DAILY COMMUTE -IVECO’s people mover has considerable appeal | MINIBUS REVIEW

IVECO’s people mover has considerable appeal, as Delivery Magazine found on a recent drive in Melbourne

The age of convenience is well and truly upon us, with people looking for new ways to lure customers by making ease-of-use one of the biggest drawcards. While it takes on many different facades, convenience is mostly about making a customer’s life simpler and easier, and, while it comes at a cost, the vast majority of people are happy to pay a little extra for it.

In terms of getting people where they need to be in a timely manner, the minibus has taken on a big role in simplifying access to transport. Whether it’s from the airport car park to the terminal, the train station to the hotel, or even to and from the pub on a Saturday night, the humble minibus has staked its claim for providing a great solution for both the customer and the businesses that use them.

In terms of bus sales, the sub 20-seat segment makes up 62 percent of total bus sales in Australia. Having recognised the importance of this subsegment of the people-mover business, Iveco has recently released its latest offering in this segment, with its Iveco Daily Shuttle and Executive minibuses.

With seating for either 11 or 16 passengers, the Shuttle variant is very much standard trim for around town, or short distance duties. The Executive model is available in a 16-seat layout only, and offers a more luxurious experience, with leather seats and extra facilities for passengers, including individual overhead reading lamps. Both variants offer ample storage for baggage, with a large area behind the seats for larger bags, and overhead luggage racks for smaller items.

As the name infers, the minibus range is based on the popular Iveco Daily platform, and utilises a 3.0-litre engine and eight-speed automatic transmission similar to that found under current Daily cab/chassis models. This engine produces 170 hp (125 kW) and 400 Nm of torque, and uses both SCR (AdBlue) and a DPF (diesel particulate filter) to comply with Euro 6 emissions standards, while the transmission provides smooth and sensible gear changes.

Those buyers that are unfamiliar with AdBlue need to understand that the AdBlue tank has to be refilled, in the same way as the main fuel tank. If the AdBlue tank is allowed to run dry, the engine management system will, in most cases, downrate the engine power and performance to limp-home mode. Only AdBlue can be used, and with a 25-litre tank it will be injected into the exhaust system to clean the emissions at a ratio of around three percent to that of the diesel use.

Operating range shouldn’t be a problem, with 100 litres of diesel and 25 litres of AdBlue storage on board, with clear gauges (digital in the case of the AdBlue) to monitor levels. But given the Daily’s long service intervals of up to 40,000 km, the AdBlue tank will require the driver to refill it when necessary, rather than leaving it to the service department for action on the next visit to the local dealership.

For the driver, the instruments, dash and controls are all very well laid out, as you would expect from a Daily. Independent heating and cooling means the driver and passengers can all travel in comfort, and the air-suspended driver’s seat should keep a driver comfortable throughout even the longest of work days. Vision is very good, with the minibus adopting the large, heated and electrically adjustable, mirrors found on other Daily models. A centrally mounted rear-view mirror is also fitted, which I found more useful for monitoring passengers than watching the traffic behind. The side passenger door is operated electrically by a simple press of a button, and can only be opened with the handbrake applied.

In the passenger compartment, things are equally as comfortable. While seating layouts and materials can be altered to suit operator requirements, the two variants I drove were basically the standard Iveco offering. The shuttle version sported brightly coloured cloth trim, commercial vinyl flooring, and basic overhead storage with ducted ventilation. The Executive was a little more fancy, with black leather seats, timber look vinyl flooring, and individual reading lamps built into the overhead storage compartments. The Executive, based on the high-roof van design, also provided over 2.0 metres of standing room in the aisle. Both versions offered ample legroom, three-point seat belts for every passenger, and curtains on all side windows.

As Steve Heanes, Iveco’s national manager for buses in Australia and New Zealand, explained, “Obviously we have targeted a niche market, because historically it’s been an 11-seat market or a 20+ seat market. We’ve had a requirement and seen requests for this 16-seat market, including hotels, RSL clubs, government requests and community transport. We’re working with a number of agencies at the moment, who have come in and viewed the product, and they’re actually tailoring it to their needs, which we have the flexibility to do”.

Part of being able to produce a specific solution comes down to the local fitment of seating. As Steve pointed out, “The vehicle comes in trimmed form, excluding seats. We use a local seat manufacturer, and we have two or three different options depending on the level of the vehicle”.

While there are “standard layouts”, the interior fit out can be adjusted and built to order, including the option of disabled access through the rear doors.

The same rear doors also provide access to the luggage compartment, behind the rear row of seats. This is an intentional move by Iveco to allow operators, such as airport shuttle bus operators, to operate without the need to tow a trailer. The rear doors are full height, and open to 270 degrees to allow for easy access with even the biggest bags.

The two variants I drove were pre-production vehicles, with only a few small differences to the final production specification. One of those differences is a suspension change, with production units to be fitted with electronically controlled air suspension on the rear. In terms of passenger comfort, this should put the Daily Minibus right up there with the best, as the ride in the pre-production units was already pretty good. The same independent torsion-bar suspension will be retained up front, and this also provided great ride quality over the variety of surfaces encountered during my time behind the wheel.

In terms of safety equipment, Iveco hasn’t missed the fact that these vehicles will be transporting irreplaceable freight. All models come with disc brakes as standard, working in conjunction with the ABS and ESP9 system, which offers vehicle stability control and rollover protection. The driver gets an airbag, also as standard, along with lane departure warning system, reversing sensors and a reversing camera, which works through the in-dash multimedia unit. As mentioned earlier, all seats are also fitted with three-point seat belts.

The Daily Minibus adds another dimension to what is already a great range of light commercial vehicles. With its basis being the Daily van range, the Minibus comes with a head start in the way of reputation, with the Daily already being a very popular contender in the Aussie market. Being factory built also ensures that all the safety, comfort and tech features will work seamlessly, and that build quality is carefully monitored.

With more variants in the pipeline, possibly offering more seats in lieu of luggage storage, the Daily provides a direct competitor for the HiAce, Transit and iLoad-based minibuses, with the potential to take on the Coaster and Rosa in the future. The current 16-seat layout though, puts it in a position to gain market share in either category. In terms of convenience, it provides for both the driver and the passengers, and I for one would be very happy to get a ride home from the pub in one on a Saturday night!

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