Fuso has made a range of significant changes in and around the new Rosa, further improving the most popular light-duty bus of the last decade in Australia.
However, it's the safety features of the new Rosa that will increase its appeal to all potential and repeat customers.
The Rosa is now equipped with just about every safety feature available including lap/sash seatbelts for all seats and autonomous emergency braking (AEB), the latter providing full emergency braking in the event of a potential collision. There's also lane departure warning, electronic stability control, driver and front passenger airbags, height-adjustable LED headlights, hill start assist and a reversing camera.
The added safety features make the Rosa the safest light-duty bus on the Australian market.
In a press statement marking the launch of the new Rosa, Daimler Truck and Bus Australia President and CEO, Daniel Whitehead, said the safety features of the new Rosa are at the heart of its appeal.
"These buses carry our most precious cargo, whether it be on school runs or nursing home day trips, so it is imperative fleet operators consider their safety features or lack thereof," he said.
"There is only one light-duty bus in Australia with advanced emergency braking, only one with lane departure warning and only one with electronic stability, and that is the new Fuso Rosa. There are many other benefits introduced by the upgraded model, but nothing as important as the features that will help protect the ones we love," Mr Whitehead added.
New engine and transmission
New for the Rosa is an efficient 3.0-litre four-cylinder common-rail turbo-diesel that we're told has the most power and torque in its class – 129kW and 430Nm. This advanced unit, which features a variable geometry turbocharger, is smaller and lighter than the engine it replaces, but is also more powerful. It also meets stringent Euro 6 emission standards.
Fuso is also introducing its Duonic automated manual transmission, a six-speed dual-clutch box, to the Rosa range.
This advanced transmission is said to deliver fuel efficiency improvements as well as fast and smooth shifts. It also features a handy creep function for easy low-speed manoeuvring. However, if auto boxes aren't you thing, there's also the option of a five-speed manual transmission.
Fuso has significantly upgraded the interior of the Rosa, with a new-look dash that is both practical and stylish. It now incorporates a passenger-side airbag, as well as a new climate control display and new switches for key controls that are within easy reach of the driver.
A new high-resolution seven-inch touchscreen display with internet and digital radio has been introduced, along with a new electronic instrument cluster that presents a range of data for the driver including fuel efficiency information, maintenance status, date and outside temperature.
There is also a repositioned handbrake lever, which now sits to the left of the driver's seat. Fuso has also taken the opportunity to move the transmission shift lever from the floor onto the dashboard for easier control.
On the road
Getting into the Rosa is easy for the driver with the help of a single step, and once you're in it's no trouble getting comfortable with the steering wheel being adjustable for tilt and reach. It's not so easy for the front-seat passenger as there's no door, and the passenger has to enter via the driver-controlled swing door. The passenger then has to climb through to the seat.
Our Rosa was the Deluxe version so all the 25 seats (the Rosa is also available as a 22-seater) are high-back, cloth-covered items that were very comfortable and featured the aforementioned lap/sash belts.
The rest of the interior is plush with nice carpet and full headroom for all but the tallest passengers.
Rear passengers get integrated roof vents for the air-conditioning system and LED lights.
The Fuso team has revamped the front so it's almost stylish – something you don't really expect in a bus.
However, the steering wheel is bare, with no audio controls and surprisingly, no cruise control – at all. A strange omission, I thought, as Rosas will no doubt be doing a lot of highway touring…
The air-conditioning is a split system with separate controls for the driver and the passenger compartment.
Vision from the driver's seat is excellent with a big windscreen, excellent mirrors and good side vision with the inclusion of a lower window on the left-hand side for spotting kids or cyclists.
The gauges are clear and concise and the switchgear is all well laid out and logical.
The engine is in the front between the driver and passenger but the insulation is good; there's a bit of engine rumble but nothing too intrusive.
Moving off, the new gearbox is slick and quick-shifting and there is actually some engine braking which holds on until you hit the accelerator again.
The rack and pinion steering is direct and has a bit of feel to it and the turning circle is tight at 14.2 metres (12.6 metres for the 22-seater).
Suspension is independent on the front with double wishbones with coils springs, shock absorbers and stabiliser and rear is leaf springs with shock absorbers and stabiliser bar.
The whole system works really well and the Rosa is a very sure-footed bus on the road – obviously again adding to its safety credentials.
And to top it off, the brakes are first class. Fuso has gone to discs on all four corners for this model and they work a treat.
I have to say that the Rosa is quite a pleasurable and easy vehicle to drive. It has no vices, it holds the road really well and it stop smartly and predictably.
When I was driving the Rosa, both around town and on semi-rural roads, I found it didn't feel like I was driving a 25-seat bus. It felt smaller and more nimble.
I think that aside from a few little gripes like the lack of cruise control and a passenger-side front door, the Fuso designers have done a really good job with this update.
That, combined with the undoubted safety aspects – and the fact that they've pushed the service intervals out to 15,000km, plus you get a generous five year/200,000km warranty – make for some compelling arguments to consider a Rosa if you're looking for a ripper little light-duty bus.