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February 26 2018
By Tim Deakin

Tim is the Senior Journalist at routeONE magazine is also the title’s chief test driver, with considerable vehicle knowledge


High capacity and a low floor with EVM Cityline

Low-floor minibuses based on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter have exploded in popularity since they debuted. Choice is reasonable, but EVM’s Cityline 25 has a USP: Its high passenger-carrying capacity

The EVM Cityline carries 16 seated and up to nine standing passengers

Demand for Mercedes-Benz Sprinter-based low-floor minibuses has skyrocketed since 2016, and an interesting development unveiled at Coach & Bus UK last year was EVM’s uprated Cityline conversion that can carry 25 passengers.

EVM uses a common conversion for the Cityline and the established Community. Both receive the same lowered box section behind the front axle, but their intended applications are different.

The Community is targeted at uses where stops are less frequent, and it has neither tip-up seats nor provision for standing passengers. The Cityline is aimed at bus work, and it comes in two variants: The Cityline 22 and the Cityline 25.

The former is built on a 5,000kg GVW Sprinter. It has 16 seats - all forward-facing - and provision for six standees, while the Cityline 25 uses the 5,500kg GVW chassis. It has 13 forward-facing seats, three tip-ups, and space for nine standing passengers.

EVM has seen considerable success with its low-floors. In 2018 its target is to place 50 into the UK market with a mix of community transport groups, local authorities, and bus operators.

“The product has proved itself since the Community was launched. At the beginning we needed to see whether it would stand up to bus work, and experience has shown that it does,” says Sales and Marketing Manager Peter Flynn.

“One reason for that is simplicity. Both leaves of the Masats door are on one guide rail, so they cannot come out of adjustment, and wheelchair access is via a manual ramp. Heating is through radiators, and many other items are as simple as possible.”

Under the skin

EVM installs the prefabricated low-floor section and lowers the prop shaft immediately behind the gearbox to run beneath it. Beyond that, the shaft is perfectly straight to the rear axle. Standard fit for EVM’s low-floor Sprinters is a 75-litre fuel tank, but the converter is looking at enlarging that capacity.

The door is wide and rapid in operation, and a manual ramp is fitted

Currently touring the UK is a Cityline 25 demonstrator. It is to a standard specification, although EVM can offer numerous extras on examples built to order. miniplus was recently able to look over the minibus and put it through its paces.

One of the Cityline’s natural strengths is its accessibility. The EVM range’s floor is 20cm above road level, and its doors are high, wide and rapid in operation.

A small luggage pen is on the left when boarding, and EVM prepares the Cityline for stage carriage use. Mounting points for a ticket machine and a cash tray are fitted, and the driver’s seat can be specified to turn by 90o to permit cab access from the saloon.

Additionally, the converter has developed a full-height, full-width anti-assault screen that extends from behind the cab to the nearside B-pillar. The centre section is a door that comes with a slot and a tray to allow the issuing of tickets and transfer of money.

Custom-built

Even to stock layout, the Cityline is well appointed. The test minibus has six seats that are accessible without encountering a step: The three tip-ups, and a single row of forward-facing positions, which like those in the rear area are high-backed and from Kiel. All forward-facing seats come with three-point belts as standard and all passengers have a USB charging socket.

Accommodation for a wheelchair user is well designed. A fully-compliant area where the chair is stowed in a rear-facing position is fitted - and it also has a two-point seatbelt, should the user wish to wear it - but further options are available.

As tested, there are four small lengths of floor tracking, each with a hinged metal cover. If the vehicle is used on longer-distance or private hire work, the wheelchair can thus be secured in a forward-facing manner. Full-length tracking within the low-floor section is also possible.

Comfort as standard

The raised rear is reached via two shallow steps, which are edged in yellow. 10 seats are in that section, and to maximise standing space and passengers’ ability to move along the saloon, they are staggered.

16 Kiel Ligero seats fitted to demonstrator; nine standees carried too

Sufficient hand-holds are fitted and each row of seats in the raised area has access to a bell push, either on a stanchion or on the windowsill. In the test minibus they are wired in, but wireless examples are available.

Leg room in the rear row differs depending on the position thanks to seat staggering. The offside two have probably the most restricted pitch. However, it is still possible for someone who is over 6ft tall to occupy both seats without their knees making contact with anything..

EVM is able to add a short extension to the Cityline, but because of the rear axle’s weight limit, it has no impact on capacity. It does improve leg room, and so it may be worth considering if thicker high-backed seats are part of the specification.

Slick styling

The demonstrator retains the OEM rear doors, but the converter can remove them and incorporate a flat panel and single window if required. Operators who display advertising, or route branding, may benefit from that.

In either case, at the rear is a route number repeater. It complements the front and side destination display units, which are from Hanover and show white text. A Mobitec system is also available. EVM has added a ‘cap’ above the windscreen to hold the front display, which is easily seen by prospective passengers.

Heating and air-conditioning is comprehensive. Although it was not possible to test cooling ability, EVM offers a roof-mounted air-conditioning unit at two outputs. A Cityline is bound for Hong Kong soon, and the converter is confident that its cooling capacity will be sufficient for the climate there.

January did prove a good test for the heating system, however. It works exceptionally well; EVM adds a booster unit, but both radiators - one in the wheelchair bay, the other on the nearside at the rear - warm up quickly.

A benefit to both heating and cooling is the standard double-glazing. It is added in an intelligent manner; during conversion, EVM removes the whole of the areas where the windows are mounted and replaces them with glass that has very narrow pillars.

That gives a significantly better view than merely glazing the pre-stamped areas in a Sprinter would, thanks mainly to a lowering of the window line. It improves the view for passengers in the low floor area – a key aim of the process, says Peter.

Driving is easy and the 163bhp engine gives more than enough power

Simple to drive

miniplus has already tested a number of Sprinters, and from a driver’s perspective the Cityline is little different to them. One notable benefit over minicoaches is that vIsibility to the nearside at awkward junctions is very good thanks to the fully-glazed doors.

Standard fit in all EVM low-floors is the seven-speed 7G-Tronic automatic gearbox. The 2.2-litre, 163bhp engine is more than up to the job and it picks up very quickly.

At the 62mph limited speed, it is turning at 2,400rpm in top gear. Manoeuvrability of the Cityline is excellent and it is easy to align it tight to the kerb when stopping.

EVM has carried out analysis of all of its low-floor conversions that are in the UK market so far. The average fuel return for them is 27mpg. While very low-speed work will see poorer figures than that, operators in rural areas are likely to obtain 30mpg or more.

Next big thing?

The level of interest already shown in low-floor minibuses has taken the industry by surprise, and manufacturers are scrambling to satisfy demand. EVM’s conversion process means that it will be able to step up production if required, and to go with customer orders it plans to build at least two stock low-floors per month.

The Cityline gives the impression of being well put together, and it has a lot of passenger-friendly aspects. Naturally, the 5,500kg GVW Sprinter comes at a price premium to 5,000kg GVW models, and thus the Cityline 25 is aimed at applications where maximum capacity is desired.

EVM sees the Cityline 25 as a vehicle suited for stage carriage bus work

Besides its standard specification, EVM is also keen to explore enhanced trim levels to take the Cityline into the same territory as the flagship full-sized buses that have become popular with some operators.

It has produced another demonstrator that showcases some of those, including leather seats, wood-effect flooring, 240v sockets and tables.

“Interest in the low-floor is coming from sources that, two years ago, would have been unprecedented,” says Peter.

“2018 will be a big year for this type of minibus. It offers very low running costs and we are seeing a significant interest in the capacity that the Cityline 25 delivers to complement the Cityline 22 and the Community.”

EVM promises that its low-floor range will remain the same after the arrival of the new Sprinter.

As a result, the Cityline looks set to become an established part of the UK minibus scene.

www.evm.ie



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