Still one of life’s little luxuries

The Yutong 9.3m midicoach is the UK’s best-seller in the sector. Now uprated with a more powerful engine, it’s better than ever

One of the questions that at some point an operator will ask when specifying a new coach is how much are the optional extras? For the Yutong TC9, the answer is simple – it’s already so well specified that an options price list isn’t needed. alt=”” src=”https://www.route-one.net/wp-content/uploads/1_lo.jpg” style=”float:right” />

You’ve only got two options to think about (apart from choosing from an extensive trim palette) and that’s whether you want half-leather or full-leather seats, with side flaps and headrests. And, even on this point, it’s not an option, but a no-cost choice as both are included in the same £160,000 retail price. The only true option is a toilet, which adds £5,000.

That’s not to say that the coach is light on specification (which it isn’t); nor that dealership, Castleford-based Pelican Bus & Coach is inflexible (which it isn’t). Indeed if, for example you would like a servery (or more), that will be added by AD Coach Systems, at cost.

It’s all about the Pelican way… That of being clear and straightforward in every respect.

And that, along with the TC9 being well specified, good value with back up to match, is a key reason why the TC9 is the UK’s best-selling coach in the 30-something seater segment, with 300 put on the road in under four years.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves a little.

We last tested a TC9 in March 2016; since then the 320hp version of Cummins ISB 6.7-litre has become the standard power. And, those extra 40 ‘horses’ don’t half make a difference, also delivering better economy.

Build

The midicoach market is crowded, but the Yutong was the first in modern times to offer a ‘proper’ style coach, rather than using a truck-derived chassis. Built in China, its rear engine drives through a ZF six-speed auto ‘box, while six-bag air suspension completes the driveline.

Not only that, outside and inside it has a ‘big coach’ appearance and design, but without the capital outlay that entails.

You can choose from 35 or 37 seats without a toilet. This reduces to 32 or 34 with the factory-fitted rear floor-mounted toilet.

Plug entry and continental doors are fitted; the latter is behind the rear axle, meaning that it does not intrude into luggage space. alt=”” src=”https://www.route-one.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/2.jpg” style=”float:left” />

The list of standard fittings goes on including a Webasto pre-heater, seat-back USB ports, 240v side-wall mounted sockets at alternate seating positions, a reversing camera, dual zone climate control and pleated full-draw curtains.

A single front nearside filler is for diesel (with a warning sticker not to use biodiesel) while the AdBlue filler is at the rear nearside adjacent to the radiator, reducing the risk of confusion. The washer bottle and batteries are beneath the signalling window.

Manually-operated parallel lifting doors reveal the 5m3 of underfloor luggage bay, easily accessed from either side.

Passenger access

Use of the kneeling and ‘side lean’ squat function means that the entrance step is very low; two more steps lead to the platform followed by one more to the gangway.

This is slightly sunken, so there is only a small step to the seat.

Yutong has clearly thought hard about the entrance arrangement, and it is good as a result. The courier seat’s compact design means it doesn’t intrude into the doorway space; although its strong spring makes it slightly tricky to lower. Helpfully, a cut-out step below the front dash means it’s comfortable for long distances.

The handrail and curved nature of the entrance has the effect of guiding passengers as they board, and it is free from obstructions, reducing the possibility of trips.

Added to good interior lighting, which can be changed from ‘bright’ to ‘dim’ depending on the driver’s choice, the seats have two upright grab handles on the rear, aiding infirm passengers when they move along the coach and into or out of their seats.

At the continental door, an upright moulding for the two seats behind it provides a modesty screen, stopping draughts and noise.

At the extreme rear the last row of seats is reached via a step, and the penultimate nearside row opposite the continental door is mounted on a slightly raised platform. alt=”” src=”https://www.route-one.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/3.jpg” style=”float:right” />

Passenger comfort

There are plenty of passenger comforts and most noticeable are the leather seats, made in China with three-point belts, a slide-apart facility, and footrests, along with seat-back USB charging ports at every seat as standard. Additionally, every other row has a polished aluminium three-pin 240v charging socket, for which a 1,600W inverter is fitted.

Magazine nets come as standard, but can be omitted. If so, the nets are supplied to the operator for subsequent fitting if required.

Seat comfort is very good, and the full-leather seats not only look the part of a luxury coach, but are as comfortable too.

Overhead luggage racks stop short of the rear row to ensure that headroom isn’t compromised. Saloon lighting is above the luggage rack edges, and is in a mixture of white and blue, controlled by the driver.

A roof-mounted air-conditioning unit is fitted, and complemented by perimeter radiators, with a Webasto pre-heater also as standard.

The saloon is quiet, aided by the tinted double-glazed windows.

All climate control functions are via a dash unit that can be left to its own devices once the desired temperature is set, or the driver can more finely control airflow and direction.

A more recent upgrade is fitting a separate driver’s climate control system and on one of the hottest days of the year, it proved very effective.

A Bosch entertainment system is fitted and the front-mounted 19in monitor lowers and retracts electrically via a dash switch.

Time moves on and DVD players are no longer supplied by Bosch, which has moved to SD card, USB ports (for a stick with MP3 files) and Bluetooth. There is a stalk-mounted driver’s microphone. alt=”” src=”https://www.route-one.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/5.jpg” style=”float:left” />

In the front dash, a nearside 35-litre top-opening fridge is also standard.

Driver comfort

The Isringhausen driver’s seat is in leather as standard regardless of the passenger seats’ finish. Each crew member has a 24v cigarette charging point and a USB charger.

The electrically adjusted and heated mirrors give a good view.

A two-piece windscreen blind is also electrically operated. An electrically powered blind on the signalling window completes the set.

All dash switches are easily to hand, and among them is one that activates an engine bay fire suppression system – also fitted as standard ahead of the legal changes next year requiring this for all new coaches.

The cab heating and demisting unit is powerful, and via hatches in the dash access to the unit and its pipework is simple. The system includes a fan in one of the entrance steps, directed towards the door; as a result, the glazing there is kept free from condensation in all conditions. This is a very useful fitting and should be standard on all coaches.

Storage for the driver and courier is reasonable, with a variety of dash cubbyholes for small items and a document tray.

Performance

With its 320bhp engine, the TC9 is no slouch, producing acceleration figures that ensure that when ‘poke’ is needed, for example a climb up a slip road onto a fast dual-carriageway, it’s not found wanting.

With the extra power comes extra torque – crucially between 900 and 1,200rpm – meaning that it’s less thirsty than its predecessor; at its 62mph limited speed the engine is turning at a shade over 1,500rpm, and at 50mph, at 1,300rpm, it’s already slipped into sixth.

Our test drive showed it to be economical and a chat with Doncaster-based Travel Green boss Dave Green for long-term figures revealed that he normally achieves 15.2mpg. On a long run he has seen 17mpg returned.The Wabco brakes are positive, yet it’s easy to come to a smooth stop without any snatching. The four-stage stalk-operated retarder slows the coach without drama and can bring it almost to a halt. alt=”” src=”https://www.route-one.net/wp-content/uploads/6_lo.jpg” style=”float:right” />The ZF steering gear means that its road manners are excellent, while being able to nimbly negotiate some of the tighter spaces we put it through.

Finally, the standard rear-mounted camera is displayed when reverse is selected, or displayed by the touch of a button; useful in a coach park when you need to keep your eyes on the rear.

Verdict

There’s little not to like – and certainly not at the price – you could easily spend more and get less in terms of specification.

The driver has a coach that is nimble, surefooted and a delight to drive, while passengers enjoy the luxury of padded leather suits, plus all the extras they’d expect. And, based on current values, the operator gets a coach that will happily sit on your books without massive depreciation as used values are holding very well.

Aftersales is important and Pelican has long established form in this regard.

Next year marks its 100th anniversary and the family firm sets customer care at the very core of its proposition.

It’s also committed to Yutong, having invested £1m in a bespoke coach sales centre, with preparation and maintenance bays, together with a large concreted external area for stock and used sales.

If you had any doubt about how seriously Pelican views the coach and bus business, then examining the measure of its investment should put paid to any doubts. alt=”” src=”https://www.route-one.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/7.jpg” style=”float:left” />

For those conveniently close, it is comforting to know that its service dealerships have won the MAN and DAF dealership of the year awards, while its large stock and swift delivery mean that should anything out of the ordinary arise, parts will not be a problem.

The two-year bumper-to-bumper unlimited mileage warranty gives piece of mind, as does the fact that all the running gear, from brakes, to the driveline, is supplied by trusted European manufacturers.

The build quality is good, and you can even have the coach factory painted in your livery.

The only choice you have to make is the interior colour, and when you’d like it delivered. With coaches in stock, immediate delivery is available, while for a bespoke interior colour combination, orders are being taken now for delivery later this year.

Finally, prices compare very favourably with competitor vehicles. What’s not to like?

Details at http://pelicanyutong.co.uk/yutong-tc9-and-tc12-coaches/