25 years of the Mercedes-Benz Citaro: Stops along the route of Daimler Buses’ best-selling city bus

  • Pioneering design: City bus with a friendly face
  • Advanced drives: From low-emission diesel engine to electric drives
  • A model cockpit: Exemplary workplace for each and every generation
  • Welcoming passenger compartment: A city bus can be this functional and inviting
  • Tailored program: Citaro is a bus for all occasions
  • Outstanding safety: From disk brakes to turning assistants
  • International success: Used around the globe
  • Numerous awards: Bus of the Year multiple times

Stuttgart – The bestseller is celebrating its silver anniversary:
The Mercedes‑Benz Citaro has shaped the city bus scene like no other bus. Whether the first or second generation, the classic solo bus, articulated bus or large-capacity CapaCity bus, with a conventional drive or today in the guise of the all-electric eCitaro– the continuously revamped, low-floor Citaro bus has always been and continues to be the role model for its class in environmental friendliness, safety, comfort and ease of use. A success story with more than 60,000 Citaro and eCitaros over 25 years, and with more and more every day. The 1997 world premiere at the UITP Congress in Stuttgart caused a sensation: Rarely has a new scheduled-service bus been under as much spotlight as was the prototype at the World Congress of Public Transport Companies. The scheduled-service city and intercity bus heralded a new era. Since then, it has been a byword for safety, comfort and environmental compatibility– now, as the eCitaro, it is accelerating the transformation to e-mobility in cities.

Pioneering design: The city bus with a friendly face

In 1997, developers and designers package the innovative technology into a beautifully-shaped and practically-designed structure. Consistent styling through the typical brand headlights with white indicator lenses, lowered windscreen with framing with curved and contrasting A0 pillars and the integrated destination display all the way to the rear window. The large end-to-end side windows extend up to the roof profile. In short: A scheduled-service bus forming a uniform and integrated whole; in terms of visuals it is already the benchmark in its class.

The newly introduced low-entry Citaro LE anticipates numerous changes in 2005, which are incorporated into the series of all Citaro models in Spring 2006. It has an eye-catching face with the suggestion of the classic radiator mask based on the tradition of scheduled-service buses with a star. The rotated turn signal lenses help create a friendly appearance. Eye-catching in addition to other changes: The V-shaped rear window protrudes into the roof.

The four-axle Mercedes-Benz CapaCity articulated bus, introduced in 2005, also plays a special role in terms of appearance. It is derived directly from the Citaro. Its design can either be based on the Citaro or bear an individually designed ‘metro’ design face.

After more than 32,000 units are produced, the second generation of the Citaro is launched in 2011. Maintaining the typical A0 pillars, the bus welcomes passengers with a friendly smile. Large almond-shaped headlights and the more rounded stem adopts the sternness of the Citaro typical of scheduled-service buses up to now.

Thanks to the all-electric eCitaro, the wheels keep on turning in 2018. Its exceptional properties match its equally extraordinary design, which is based on the Future Bus study presented two years prior. The central point of the face is the large Mercedes star with decorative elements to the left and right. Both are embedded in the high-gloss black front panel as well as single LED headlamps. The elegantly curved windscreen comes from the intercity bus Citaro Ü. At the front in the middle, the roof has an island that appears to almost float. The roof attachments of the eCitaro are hidden behind an elegant elevation. Reference is also made to the island at the rear. Like its siblings, the elegant eCitaro is very practical: It adopts the same structure as the current Citaro.

Advanced drive: From low-emission diesel engine to electric drives

With its environmentally friendly and economical drive, the Citaro has always been up to date since birth – usually ahead of its time. At the 1997 world premiere, a diesel engine in compliance with Euro II emission standard is installed at the rear. Euro III follows in 2001, and the Citaro already meets the Euro IV emission standard in 2004 with the then new SCR technology– a milestone on the way to low-emission combustion engines. Euro V follows in 2006, as does the introduction of diesel engines with particulate filters. In 2012, the Citaro is once again ahead of its time with the introduction of diesel engines complying with the Euro VI emission standards. Over the following years, developments such as the Citaro hybrid, the recuperation module or the electrohydraulic steering intelligent eco steering further reduce fuel consumption and thus emissions.

After intensive testing of various alternative drives in practice, the eCitaro heralds the transformation to electromobility in 2018. It sets the standard thanks to its innovative, continuously enhanced battery technology and thermal management. In the meantime, it has taken the lead in the registration statistics for electric city buses in Germany. The success story continues: Announced for release in the near future are an eCitaro with the latest NMC3 battery generation and eCitaro with fuel cell as range extender– this means that the electric city bus can seamlessly replace combustion engines.

Daimler Buses facilitates the transition to electromobility with tailor-made service packages and training courses through the Omniplus service brand as well as the installation of complete E-total systems. As a general contractor, Daimler Buses can develop and supply turnkey complete E-systems on request, including all infrastructure: eCitaro, replanning and conversion of the depot, equipping with charging stations, securing the power supply and charging management. As a result, and despite its abundant complexity, electromobility with city buses is increasingly becoming a plug-and-play solution and is simplifying the transformation to locally emission-free mobility.

A model cockpit: Exemplary workplace in every generation

Back to the 1997 launch of the Citaro. A new, ergonomically designed cockpit celebrates its premiere in 1997, together with the city bus.  Outstanding: The steering wheel can be adjusted together with the instrument panel and adapts perfectly to the driver’s height. The driver benefits from separate climate control in the cockpit. The driver’s door is optionally available with an integrated cash register.

The cockpit of the Citaro from the second generation of 2011 proves that even good things still offer room for improvement. The door to the driver’s workplace is now hinged at the rear and is also available as a driver’s safety door with different glazing types. Thanks to the raised seat position, the driver is at eye level with passengers entering the vehicle. More knee space, informative color display, a multi-function steering wheel, more and larger storage areas– the Citaro Cockpit is top-notch.

Welcoming passenger compartment: A city bus can be this functional and inviting

Passenger-friendly low-floor technology, bright passenger compartment with optimum visibility thanks to high windows, wall-side suspension of passenger seats in cantilever design without impeding supports, attractive handrails curved to the side at the top, fully glazed partitions – these were and remain just some of the advantages of the new Mercedes-Benz Citaro from the passengers’ point of view. As early as 1997, electrically-driven swing/sliding doors accelerate passenger flow at stops as required. The heating and air-conditioning system of the Citaro, with its coach-like air-conditioning system, positively spoils its passengers with a roof-duct ventilation system seen for the first time in a low-floor bus.

Together with the 2006 facelift, Daimler Buses upgrades the passenger area with new ceiling paneling, continuous rooflights, and the new and lighter “City Star Eco” city bus seating. It features a larger seat clearance with the same seat divider. The “Inter Star Eco” upholstered seat is used in the Citaro Ü with longer times spent on board – both variants are manufactured in-house.

The second generation of the Citaro from 2011 continues the development towards increased passenger comfort. Bright illumination of the entrance and exit areas at the doors, ceiling lamps with indirect lighting look and optional ambient lighting have an inviting effect. A new arrangement of the handrails and the hole ceiling above the center aisle provide additional visual calmness to the interior.

On the eCitaro, a general facelift of the interior is introduced in 2018. The new designer interior ceiling with a cassette ceiling above the central aisle and curved roof edge flaps are eye-catching. The technology modules are worthy of the attention as a connection between individual cassette elements: They combine both the interior lighting and the loudspeakers in a single element. The lighting is sophisticated: The light from the LED lamps is refracted in such a way that the technology modules appear as a homogeneous light surface to the viewer. The black paneling of the parapets and window pillars is also new. The effect:  Visually, the window pillars stand out less, and the appearance of the side walls is soothed.

Tailored program: Citaro is a bus for all occasions

The term “(omni)bus” comes from Latin and means “for everyone”. In this respect, the Citaro is a bus in its truest sense. Initially, it is launched as a Citaro solo bus and Citaro G articulated bus in the classic sizes of around 12 and 18 meters in length. Just one year later, the intercity variant Citaro Ü/GÜ joins the ranks with its elegant design extending up to the roof of the curved windscreen. This is followed by the variant with standing engine.

In 2005, the following vehicles were launched: the low-entry Citaro LE/LE Ü with low-floor forebody and high-floor rear, the Citaro as a right-hand drive vehicle, and the impressive four-axle CapaCity articulated bus based on the Citaro. With a length of 19.5 meters, the CapaCity is suitable for both high-frequency inner-city routes and specialized Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) services. Just one year later, the compact and highly-maneuverable Citaro K with a length of just 10.5 meters completes the range as it was then.

In 2011, the brand transitioned these models into the second generation of the Citaro. Shortly afterwards, the impressive, 21-meter-long four-axle CapaCity L adds to the range with another XXL variant. There is also a wide range of door and seating variants as well as special equipment of all kinds. In any case, the result is a tailor-made Citaro for every transport company– a true omnibus within the meaning of the original Latin word.

Outstanding safety: From disk brakes to turn-off assistants

Maximum safety has always been one of the strengths of the Citaro. Even at the beginning of its career, the bus caught the eye thanks to itd all-round disk brakes, anti-lock braking system and EBS electro-pneumatic brake system – at the time a revolution with fast-response, precisely controlled and stable brakes. Functional reliability is provided by FPS, the first flexibly programmable control system with CAN data bus in the city bus. FPS eliminates the need for around 3.6 kilometers of cables, 2,700 slinging elements and 400 predominantly electromechanical functional parts in every vehicle and in so doing eliminates sources of error.

In 2011, Mercedes-Benz offers the solo car the first city bus with ESP electronic stability program. The articulated bus  followed in 2014 by the ATC (Articulation Turntable Controller) anti-jackknifing protection– which comes as standard in Citaro G, eCitaro G and CapaCity. Today, the Citaro sets the standard across all models with the Sideguard Assist turn-off assistant and the Preventive Brake Assist, the first active brake assistant for city buses. The focus here is on protecting more vulnerable road users– an essential aspect in its area of application.

The Citaro also has exemplary passive safety. In 1997, came the design with circumferential ring spars. They form a lightweight yet stable protective cage, including side impact protection for the driver and passengers. On the second generation of the Citaro, the FCG Front Collision Guard appears for the first time, protecting the driver in the event of a frontal impact. At the same time, the reinforced A-zero pillar voluntarily complies with the later pendulum impact specifications for coaches and the survival space of the interior in the event of a rollover in accordance with the future provisions of ECE R 66/01. Seeing means being safe – which is why the second generation Citaro is available with bi-xenon headlamps on request. The step towards exclusive integrated LED headlamps follows in 2015.

The COVID-19 pandemic places completely different demands on the safety of drivers and passengers from 2020. Citaro developers react quickly: Fully-glazed professional safety doors for drivers with antiviral function for Citaro with and without an air conditioning system and optional disinfectant dispensers reduce the risk of infection.

Driver training for the Omniplus service brand is an essential part of the extensive safety concept It helps to prevent accidents and teaches appropriate response in emergencies.

Exceptional special-purpose vehicles: Jamliner and Future Bus

The Citaro low-floor bus forms the load-bearing base for numerous special-purpose vehicles. There is an extreme example right at the beginning of its career. Hanover hosts the Expo 2000 World Exhibition in 2000. To mark the occasion, the Üstra transport company orders 101 individually body-mounted and equipped Citaro vehicles. Two years later, the fire brigade in Munich receives two large-scale rescue vehicles based on the Citaro Ü. They are the start of a whole series of vehicles of this type. An interim highlight in 2009 is the Citaro G: In use in Dubai, it is the largest ambulance in the world and even features in the Guinness Book of Records.

Previously, the ‘bus train’ in Mittweida, Thuringia, attracted attention in 2003: attractively painted Citaro GO with facing coach seats and tables, an on-board bistro and toilet. Other examples of the exceptional Citaro: In Hamburg, a former scheduled-service bus serves as a so-called ‘jamliner’, a rolling sound studio for local bands of young musicians. Hamburger Hochbahn is also using a converted Citaro as a rolling cloakroom in Hamburg. Resembling a clothes store, the vehicle drives to the transport company’s depots where personnel get their uniforms measured up in the Citaro. Whether police buses, mobile television studios or mobile energy advice centers – the Citaro is a real all-rounder. Most recently, it has proven its value as a combination of scheduled-service bus and rescue bus in Potsdam for moving COVID-19 patients.

However, the highlight of the numerous special-purpose vehicles based on the Citaro is undoubtedly the Mercedes-Benz Future Bus with CityPilot. In 2016, it gives an exciting preview of the future of city traffic with buses. The Future Bus is based on the Citaro and runs completely autonomously on public roads. Its interior shows how it is possible to completely redesign city buses. Two years later, numerous exterior elements are reflected in the newly-presented all-electric eCitaro.

International success: Used around the globe

The name Citaro is almost synonymous with low-floor city buses. No wonder given its international success. Passengers can encounter the Citaro all around the world – in European metropolises, in Mexico or Istanbul in their BRT systems, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Japan or even the island of La Réunion in the Indian Ocean. As well as large public and private transport companies, medium-sized bus companies have repeatedly opted for the Citaro as the backbone of their fleet for urban and intercity transport.

The global appeal of the Citaro is also reflected in its anniversary models. The world’s first customer Citaro was handed to Hamburger Hochbahn on November 27,1997. In 2000, the thousandth Citaro went to Südwestdeutsche Verkehrs-Aktiengesellschaft, the 5000th Citaro is used by Postbus in Austria, the 10,000th by Alsa in Spain. The 15,000th Citaro went to Bergkvarabuss in Sweden, number 20,000 to Pflieger Reise- und Verkehrs GmbH in Böblingen, Germany. Linz Linien in Austria commissioned the 30,000th Citaro in 2012, while Voyage Emile Weber in Luxembourg had the 40,000th Citaro. The 50,000 Citaro mark was reached by a CapaCity for Wiener Linien in 2017.

Numerous awards: Bus of the Year multiple times

The Citaro is an excellent bus in the truest sense of the word, as proven by numerous awards. Over the course of 25 years, it has been named Bus of the Year several times, and has been awarded the Dekra Environmental Award, the Busworld Grand Award, the EBUS Award and the IBC Award, among others. It basically has a long-term subscription to the ETM Award “Best Commercial Vehicles”: Beginning in 1998, the Citaro won its class more than 20 times in this annual Customer Prize, most recently in 2022, in keeping with the current silver anniversary.