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On test: Kubota M108S tractor / Kubota LA 1403 loader

Insights

With decent access, it is not exactly an overwhelming experience climbing aboard the 108, but it does fill you with a sense of function and practicality.

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Cab and controls - 6/10

With decent access, it is not exactly an overwhelming experience climbing aboard the 108, but it does fill you with a sense of function and practicality.

All the predominantly lever controls are obvious as to what they do, with most falling to hand, although spool levers are a bit out of the way.

 

The driving position feels quite high, which is made worse by the steering wheel, which only has rake adjustment.

 

For comfort, the 108 comes as standard with an air seat and air conditioning.

 

For some reason, the Kubota seems noisier inside the cab than out, especially when compared to the others. Certainly after a few days, we found it grating.

 

Loader usability - 7/10

The Kubota came fitted with the manufacturer’s own American-made loader - the LA 1403. Unlike the other loaders tested, it featured hydraulic self- levelling, which can be turned on and off, instead of mechanical parallel linkage.

 

Surprisingly, the Kubota’s loader is one of the nicest to control - the joystick feels more like oil over oil rather than cable connected. The stick also features buttons to use the third service without the need to move the stick, unlike the rest. This allows you to perform three actions at once, although this might be a bit taxing on the Kubota’s limited hydraulic flow.

 

By removing two retaining pins, the Kubota’s loader is relatively easy to detach. Its pipe work, however, is not. Located in an awkward position, it does not allow you to get sufficient hold of the pipes. We would recommend the hydraulic block connection.

 

Because of its slightly boxier bonnet, the Kubota lacks a bit of visibility to the tool carrier when on the floor.

 

Engine and maintenance - 7/10

The 108 is the baby of the bunch when it comes to power. That said, its Kubota power plant still packs a 108hp punch.

 

On the hill test with a trailer full of muck, it performed relatively well. However, if you find you have been too greedy with your gear selection, changing down a range is a challenge, especially on a hill, resulting in the tractor coming to a standstill before continuing up the hill.

 

Under the one-piece bonnet, maintenance has been kept relatively simple - the radiators and screens can be pulled out. A sealed drop-down/bevel front axle with very few grease points will also appeal to users wanting minimum maintenance.

 

For storage of pins and balls, there is a stupidly-placed toolbox just in front of the left-hand steps, in prime position to catch flying mud from the front tyres.

 

As a loader tractor - 6/10

The Kubota is pretty much a completely mechanical machine, apart from the common rail engine, which should suit a lot of customers.

 

A clutch-less shuttle provides swift and fairly smooth direction changes, although the shuttle lever does require a bit of wrestling compared to the more refined Deutz and Fergie systems.

 

Still, it is more convenient than clutching all the time, and it is better than the Zetor’s right-hand mechanical shuttle.

 

Its 32 by 32 speed transmission does offer a lot of choice, but you do seem to spend time fishing for an ideal gear.

 

The box comprises high and low ranges. Within each of those ranges is another high and low range, and within each of those is four speeds, incorporating a two-speed splitter. It would probably be well suited for horticulture where near perfect speed matching is essential, but for our tasks it was just too excessive.

 

Gear selection is also clunky, the splitter is a tad slow to react and the clutch pedal has a lot of travel before up-take.

 

When it comes to manoeuvrability, the 108 is top dog. Even with a similar wheelbase to the other test models, its slim frame and lack of mud-guards allows for a tight lock - easily negotiating the tightest of buildings.

 

Visibility is pretty good all-round too, but unlike the Deutz or the Fergie, it does not have a transparent roof, which really hampers loader visibility.

 

Also, with less oil-flow than some of the others, it does require a few more revs to make the loader perform.

Rear end - 7/10

At the rear, everything is well laid out - a beefy Dromone pick-up hitch and a 4,000kg linkage lift capacity adds a touch of ruggedness.

 

All functions are mechanically controlled, including the linkage, which does not have fender controls, but instead has an external control lever to make hitching up implements easier.

 

FG Verdict - 33/50

The known reliability of the Kubota-made engine and simplicity of the tractor should sit well with many farmers who do not require all the gadgets under the sun.

 

Aside from being bright orange, it is not a bad tractor at all. The simple question is: what do you need? If it is something simple and rugged, then this is the machine. If it is refinement and comfort you are after, then opt for the Fergie or Deutz.

 

Base retail price for tractor is £37,500. Base retail price for a tractor and loader is £42,990.

Specifications

Kubota M108S tractor

  • Engine: 3.8-litre, four-cylinder Kubota
  • Power: 108.5hp
  • Torque: 366Nm
  • Transmission: 32 forward, 32 reverse
  • pto speeds: 540 and 1,000rpm
  • Hydraulic flow rate: 65 litres/min
  • Rear-linkage lift capacity: 4,000kg
  • Wheelbase: 2,435mm
  • Base weight: 4,060kg
  • Tyres: Trelleborg 520/70 R34 (rear) and 380/70 R24 (front)
  • Service intervals: 300hrs

Kubota LA 1403 loader

  • Lift capacity at full height: 1,280kg
  • Maximum lift height: 3,700mm
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