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MiniPlus Article
October 26 2017
By Tim Deakin

Tim is Editor of routeone and has worked in both the coach and bus and haulage industries.

Treka 16: Accessible mini meets all requirements

There is no shortage of choice in the coachbuilt accessible minibus market. Treka’s challenger is well-established as the Treka 16, and it offers a wide range of options. miniplus puts it throught its paces

Treka is part-way through a large order for rental company Dawsonrentals

Treka is a name synonymous with accessible minibuses. Based in Brighouse, it focuses on nothing else, and its Mercedes-Benz Sprinter-based product line-up is simple: A van conversion, the Treka Van, and a coachbuilt model, the Treka 16.

That disguises what is a diverse offering. Minibuses are finished to the buyer’s specification, and Production DIrector Morgan Clissett says that the only limitations are physical, moral and legal. If a request satisfies all of those obligations, Treka will endeavour to meet it.

The Treka 16 is standardised on the 5,000kg GVW Sprinter 514CDi. It has a 2.2-litre, 140bhp OM 642 engine and a 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic gearbox, and base vehicles arrive as chassis cowls.

“All Treka 16s built this year will have the automatic gearbox. By learning what the market wants, we can order chassis in bulk and take them as and when we need them, giving economies of scale,” says Morgan.

Treka extends the chassis at the rear. That’s major surgery, but Mercedes-Benz has audited the process and work is fully approved. The rear spring suspension is retained, but it is raised a little to allow a perfectly flat floor.

The extended chassis then proceeds for bodybuilding. All panels are fibreglass and the only OEM parts that are re-used are the bonnet, front bumper, grille, headlights and mirrors. The remainder is added by Treka, giving rise to the flexibility described earlier.

“The entry point is that the customer wants a Treka. Everything else is up for discussion. The Treka 16 is a large box, so there is scope to do as the buyer wishes. We pride ourselves on flexibility; customers ask for many different things, and we usually accommodate them,” says Morgan.

Currently being processed is a 50-strong order for Treka 16s from Dawsonrentals. Vehicle 33 of that batch was completed in early October, and it was kindly made available for a miniplus Test Drive.

The basics

While to a largely standard specification for its hire fleet, Dawsonrentals’ Treka 16s have its own moquette pattern on the seat cushions and in the headlining, matching its Treka Vans in that regard.

16 Phoenix Blenheim seats are fitted, and behind the last row is a reasonable amount of space for wheelchair users.

The rearmost seat pairs are to the Blenheim Shuffle design. Tip-up squabs allow them to be pushed forward when required; like all of the seats, they are on NMI Millennium legs and fixings, but they also have wheels attached at the rear for ease of movement.

The minibuses for Dawsonrentals have 16 Phoenix Blenheim seats

Three-point belts come with Phoenix’s all-age adjuster buckle, along with red hand-holds at each top corner, matching the rails around the door. Combined with the black and red moquette, that creates a co-ordinated internal appearance. An illuminated fasten seatbelt sign is fitted.

Treka takes particular care with internal joints, and all are sealed. As a result, the body can in extreme circumstances be hosed out.

The front door is fully glazed and it is to Treka’s own design. Three steps take passengers from floor level to the platform and then one more into the saloon, but Treka also fits as standard a cleverly-designed fold-out step to reduce the initial climb.

At the rear, the two doors are split 60/40 and within the opening are steps to allow the driver or attendant to board or alight. Both door panels are latched top and bottom, and an audible warning in the cab sounds when either is not secured.

All doors on the Treka 16 can be locked, but the rear opening is an emergency exit. As a result, Treka has configured the internal handle to override the locking mechanism.

Lift into place

For the Dawsonrentals minibuses, PLS has supplied AccessLite underfloor lifts, although others can be fitted, including inboard models. The AccessLite has a 400kg weight limit and it comes with optional extending guard rails. It is prepared for PLS’s DoorSafe barrier, and Treka installs the necessary internal socket as standard.

A cradle is provided for the lift control unit, which is on a wander lead. Again as standard, Treka supplies a second control unit and lead with every vehicle and it can be kept in a lockable storage box to the left of the front door.

Ten floor-mounted tracking rails are fitted along with one at cantrail height on each side, so wheelchair securement should be easy. Additionally, at the extreme rear, waist-height tracking is added; it is hidden behind a neatly-designed cover.

Driver thought of

A second, smaller, lockable compartment is within the cab. Also added in this area are dash extensions, a sliding signalling window, and a panel to the driver’s right that holds controls for all body-related functions.

Standard Sprinter cab, although widened to suit the coachbuilt body

These buttons have their action marked on them, but it is possible that after repeated use, the text may wear off. Part of the same unit is a control for the electrically-adjusted mirrors and a socket for a sat-nav.

Space around the seat is extensive and there is lots of potential to store a bag. A coat hook is provided.

Cab air-conditioning is deleted, and for a reason. The Treka 16 comes with a substantial Webasto climate control unit, with cool air vents at the roof line and heater outlets at floor level.

Like the passenger area, the cab has the former, and removal of the OEM air-conditioning unit avoids a clash. A simple temperature setting dial is above the windscreen.

The radio is retained, along with its SD and USB inputs, and speakers are fitted throughout the vehicle.

A small Autosound monitor shows a feed from the rear when reverse is selected, and it also shows a picture from a nearside camera mounted below the mirror when the left indicator is activated, removing a blind spot. The latter is standard fitment on all orders placed during 2017.

On the road

The Sprinter platform is proven beyond doubt, and particularly with the 7G-Tronic gearbox, it is simple to drive. Treka fits a comparatively wide body, but it retains the OEM mirrors. They give a very good view, and vision of conflicting traffic at roundabouts and junctions is also good. In the Dawsonrentals minibuses, the driver benefits from a full-width, manually-operated windscreen blind.

The test route consisted of mainly single-carriageway roads, including a trip onto Saddleworth Moor. Weather conditions were dreadful; on exposed sections, winds were gusting and there was heavy rain.

Taken together, that gave a severe test of the Treka 16’s metal. It performed remarkably; despite small wheels and a significantly larger side area than a conversion, it held the road very well in crosswinds when high above Scammonden Reservoir.

Treka fits upright ‘guttering’ on each side of the windscreen. It may seem odd at first, but when the minibus is driven in heavy rain it quickly comes into its own; it prevents water from being cascaded by the wipers onto the side windows and it proved very useful.

The PLS Access Lite lift has a weight limit of 400kg and is easy to operate

No play was evident in the door mechanism despite strong crosswinds, and the body gave the impression of being well constructed. Occasional squeaks were evident on poorly-surfaced roads, but that is to be expected from a minibus with rear doors.

The 140bhp engine is up to the job in an accessible application, but there is a noticeable performance differential compared with  Sprinter with the OM 641 at 163bhp. The lower-power unit often revs higher, giving the impression that it is working harder.

Nevertheless, frugality is not affected. With poor weather and prolonged climbing, a modest return was expected; upon return to Brighouse, the dash computer instead displayed 22.7mpg, far better than could have been predicted.

The bottom line

Accessible minibuses are comparatively basic vehicles that are designed for a specific task. It’s not necessary to over-specify them, but it is imperative that they are equipped correctly for the job at hand; there is a big difference between the two.

Treka does a good job with its coachbuilt product. It has significant passenger appeal thanks to an airy saloon, and the driver will find little to knock where the Mercedes-Benz contribution is concerned. He or she is also well-considered by the bodybuilder. Many useful aspects do not jump out immediately; instead, they become evident one by one.

From an operator’s point of view, two additional things are attractive. Treka provides no fewer than seven years’ body warranty, and retail pricing is keen, at a shade under £66,000.

When all of that is taken together with a highly-standardised assembly process that is as lean as can be, it’s little surprise that such major players as Dawsonrentals and London Hire are among Treka’s loyal customers. This minibus does what it says on the tin; no more, no less.

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