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Old 18th November 2011, 23:57   #1
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Default Optare Solo spotted in India

What you see here in this post are the spy shots of yet another Commercial Vehicle that could be launched in India in the near future. Though the identity of this air-conditioned mini bus could not be identified for a long time, the Registration Number pasted in the windscreen 'TN 18 TC XXXX' hinted that this is an Ashok Leyland product. After that, Google gave the answers to solve the mystery. If we all remember, Ashok Leyland acquired a 26% stake in the UK-based bus and coach manufacturer 'Optare' in early 2010 which is quite popular in Europe and more so in UK. This model, named 'Solo' to denote its floor being 'so low', is one of Optare's most successful models that has been in existence for 12 years and has seen more than 4000 customers.

Seen testing in stop-start Chennai city traffic, this bus was turning heads rather unusually. Though the rear end looked like any other bus in India, the badges and the logo were conspicuous by their absence. In the choked traffic, all that could be inferred was that the profile and the front end of this bus are unlike anything that we have seen in India. The front end has a love-it or hate-it curved windshield and arched roof that looks aerodynamic and modern. Agreed, it also looks a little funky and weird. The ground clearance was alarmingly low and the bus was forced to carefully negotiate the crater-like bumps and potholes of the rain-ravaged Chennai roads. The closest that we would have seen something like this in Indian soil are some of the airport shuttle buses.

A striking feature of the Optare Solo was the tiny LED lights that fill up not only the main taillight clusters but also the high-mounted stop lamps at the rear and the roof-mounted pilot lamps at the front. The air-conditioned interiors along with the big and broad seats hinted that this model could be targeted at the premium segment of the market. With the Solo being available in five lengths, two widths, a host of seating configurations and a gamut of fuel saving engine options in the UK, Ashok Leyland can just leverage them to cover a wide spectrum of the Indian market. It has to be mentioned here that the overall build quality of the coach was a step ahead of the other Indian buses.

So, is Ashok Leyland stealthily planning to launch the Optare Solo in India to breach into the luxury bus segment. It could well be, but that plan has now become public. Ashok Leyland is one company that just never ceases to amaze me.
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Optare Solo spotted in India-optare-solo-sr-1.jpg  

Optare Solo spotted in India-optare-solo-sr-2.jpg  

Optare Solo spotted in India-optare-solo-ad.jpg  

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File Type: pdf Optare Solo SR Brochure.pdf (990.8 KB, 762 views)
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Old 19th November 2011, 00:14   #2
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Default Re: Optare Solo spotted in India

The bus looks funny. Not sure why it should have the "Bulge" on its forehead. It would have been a better. The GC seems to be very low and will be a bit of a problem in chennai
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Old 19th November 2011, 00:15   #3
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Default Re: Optare Solo spotted in India

I guess you would not mind roasting inside the bus. Has anyone seen the size of the Large Windows ?
The Temperature here is unbearable. :(
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Old 19th November 2011, 07:02   #4
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Default Re: Optare Solo spotted in India

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The bus looks funny. Not sure why it should have the "Bulge" on its forehead. It would have been a better. The GC seems to be very low and will be a bit of a problem in chennai
I swear. The bulge in the front does make it look very funny. If that wasn't there, the overall effect would have been much better. Apparently, going through their model lineup, most of the Optare models are all unique in one way or the other.
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I guess you would not mind roasting inside the bus. Has anyone seen the size of the Large Windows ?
The Temperature here is unbearable. :(
That's a great point. Though this design would make perfect sense for the European climate, a lot of heat is going to penetrate in Indian conditions with this design.
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Old 19th November 2011, 08:33   #5
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Default Re: Optare Solo spotted in India

Now that's an awkward design.

If you notice, the Volvos in B'lore get hit pretty hard on the roof regularly by branches; with this design, the front windshield will take a beating every now and then.

Also, where's the A/c unit; can't see anything on the top.

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I guess you would not mind roasting inside the bus. Has anyone seen the size of the Large Windows ?
The Temperature here is unbearable. :(
The Volvos have just about the same size of windows; I'm sure tinting will help cutting out the heat.
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Old 19th November 2011, 09:41   #6
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Default Re: Optare Solo spotted in India

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If you notice, the Volvos in B'lore get hit pretty hard on the roof regularly by branches; with this design, the front windshield will take a beating every now and then.
This may just escape getting hit by the tree branches as the 'Solo' is noticeably shorter than the other regular buses. More than that, what is sure to affect this design is it's extremely low 'ground clearance'. Imagine a situation in which this bus comes with a significant load inside (as always in India) and the size of a normal speed-breaker on our roads. That's a sure recipe for disaster.

Believe it or not, there was only one other vehicle on the road yesterday that was negotiating its way more carefully through some truly horrible stretches of rain-ravaged Chennai roads than I was doing in my notorious Civic. And that was, oh yeah, this Optare Solo bus. Coming to a dead stop right before every bump and pothole, scraping its bottom in a speed-breaker, approaching bigger bumps with an angle, et all - whatever I did and experienced in my Civic, this bus was going through the same.
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Old 19th November 2011, 11:01   #7
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Default Re: Optare Solo spotted in India

Great Catch. Interestingly, Optare buses feature on the Ashok Leyland website already (as a link though) - so it appears that ALL is trying to bring in a few Optare products here - atleast to survive in the "high-end" onslaught from Volvo and Merc.

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Originally Posted by libranof1987 View Post
Also, where's the A/c unit; can't see anything on the top.
I have a feeling that the AC unit might be placed inside the hump on the top.

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Originally Posted by arvi86 View Post
This may just escape getting hit by the tree branches as the 'Solo' is noticeably shorter than the other regular buses. More than that, what is sure to affect this design is it's extremely low 'ground clearance'. Imagine a situation in which this bus comes with a significant load inside (as always in India) and the size of a normal speed-breaker on our roads. That's a sure recipe for disaster.
So, there is every chance of "Solo" becoming "Sohi" (So-High) in India

May be they'd raise the suspension a bit - I hope this bus comes on road soon.
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Old 19th November 2011, 11:19   #8
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Default Re: Optare Solo spotted in India

What's this? The Hump-back Whale of commercial buses? I'm sorry I know that that was cheesy, but I just couldn't control myself!

As mentioned by someone else, if the AC unit is hidden away in that 'hump', it's quite an ingenious idea I must say. While it looks a bit odd, it's functional and that's more than enough. But what should be a cause for concern is that low GC. Hopefully the suspension is hydraulically adjustable, a la, the Volvo buses. Not only will it make getting in and out easier, it should climb over some of Bangalore's really nasty speed-breakers.

It's good to see such buses doing the rounds in our cities. Our cities now wear an international look, especially with the new low-floor commercial buses that have been introduced by the BMTC.


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I guess you would not mind roasting inside the bus. Has anyone seen the size of the Large Windows ?
The Temperature here is unbearable. :(
Then what do you have to say about the Volvos around? Don't worry about it! The tints and the AC unit should help keep the insides relatively cool. What I'm worried about is the number of pot-holes that keep sprouting up. Undulations on the roads are known to be the chief cause of the windshield-cracks in Volvos.

Last edited by suhaas307 : 19th November 2011 at 11:26.
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Old 19th November 2011, 11:27   #9
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Default Re: Optare Solo spotted in India

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Originally Posted by suhaas307 View Post
It's good to see such buses doing the rounds in our cities. Our cities now wear an international look, especially with the new low-floor commercial buses that have been introduced by the BMTC.
AFAIK, it's only B'lore (on a huge scale) and Chennai (few) that have Volvos or Merc.

At least in Gurgaon/Delhi, the A/c buses are the khatara Tata/Marcopolo ones; which sound like a jet engine and move like a snail

But I don't understand what's the big deal with this bus. Isn't Volvo enough?
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Old 19th November 2011, 11:56   #10
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Default Re: Optare Solo spotted in India

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But I don't understand what's the big deal with this bus. Isn't Volvo enough?
A Smaller AC bus, perhaps at lower cost - Smaller bus can reach more places, where the Volvo would not be able to reach.
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Old 19th November 2011, 18:13   #11
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Default Re: Optare Solo spotted in India

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Originally Posted by binaiks View Post
Great Catch. Interestingly, Optare buses feature on the Ashok Leyland website already (as a link though) - so it appears that ALL is trying to bring in a few Optare products here - atleast to survive in the "high-end" onslaught from Volvo and Merc.
In my opinion, it would be a nice strategic move by AL if they decide to bring in the Optare range here in India. That would fill in the void in AL's lineup that doesn't have any contenders above the 12M range in the luxury bus category. The Intercentury Luxura has been confined to "Testing Only" for years together now. The Optare can fit in nicely in the line up and the only disadvantage would be Optare's lack of brand image against the mighty Volvos.
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So, there is every chance of "Solo" becoming "Sohi" (So-High) in India. May be they'd raise the suspension a bit - I hope this bus comes on road soon.
I bet, they would surely raise the suspension for India if they decide to bring this here. In an earlier post, I did mention about how the driver of this bus was negotiating a battered road. I can't even think of a public transport bus doing such things post launch.
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While it looks a bit odd, it's functional and that's more than enough.
But, functionality should not be at the expense of aesthetics which is the case here. It definitely looks aerodynamic and modern, but not necessarily good.
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Originally Posted by suhaas307 View Post
It's good to see such buses doing the rounds in our cities. Our cities now wear an international look, especially with the new low-floor commercial buses that have been introduced by the BMTC.
You guys are extremely lucky. Only Bangalore has such hi-tech buses running in such high frequencies. We in Chennai are partially lucky, though the number of Volvos are much limited, the regular MTC buses are comparatively better than those in other cities.
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A Smaller AC bus, perhaps at lower cost - Smaller bus can reach more places, where the Volvo would not be able to reach.
Spot on binaiks. Take the case of the 'On Test' bus yesterday. It was doing rounds in a suburb, an area where the regular Volvos can never reach.
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Old 19th November 2011, 18:40   #12
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Default Re: Optare Solo spotted in India

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Originally Posted by libranof1987 View Post
AFAIK, it's only B'lore (on a huge scale) and Chennai (few) that have Volvos or Merc.

At least in Gurgaon/Delhi, the A/c buses are the khatara Tata/Marcopolo ones; which sound like a jet engine and move like a snail
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You guys are extremely lucky. Only Bangalore has such hi-tech buses running in such high frequencies. We in Chennai are partially lucky, though the number of Volvos are much limited, the regular MTC buses are comparatively better than those in other cities.
I was under the impression that the Volvo B7Rs(?) are in Delhi as well as in Mumbai, but not on as large a scale as in Bangalore, of course! But yeah, we Bangaloreans are lucky. We have the best public-transport system in India, at the moment. And the Metro-rail is only going to improve the whole system.

But that said, we have THE WORST roads you can imagine. Every road is dug-up at some point, and is repaired using stones and pebbles. Pot-holes the size of craters (I'm not kidding) are exposed and nothing is done about it. I'm sure the situation in Delhi and Mumbai is different. Sorry for going OT.

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But, functionality should not be at the expense of aesthetics which is the case here. It definitely looks aerodynamic and modern, but not necessarily good.
But I don't understand. How is this a case of aesthetics over functionality?

Last edited by suhaas307 : 19th November 2011 at 18:44.
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Old 20th November 2011, 08:55   #13
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But that said, we have THE WORST roads you can imagine. Every road is dug-up at some point, and is repaired using stones and pebbles. Pot-holes the size of craters (I'm not kidding) are exposed and nothing is done about it. I'm sure the situation in Delhi and Mumbai is different. Sorry for going OT.
I can vouch that Chennai is no better.
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But I don't understand. How is this a case of aesthetics over functionality?
Oh no! I said the exact opposite. What I meant was, in the case of Optare Solo, 'functionality' has taken precedence over 'aesthetics' (If the air-conditioning unit is hidden inside that hump as speculated by binaiks).
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Old 20th November 2011, 10:06   #14
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Default Re: Optare Solo spotted in India

The bulge on the front roof will be the AC unit. I agree that the large greenhouse in a comparatively small bus may not work for India's conditions.
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Old 20th November 2011, 14:18   #15
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Default Re: Optare Solo spotted in India

Well, it could be a great move by AL. It'll create a whole new segment if it gets launched. But they better offer adjustable height suspension if they ever hope to have it sell in big numbers. It'll be a good option for cities or places with tight roads and turns.

But IMHO the design could have been bettered by having a shorter wheelbase. That would be much more maneuverable too (I think). Making the roof straight would also make it look better. I really don't understand why they didn't go with a shorter wheelbase like this bus :

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Last edited by smashnerd : 20th November 2011 at 14:21.
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