Rapid Bus Sdn Bhd, the largest bus operator in Malaysia which also runs the RapidKL bus service, is giving the Hino Poncho minibus a trial run in the Klang Valley. The trial run will be on the T784 and T201 bus routes, serving the community near the Taman Bahagia LRT and Gombak LRT stations respectively. The trial run will be done over three months, ending on 20 January 2020.
Hino Motors Sales (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd had brought in the Hino Poncho as the company sees the need for a minibus service in this country, particularly in urban areas. It was first displayed at the Malaysia Commercial Vehicle Expo (MCVE) 2019. The Hino Poncho is the first low-floor minibus in the world with a seven meter length and is suited for manouevring tight and congested roads. The Poncho is meant to complement the existing public transportation in the city and suburban areas. Another potential use for the Poncho would be as a university campus bus.
If Rapid adopts this minibus, Malaysia will become the first country in Southeast Asia to have the Hino Poncho in its public transportation fleet. There are already over 2,000 units of Hino Poncho buses plying the city streets in Japan as it is designed to cater to first- and last-mile travel for the public i.e. first and last leg of a person’s commute.
The trial run of the Hino Poncho is an initiative to develop a more efficient intra-city bus service, which will shuttle passengers from transport hubs to their final destinations in commercial as well as residential areas. Currently, thousands of commuters use the LRT (light rail transit) daily and need a reliable busing service to take them to and from the LRT station. A service with smaller sized buses not only frees up road space for cars and other vehicles, but can also add frequency to a route.
At this moment, timing your commuting schedule to the bus’ schedule is crucial because you just need to miss the bus by 10 seconds to be late for work (or you can play it safe and leave extra early, which does not make you efficient). But if a route is serviced by two minibuses instead of one regular sized bus, you can still rely on the second bus coming to pick you up if you missed the first one.
The Minister of Transport, YB Loke Siew Fook, took a ride on the Hino Poncho on the second day of the trial run on the T874 route which goes from the Taman Bahagia LRT station to Damansara Uptown. The Poncho’s small size makes it easier for the driver to navigate the busy roads in this area. Despite its smaller stature, the Poncho still has ample carrying capacity for up to 31 passengers. With the low floor, the Poncho has excellent accessibility due to the kneeling function that further lowers the floor to allow for easier ingress and egress by senior citizens and disabled passengers.
The bus can be lowered by 50 mm which will enhance the boarding or alighting at bus stops and can be raised up to 30 mm higher to improve drivability on rough roads.
The Hino Poncho is powered by a 5.0L liter Euro-5 diesel engine with a commonrail fuel injection system, and 5-speed automatic transmission for better fuel efficiency to improve operational costs.
The Euro-5 engine provides improved engine performance for acceleration, fuel economy, and a reduction of harmful emissions. The Diesel Particulate Reduction (DPR) system used is an after-treatment system that significantly reduces particulate matter. This feature differs from other current Euro-5 vehicles that use additional fluids such as AdBlue urea and will ultimately save on operating cost and maintenance time.