Toyota has had the van based mini bus market by the short and curleys for years with its ageing HiAce and some of the Euro manufacturers are having a good old crack at the Japanese but now a new, highly experienced player is here to stir things up in minibus-land providing more choice to operators.

Iveco will boldly launch a three model Daily minibus range later this year in two wheelbase lengths and two roof heights, H2 and H3, depending on the model.

It’s available only with a ZF eight-speed auto and a 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine mounted longitudinally in the front engine bay.

Iveco waited until a new van platform was introduced along with a Euro 6 emissions compliant engine before launching here.

It was worth the wait as the Daily minibus ticks plenty of boxes in terms of safety, passenger capacity and comfort, running costs and performance.

And they took the opportunity to tweak its frontal styling to a less polarising look with new lights, grille and bumper.

The vehicles arrive here completely built up but are fitted out locally.

As might be expected from a new Euro-van-based bus, they offer car-like ergonomics and increased levels of active and passive safety.

The line-up starts with Shuttle 12 riding on a 3520mm wheelbase with the lower 1820mm roof height.

As the name suggests it has a passenger capacity of 12 passengers including the driver and a GVM of 4.5 tonnes meaning it is car licence compliant.

Step up to the Shuttle 16 and you get the 4100mm wheelbase with the H2 roof and a passenger capacity of 16 including the driver. GVM for this model is 6.1 tonnes.

Topping out the range is the Executive 16 on the 4100mm wheelbase but with a higher 2010mm roof height. It’s the ‘party bus’ in the Daily minibus range and has a GVM of 6.5 tonnes.

Depending on owner/operator requirements, the Executive 16 can be specified with luxury kit like leather seats and an upgraded interior.

All three models ride on air suspension with differing wheel sizes depending on the model.

Wide opening rear `barn doors’’ facilitate loading into the generous luggage compartment behind the rear seat row that may reduce the need for a trailer.

Commenting at the national Daily minibus launch, Iveco Bus National Manager, Steve Heanes said, “Many of these vehicles will operate in metropolitan and urban environments so the large luggage area, spacious passenger compartment and easy access make for a much better all-round package for various users including aged car transport, medical patient transport, community groups and hotels.’’

“It will be a better vehicle for the driver thanks to the eight-speed auto, new driver’s seat and many new features previously restricted to passenger cars.’’

“For the environmentally conscious operator, the Daily minibus range is equipped with one of the cleanest conventional diesel engines available which meets stringent Euro 6 emissions standards even though these measures won’t be mandated in Australia for several years,’’ Mr Heanes said.

A high measure of safety is provided in all models of the Daily minibus through lane departure warning, electronic brake force distribution, stability control, anti-slip regulator drag torque control and hill hold assist.

Daily minibus also gains trailer sway mitigation, adaptive lane control, roll-over mitigation and other features linked to its electronics.

Further aiding safety is a driver’s airbag, daytime running lights, multi-function steering wheel and air suspension.

Lane departure warning is operated through a windscreen mounted camera which recognises road markings and sounds and alarm if the vehicle changes lanes without the driver first signalling.

Power comes from an Iveco 3.0-litre F1C turbodiesel engine mounted up front driving the rear axle through a ZF eight-speed auto.

It’s good for 125kW (170hp) and features a flat torque curve with a maximum 400Nm delivered from 1350rpm up to 3000rpm.

A DPF system aids in achieving the Euro 6 standard.

On the road feel is surprisingly car-like though the pre-production test vehicles were on steel springs and not air suspension. It will bring another level of comfort and control when the production models arrive later this year.

The powerful and torquey 3.0-litre engine operates in relative quiet and makes no discernible vibrations in the cabin.

But the real treat is how well it teams up with the ZF eight-speed which seems to almost have a predictive function, flicking up or down a cog almost in expectation of driving conditions.

The brakes are strong and the steering is light and responsive though the wheel is a little flat mounted.

A cockpit style instrument panel makes driving Daily minibus that much easier and the seat feels pretty comfy though we were only in it for about 30 minutes at a time.

It’s a wieldy bus to throw around city streets and though high, feels well planted when you take it through a sequence of corners.

Access is easy and the thing looks pretty good on the outside, fairly standard “Aussie bus’’ on the inside. We like the climate control and decent audio system and hopefully all models will come with easy to use satnav when they arrive.

Obviously, there’s no word on price this far ahead but Iveco executives were looking pretty chuffed with the new bus at launch.

They want to pinch sales from Toyota which shouldn’t be difficult given that vehicle’s age, size and price and the relative size, spec’ and performance of the new Daily minibus.

In a classic understatement, Steve Heanes said, “The Daily minibus has been developed to suit a number of applications where its specifications will compare favourably to others in the market.’’

That would be a yes.