Test Drive: Volvo B5TL MCV EvoSeti

The latest addition to the Euro 6 double-deck bus market is the EvoSeti from MCV, which is built on Volvo B5TL chassis and can seat up to 83. The first has already been sold and the manufacturer is bullish about the model’s prospects. Tim Deakin takes it for a test drive.

Egyptian manufacturer MCV has been active in the UK double-deck market for a number of years, achieving its most notable success with 19 bodies delivered to a major London tour operator in both closed- and open-top form on Volvo B9TL chassis.

The B9TL’s replacement at Euro 6 is the B5TL, powered by the four-cylinder, 240bhp 5.1-litre D5K engine. MCV’s relationship with the Swedish giant has continued, and it now offers its new EvoSeti body on the B5TL.

EvoSeti picks up where the previous model left off, says MCV Bus and Coach MD Ashraf Fawzi, but unlike its predecessor, EvoSeti is available in a variety of height and length combinations. It will also be built in full and partial open-top layouts, he adds.

“We have tried to include as many options as possible in EvoSeti,” explains Ashraf. “We now have both low- and normal-height layouts available, and we can also body both the long- and short-wheelbase B5TL.

“That gives four possible combinations at heights of 4.2m or 4.4m, and overall lengths of 10.4m or 11.4m. Maximum seating capacity is 83, and on shorter buses we can offer a capacity of 100 passengers.

“We have worked with Volvo to reduce weight. It has taken a substantial amount out of the drivetrain, while we have made improvements both inside and outside the body to give at least a 600kg reduction on the previous model.”

The first EvoSeti is already sold to EYMS and is scheduled for delivery this month. In the meantime it is being demonstrated to other operators, and was made available last week for a routeone Test Drive.

 

Build

EYMS’ EvoSeti is a short wheelbase, low-height example and has been completed to the operator’s specification. Key to MCV’s design brief was keeping things simple, and so it has returned to external fixing of exterior panels. Each is held by four bolts.

Bonded glazing is fitted, but Ashraf says that gasket mounting is available. All internal lighting, along with all that externally apart from headlight main beam, is LED. Daytime running lights are standard, while the windscreens are smaller than on the previous model, giving a number of benefits.

Replacement is cheaper, while the lower windscreen is less susceptible to stone chips, and as its surface area is less, demister performance is better. Quarterlights are present between the A and B pillars.

A partially glazed staircase comes as standard, with the lower deck window line extending into the stairwell. If customers require, a fully-glazed staircase can be incorporated, although this would naturally compromise space available for adverts.

Side access to the engine bay is via large forward-swinging doors. They sit above a small fixed panel and both have large grilles within them. On the offside is the large radiator, which incorporates five small electrically-powered fans; to the nearside is the air intake, and an opening behind which is another fan.

This has been added to the B5TL to maximise airflow through the engine bay, says Volvo Bus Product Engineering Manager Norman Thomas; air drawn through the radiator is thus easily able to pass through the bay. There are also ventilation channels above and below the bonnet.

The D5K drives through a six-speed ZF EcoLife gearbox, the B5TL’s sole transmission offering.

Rear styling is quite traditional, but body incorporates clever design throughout
Rear styling is quite traditional, but body incorporates clever design throughout

 

Passenger access

A standard two-piece door is fitted to EvoSeti, with an option to open only the front leaf. A manual Compak ramp is present, and the wheelchair bay is immediately behind the nearside front wheel. A metal bar with a stop request button fitted lowers into place.

Three tip-up seats which don’t automatically return to upright are within the wheelchair bay. Four priority seats are present. Including these and the tip-ups, 17 positions are within the low-floor area; the first step is behind the rear axle, although some seats ahead of this point are pedestal mounted. There are 30 seats downstairs.

A straight, nine-step staircase reaches the upper deck and MCV has thoughtfully cut a recess into the ceiling at the top. The staircase handrail is cleverly shaped, with two parallel diagonal bars at different heights suitable for use by people of varying heights.

Upstairs, 45 seats are fitted, and like those on the lower deck they are the high-backed Lazzerini Practico type. Each has coach-type handholds at the top corners, which combined with the generous provision of stanchions gives excellent scope for passengers to circulate without fear of falling.

Similarly excellent is the provision of bell pushes, which are wireless. No fewer than 12 are upstairs, meaning that the occupants of all but one seat there (the rear nearside position) can reach a bell push while seated. Ten further bell pushes are downstairs, where handrail provision is equally good.

Three windows, including the rear screen, act as emergency exits on the upper deck. Downstairs, a traditional rear offside door is present.

Doorway and platform clear and uncluttered; Compak ramp is fitted
Doorway and platform clear and uncluttered; Compak ramp is fitted

 

Passenger comfort

The Lazzerini seats are good, and covered in red fabric. Synthetic or real leather finish can be offered, says Ashraf, although he stresses that seat choice in a double-decker has a strong bearing on the bus’ unladen weight.

Also affecting weight is the provision of opening windows. EYMS has specified the maximum number possible, and nine are present upstairs and five downstairs. Unlike some others, they are deep and when open allow a good breeze through both saloons.

They are complemented by MCV’s heating and ventilation system. It is a relatively simple design, and could be uprated to provide air-conditioning if required. Nevertheless, it is best in class and highly effective.

The blower unit is mounted between decks above the engine compartment, and is accessible from the exterior. It draws air in (via a heater matrix, if required) and forces it through ceiling-mounted ducting on both decks which extends to the windscreens. Air can also be recirculated.

Downstairs, the ducting is above the aisle and has a vent on each side; on the upper deck, it is above the offside seating.

Temperature and fan speed are controlled by the driver – although on TfL-specification bodies it will be fully automatic – and the unit is highly effective. Even at the front of both saloons, airflow through the vents is powerful when the fan is running at its maximum speed.

Ashraf says that a variety of other comforts can be added to EvoSeti if required. MCV’s experience of fitting on-board commentary systems means that it is easily able to incorporate USB charging points, within either side panelling or seat backs, and Wi-Fi infrastructure can be added. EvoSeti is also pre-wired for CCTV and telematics systems, and MCV can install TfL’s iBus equipment at the factory.

The ride quality of the B5TL chassis is excellent and the engine is quiet. Throughout the upper deck, it is almost undetectable even when under load, and the suspension soaks up all but the most testing of bumps.

Headroom upstairs is on a par for a low-height double-decker, and well over 6ft downstairs. The full- and low-height models share glazing, and side visibility is excellent; the prized upper deck front seats also give a good view, although the A pillars are quite thick. Nonetheless, EvoSeti is a pleasant vehicle in which to travel.

Provision of bell pushes, handholds and opening windows is excellent
Provision of bell pushes, handholds and opening windows is excellent

 

Driver comfort

Volvo’s cab design is less spartan than some of its competitors’. All that required is present, although some other items – such as the rev counter – are superfluous, and buttons for cruise control and dash menu functions are disabled.

The steering wheel adjusts as one unit with the dash and the seat extends far back. Cab storage is excellent: A huge door pocket, large enough for most bags, is complemented by a recess below the ticket machine mounting position also large enough for a bag. If the operator requires, it can be fitted with a lockable door.

Heating and ventilation controls for the cab are above the driver’s head, adjacent – and identical – to the saloon’s.

The cab unit’s performance is just as keen, and a floor-level vent will be appreciated in cold weather.

A small CCTV monitor is above the windscreen, which can also display a feed from the optional reversing camera. Visibility is excellent, with the top-mounted wipers disappearing from the driver’s view when parked. Mirrors are large, although they need careful positioning to avoid the
A pillar.

Cab is large and thoughtfully laid out; dash moves with steering wheel
Cab is large and thoughtfully laid out; dash moves with steering wheel

 

Performance

The D5K works well with the EcoLife gearbox. Norman explains that the Euro 6 unit is more ‘revvy’ than the D9B used in the B9TL, and the EcoLife’s shifting characteristics have been adapted to suit.

Even so, the engine pulls very well from 1,200rpm even when climbing, and engine speed rarely strays above 1,500rpm. Shifts are completely imperceptible, and speed is gained rapidly.

EYMS’ EvoSeti is restricted to 70km/h (44mph), although speed limiter settings of 80km/h (50mph) or 90km/h (56mph) are also available. Just one axle ratio is offered, and at 70km/h the engine is turning at around 1,500rpm in top gear.

No driver control of gear selection is possible as hold buttons and a kickdown switch are lacking. The drive showed that intervention would be unnecessary, and the EcoLife’s TopoDyn function means that it holds gears longer when climbing for maximum performance.

Steering is precise. The B5TL utilises an electrically-powered hydraulic pump to deliver just the right amount of assistance; equally, the brakes are exceptional and smooth stops using a combination of the gearbox retarder and foundation discs
are easily made.

Engine bay is full, but checking and adding fluids is easy
Engine bay is full, but checking and adding fluids is easy

 

Verdict

MCV has sold a number of its earlier double-deck body into the UK and, if it is marketed correctly, it is a no-brainer that EvoSeti will grow that trend. The manufacturer has, says Ashraf, listened intently to customer feedback and worked hard to deliver an excellent product.

And EvoSeti is indeed excellent. The B5TL chassis is as competent as operators expect of a Volvo, while the Egyptian bodywork will tick many boxes from a passenger’s point of view. In particular, its heating and ventilation system is superb.

There are just a few niggles. No padding is provided to prevent descending passengers bumping their heads at the bottom of the staircase, but both Ashraf and Product Support Manager Grant Crisp say that this will be rectified. The mirror position could also be a little better.

EvoSeti has a wide range of options to suit most requirements. EYMS has opted for maximum opening window provision and high-back seats, and its bus weighs in at 11,200kg unladen; if some of that discretionary weight was taken out, it would come in at well under 11,000kg.

Open-top layout is available at both lengths on the full-height EvoSeti, while development is ongoing which will see the body become available on hybrid chassis. MCV is also working towards the fitment of three-point seatbelts to provide a vehicle suited to private hire use.

Coupled with its passenger appeal, this means that EvoSeti deserves to succeed.

Facts and figures