A recent addition to the UK coach market is the Yutong GT12. It promises value and a high standard specification, with much European content. But does it deliver? We put the demonstrator to the test
The Yutong GT12 represents a watershed moment for the Chinese manufacturer in the UK. Although built at Yutong’s Zhengzhou plant, it has been designed from the axles up as a coach for European markets.
What it shares with the existing TC12 and its smaller brother the TC9 is a keen retail price. Supplier Pelican Bus and Coach says that in 12.25m format with 53 seats and a centre sunken toilet, the GT12 starts at £225,000 – which, given its standard specification, is competitive.
Yutong has invested a great deal of effort to ensure that the GT12 compares well with its western-built peers. Its styling ticks that box in that regard, and things continue in the same vein in the cab and passenger area.
Pelican ordered an initial 20 stock GT12s to complement its demonstrator, which debuted at Euro Bus Expo. Sales Manager Bob Elliott reports that the majority of that first batch are now sold, and more will soon be spoken for. After that, a second order will be placed.
A handful of minor items on production coaches will vary from the demonstrator, but otherwise they will be identical. Additionally, Yutong has already painted in China a significant number of coaches for UK buyers. That will continue with the GT12.
Although all will be delivered as 53-seaters, at least one customer intends to reduce the capacity of its coaches after receipt. Pelican is heavily engaged with the Yutong brand, not least via a showroom at its Castleford site. It has high hopes for the GT12, including with operators that it has not dealt with before. It made the demonstrator available for a routeone Test Drive on Wednesday 28 November.
Reflecting its role as a model for European markets, the GT12 comes with ZF axles. It also has a ZF gearbox in the form of the six-speed EcoLife Coach, which is coupled to DAF’s latest-generation MX-11 engine developing 450bhp and 2,300Nm of torque.
A 520-litre diesel tank is mounted above the front axle and it has fillers on both sides. They are hidden behind flaps that are opened via a dash switch; the nearside one also conceals the AdBlue filler.
The 8m3 luggage bay is accessed via a combination of power- and manually-operated doors, but on production coaches all will be manual. Space is also behind the offside rear wheel, with a compartment present that will be useful for the driver’s cleaning materials.
The radiator is on the nearside with a tray beneath it that should mitigate against collection of road debris in winter months.
Parking sensors are fitted to the bumper, along with a reversing camera above the window; Yutong also adds a bright rear-facing light ahead of each rear wheel that will be beneficial when manoeuvring in darkness.
Alcoa Dura-Bright alloy wheels are fitted as standard and the demonstrator has an inverter within its offside locker above the front wheel. The nearside compartment is empty and it will hold small items.
Pelican says that the demonstrator weight 13,600kg unladen. Its plated GVW is 18,500kg.
Four steps lead to the platform and two more to the sunken gangway. A handrail to the left of the door follows passengers’ natural course, while the underside of the courier seat has a horizontal grab rail; the base is locked in position and the arrangement is compact. Passing along the aisle is easy thanks to vertical handles within the upper section of each seat.
The coach will not move if the door is open; if in neutral, it will not even select drive. That will be welcome, both because it benefits safety and also because it will assist with keeping the door mechanism correctly adjusted. The centre staircase is wide, and that means that access to both the continental door and the toilet is easy.
Yutong’s own seats are used, although those from Kiel are an extra-cost option. In the demonstrator they are finished in a black and orange scheme that includes leather trim.
They have three-point belts, USB charging points, drop-down tables and magazine nets. Side-shift for aisle positions is fitted, while every third row has a 240v three-pin socket. In production coaches, they will be finished in polished steel.
Climate control utilises a roof-mounted air-conditioning unit complemented by perimeter radiators and a Spheros coolant pre-heater. The set-up proved capable on a cold day.
A Bosch Professional Line entertainment system with twin fold-down monitors is standard, while passenger service units are well-designed; in particular, the reading light configuration is good.
Saloon lighting is unusual. Twin LED strips within the ceiling are complemented by diodes within the edges of both luggage racks. They can all display a variety of colours that are cycled via a dash switch.
Wood-effect flooring is fitted throughout. Leg room is adequate although not huge, but the view from throughout the coach is good. That’s particularly the case in the back row, where there is no pillar intrusion for passengers in window seats.
The toilet cubicle appears rather small when viewed from the saloon, but it is deceptively sized. A fridge is mounted within the dash.
This is an area where the GT12 stands up to almost any other coach on the market. A high-specification Isringhausen seat with twin armrests is fitted; while the demonstrator lacks a microphone for the driver, production coaches will have a hands-free example.
The large signalling window is both heated and powered, although it would benefit from a blind. There is no such a problem with the windscreen, which has an electrically-operated two-piece set-up.
Storage is behind the seat and to the right of it, and the ignition is keyless. To start the coach, all that is required is for the fob to be within close proximity of the dash and for a button to be pressed. Scope for steering wheel adjustment is better than in earlier Yutongs.
The most noticeable development of all, however, is to the dash. In the GT12 it is formed of an LCD screen with all dials created digitally.
Various configurations are possible. Perhaps the most ergonomic includes a handful of smaller gauges with a combined speedometer and tachometer as the centrepiece. There, the road speed is projected clearly in large figures at the centre of the engine speed display.
A new steering wheel debuts on the GT12. Cruise control and speed limiter buttons are all now mounted upon it, while the multi-stage retarder is activated by the right-hand stalk.
The gullwing mirrors are adjusted electrically and they are also heated. Visibility is generally good, although the A-pillars are quite wide. Otherwise, the cab is a pleasant place to be.
DAF’s latest-generation engines are hot property at the moment. Yutong has gone for the 10.8-litre MX-11’s highest rating in the GT12, and it delivers superb performance.
The EcoLife Coach gearbox is configured to change up early, at around 1,250rpm under normal circumstances even under full throttle. But that has no impact on the coach’s get up and go; it takes off rapidly and it also gains speed quickly when leaving restricted zones. As peak torque comes in from 900rpm that should not be surprising, but the MX-11 still gives exceptional flexibility. At 450bhp it is, at the least, on a par with any other engine in its size category.
Driveline ratios are optimised to take advantage of the engine’s characteristics. At 62mph it is turning at just 1,100rpm. At 50mph, the tachometer records slightly below that figure in fifth gear. Straight-line speed is not the only element that will find acceptance among the GT12’s drivers. It also holds the road incredibly well; when pushed hard along the A645 between Eggborough and Snaith, it stuck to the tarmac like glue despite a damp surface.
On exposed stretches of motorway the GT12 feels side winds, but that is to be expected on a two-axle coach that is 3.81m high. It comes with adaptive cruise control as standard, and there is an audible warning if the limited speed is exceeded on downhill sections.
Befitting its status as a European coach in all but place of manufacture, the GT12 does not use the mildly annoying Chinese-style handbrake that requires the collar to be lifted for application. Instead, it has a standard lever.
Yutong’s aim with the GT12 was to build a European coach. It has succeeded in that endeavour, thanks in no small part to its extensive use of components that are sourced on the continent.
Additionally, the coach has a look that fits in with competitors that are produced here and passengers will be none the wiser to the fact that is assembled in Asia. They will find the GT12 to be quiet and smooth, and they will also appreciate its high level of standard equipment.
Drivers who are not clued-up on Yutong will be in the same position. The cab is on a par with competitors in the 53-seat, two-axle marketplace and the digital dash display’s clear readings are useful.
Drivers will also enjoy the experience behind the wheel. Performance is superb; the MX-11 has power and torque in abundance, and the coach stays planted to the road under almost all circumstances. Add to that a keen retail price, along with a two-year unlimited mileage warranty and Pelican’s acclaimed standard of service, and the GT12 could be a winner.
The dealer is not expecting to sell huge numbers of the model thanks to the scale of competition in its segment, but it is confident of reasonable volumes; market reach will expand with the arrival of the promised 12.8m two-axle and tri-axle models later.
As tested, the GT12 is a solid contender. It does lots of things well and it has a distinctive look, while its internal layout is welcoming for the driver and passengers alike.
Facts and figures
Retail price: £225,000
Engine: 10.8-litre, six-cylinder DAF MX-11
Power: 330kW (450bhp) @1,600rpm
Torque: 2,300Nm @900rpm
Emissions: Euro 6 using EGR and SCR
Tyres: 295/80 R22.5
Fuel economy: 11mpg (expected figure)
Acceleration 0-30mph: 7.9sec; 0-50mph: 18.8sec
Noise front: 59dBa; middle: 59dBa; rear: 61dBa
Gross weight: 18,500kg
Unladen weight: 13,600kg