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April 16 2018
By Tim Deakin

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


UNVI targeting a piece of the Iveco Daily cake

Iveco’s growing relevance in the small coach sector comes largely thanks to its Busmaster programme, which has accredited various bodybuilders. UNVI is among them, with its 7,200kg GVW Compa model

Compa is built in 7,200kg GVW Daily and it has UNVI’s distinctive look

Another bodybuilder with high hopes for an Iveco Daily-based small coach is UNVI, which offers its Compa through a network of UK and Irish dealers.

The Compa was initially targeted at applications where luxury and luggage space, rather than capacity, are the principal concerns. 25 seats was the maximum available at launch in right-hand-drive form.

Since then, customer demand has led to a rethink. 29 is now the highest capacity available, while a productive niche has also been carved in the high-specification sector, where 16 seats are offered in a 2+1 layout.

“25 seats is the Compa’s mainstay, but other variants have their own markets,” says Gordon Robertson, Director of Whitburn, West Lothian-based Coachtraders. It services the Scottish and Northern Irish markets, along with much of northern England.

At 8.5m, the Compa is longer than coachbuilt Mercedes-Benz Sprinter-based models, but it is a worthy and long-awaited replacement for the UNVI Riada, Gordon adds.

In little more than three years, 110 Riadas on Sprinter 616 chassis were placed into the UK and Ireland. The Riada is long-gone, but it was particularly popular in VIP form, hence UNVI’s decision to market the Compa to that layout.

One major difference between VIP and standard Compas is the aisle layout. In the latter, the gangway is sunken. Those with 2+1 seating have a flat floor unless specified otherwise, which permits up-seating later in life and enhances versatility.

Iveco’s contribution to the Compa is already well proven. The Daily at Euro 6 is powered by the F1C engine rated at 180bhp coupled to an eight-speed Hi-Matic automatic gearbox; buyers report that up to 20mpg is an achievable fuel figure in real-life operation.

“Through its Busmaster programme, of which UNVI is part, Iveco has shown that it is keen to do business in the passenger sector. In Abdi Ali it has a proactive project leader in the UK. Many bodybuilders are pushing Daily-based products hard, and for good reason,” says Gordon.

Compa in stock with Coachtraders fitted with 25 Vogel half-leather seats

UNVI as standard

Although the Compa is a new model, it displays some similarities with the other UNVI products. Its slightly bowed sides are reminiscent of the Riada, and they are very obvious from the driver’s seat when viewed in the mirrors.

At the rear, there is a lot of commonality appearance-wise with the Sprinter-based coachbuilt Vega GT.

Courier provision is identical to that of the Atego-mounted Voyager GT; the seat is mounted at floor level ahead of the door. While adjacent to a microphone plug, it is also certified for passenger use, and it comes with its own overhead service unit.

Coachtraders currently has a 25-passenger Compa in stock. Vogel seats are standard for the 2018 model year; in this midicoach, they are to a half-leather blue and dark grey finish.

Blue curtains, and blue LED gangway lighting, complement those colours, but other schemes are available. Where a 2+1 layout is specified, the Brusa Extend VIP seat is standard.

All Compas have a roof-mounted air-conditioning unit and perimeter radiators. The latter uses waste engine warmth. No auxiliary heater is fitted; it has proved not to be required.

USB charging points within the side walls are fitted to all stock Compas, as is the Bosch Professional Line entertainment system. A flip-down front monitor is standard; VIP models are pre-wired for a second at the rear. They can also come with an inverter and 240v sockets.

Rear air suspension is fitted, and a top-loading fridge is adjacent to the single front seat.

The external element

Iveco provides the Daily 72C18 for bodying by UNVI. It has a GVW of 7,200kg; unladen weight of the stock vehicle is 5,260kg.

There is a good amount of luggage storage on the Compa. On each side is an identically-sized locker accessed via a top-hinged hatch; the opening on the nearside is smaller than that on the offside to prevent the former being fouled by the door.

Side lockers complement a large rear boot to give good luggage space

At the rear is a boot that is more than sufficient to accommodate the luggage generated by 25 passengers. It is enormous, and on 29-seat Compas, the driver will thus need to be careful not to overload the rear axle in some circumstances.

The boot door is very light in operation, and that will be welcomed by drivers. It has an emergency release from the inside that can be accessed by removing a small ‘cap’ within the saloon.

However, drivers may be tempted to use the emergency release cable to close the door under normal operation, because there is no specific handle for that purpose otherwise.

From the cab

The cab is well laid-out and the driver’s seat is air suspended. In the demonstrator it is all-black, but UNVI can trim it to match the passenger positions should the buyer require.

Storage for the crew is ample, and a top-loading lockable compartment is below the signalling window. Two cup holders and various trays are also within the cab, although room for a bag is lacking.

Controls are simple. Buttons govern most functions, but the saloon heating and air-conditioning use a temperature dial and aftermarket console respectively. Cab climate control uses Iveco’s dials and buttons.

The signalling window is heated and has a sliding opening. Over the windscreen are two manual sunblinds; their various cords and guide rails create a degree of clutter within the glazing.

The handbrake is to the right of the driver’s seat. While it is not quite as easy to reach as it would be were it on the left, it is well out of the way and there is no danger of the driver’s clothes becoming caught on it when accessing or leaving the cab. Single-pane mirrors are fitted on each side. They are adjusted and heated electrically.

Dash is extended on both sides by UNVI and cab has reasonable storage

In the hot seat

The Euro 6 Daily has earned excellent reviews and that positivity continues in the Compa. Access to the cab is good and the engine is refined. It has a slightly coarser note during the warm-up stage, but once that is complete it is almost inaudible under normal driving conditions.

The Hi-Matic gearbox is the gold standard in the small PCV sector. It is superbly smooth when shifting, and remains so when the Compa is pushed very hard.

During a recent test drive the opportunity to put it to the test was presented on two occasions. One, when climbing a long 15% gradient, saw the throttle fully open for a prolonged period and engine speed taken to well over 3,000rpm. The other, joining the M8 motorway, was similar.

In those situations, the engine makes itself much more known that when under part throttle. While it certainly conveys an impression of being worked, audible intrusion into the saloon is not as severe as it could be.

180bhp as installed is enough for the Compa application, and its performance when pushed is little different to that of a Sprinter with the four-cylinder engine. At the single carriageway limit of 50mph, the Hi-Matic often switches between seventh and eighth gears. When it does so depends entirely on the driver’s use of the accelerator; a flat road allows around 1,600rpm to be held in top gear, but climbing sees a drop to seventh to sustain momentum.

An unusual aspect of the Hi-Matic is its holding of gears on downhill stretches. That is no doubt for braking purposes, but the engine speed is sometimes taken very high under such circumstances; doing so is understandable, as it reduces reliance on the foundation brakes Despite a large body on comparatively small 16-inch wheels, the Compa holds the road well and there is no evident roll in corners.

Compa is a legitimate challenger in the mid-sized, Iveco-based sector

Compa: A contender?

The Compa shares many things with a larger coach. It is a pleasant vehicle both to drive and to travel in, and UNVI fits many items that are found on its bigger brothers, including a capable climate control system, comfortable seats, and others.

Its windows are large and passenger acceptance will be high. Additionally, operating costs are set to be low thanks to meagre fuel consumption; on a 44-mile drive, including two stiff climbs and a degree of idling, the figure returned was 19.4mpg.

An accessible variant in conjunction with a flat floor is in the pipeline, and UNVI has already shown its willingness to adapt to demand by the introduction of a 29-seat option. Coachtraders has also supplied a toilet-equipped Compa and it is open to discussions on other customised examples.

The Whitburn dealer and its fellow UK and Irish suppliers have good availability of Compas. Coachtraders has supplied VIP-specification examples from stock, while more 25- and 29-seat examples will arrive from the factory throughout 2018.

The Compa is a serious contender in this area of the market. It further strengthens a strong push by Iveco, which will surely be rewarded by a continuing increase in market share of the 20-something seat sector.

www.unvibusandcoach.co.uk



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