Harris Auto has plans for a Crusader-badged range of mini and midicoaches. One of those on show at Coach & Bus UK next week will be a nine-seat, high-spec LDV-based model
There’s a new challenger in the lightweight, higher-end minicoach market: Harris Auto. Based in Dublin, its recently launched Crusader range will include a nine-seat, well-specified model that is built on the LDV V80 chassis.
While the conversion is to a high standard, it’s also cost effective. Harris has an established LDV dealer network in the UK and the model comes with a five-year/200,000km warranty and five years’ roadside assistance as part of the purchase price of £37,000.
Harris will show the red and black example seen here on its stand at Coach & Bus UK at the NEC Birmingham next week. The importer says it is now ready to establish itself as a serious supplier of passenger vehicles here and the V80 forms part of a wider range that includes an Iveco Daily-based model.
Mechanically, the LDV base vehicle comes with a Euro 6 engine and a six-speed manual gearbox. No automatic option is yet available. Apart from emission levels, the power unit is very similar to that used in the Euro 5 V80. It develops 136bhp and 330Nm of torque and it displaces 2.5 litres.
Boarding is via a standard passenger door that is operated manually. Wood effect flooring is fitted as standard in this highest-specification V80-based Crusader.
Headroom is such that someone over 6ft in height can stand without stooping. A clear emergency hatch is within the roof. No roof-mounted air-conditioning unit is fitted. Instead, the dash-mounted one is used to cool or heat the whole saloon.
The converter has routed airflow to twin vents situated where a passenger’s feet would be if the V80 was still a van. The fan is very powerful, and it can blow air throughout the saloon.
While expecting the dash unit to cool the whole vehicle may sound optimistic, its performance is actually very good. The temperature is quickly brought down, albeit at the expense of some noise from the fan. The driver will also appreciate this capability.
For ventilation, a forced air system is fitted with ducting to passenger service units on the undersides of the twin luggage racks.
Further back, there are nine Pilot seats arranged in a 1+1 layout with three in the rear row. They are captain’s chairs, and each is 500mm wide. They are finished in two-tone contoured real leather and they come with drop-down tables, magazine nets, recline and twin armrests. This is a seat that would not look out of place in a high-end touring coach and it is comfortable.
For both the flooring and seat colours, buyers can choose schemes that suit them. The show vehicle has a brown-based interior with yellow curtains.
USB charging points are mounted within the sidewalls. Although the show vehicle does not have them, it is possible to fit full-size tables if the buyer wishes.
As part of the conversion work – which is undertaken in Ireland – the base vehicle is uprated to a GVW of 3,800kg. Coupled with its low seating capacity that gives scope to carry a good amount of luggage.
To leverage that the converter fits a modest rear extension within which is a boot. It does not drop below the sill height, but a removeable shelf is fitted to maximise capacity.
The luggage area is carpeted, and it has a light within it. The OEM rear doors are retained, with external glass added for effect. Each door panel has a magnetic stay to keep it in place when open.
Reversing sensors are fitted within the rear bumper and a camera is at roof level. Again, these are both standard.
In the cab
Euro 6 V80s have seen a major overhaul of the driver’s area when compared to Euro 5 models. There is a much-improved look and feel, and that starts with the steering wheel. It has integrated controls and a chunkier format than previously.
Most noticeable of the cab changes is the addition of a colour touch-screen display. It controls various functions including the radio. It also displays the feed from the reversing camera.
This unit is a major change. It would not look out of place on other, more expensive vehicles and it brings the V80 into line with what is now expected of a higher specification minicoach.
Additionally, the surrounding area is finished in polished plastic with a metal strip surround, adding to the high-class feel. That transfers below, to where the air-conditioning and heating controls are fitted. Those, too, are trimmed with a polished metal surround.
Regrettably LDV has not seen fit to address the V80’s Achilles’ heel, which is the location of its speedometer and tachometer.
They remain in the centre of the dash, above the touch-screen unit. That makes both difficult to see. While the positioning may suit the manufacturer as it allows the largely same binnacle to be used in both left- and right-hand drive models, it is not ideal for the driver.
Behind the wheel
miniplus was able to take a very brief drive of the show minicoach before it was dispatched to Coach & Bus UK.
As a product it is pleasing, and most drivers will find it similarly so from the cab. As would be expected of a small vehicle like the V80, it has a very car-like driving feel and the reasonably-sized mirrors make it easy to pilot.
Noise from the engine is low, although it was not possible to put the vehicle through its paces at higher road speeds.
Wide range offered
From both a passenger and a driver’s point of view, this is a good vehicle. It comes with an excellent standard specification for its class and when finished in a colour scheme like that applied to the show minicoach, it looks well.
Through its arrangement with Euro Coach Builders, which carries out the conversion work, Harris can offer a variety of other layouts on the V80 in both extended and non-extended form.
Up to 18 seats is the maximum available. That layout comes with a sliding side door and a removable rear row, allowing luggage to be carried when the vehicle is downseated. Another option is a 14-seat school minibus-type offering.
“We are trying to give buyers a lot of low-cost options,” says Harris Auto General Manager Chris Haughton. “As an example, we could do the basic 14-seat conversion on a Euro 5 vehicle for £22,000.
“We also see potential for our higher-specification models such as the example that will be at Coach & Bus UK. Visitors will see that it is to a VIP specification, but without a VIP price.”
As part of Harris’s burgeoning Crusader mini and midicoach range, the V80-based high-specification model does what it needs to. It’s also cost-effective, and the backup and warranty on offer are almost unbeatable.
The Crusader range already includes the coachbuilt model on Daily chassis that can seat up to 33 passengers. The dealership plans to add another variant in due course. It is also expanding its range of larger coaches to prepare what it says will be a comprehensive offering across the board.
You can see the vehicle pictured at Coach & Bus UK on stand A1. It will sit alongside models from Isuzu AOS, Higer and Iveco. Couple that to the other delights for operators of small PCVs that will be present and Coach & Bus UK is a must-attend event.