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The Yutong TC9 is one of Pelican Bus and Coach’s success stories, but as Richard Sharman found out in a test drive just prior to the Covid-19 lockdown measures beginning, improvements have been made to recent TC9s and a new PSVAR version is now available

Under the guidance of Pelican Bus and Coach, Yutong is now very much an established vehicle brand in the UK and Ireland. There may still be operators out there who doubt the build quality and residuals, but these doubts are unfounded. The sales figures speak for themselves: last October the brand surpassed 500 vehicle sales in the UK and Ireland in just five years.

There is no doubt that Yutong is here to stay, and more operators are now turning to the brand to purchase new vehicles which are not only well built but offer value for money. The TC9 has taken the lead and carved its own market in the coach industry; over 300 units are now in service with UK and Irish operators.

Midi with a big coach look


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Having tested the Yutong E10, GT12 and TCe12 in the past, I had high expectations of the smallest coach in the range, the TC9. The example that I tested was a 37-seater plus driver and courier for Greenline Holidays of Stourbridge, which is well known for its lovely metallic green livery (which suits the TC9 well).

The TC9 shares similar styling with the TCe12 in the UK range and almost has a rounded, friendly-looking face to the headlight arrangement. Because there are now so many TC9s on the road, they are a common sight on the country’s motorway network and in coach parks at many tourist attractions. The styling has not changed since it was introduced to the UK, but it still looks fresh and attractive to the eye.

The front end of the TC9 benefits from nicely arranged daytime running lights, front fog lights and large headlights broken up by a large chrome strip, whilst the sensor for automatic braking and the Yutong badge are in the panel underneath the windscreen, meaning the operator will need to display their name at the top of the windscreen rather than on the front panel. As with the rest of the Yutong range, the mirror arms always look quite long, but once behind the wheel they are well-positioned.

The interior of the TC9 is well designed and put together. A servery unit is fitted to the rear, along with a WC and a rear powered door. RICHARD SHARMAN

The side profile of the TC9 is well designed, with dark-tinted saloon windows that show off the gleaming metallic green paintwork, which also highlights the Yutong alloy wheels. The entry door glass continues following the contour of the headlights, whilst the front panel under the windscreen is made to look like it continues around to the middle of the entry door – both nice touches.

The lower panels are curved at the bottom where the luggage lockers are, and the wheelarches neatly flared. The flow is slightly interrupted on the nearside by the stepped line of the rear panel – as it is on the offside – to allow access and cooling to the radiator and exhaust system.

The offside rear window features an opening top window for the toilet cubicle, a much better idea than having to rely on extractor fans! Also located on the offside behind the rear wheel arch is the powered continental door, which is a good size and is easily accessible.

The rear of the TC9 is attractive but also practical. A black section above the rear window has the marker lights, reversing camera and repeat indicators built into it. Another vehicle that I saw undergoing pre-delivery inspection also had a rear CCTV camera fitted alongside the reversing camera. An additional LED brake light strip is mounted inside the vehicle, behind the rear seats, meaning that the TC9 is highly visible when braking. The styling on the rear, under the window, is recessed, following the shape of the window. This carries on down to the boot lid, which has plenty of vents to keep the Darlington-built engine cool.

The rear light units are a mix of LED clusters and bulbs. There is a red strip that connects the nearside and offside clusters; it’s a shame this does not light up when the lights are on.

The rear bumper panels include parking sensors and a plate that can be removed to fit a tow bar if required.

Luxury as standard

Boarding the TC9 via the two shallow steps, you are greeted with what looks like a cavernous looking midi-coach. Despite its 9,350mm length, it looks much longer when looking down the carpeted aisle. This may be down to the 1,950mm internal height that passengers benefit from. When you consider that the much taller GT12 has an internal height of 2,012mm, Yutong has done well with the TC9. Greenline Holidays specified 34 seats with a toilet, which allows generous legroom, particularly on the nearside – at 6ft 2 I could sit comfortably.

The reclining seating feels luxurious and benefits from three-point seatbelts, armrests and extra side padding, whilst the rear of the seats feature magazine nets, tables, USB charging points and footrests. There are also three-point plug points built into the sidewall next to some of the seats.

Passengers also benefit from curtains and overhead service units that feature bright white LED reading lights, along with three blue LED lights for when the reading light is off. Two high-quality air vents are provided and each seat has a speaker built into the service unit with a call button for the host/hostess.

Heating is provided by convection heating rails down both sides of the saloon. The rear continental door steps also benefit from a fan heater built into the middle step to dry them out, should they get wet whilst on tour. One feature I do like is that the rear exit has a roof-mounted CCTV camera pointed at it, which shows up on the dash monitor when the door is open, but Yutong has also provided a round mirror in case the camera fails so the driver is still able to see the area.

The rear toilet is quite large and features a light that is triggered by a laser when you enter. All surfaces are wipe-clean white, except the sink and shelf area, where the blue nicely breaks it up. A soap/hand towel dispenser is provided, along with a bin. The servery unit is fitted between the two rear seats and toilet unit. It has a basin, cupboard storage area and a hot water boiler so that a host/hostess can provide passengers with hot drinks on longer tours.

Driver’s environment

The driver has by no means been forgotten in the design process. In other Yutong reviews I have mentioned that these are drivers’ vehicles, and the TC9 is no exception. Sitting in the leather-faced ISRI driver’s seat, the first thing I noticed was how far it goes back. Tall drivers are so often overlooked when it comes to legroom, but this was just right. The dashboard layout is ergonomic, everything is to hand – there is no having to stretch over to turn the air-conditioning on.

Whilst the GT12 is keyless, the TC9 still requires the key to be inserted, but the driver does benefit from remote powered door controls on the key fob. There are a lot of switches on the dash, which shows how much you get with the TC9 as standard. An Outfire fire suppression system is fitted in the engine bay, for which there is a unit and buzzer mounted on the dash. The driver can control the DPF system clean; if it warns it is about to occur and the vehicle is inside or picking up, you can postpone it.

An Eco mode button is fitted, which changes gear sooner to save fuel. Driver aids such as powered sunblinds, heated and powered mirrors, auto lighting, an air horn, reversing camera and monitor, and lane departure sensor are all fitted.

The entertainment system is provided by Bosch, with a powered flip-down TV monitor made by HSAE, whilst the courier has access to a deep in-dash fridge. A Webasto independent heating system is fitted and the air-conditioning is a Yutong unit.

The friendly face of the Yutong TC9 looks good from all angles. RICHARD SHARMAN

Out on the road

My visit to Pelican coincided with a week of bad weather that included heavy rain and sleety snow showers. Luckily on arrival at the showroom it was dry, for a short period.

Getting set up in the TC9, I was impressed with how good the all-round vision was – the mirror arms are perfectly placed. The new Actia dash binnacle is a great improvement on the original and provides more information. The driverAID system is particularly good and reminds you if acceleration is too harsh. It stays in the green band when you are driving steady.

The speedo is particularly clear and set up for the UK, with mph on the outside and km/h on the inside. Other information shown includes the engine temperature, oil pressure, revs, what gear you are in, battery voltage, air tank pressure and the time.

Departing Pelican’s showroom I immediately felt at home in the TC9. You just cannot beat that Darlington-built Cummins ISB6.7 engine mated to a ZF 6-speed automatic. The power was instantaneous and the engine and gearbox responded accurately to the throttle pedal. There is no lag, it just goes, as I would find out later!

By the time I had reached the A655, the sleet was coming down. Luckily it was one of those days where it was on and off. Various roundabouts were negotiated on the way to Heath Common to take photos of the TC9 before it got dirty from road spray. The TC9 felt glued to the road, despite the wet, slippery conditions. This is a common theme with Yutong vehicles, the chassis dynamics are superb.

By this stage the Cummins 6.7-litre engine had also warmed up and was performing effortlessly. Producing 320hp, it is certainly no slouch! But I was still managing to drive within the green bands on the driverAID system. The road to Heath Common requires a sharp right hand turn off the A655 – you are pretty much coming back on yourself. The TC9 has decent steering lock, so this was no issue.

Photos were taken and it was back out onto the road towards Doncaster, which gave me a chance to try out the retarder, operated by a stalk to the right of the steering wheel. This is a great tool for the driver, allowing smooth braking without having to touch the brake pedal. Also on the same stalk is the cruise control, which is easy to operate. Trying it out on the A roads, it held the vehicle nicely at 50mph.

Whilst driving along it is noticeable that the engine is extremely quiet. Additionally, the Yutong internal fixings and panels are well put together, with no rattles whatsoever. Negotiating around Doncaster I found that the steering was light and accurate, with the full air, six-bag, ECAS suspension being smooth and reducing any pothole vibration significantly.

Heading back towards Castleford, it was time to let the TC9 stretch its legs on the M62. Joining the slip road and applying maximum acceleration, the TC9 pulls like a train. This is thanks to the power to weight ratio and the ZF/Cummins combination; the result is impressive, to say the least.

Once on the limiter, the TC9 is smooth and refined. It was quite a windy day, so it was being buffeted about a little bit, but a little correction on the steering and it was fine. The TC9 is fitted with a Meritor final drive, which was also quiet in operation.

Returning to Pelican I was left impressed with the TC9. In this specification, it is ideal for operators to use on multiple applications.

Developing the TC9

Pelican Bus and Coach is continually improving its vehicles for the UK market. By listening to operator feedback, it can incorporate new ideas and tweaks. For example, the most recent TC9 deliveries feature a crystal clear Actia digital dash binnacle. Other improvements suggested by operators include the movement of entry handrails and so on.

Now PSVAR-compliant vehicles are required for rail replacement and some school services, Pelican Bus and Coach has developed a solution that makes the TC9 wheelchair accessible and PSVAR compliant. This means that an operator can now use the TC9 for multiple applications, from school services and coach holidays to weekend or evening rail replacement.

The solution to making the TC9 PSVAR complaint was to install a nearside emergency exit door and fit a cassette lift in the locker below it. Operators then have the option to retain all 34 or 37 static seats and remove them as required, or retain a space for up to six wheel chairs. This gives the operator total flexibility. To comply with PSVAR regulations, front, side and rear LED destination equipment is fitted when the vehicle is specified with a wheelchair lift.

This option is already proving popular, with a number of this specification already sold and awaiting delivery to operators, who benefit from a large number of options and specifications when considering a Yutong TC9.