Stylish new midibus from Optare

Stylish new midibus from Optare Optare's stylish new Versa challenges the competition in busy midibus sector.

OPTARE unveils a new midibus at the Euro Bus Expo at the NEC show next week. The new Versa is positioned between the company's Solo and Tempo, and shares many features and components, particularly from Solo. It is however a distinct product with a stylish look, typical of Optare, which will be available in two lengths, 10.3 and 11m.

The show vehicle will be a prototype with production vehicles scheduled for delivery in the second quarter of 2007. The first orders are likely to be confirmed at Euro Bus Expo.

Optare says that the new Versa will target the 10-13t midi market sector above the Solo, which accounts for around 400 of the 1,000 midibus registrations a year. Optare acknowledges that it is entering a tough market that brings it into direct competition with the new Enviro200Dart and VDL and MAN midibuses.

The Versa uses the stainless steel integral frame from the Solo plus a new front section. The curved side appearance is enhanced with curved glass that Optare may consider carrying across to other models. Power options follow Optare’s preferred route of offering a Euro 4 choice to customers. The standard engine is the Mercedes-Benz, 4-cylinder OM904, but in Optare’s words, ‘for operators doubtful about SCR’ there is the 4-cylinder MAN DO834 at 132 kw using EGR and there is also a second SCR choice for higher power, the 6-cylinder Cummins ISBe at 150 kw.

All of the engine options are paired with the Allison 2100 series gearbox with generation 4 controls, combined with the variable KLAM proportional control retarder.

The shorter Versa at 10.3m length, is only just longer than the longest Solo, but the difference is in the wheelbase; 5.8m compared to the Solo’s 7m-plus. This may be an important factor for operators in areas where manoeuvrability is a key concern, says Optare.

“We have over the years never had a product with exactly the right features to compete effectively in the mid range sector,” says Optare bus sales director Chris Wise. “The Solo in its 10.2m format is a great machine but does not suit all routes due to its over 7m long wheelbase, although we have successfully sold 40 to 13 different customers over the last two years.”

The 11m Versa, at 2.5m wide, will offer 40 seats and promises a low gross vehicle weight around 12,000kg, with an unladen weight of 7,000kg, only just above the Solo’s 6,200kg. The Dana axles are fitted with 19.5 inch wheels and tyres.

Optare is planning a left-hand drive model, probably for launch at the Kortrijk show next year, and will produce single-door, two-door and three-door versions, the latter for airport-style operations. In common with the Euro 4 Solo, the Versa has a removable power pack carrying the cooling system, exhaust, and all ancillaries. Optare says that this can be removed in less than one hour. It also points to the potential that this design feature has for enabling replacement of the power pack with a future hybrid option.

A new SmoothRide system is incorporated into the Versa. “By careful choice of suspension components and design we aim to provide class-leading ride comfort,” says Optare technical director Glenn Saint. “At the front axle we have increased the air volume for a softer more compliant ride. At the rear we have used the four air bag suspension with greater air capacity, a feature unique in its class and usually associated with full-size buses. To enhance the ride characteristic further we have combined the suspension with frequency selective dampers from Koni.”