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VIDEO: New Manitou MLA533 pivot steer loader put through its paces

The long awaited MLA533 pivot steer loader from Manitou has been completely redesigned from the ground-up with a continuously variable transmission and a host of other features to tempt potential customers. Alex Heath went and put it through its paces.

With a gestation period longer than an African bush elephant, Manitou has finally bought to market its pivot steer loader.

 

Featuring a model number that just rolls of the tongue, the MLA-T533-145V+ has been redesigned from the ground up taking subtle design prompts from previous popular models says Manitou. But the standout feature is its new continuously variable transmission (CVT).

 

 

When the MLA628, ceased production in 2009 it occupied more than 50 per cent of the pivot steer market, after the demise of Matbro. Since then the fortunes of the French company’s foray into the pivot steer market has been somewhat hampered, mainly because of reliability issues. After a five year hiatus, it is back in the market with a vengeance, and keen to prove the capabilities of its new machine.




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Having seen glimpses of the new machine as early as Lamma 2017, this is the first time we have been able to drive the machine and find out more about the components that have gone into it. At present there is only one model in the range, the MLA533, which will lift 3.3 tonnes to 5.2 metres.

Engine and transmission

engine

Sourced from Dana Spicer, Manitou says the biggest selling point on the new machine is the CVT. The system is already fitted to the company’s largest farm-spec telehandler and has proved its reliability and ease of operation says the manufacturer.


Power comes from Deutz in the form of a 4.1-litre, four-cylinder block pumping out 143hp and 550Nm torque at 1,600 rpm. Final tier four compliant, exhaust fumes are treated with a splash of adBlue.


Joining the engine to the transmission is a Rexroth hydrostatic pump that feeds a pair of Rexroth motors. The clever thing about the setup is when setting off, or in applications where a high level of tractive force is required, both motors are engaged. Above 20kph and where more power is needed to operate the hydraulic functions of the loader, just one motor spins the transmission.
This does not affect the drivability of the loader and is all done unbeknown to the driver, who can focus on operating, with the knowledge that the engine and transmission are working out the most efficient way to power the machine.


The edition of an eco-mode does not limit performance, but sees revs drop back by 200 to 300 rpm on most tasks, gliding downhill when on the road and sitting at 40kph at 1,900 rpm. This reduction sees a 12 per cent fuel saving says the manufacturer, and when driving it is not noticeable.


Engine and transmission work very well together, providing bags of torque and power when it is needed, and the addition of different driving options directs the power where the operator needs it, which will benefit users who have many different tasks to complete. Getting used to the throttle and brake relationship is a quick process, and very similar to the setup in a CVT tractor, with good engine braking and inching capabilities.

Hydraulics and chassis

hyds

Hydraulic functions are dealt with by a 158 litre per minute load sensing pump. The use of a hand throttle makes operations simple and quick. The hand throttle is exclusively used for controlling the hydraulic functions, without giving any contribution to forward speed. This means that the set revs are always available to operate the boom, headstock or attachments, without having to go near the foot pedal. Of course, the loader can be operated with the foot pedal, but after using the hand throttle for a short period of time it is easy to control all functions as the flow is always at a constant rate.


Clever flow adjustment for front attachments is controlled through two dials in the cab, that allow for different flow rates to be selected for the send and return lines. This is particularly useful for tasks such as operating a shear grab where a long slow cut will produce a better feed face, but rapid unloading is required. The same setup can be employed for the rear auxiliary spools, for lifting a tailboard for instance.


Regenerative hydraulics sees the boom return to the floor using gravity, which takes just 5.1 seconds from maximum height.

 

hyds

Hydraulics are crisp and easy to control through the joystick. Precise control is achievable and operator aids for safety and repetitive tasks, that are becoming standard equipment across many manufacturer’s ranges, make life easy for the operator and are simple to set up.


Hydraulic locking pins for attachments is standard, but requires a button to be pressed even when recoupling, that other manufactures make automatic. As standard the loader comes with the firm’s easy connect system, which dumps all the pressure from the auxiliary connections, making it convenient to remove pipes from the headstock, and features a button for this on the front mudguard.


At present only Manitou and cone and pin headstocks are available, but plans for Q-fit are underway.


The chassis of the loader takes inspiration from construction wheel loaders and Manitous of the past, in that it does not oscillate at the pivot. Instead the loader only articulates to steer and the rear axle oscillates instead. Manitou say this increases the structural strength at the pivot point, by allowing them to join the two halves of the machine at a greater distance apart, reducing stresses on the joining pins.

Cab and controls

cab

Bright and airy, the cab of the MLA is a decent place to spend a day working. The loader features Manitou’s signature joystick and move (JSM) control, which fits comfortably to hand and is the only way of changing direction. This may not suit an older operator who may want to reach for a left hand shuttle lever.


On the whole, controls are neatly grouped on the arm rest and fall to hand easily. In the cab is where the three different spec levels becomes apparent, with the top spec benefitting from top of the range air seat, bluetooth radio with external microphone, air conditioning, electric wing mirrors, LED work lights and boom suspension.

cab1

While the cab is laid out well, the biggest issue on the machine as a whole is the miniscule screen on the dash board. Most of the setup of the machine is done through the screen, but it is so small and cluttered it can be quite frustrating trying to find the information you need. And as for glancing at the screen to garner rpm or speed on the move, there is no point, as it takes real concentration to find what is relevant and what is interfering graphic design. Considering the size of the dash, a screen smaller than most smartphones is a real disappointment, and goes someway to ruining what is a good machine to operate.

cab

MLA533

Engine

4.1l Deutz

Power

143 hp

Max lift

3,300kg

Tipping load

4,978kg

Lift Height

5.2m

Turning Radius

4.28

Hydraulics

158 l/min

Operating weight

8,430kg

Elite spec retail

£91,751

 

 

 

As far as visibility from the cabin goes, it is very good. Clear views to the front wheels and down the sides of the sloping bonnet at the rear belie the size of the machine, making it feel more compact than it is. The only poor visibility is down to the headstock when going to hook up attachments, but this is only a minor niggle.


Views up to a lifted bucket are also very good, and as an option the company can fit a wiper to keep the top piece of glass clean. Access into the cab is also good, with deep grooving on the steps up, giving good foot hold. A storage box that doubles as a seat is big enough for the BFG’s picnic and can be cooled using the machines air conditioning.

FG Verdict

The MLA is a real contender in the sparsely populated pivot steer market. Its CVT is a pleasure to drive and the hydraulics are powerful and responsive. The cab is as good, if not better than any on the market, and the automated operator aids are a doddle to use. How the MLA compares against the benchmark of the sector, the JCB TM320s, time will tell.

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