The long distance Intercity bus market is basically divided into two, one is Premium segment with a TIV of around 800 to 1000 nos, completely dominated by global bus giants like Volvo, Mercedes Benz, Scania and the other one is Value segment with a TIV of 5000 to 6000 Nos, completely dominated by desi brands like Ashok Leyland, Tata and Eicher. In the value segment, Ashok Leyland is by far the leader with multiple product options catering to all sub segments like low range (upto 500 kms) mid range (500 to 800 kms) and high range (800 to 1200 kms). Lot of features like Leymatic automated transmission, electro magnetic retarders, high service frequency upto 80k kms makes them more suitable for long distance applications. As per company, Ashok Leyland has close to 70% market share in this long distance Intercity bus segment.
Coming to Tata, basically has two products in offer for Intercity application, LPO 1612 and LPO 1618 in low range and mid range segments respectively. Tata unfortunately haven’t offered any product to compete with Ashok Leyland 12M, 225 CRS, by far the highest powered front engine chassis in Indian market. But Tata always wanted to offer fully built solutions unlike Ashok Leyland, which was comfortable selling chassis, starting from Globus on 1616 BS2 chassis. Though it had limited success in the past, Tata kept launching products for Intercity application like Tata Hispano, Divo. Tata is also ambitious about the premium multi axle coach Paradiso G7. The product is under testing for long time and we expect the product to be ready only after BS4 implementation.
Tata Magna Front engine bus
Tata announced its interest to launch fully built coach, Magna on LPO 1618 during Feb 2015. Product demo was organised and it was announced that the coach will be available for sale starting from 2016. Now though there is no confirmed news about the product launch and its pricing details, we have official pictures and brochures released from Tata.
Tata Magna will be yet an another attempt by Tata to offer fully built bus, but the difference this time is, the body will be built by Marcopolo. Tata Marcopolo is an exclusive JV for building body on Tata chassis and is one of the most successful JV’s for Tata motors. For Tata, Marcopolo has completely transformed the way the buses are built and one big part of product development, the body building is now completely taken care by its partner. Marcopolo have established a name for itself in quality and reliability across all segments including tough city bus segment driven by UBS II.Marcopolo is known to build front engine bodies in South Africa and the designs for Magna are carried over from there as well.
By far this is the best elegantly built front engine coach and a true credit to Marcopolo. Elegant yet functional with no frills.
Rear has space for luggage and Tata Magna will be first coach to be completely certified for Bus body code AIS 052. This means, the coach is fully roll over protected, has a fully functional emergency exit, etc.
Bigger, lower windscreen enables good all around visibility for driver. Panoramic swing wipers ensures the windscreen is swept completely.
Gangway has a width of 350mm, and a internal height of 1940 mm which is among the best in class features giving a great comfort for passenger movement. Seating capacity is 44, which ideally will have multiple options as well say between 36 to 44.
Boot space and luggage capacity
Front engine buses always had a complaint of having reduced luggage capacity due the engine layout. It was solely at the discretion of body builder to offer better package, so that the bus has reasonable luggage space. Marcopolo has done a excellent work by providing 8 Cu.m of luggage space including boot and sides. Pantographic opening side doors could have added a great value.
The hatack now has partition which prevents the sliding of luggage.
As the coach is complying to Bus body code, related safety aspects like emergency exits,
fire extinguishers and hammers to break the windows are provided.
Air condition & Comfort
The coach comes fitted with Spheros CC355, a 40 kW roof mounted engine driven AC unit. This uses R134A refrigerant which has no chlorine content, no ozone depletion potential and has modest global warming potential. The chassis comes only with rear air suspension, though a full air suspension could have been provided.
Other features like charging points are provided for individual seats. Its known that now a days, the cables in chargers are provided with limited length and when the plug points provided towards bottom side, sometimes it make it usable. Instead, the points could have been provided little higher.
There is only a two pin plug point, which means either Marcopolo discouraging passengers to use only mobile chargers or encouraging to use only Mac books to charge.
The chassis is same LPO 1618, powered by Cummins 6BT 5.9L engine, developing 180hp power @ 2500 rpm and 675 Nm torque @ 1400 rpm. The gear box is G-600 which has 6F + 1R with overdrive gears. One addition being 295/80 R-22.5 16 PR tubeless radial tyres as aganist the 11R22.5 tyres offered initially.
Product position and verdict
Magna is a platform to showcase a premium body in front engine bus chassis. This concept is new to India and recently launched Mammoth also falls in the same category. With premium features and superior built quality, the Magna is definitely a step in right direction. But in the current version of mediocre chassis, will definitely not take off in a way its expected. Will have good potential only, if there is enough punch from the chassis as well. In the current verion with 180hp engine, Magna cannot be deployed for higher range of distance at 1000kms and above and will be limited to mid range Intercity and tourist application. We also don’t see, any new developments and launch of higher power train BS3 bus chassis in the next 3 months.
Normally, the market response for fully built coaches especially, front engine coaches are always cold, due the fact that a lower priced bodies are built by body builders. An AC bus chassis along with a body from SM.Kannapa or Veera Vahana costs between 45lks to 50 lks, depending upon the configuration we choose. Bodies from Sutlej is still lesser and this needs to be considered while the pricing is made. We currently dont have published information on Magna’s pricing, but expecting to be competitive.
Wish Tata soon comes out with with higher power engine and enough comfort and safety features in new chassis and that coupled with Magna may have good takers. What ever the price factor we have spoken, the space for Premium quality front engine coach is still vacant and we don’t expect anybody other than Tata and Marcopolo can fill it easily.
We are also sharing images of sleeper variant, which was found while testing (Image is more than year old). This may not be available as fully built version until AIS 119 – Requirements of sleeper bus, is released. May be available as an option for customer, to bill body separately from Marcopolo, but such an option of building body directly to Customer is not offered till now.
Pic credits : Respective owners