Cygnus shines bright during night test

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There are many options for coach operators when it comes to small capacity coaches. Richard Sharman takes a look at a used vehicle with a difference in this segment

Cast your mind back to the 1990s and early 2000s, before the advent of the 15m coach: a 10m coach was pretty much a standard default offering from many chassis manufacturers and body builders. How times have changed in 2023. Nowadays a coach of 10m is seen as small, and certainly looks it on the road in comparison to many of today’s long but manoeuvrable offerings.

So when a pair of relatively rare coaches came on the used coach market with a combination of a chassis built in the Netherlands and a body built in Spain, it was time to take a closer look.


Beulas is a family business dedicated to the construction of bodywork whose origins date back to 1934, when wood was the main raw material used, subsequently giving way to the arrival of metal. The company was founded by Ramón Beulas. Joaquim Beulas together with Maria Teresa Pascual grew the company to the point it is at today, whilst Dolors and Glòria Beulas are currently in charge, with the fourth generation of the family also now part of the business.

Over the years, Beulas has not only managed to maintain its position within its sector, but has also stood out for an ability to adapt to change. The company says it prides itself on being able to offer a personalised product through manual manufacturing based on traditional craftsmanship.


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Having started out with wooden bodies, then moved on to converting a truck chassis into a coach, and focusing on building ambulances during the Spanish Civil War for the Army before starting to build more familiar looking coaches in the mid-70s, the Beulas name arrived in the UK with the Iveco-based Stergo E model, which sold well from 1995, achieving 133 sales over five years.

From the year 2000, the Aura and Cygnus coach models first appeared in the UK, and were joined by the head-turning Glory, Spica and Jewel models in 2008, with the current range styling applied from 2018.

2021 was a landmark year for Beulas in the UK, when it teamed up with commercial vehicle electrification specialist Equipmake to bring a new electric double-decker bus to the market, the Jewel E. Destined for Go-Ahead London, the vehicle marked the first bus (as opposed to coach) to be produced for the UK market by Beulas.

VDL rareity

The cab area of the Midi Cygnus is well equipped and comfortable. RICHARD SHARMAN

Whilst the volume of Beulas coach sales in the UK may not be as high as other coach builders, this is down to the bespoke nature of its offering, and this is how the Spanish-manufacturer has built a loyal following by a number of operators, with over 500 coaches finding homes in the UK and Ireland since 2000.

The bespoke nature of the build is underlined by the vehicle we are looking at here. The Cygnus model has had a host of chassis types over the years, from the Irisbus EuroRider to MAN, but by far the rarest built so far were part of an order for 21 VDL chassis made by Moseley (PCV) Ltd before it closed down during the coronavirus pandemic.

The batch of chassis was made up of three SBR4000s, all of which went under Aura bodies and 18 SB4000 chassis, with all but one gaining the Cygnus body. Of those 17 chassis, only six were to the short 10.8m specification.

Wiltshire-based Andrew James was the very first operator to take delivery of the new Cygnus model built to a 34-seat specification with a rear toilet; only two others would be built to this specification and they were delivered to Ancass of Polegate. London-based Anderson Travel also purchased two examples on the 10.8m chassis, but with 43 seats. Turners Coachways of Bristol operated the only other 43-seater on the chassis after buying it at auction following the closure of Moseley, this example being on a 21-plate, all the others being registered in 2019. Of note is that the 10.8m chassis with a Cygnus body can seat up to 47 passengers, if not fitted with and toilet or a servery.

Modern styling

We like to do things a bit different at CBW, that also means taking a different approach to vehicle test drives. Whilst new vehicle test drives are normally undertaken in the daylight hours, it is sometimes nice to experience what a vehicle is like after the sun goes down. Arriving at the Bus & Coach Centre’s vast yard near Oxford at 1600hrs, I had a good hour to have a look at the Cygnus before hitting the road. The weather, whilst clear and dry, was still hovering around -2 degrees, with temperatures not recovering from the day before and the frozen puddles in the yard not even thawing out.

Two examples of the Beulas Midi Cygnus were in stock at the Bus & Coach Centre, and having been given the keys for both, I opted to take the one that was least frozen! The first thing that strikes you about the Cygnus is the styling. Given that the current face of Beulas was only introduced in 2019, these vehicles have the benefit of modern styling that looks a little different. The raked headlights almost give the Cygnus a friendly face, whilst in terms of practicality the front bumper is in three sections, so any accident damage repairs are then made easier.

The build quality of the interior is very good, with plenty of leg room and no rattles found on the test drive. RICHARD SHARMAN

Aerodynamics have also been considered, with the front fog lights and number plate being recessed, and a clever idea of the flow of the headlight cluster carrying on into the black panel underneath the windscreen, further reducing the drag coefficient.

The side of the vehicle has been designed with clean lines. Dark tinted glazing features a chrome Beulas name plate over the front axle and the tucked-in lower edge of the lockers makes loading and unloading easier. The side profile also features a cant rail along the roof line which hides the roof mounted air-conditioning unit, and the side profile is completed with a set of smartly designed six-spoke wheeltrims.

The rear profile of the Cygnus has had a few tweaks over the years. The rear light cluster maintains a familiar shape but now has three high intensity LED units fitted within the outline of the cluster. As with the front of the coach, the bumper has three sections for easy repairs. There is significant ventilation for the Euro VI engine, with a number of vents above the boot lid and a panel with large grilles to the nearside rear.

Interior quality

When it comes to the interior, for those that are not familiar with Beulas coaches, you open the front plug door to find a pleasantly designed high-quality, welcoming saloon. The entry area has been well thought out, and as darkness falls the benefit of blue LED step edges on the three steps, and a heater outlet under the second step show their advantages. The courier or second driver also benefits from having plenty of room, ventilation and a large lip on the floor on which to place their feet.

Once into the saloon you find a light and airy interior that allows you to stand up fully, with the 3.60m height giving the benefit of plenty of room for medium size bags in the overhead racks and tall windows. The cream and grey interior works well, and makes the interior bright and airy, aided by two large roof vents towards the front and rear of the coach. The pleated curtains have double Beulas-branded curtain hooks, which look the business and keeps the curtains in place.

This vehicle only has 34 seats on a 10.8 metre chassis, which delivers significant legroom throughout the length of the coach. The Sege seating is comfortable and features a leather headrest insert, three-point seatbelts and USB ports mounted between the seat bases. The overhead passenger service units feature blue accent lighting and are high quality.

At the rear of the coach you find a powered plug door behind the offside rear wheel and a step up into the kitchen area where a large Dometic unit is fitted, featuring a work area, sink, on-counter storage and two large refrigerated drawers for bottled drinks. A large Sani Bus toilet unit is also fitted.

Overall, you do get a feeling the interior is quite bespoke and that the quality is certainly there.

From the driver’s seat

Sitting in the ISRI drivers seat – fitted with a Bosch microphone – the drivers has a comfortable working environment. Looking at the dashboard, if you like switches, then this is the coach for you! But, they are not just there for the sake of it, everything has a purpose and it shows you how well equipped the Cygnus is.

A dashboard-mounted fridge is fitted next to the entry door, then to the left of the dashboard is a Bosch sound system, CCTV screen, Hispacold air-conditioning unit, a Pedro Sanz demister unit, vehicle interior lighting switches – it took me a while to find the main interior lights as they’re on a separate unmarked rotary switch which allows you to dim the bright LED lighting as required – and a small panel towards the top of the dash relates to all the warning symbols for the Beulas side of the vehicle. The standard VDL binnacle is used, as found in the VDL Futura.

To the right of the dashboard you will find the controls for the Webasto, headlights, powered lockers, doors, gear selector and chassis-related functions. The driver also benefits from a large powered cab window.

A large Dometic servery unit is fitted at the rear of the vehicle and includes two large chilled drawers for bottles. The large WC unit is by Sani Bus. RICHARD SHARMAN

On the road

Trade plates attached, it was time to hit the road. By this time, darkness had fallen and the temperature had dropped further. Luckily, the Cygnus is equipped with powerful demisters and effective convection heating in the saloon, together with heated mirrors.

The VDL SB4000 chassis is powered by a 10.8-litre DAF MX-11 engine rated at 370bhp which provides 1,900Nm of torque. The engine is driven through a ZF EcoLife six-speed automatic gearbox. At idle, the interior of the Cygnus is impressively quiet.

Setting off from the yard, despite its 10.8m length, the coach does feel quite small in comparison to most of today’s coaches. The road from the yard to the busy A40 dual carriageway features a sharp right then left-hand turn with an extremely short slip road onto the A40. This would be a good test to see how quickly those 370 horses could be unleashed! But whilst waiting for a decent sized gap, I noticed the one thing the Cygnus could really do with; a mirror next to the driver’s window.

After a good few minutes waiting, an Oxford Tube Plaxton Panorama approached, flashed me out and moved into the overtaking lane. Applying full pressure to the accelerator revealed that the MX-11 and ZF EcoLife work in perfect harmony to deliver plenty of power when required. The Cygnus quickly reached maximum speed on the limiter, well within the green band on the rev counter, as I headed towards the M40.

Joining the M40 I found that on the motorway the engine was quiet, and by no means strained, but also there is no wind noise around the front of the vehicle, with the plug door sealing perfectly and the cab window also silent. It performed faultlessly on the motorway and easily overtook slower HGVs, whilst maintaining maximum speed up Stokenchurch Hill, just prior to leaving the motorway.

The route back to Oxford is slightly more testing, with a sharp descent on the other side of Stokenchurch Hill, and with sweeping sharp bends. Turning onto the A40 and leaving the street lights behind, the LED headlights really came into their own; super bright and illuminating the road ahead, which was starting to get a little icy in places. Handling wise, the Cygnus seemed to cope with anything I could chuck at it, with the Goodyear tyres gripping the road nicely. Interior fittings-wise, the build quality is such that their were no rattles at all that I could hear from the front of the vehicle. Reaching the sharp bends I applied the three-stage retarder rather than the foot brake, this function worked well and was powerful.

Arriving back in the yard, after about an hour and 20 minutes on the road the Cygnus, according to the computer was achieving a respectable 12 to 14mpg. Parking the vehicle up in the pitch black yard full of vehicles was a good test for the reversing camera, which still worked well at night, and the steering lock, which is excellent on this vehicle. From a driver’s point of view, it is a lovely vehicle to drive, and I don’t think the passengers will be disappointed either.

Powered lockers are fitted to both sides of the vehicle, and as can be seen, all interior and external lighting is effective, with the LED headlights performing well on the road. RICHARD SHARMAN

Current Beulas offering

Following the demise of Moseley (PCV), Lancashire-based BASE announced in November 2020 that it had agreed to import Beulas products for sale throughout the UK. BASE now offers Beulas products on both MAN and Scania chassis, with a broad choice of PSVAR-compliant specifications on two and three-axle chassis.

The good news for coach operators is that BASE and Beulas are also offering PSVAR conversions, completed at the Beulas factory in Arbucies. The Aura, Cygnus and Mythos Spica models are already in operation in the UK.

Commenting on the news, Nick Dodgson, General Manager at BASE, said: “Since 2015 we have sold nearly 200 MOBIpeople Explorers, Midi Explorers and more recently the high floor Explorer and Premium models, but we are aware that there are sectors of the market that we have been unable to service. The addition of the Beulas product range on MAN and Scania chassis goes a long way to complete our product offering, and we look forward to importing Beulas products for UK customers, such as the recently delivered 61-seat executive PSVAR Beulas Aura-bodied MAN 480 for J&B Travel in Leeds along with a Beulas Jewel-bodied MAN 520 85 seater in-build for Southampton-based Pegasus Coaches.”

The 10.8m Beulas Midi Cygnus is still available, along with the longer Cygnus, Aura, Glory and double-decker Jewel model, but now with an MAN or Scania chassis.

Final thoughts

The combination of the well built Beulas Midi Cygnus body, with a dynamic VDL chassis and powerful engine to a rare specification makes this a much sought after combination. At the time of going to press, two of these vehicles were available from Bus & Coach Centre, which kindly let me test drive the vehicle for this feature.

Will Blowfield, founder and Director of Bus & Coach Centre, added: “The pair of Beulas Midi Cygnus’ currently in stock not only represents a rare opportunity to purchase a pair of identical vehicles with a rare specification, but also presents a unique opportunity for those coach operators that have standardised on a VDL chassis for their fleet.” Further details can be obtained by calling Will on 07889 469157 or

CBW does not inspect used vehicles mechanically, and opinions given about the vehicle are from the test driver’s perspective only.