Scania takes pole position with the F1

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In May this year, Scania launched a new bus range, with the UK getting the debut model. Richard Sharman takes an in-depth look at the new Fencer F1

It is not easy to keep a brand new bus range quiet, but Scania seems to have achieved the impossible with its new Fencer F1. Despite it travelling around the country for various photoshoots and to Scania facilities, we were none the wiser until the day of its official release.

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Building anticipation

17 May 2021 was the much promoted day that everyone was looking forward to. All we knew before this was that it was ‘the bus you’ve been waiting for,’ and that by the image of a fencer with a sword, and a website address of, it was definitely called the Fencer!
The reason this launch was so anticipated was that it has been a whole decade since Scania ceased production of the OmniCity range. It was a range that has stood the test of time, with many of these vehicles still looking just as modern now as they did when they were first introduced back in 2002.

The 23-minute long video that acted as the launch event for the Fencer F1 was, perhaps, one of the best launches we have seen in recent years. Back in May there were still many Covid-19 restrictions in place, so a digital launch was the next best thing, and it appears no expense was spared to make this a launch event to remember. It saw key members of the Scania UK Bus and Coach team explain every detail about the Fencer F1. They also had the oldest surviving Scania bus in the UK present to show the longevity of their products: Metro-Scania BR111MH ARY 225K dating from 1972 and new to Leicester City Transport.

UK market

James Thorley, Fleet Account Manager at Scania UK Bus & Coach, explained the background of the Fencer F1 project: “It all began in summer 2018 when we were invited to work with Higer, over and above what we currently do with the Touring, to create a new single-decker bus for the UK market. The Higer team came over to the UK and we had a benchmarking session about developing a bus for the needs of UK operators. The Higer team had some great ideas, and also showed us the single-decker they had developed for Morocco and Hong Kong. They explained that this model could be adapted for the UK market, but as a team, we felt that it was a model which was very specific to those markets. We explained to the Higer team what UK operators were looking for, and a few weeks later they came back to use with designs for the bus we see before us today,” said James.

“We were very happy with the design and look of the Fencer F1, so it was a case of deciding how to get the vehicle to market. We decided to build the first vehicle on an existing Euro VI Step D chassis and get it to the UK so that we could go through it and see if any changes needed to be made before full production began. When the vehicle arrived in the UK we were impressed with the build quality for the very first Fencer F1 built. It gave us an eagerness to press on with the project so we could show it to our customers. It has allowed us to show a completed vehicle to a range of operators, who have then given us their feedback on the vehicle and any additional features they would like to see and develop the vehicle further from there,” enthused James.

“Quarter 1 2022 will see the new generation 12.2m chassis built to group/municipal specification with full assault screen and buggy bays with tip-up seats, potentially different interior layouts, still using Fainsa seats and the addition of features such as electric driver’s mirrors. We will also add Scania Optimisation, which is our suite of telematic individual vehicle data and reporting structure direct to the operators engineering departments. A 10.9m chassis is also to follow, with the option of having a 7-litre engine. The 7-litre Cummins block, which uses Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) only, uses all the Scania auxiliaries and will come with an e-fan and stop-start, which is one of many of the big bus group requirements and is new to our offering. The new chassis is our Euro VI Step E variant.”

“Scania’s partnership started with Higer and the Touring back in 2007. Back then it was just a dedicated production line within Higer’s current production. In 2016 the collaboration between Scania and Higer took a significant step with the building of a brand-new Scania Higer factory that has opened up the worldwide market for the dual-brand partnership. The existing partnership between Scania and Higer has significantly expender with the launch of our Fencer range. Dedicated teams from both major companies work alongside each other to ensure the vehicles delivered meet our customers’ high standards of quality, longevity and total operating economy, from tender submission, through the entire build and delivery process to aftersales support via Scania’s services department. We have found working with the Higer team they cannot do enough to ensure they are producing the product our customers want. The chassis is built at the Scania factory in Södertälje, Sweden then shipped to Asia for bodying. The Fencer F1 has a lead time of around nine months, which we believe works well with the UK tender model.”

Building a future bus range

Leo Zheng, Managing Director of Scania Higer, explained how the Fencer name came about and what the future range will offer: “The Fencer family is based on the cooperation between Scania and Higer since 2007, and that cooperation has been most successful in the Chinese bus industry. Both companies are very proud of that,” enthused Leo.

“The Fencer name is inspired by the sport of fencing, which represents passion, bravery, enthusiasm and success. That is also our expectation from the new Fencer family. The range includes the F1, which represents the city segment, the F6 which represents intercity and school applications, the F8 is a coach and F9 a double-decker. The whole Fencer range will be modular and produced by a parallel flow, which offers a big advantage in terms of lead time efficiency and quality control. I strongly believe the Fencer family will take the cooperation to a further a beautiful future.”

The mention of the F9 double-decker, along with an artists impression of the range line-up has stirred the interest of many operators, although Scania is currently unable to give an idea of the time scale to the introduction of the F9.

An artists impression of the new range, including the much anticipated F9 double-decker. SCANIA






First impressions

The launch video for the Fencer gave us our very first look at the new body, and more importantly, the new face of Scania’s bus range worldwide.

Images released by Scania after the launch gave further insight into the exterior and interior styling, whilst an image released of it travelling over the Severn Bridge in Bristol gave an impression of what it would look like on the public highway. However, there is nothing like seeing a brand new model in person to get a true impression of it. Arriving at Scania UK’s head office in Milton Keynes I had the opportunity for a look and test drive of the Fencer F1. If you have purchased a new Scania bus or coach you will have more than likely met Scania’s Driver Trainer, Steve Dunk. His superior technical knowledge of any Scania bus or coach is always welcome on these test drives.

Taking my first look at the Fencer F1, my first impression was that it certainly looks different to anything else currently in the market in terms of styling. It has a very European look to it, of which the styling cues form a big part, and the various body mouldings over the wheel arches and the saloon glazing exaggerate that, which I like – especially the look of the flared wheel arches. How practical these mouldings might be once in service is questionable, as it either overlaps or is stuck onto the glazing, which could increase downtime on a simple saloon window change.

The rear offside profile of the Fencer F1. RICHARD SHARMAN












The sides of the Fencer F1 feature clean lines and panels that can be easily replaced. All bodywork has a Scania part number and should be quick and easy to obtain by operators through the normal main dealer channels. One thing that did intrigue me was the number of lockers this vehicle has for a low-floor bus. This led me to ask Steve to open them all up so I could see what laid behind them.

The vehicle’s radiator can be found on the nearside rear and has a substantial wire mesh to prevent leaves and other roadside debris blocking it. Ahead of this is another locker door that allows access to the vehicle’s exhaust system and nearside rear airbag, revealing that all of the chassis has had a good coating of underseal to extend its longevity.

On the offside, the rear locker allows access to the side of the engine, saloon heating pipe and hydraulic fluid level gauge. Behind the offside rear wheel arch is access to the fire suppression system and the exhaust pipe.

New face of Scania

The designers of the Fencer F1 not only had to design a brand new bus from the ground up but also had to take into consideration that the frontal styling would be the face of Scania’s whole bus range going forward. It would also have to suit single-deckers and double-deckers.
In my opinion, they have achieved that mission in fine fashion. The new face is modern and purposeful but also softly styled to give it a friendly look.

The bottom centre fixed panel is recessed, allowing the number plate to sit neatly at the correct angle, and the opening centre panel is where you get the feeling of a friendly face from. This is finished off by a silver-look styling trim, which underlines the prominent Scania lettering and badge. The LED light clusters add another dimension to the styling. It is nice to see some decent sized headlights being used, and even nicer to see that front fog lights are fitted, a driver aid that is often overlooked based on cost but which in reality assists drivers in dangerous weather conditions. Under the panel that the fog light sits in is a substantial guard to reduce damage to the corner panels.

The rear of the Fencer F1 is equally as well thought out. It has a figure of eight look to it thanks to the way the rear glazing and LED rear light cluster are shaped. High-level rear lights are accessed from inside the vehicle, whilst the rear fog lights are built into the corner panels. The lower centre panel is recessed for the number plate and there is also a recessed styling line that runs around it, which looks good but would require a decent bus wash to keep it looking clean.
The boot lid is light in operation, and lockable, as are all the panels on the first version.

Access to the Fencer is good and the suspension lowers significantly to assist boarding. RICHARD SHARMAN












A high point

The Fencer F1 seems to have one of the lowest kneeling features in its class, which is great for picking up passengers where there is no kerb. Entry through the wide doors reveals an uncluttered platform and something that has been missing from many low floor buses for several years: a driver’s cab of a decent height. There are three reasons why this is important to the driver: Firstly, if you are involved in a head-on collision with a car, you are higher than the impact zone. Secondly, you have a much clearer view of the road ahead, and lastly, you do not have passengers towering over you whilst you are taking fares. So, well done to Scania for recognising some of these issues and incorporating them into the design of the Fencer F1, drivers will appreciate it.

The cab door and dashboard itself are quite significant in size, giving the vehicle a solid feel, whilst all body control switches are easily to hand under the cab window. The Scania dashboard itself is adjustable and the view of the binnacle from the ISRI air-suspended driver’s seat is clear. The digital tachograph, a radio and air vents are mounted above the drivers head, whilst the vehicle electronics cabinet is mounted in a drop-down hatch over the platform. The handbrake is located in the corner of the cab.











Interior quality

The way the first example has been specified shows the true potential of the Fencer F1. In this format, it looks very much like a dual-purpose vehicle. It can do a town, city or rural service and then go out and comfortably do a long-distance rail replacement.
Once in the saloon you get can see that this is a solidly-built vehicle, nothing looks cheap and all panels are well put together. There are single seats behind the cab and the entry door and then enough room on top of the front wheel arches for a small number of shopping bags or small suitcases.

Fainsa Punt passenger seats are used, and in this vehicle case there are 45 of them fitted with three-point seatbelts and armrests throughout. These seats are in e-leather, but moquette is standard. Optional under-seat USB charging points are fitted.
The Fencer F1 achieves a flat saloon floor until your reach the rear axle, where a single step takes you to the next level. The back row of seats requires a further two steps up to gain access to them. Handrails are polished chrome effect and are fitted to every other seat. The emergency exit is located in the lower half of the saloon and, should an emergency occur, it is only a short step down to the road.

A passenger information screen is fitted behind a glass screen just behind the cab area. This was displaying the temperature and time. At the rear of the vehicle a Fencer-branded panel sits above the rear seats. A shallow rear window is fitted, but this is blacked out, leaving just enough room for the high-level brake light and the rear destination display.

The way the first vehicle was specified gives a good illustration of the potential of the Fencer F1 being an all rounder, for both bus groups and small independents. RICHARD SHARMAN













The entry area to the Fencer F1 is uncluttered and benefits from some storage space over the wheel arches. RICHARD SHARMAN












Silverstone test drive

An opportunity to test drive the Fencer F1 resulted in my suggestion that there would be nothing more fitting than for a model called the F1 to take a test drive to Silverstone. Permission granted, it was time to see what the F1 was made of on the A5 and some winding A roads.
Bear in mind that this vehicle has the current generation chassis and engine, with the new generation demonstrators due next year. The chassis of this vehicle was a K280 UB4x2LB with a Scania DC09113 5-cylinder 280bhp engine.

Sitting behind the wheel you have a commanding view of the road ahead. As well as standard mirrors you have blind spot mirrors to the sides and front of the vehicle. Additionally, when the indicator is operated the CCTV monitor instantly switches the view to the direction of travel showing the rear corner of the vehicle. A reversing camera is also provided.

Moving off from Scania’s head office the Fencer has a familiar feel about it. The steering is well-weighted and the brakes smooth in operation. The journey around Milton Keynes to get to the A5 involved numerous roundabouts, where handling was sharp and predictable with no body roll evident, even at speed. As this vehicle is fitted with a tachograph, it was capable of 100kmh. The Scania engine is mated to a ZF EcoLife 2 gearbox with six gears and integral retarder, which I had found incredibly smooth in operation throughout the drive, meaning little pressure was required to brake.

Joining the dual carriageway leading to the M5 the Fencer F1 was swift to obtain top gear and its maximum speed, quickly catching up with the HGV that was ahead of us on the slip road. The only rattle to be found on the Fencer F1 appeared to be around the cab area and the screen, although Scania informs me that they are aware of this and have a fix arranged.

At speed you could be driving a Scania coach. It was smooth and the suspension took care of any potholes or uneven road surfaces.

Turning left onto Cowpastures Lane, a.k.a. the A413, it was time to test the chassis dynamics on the winding A road. At 50mph the Fencer F1 felt planted to the road, and even on the sharpest of bends showed no sign of body roll.

We were soon arriving at the Silverstone circuit – there was a race event on but we managed to get the Fencer F1 positioned at the Luffield entrance for pictures.

We returned on the same route, and after a good hour and a half driving the Fencer F1, I felt relaxed and happy with the chassis dynamics and build quality.

A Forrex fire suppression system is fitted to the nearside rear of the engine bay. Also in view is the ZF gearbox and exhaust pipe. RICHARD SHARMAN












The radiator and exhaust system are mounted on the nearside rear of the Fencer F1. RICHARD SHARMAN












Future power options

The clever thing about the Fencer range is that one chassis can be used for multiple power options. In terms of the F1, it is available from 10.9 to 12.2m and power options will include a fully electric version, using Scania’s own batteries and 300kW motor with a two-speed gearbox. Additional options include running the internal combustion engines on hydrated vegetable oil (HVO), hybrids and gas-powered bioCNG and bioLNG variants.


The Scania DC09113 five cylinder engine produces 280bhp.













In conclusion

The Scania Fencer F1 is a winner. It ticks the boxes for so many different uses, and has been designed to be future-proof. It should appeal not just to large bus groups, but also to small operators.

The build quality is there and it has many smart, well thought out features that will benefit its operators. Not only that but customers should also be happy with the solid build quality and comfortable interior. The future looks bright for this new range, and I am sure the F9 double-decker will now be eagerly anticipated.