If you’re thinking about hiring a minibus but are worried about having to drive one, then the comments of Manchester taxi firm boss Julian Barnes, who runs 350-vehicle firm Cresta Taxis, suggest you needn’t be.
Mr Barnes recently added five new 8-seater Mercedes-Benz Vito minibuses to Cresta’s fleet, and says that they drive “more like a luxury car than a van”, with good handling and manoeuvrability.
Mr Barnes also commented that fuel economy was impressive for a large vehicle — Cresta’s Vitos are bigger than usual, as the firm chose the extra-long body option in order to allow for plenty of luggage room as well as flexible seating space.
Merc’s legendary brand image is also having an effect: according to Mr Barnes, the new Vitos have already generated new business and are “so smart they’re effectively acting as mobile advertisements for themselves”. I’ve commented on the power of the Mercedes brand before: the Stuttgart firm’s commercial vehicles inspire incredible loyalty in some operators.
What about larger minibuses?
Of course, an 8-seater is a relatively small minibus, as a minibus is defined as a vehicle with between 8 and 16 passenger seats. At the larger end of the scale, 12, 15 and 17-seater minibuses (including the driver in this seat count) are definitely more van-like, but are still far easier to drive than many hire customers expect.
This is because over the last few years, van and minibus manufacturers have gone to a lot of effort to make their vehicles more like cars: all current models have modern, dash-mounted gear sticks, smaller steering wheels with power steering, excellent mirrors and comfortable driving positions.
When driving, you’ll also notice that modern minibus brakes are very effective, while the current generation of diesel engines are very powerful and easy to drive, with plenty of power for any situation and reasonable fuel economy.
The only thing that hasn’t changed is the size — these are still fairly large vehicles, but to help you adjust to this we’ve produced a simple guide to driving a van for the first time that’s also completely relevant for minibuses.
Finally, if you do need to hire a minibus before Christmas, I’d recommend booking soon: the hectic Christmas and New Year party season can mean that availability becomes limited once we hit December. To get started, click here to compare self-drive minibus hire prices in your area.