger vehicle is less likely to have things which will fail in the next three years.


Be aware of the "juddergate" controversy which affects the current model Ducato (search the forum if you don't). There is still debate going on as to whether the 160 model is affected, and to what extent. In any case, I would want to check how it reverses up an incline during any test-drive. It occurs to me that 5000 miles in three years is a bit low (certainly less than average) - so I would definitely want some confidence on lack of judder, in case there were some driveability problems.


Just a few random jottings that I hope will help.

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Welcome aboard Thermidor :-D


Whilst I understand your reasons for hanging on to the extra £10k with the baby on the way, my own personal thinking is that the older model is averaging close to an owner a year !! That would be setting alarm bells ringing for me.


Secondly, we are finding the 3litre 160 multijet to be superb, however I never owned the 2.8 so can't make an actual comparison between the two. The much lower mileage would also be tempting for me and I do like the grey sides on the Kon Tikis, even though we ended up with a white Bessie as the deal was too good to miss.


We used to have aircon fitted to our caravan and thought that we would need it in the hab area of the MH, but last summer saw some high temperatures in France and not once did we suffer with the heat, but its something that can always be added later if you find that you need it.


Happy hunting.

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Hi David and welcome to the Forum.


Are you aware of the judder isue? This won't affect the 2004 van but MAY affect the '08 van. I won't blather on in case you're aware of it but in essence some Fiat/Pug/Citroen (Sevel) vans from '07 juddered in reverse when put under load.


Some had modifications done and were cured to varying degrees. You'll find thousands (literally) of posts on here about the subject.


The litmus test would be for you to reverse the newer van up a steepish gradient and see how it behaves. Some will say the 160bhp van doesn't have the issue, and some will say the opposite.


As it your money, you'll be bright enough to make your own decision :D


I can't comment on a Kontiki but did own a new Swift Mondial from 2000 -03 and generally was satisfied all things taken into account.


Just test the van and make your own choices. Good luck.



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Ask for the name and address of the previous owner and drop them a letter, most private people are quite honest, most dealers are, sometimes, until they have got your money.


6 owners raises doubts in my mind, is there some inherent fault which has not been successfully cured over the years?



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Just to add my two penneth - I would go for the newer one of the two as when you have baby you wont want to pay out to have anything done. I know someone with a Kontiki and its their 3rd one, they love them. I like them too but they were too big for our drive, hence why we bought Helga. Have you considered where you will keep it?


Check it has a spare wheel and as your new to motorhoming try to get some thetford blue and anything else you can think of thrown in for the deal. If you are not part exchanging, and it sounds like your not, ask for a discount on whatever price they offer. Look the salesman in the eye and say the deal depends upon it. The end of the month is a good time to buy for deals, they need the sale for their monthly targets.


Remember, don't rush, there will always be another Kontiki.

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Personally I would go for the older van all other things being equal, but slight variations of layout may well be the decider?


With a young family on the way you might find that the £10k saved - or not borrowed - may make a big difference to your budget as time passes?


And what if you fall ill or lose your job - can you still manage to hang on to the van or will you have to cut and run and lose thousands in the process?


Depreciation will be less on the older van as it is more likely to retain more of it's value and it should prove less costly to maintain and work on as the years pass.


I also think that the older conversions are better made and more durable than the newer ones which the makers shout about being lighter as an advantage - well they have to be as the base vehicle is heavier! Lighter means flimsier to me?


I don't know about you but I could do a lot with £10k - and still enjoy motorhoming - in fact with the cash saved by not buying a new van we had resource enough to buy and enjoy a boat!

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Thanks everybody for the thought-provoking replies so far. A few quick comments...


I wasn't aware of the juddergate issue but am now! Thanks for highlighting this; I've read up on many of the relevant threads and am much better informed. I'd certainly check this very carefully on a test drive.


The aircon isn't a major issue - I've driven across the Sahara twice in a Land Rover-based motorhome conversion where I was sat right on the engine - the temperatures reached late 40s in the cab quite frequently, so much so that the windscreen putty liquefied and dripped out. Of course with a child it would be different but I think this would be manageable.


The dealer is one I would trust and the warranty seems to be better than it might be. Last time I bought a vehicle I paid £350 for a waste-of-time warranty which didn't really cover anything at all that could feasibly happen. The dealer tells me that they carry out all the warranty work, so if I have a problem I drop the vehicle back to them and they deal with the claim. I will obviously want to check the actual paperwork on this before I go ahead with anything.


I'm leaning firmly towards the 2008 now but it rather depends on a joint decision, so we shall see.

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Cannot comment on the 645 but before my current van, which I bought last year new, I owned a Swift Kontiki 665 from new and it was 6 years old when I PX'd for current van. I had no problems with the Swift at all, mechanical or technical. I found the build quality to be excellent and much better than my current new van (Autotrail).


I would be tempted to go for the '08' model if the habitation layout meets your requirement as the habitation Spec would have been improved from the 04 model.


The reason we did not replace the Kontiki with another Kontiki was because the internal layout changed and did not suit what we wanted. However, having had the Autotrail Comanche now for 13 months and experienced the poorer build quality, if we could wind the clock back knowing what we know now, we would go for the Swift over the Autotrail. Having said that, the mechanical side of the Autotrail is brilliant, 3Lt Multijet Automatic, it is just the Conversion side of the vehicle that has been a little disappointing. Mind you that's what happens when you change from a 'Flagship' model


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Hi David & welcome to the forum.


The juddergate problem with the post 2007 Fiat Ducato has been mentioned, but there were also regular threads regarding Gearbox problems on the old style 2.8 models.

Mainly 5th Gear failure.

This is also worth bearing in mind as there was no upgrade, only replacement (for it to all happen again at some point in the future).

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Having a swift bolero 680 fb which i bought new in march 2009 the wife and i have started to look round for something a bit bigger when she retires in 2 years. An island bed with 2 long facing sofas as in the arapaho appeals but have not been able to view one , the nearest layout to it seen has been the discontinued cheyenne 840d which we both like. We have discounted anything from swift due to very poor build quality and our own bolero a very good example.

I recently viewed a swift kon tiki 669 from 2009 and a autotrail cheyenne 840d from 2008 and the latter seemed better built especially the island brd access. I suspect autotrail owners will know about any faults I did not see on a cursory inspection.

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We have discounted anything from swift due to very poor build quality and our own bolero a very good example.



Big Momma - 2011-06-19 1:53 PM


Cannot comment on the 645 but before my current van, which I bought last year new, I owned a Swift Kontiki 665 from new and it was 6 years old when I PX'd for current van. I had no problems with the Swift at all, mechanical or technical. I found the build quality to be excellent and much better than my current new van (Autotrail). ;-)

As you can see, there is a wide range of quality opinion re Swift vs Autotrail.

We have a Bolero 680 FB and it's been great. I've looked at many of the larger Autotrails and have been amazed by the number of vans where doors (especially toilet/divider doors) just will not shut.

You need to take each van as it coms as there are obviously good and bad in both stables.


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Opinion is indeed divided on Swift build quality and much has been written on here about it. I hope that the chosen one is a good one. In your circumstances I'd personally try to get someone with a good grasp of coachbuilding engineering to accompany me to the dealership and give it a thorough inspection before handing the balance over.

Though there are thousands of satisfied Swift owners out there, there are many who spend weeks and months in despair. Granted, said despair is not confined to Swift owners and build quality across the industry is not good but the sheer volume of complaints about Swift products, and the reported hit-and-miss nature of the company's support means that I, for one, would never even contemplate buying one - at any price.

Again, I hope it's a good one and brings you years of trouble-free motorhoming. Do have it inspected and fully road test it though.

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