Test Drive – Temsa Safari HD

Temsa’s Safari HD is imported from Turkey by Arriva Bus and Coach and has found favour as a versatile, value-for-money vehicle. The example delivered to Crowland, Lincs-based Tourmaster Coaches is also proving to be exceptionally frugal. Tim Deakin drives it.

Turkish commercial vehicle manufacturer Temsa is a major player in the global coach and bus market, with over 4,000 of its annual vehicle production being PCVs. At the moment its sole offering in the UK is the keenly-priced and versatile Safari, imported by Yorkshire-based Arriva Bus and Coach (ABC).

The Safari took time to settle in the British market, but ABC has remained fully behind Temsa (and vice-versa) since it was unveiled at the 2005 UK Coach Rally.

The Safari – part of Temsa’s wider Tour range – fills a useful niche in that it can be employed on a wide variety of a typical operator’s bread and butter work. It’s equally suited to local school hires as it is to longer-distance charters, and that’s how the coach tested is employed.

It was delivered to Tourmaster in May, being returned temporarily to ABC five months later before appearing on the dealer’s stand at Euro Bus Expo in November. Back at work soon after, Tourmaster MD David Dinsey made it available for a Test Drive.

Build

Tourmaster was introduced to Temsa at the opening of ABC’s Wellingborough premises in April, but David didn’t make the journey with the purchase of a Turkish coach in mind. Rather, he had gone with the intention of buying a Van Hool.

“We went to Wellingborough with an open mind, although we were ideally looking for a Van Hool. At first we weren’t keen on a Temsa, but having looked at one we soon changed our mind. Not only that, but the package Arriva put together for us was excellent, and we’re delighted with the coach.”

The 12.2m Safari is down to earth, and its design is simple and slightly conservative. It has been refreshed since the model’s introduction into the UK in 2005 and is indistinguishable from those in the same category produced by European manufacturers.

Rear styling is simple yet attractive
Rear styling is simple yet attractive

Power comes from a Euro 5 9.2-litre DAF PR engine coupled to ZF’s six-speed EcoLife automatic gearbox. No other transmission options are available in UK Safaris. The gearbox proved to be an excellent match to the moderately-sized engine.

Parallel lifting locker doors are fitted, except to a smaller opening behind the nearside rear wheel, which is top hinged. On Tourmaster’s Safari this area is used to store emergency equipment and the driver’s cleaning supplies.

Luggage capacity and access is good
Luggage capacity and access is good
Small amount of storage behind rear axle
Small amount of storage behind rear axle

Diesel fillers are at the front on both sides, and fuel is added directly into the tank rather than via an extended filler neck.

AdBlue storage is on the offside, adjacent to the diesel tank. That may pose a problem if the driver is careless, and it could be argued that it may be better located at the rear of the coach. Not only is there less chance of confusion, but it would remove the need to pump it almost the length of the vehicle to the exhaust. Both filler doors are lockable.

Diesel and Ad-Blue fillers are adjacent
Diesel and Ad-Blue fillers are adjacent

There is provision for a tow-bar, including an electrical connector socket within the engine bay. All that’s needed is to remove a ready-cut section of the rear bumper and affix the tow bar with four large bolts.

Engine access is reasonable, and the radiator is easily reached. Although to the nearside, a degree of encapsulation should help prevent the accumulation of road debris on the three separate cooling matrixes.

Engine fills bay, but radiator and exhaust are easily reached
Engine fills bay, but radiator and exhaust are easily reached

Passenger access

A standard plug door is fitted, with four steps leading up to the platform. One more takes passengers into the sunken gangway. A polished metal handrail extends from low in the doorway up to the top of the dash before turning 90 degrees and continuing parallel to it.

Entrance is easily negotiated
Entrance is easily negotiated

The courier seat only slightly obstructs the steps, and is not as obvious as on some other coaches. It has a handrail recessed into the bottom of the seat squab, which is useful for boarding passengers; the rotating door pole also acts as a hand-hold, although it is the only one marked with high-visibility material.

Steps are surfaced with heavy-duty matting, giving the dual benefit of helping keep the rest of the coach clear of trodden-in mud and preventing slips. Each step wall has a small light built in to it, but again there is no high-visibility yellow on edges.

The sunken gangway lit by low-level lights and covered in heavy-duty carpet. The floor below the seats is grey vinyl. The gangway is flat, although one further step is needed to reach the rear row of seats.

Five steps lead into the gangway from the offside continental door, and the toilet is mounted here. That compromises the access slightly, although the Safari is unlikely to need its continental door often. As with the front entrance, steps have in-built LED lighting, although again no high-visibility material is fixed to the edges.

Passenger comfort

The 53 seats are well spaced and comfortable, with ample recline. They are covered in a bright orange-based moquette with leather headrests and piping. Three-point belts are fitted, as are tray tables.

Interior is very bright, and comfortable
Interior is very bright, and comfortable

A small sink is mounted above the centre toilet, which is deceptively large, and grey curtains are provided. Heat is from perimeter radiators, and on a cold and wet day in Lincolnshire they, in conjunction with the roof-mounted air conditioning unit, soon brought the coach up to a pleasant temperature.

The driver sets the desired temperature via an ‘all in one’ unit which also controls the cab heating and demisting, and everything else is handled automatically. A deep fridge is provided in the dashboard.

Entertainment is from a Bosch Professional Line integrated CD and DVD unit, with two monitors present. One is mounted above the windscreen and the other is above the toilet.

The rack-mounted passenger service units include all the normal aspects such as reading lights and air vents, along with one unusual function. The individual speakers at each can be turned off should passengers wish not to be disturbed.

The windscreen extends higher than on some other coaches, which means passengers’ views to the front are good.

Ride is also good, with the Safari absorbing the bumps from some poor roads well. A section of undulating surface proved a little more difficult for it to handle, and the coach rhythmically ‘oscillated’ a little, although not unpleasantly.

Sound insulation is excellent, helped by the automatic gearbox keeping engine speeds as low as possible.

Riding on the coach gives an impression of being pleasantly isolated from the cold and wet outside world, and combined with the comfortable seats is very relaxing.

Driver comfort

The Safari is a back to basics coach in the cab, although everything required is present. Both the driver and the courier seats match those in the cabin, being finished in orange with leather headrests and piping. The driver’s seat has the usual range of air support and adjustment, along with a hands-free microphone.

Cab is simple and controls are chunky
Cab is simple and controls are chunky

At the courier position, the seat’s reasonably set-back position means legroom here is good, and room for the user’s feet is provided in a cubby-hole, equipped with a heater vent.

Cab controls are chunky, with switches being large and rocker-mounted, and having clear pictograms to indicate their function. Cab storage is reasonable, with two small dash positions for coins and such, complemented by two locations for drinks.

Fridge is built in to dashboard
Fridge is built in to dashboard

Storage for larger items is not as good, and there is a distinct lack of easily-accessible places for things such as atlases and work tickets. Secure storage is better, with the front part of both luggage racks and drop-down sections above the door and signalling window being lockable.

Two electrical sockets are present, and in the Tourmaster coach one is used as a Sat-Nav power point while the other retains its cigarette lighter.

The dash includes fuel and coolant temperature gauges along with a central vehicle status screen. Naturally the most obvious are the rev counter and speedometer; the latter reveals the Safari’s origins, with km/h being more prominent than mph. It would benefit from a UK-specification head being fitted.

Visibility from the driver’s seat is generally good, with the gullwing mirrors mounted high enough not to impair vision.

That’s not the case with an additional offside mirror, fitted directly to the A-pillar at around upper chest height. It is useful, but compromises the driver’s view and is big enough to ‘hide’ a pedestrian in some circumstances.

Sturdy stalks are fitted, with that on the right governing cruise control and the retarder and the one on the left for indicators and washers and wipers.

Further secondary braking comes from a butterfly exhaust brake, controlled by a switch in the footwell by the driver’s left foot.

Performance

The Safari packs 360bhp and 1,450Nm of torque. Both are reasonable figures for a two-axle coach, and the six-speed ZF EcoLife gearbox makes good use of the pulling power available.

It is phenomenally smooth when shifting, and thanks to good sound insulation the only hint of a gearchange comes via the rev counter.

With the EcoLife making most use of the lower, most economical half of the torque curve, progress is steady rather than spectacular. Excellent fuel economy is the result, with David reporting that 13-14mpg is the Temsa’s usual return.

Acceleration to 30mph is more than a match for many more powerful coaches, but above this the rate of gain slows as the gearbox’s eagerness to upshift is felt. A few more revs in fifth would be useful, and can be had should the driver want them by using the kickdown switch. Nevertheless, the coach’s progress is still acceptable if fifth gear is not held.

When cruising on a flat road at 40mph the Safari will take top gear, with the engine turning at around 900rpm.

It’s happy at that, but when the need comes to accelerate it is again a good idea to use kickdown; 900rpm is well below the engine’s peak torque, and it bogs down slightly when the throttle is fully open at this speed. Where the coach really shines is manoeuvrability. It easily negotiated a very congested Spalding town centre, including an awkward set of roadworks at a right turn, and the driver immediately becomes accustomed to the coach’s capabilities.

Steering lock is excellent, and when pausing in Cowbit for pictures it managed a U-turn into a layby easily; at least one shunt was expected.

That’s a valuable credential indeed for a coach which is likely to spend a lot of time in urban areas and around schools.

Verdict

As a versatile, ‘bit of everything’ coach the Temsa is perfectly capable. It has a driveline which is both robust and frugal: DAF gives a figure of 800,000km before any major work should be required on the engine, while Tourmaster’s fuel consumption figures speak for themselves.

David also reports that the coach’s regular driver is happy with it, and that comes as no surprise. The Safari is simple to drive, and displays many similarities to Volvo’s legendary B10M in this regard. It takes little getting used to, has simple controls and is manoeuvrable and sprightly.

There are a handful of areas which would benefit from improvement, but none seriously detract from what the Safari is all about. It’s a cost-effective, attractive means of getting things done, and one which is equally at home on long-distance hires as it is on local charters.

David speaks highly of supplier ABC’s backup. The coach, as with all members of the Tourmaster fleet, receives six-weekly safety inspections at a Scania dealer in Spalding, but is taken for regular servicing at ABC’s Wellingborough premises, an arrangement he is happy to see continue.

It has been supplied on a seven-year rental contract, and following good experience with the DAF-powered Temsa and ABC’s service, a new DAF-engined Van Hool is expected in March. David also doesn’t rule out adding another Temsa in the future.

Deliveries of Euro 5 coaches are drawing to a close, and the Euro 6 Safari is expected to debut at Coach and Bus Live 2015. Arriva Bus and Coach has a handful of stock Euro 5 examples left, so if you want one, move quickly.

TemsaSpec