04 Apr 2013
Having already tried and tested Valtra’s larger four-cylinder N series tractors, it is now the turn of its latest and smaller, three-cylinder Ns.
Replacing the old four-cylinder N92 and N101 models, the new N93 and N103 use 3.3-litre Agco Power motors (formerly known as Sisu), the same engines which sister companies Massey Ferguson uses in its 5600’s and Fendt uses in its 200’s.
The pint sized models incorporate many features as found on their larger stable mates including the cabs, rear ends and certain transmissions – most notably the new HiTech 5, 20 by 20 speed powershift box.
However, at the front is where the three-cylinder models really differ. Due to the smaller engines, the tractors are more compact with tighter turning circles, front linkage and loader brackets can be integrated into the sculpted chassis and there is more visibility thanks to the steeply sloping bonnet.
Even though the engines are smaller and one-cylinder down on their predecessors, Valtra says they are actually more powerful with increased torque. To meet Stage 3b emissions regulations, the motors use exhaust gas recirculation and a diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC) – no need for AdBlue.
Fitted with a Valtra-badged Alo loader, our test model was the 111hp N103 with HiTech 5 transmission and mechanical spools. The manufacturer says it is an ideal high-spec stock tractor, so what better way to test it than on a livestock farm carrying out loader and feeding duties?
As with the larger Ns, cab access is excellent with plenty of room to play in once you are on-board. All controls are pretty well laid out, apart from the spool levers which travel sideways and a rotary dial for the hand throttle which turns anti-clockwise for more revs and a handy LCD display on the right-hand A pillar shows gear selection and mode.
From the seat it is easy to see the gains you get with the smaller engine bay. Visibility has dramatically increased, especially in this case with better sightlines down to the loader. The firm still has not got around to fitting a transparent roof yet, but it hints it will happen in the next couple of years as engine emission regulations continue to drive tractor development.
Transmission controls are mounted on a lever which does not actually do anything but serve as a button holder. It incorporates a rocker switch for the four range changes and a rocker for the five powershift changes. While the lever does not move, it is well positioned for convenient control and does provide something to swing off when the going gets rough.
Shifting of gears can be done manually, or automatically in the top two ranges from C1 to D5. In auto, two rev ranges, at which point the ‘box changes up or down, can be selected via another rocker switch on the main console – one position for lighter work and one for heavier work.
Another nifty transmission feature is auto-neutral which engages when the brake pedal is depressed and re-engages when the pedal is released again. This only works above 1,100 revs, but is useful for round baling for example, perhaps less so for loader work.
A 73-litre/minute hydraulic pump is standard, but ours was fitted with an optional 90-litre/minute pump which has a positive effect on loader response. With little revs the Alo loader was very swift. Loader control is good too, which is a small joystick integrated into the N’s armrest, making for very convenient use. The icing on the cake would be if Valtra could incorporate the transmission buttons onto the armrest near or on the joystick.
For a small tractor, the N103 felt very stable when handling silage, helped in part by 320kg-worth of wheel weights. With the small N’s ability to turn on a sixpence, manoeuvrability was not a problem either in the tight yard conditions towing a diet feeder.
While the engine hardly blinked with loader work, a vertical auger diet feeder gave it something else to think about. And to its credit the gutsy little motor managed it no problem – just needed a few revs when engaging the pto. Similarly on the road towing the feeder with a weight of about six tonnes, the engine and transmission worked very well together. As you would expect though, there is a slight delay between range changes, especially going up a hill which can lose you momentum. Gear shifts are also speed matched when changing between ranges.
The smaller engine has also had a positive effect on daily maintenance as the engine bay is nice and roomy, with cracking access to the cooling packs with three fold out radiators. To save space, the DOC is incorporated into the vertical section of the exhaust stack.
With the N103 put through its paces carrying out loader work, pto work and a bit of road haulage, we gained a good evaluation of the new N, and overall we like it.
The engine is a cracking little lugger and the transmission is pretty responsive to changing conditions. There is also that quality feel you get with a Valtra.
While the front end looks modern, the cab is showing its age. But as Valtra says, we should expect some developments in that area soon.
For someone who wants the convenience of a bit of technology, we can see it being very appealing.