Kubota extended its tractor range into the 130-170hp recently with the M7001 series. Jane Carley finds out how a contractor is getting on with the flagship M7171.
Taking on a newly launched tractor always brings an element of risk, particularly for a contractor, who is very much working in public and can afford little downtime.
James Jolliffe’s purchase of two new Kubota M7171s appears to be a leap of faith, but there is no doubt he has done his homework.
Mr Jolliffe purchased two M7171s after being impressed by prototype models working in Germany.
He says: “We are based half a mile from Kubota dealer George Brown, and have a number of other Kubota machines in our fleet, including excavators and compact tractors, so we know we can rely on the back-up.
“When Browns lost the franchise for our previous mainline brand, Valtra, we started thinking about a Kubota replacement.”
Determined not to go in blind, Mr Jolliffe and his foreman Ben Farnell took a trip to see the M7001 series prototype working in Germany.
Mr Jolliffe says: “It was almost the finished product and we were so impressed I ordered a pair of 170hp M7171s for summer 2015. There were delays with the delivery, but Browns honoured the trade-in for the Valtras and we eventually took them in March.”
Contractor James Jolliffe has purchased a pair of Kubota M7171 tractors for use on a diverse range of tasks.
Mr Jolliffe runs a specialist contracting business, offering niche services for farms, equestrian establishments and large properties, ranging from hedgecutting and fencing to laying tracks, drainage and ditching.
The work is mainly close to his base in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, although one-off jobs can take his team as far as Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire, with plenty of road travel always needed.
He says: “Our busiest time is from September to February, and one tractor can be taken up with hedgecutting for 10-12 hours a day in that period.
“The other is used for moving materials and fencing, with a Quickfencer mounted on a fore-end loader, although we will run two hedgecutters together if need be.”
Good visibility makes the tractor ideal for work in confined spaces and for precise work such as hedgecutting, points out foreman Ben Farnell.
Given the workload intensity, another major selling point was Kubota’s five-year warranty, which Mr Jolliffe has topped up to 5,000 hours from the standard 3,000.
He says: “We do not want to face big repair bills or have a tractor out of action. We would normally run them for 5,000 hours, but may trade these in at 4,500 hours so the dealer can sell them with the balance of the warranty and boost resale value.
“Residuals are one area of concern with the M7171 being such a new tractor, as there is always more demand for upgraded versions. Kubota has reassured us any upgrades made in the first 18 months will be applied to our tractors and we have already had a couple of software updates.”
The four-cylinder tractor handles a telescopic hedge-cutter and heavy duty front flail with ease.
The M7171s have been specified with front linkage and pto to allow a heavy duty Spearhead front flail to be fitted and work in conjunction with a McConnel telescopic reach arm if required to cut grass margins and hedges at the same time.
Both are fitted with loader brackets to allow the Kubota loader to be swapped between them and even out working hours.
One departure from the mechanical transmission used on the Valtras is the use of Kubota’s KVT, continuously variable transmission, which can be controlled via pedal or joystick.
Mr Jolliffe says: “It is ideal for hedgecutting as it is so easy to increase or decrease speed and you are always at the right speed. On jobs such as laying tracks, the set speeds mean road planings are distributed evenly by the spreading bar.”
A solid back end and plenty of lift capacity are among the qualities praised by Mr Jolliffe.
Mr Farnell adds: “It is so easy and smooth to use on the road, especially when the cruise is set.
Top speed is 50kph, but more importantly, you can pull away easily at junctions without hunting for the right gear. In the field, you are never over-revving in too low a gear or struggling in too high a gear.”
The good balance and solid back-end of the four-cylinder-powered tractor mean it is more than up to lifting the powerful hedgecutter, even without front weights, suggests Mr Jolliffe.
Mr Jolliffe has specified the 12in K Monitor terminal, said to be logical and easy to use.
He says: “I also like the large terminal, which is very logical and easy to use. You could put someone who has never driven the tractor in the cab if necessary and they could take it down the road.
“There are a few niggles – all of the armrest buttons are identical in size, so you have to check to make sure you have selected the right one. At the moment, the front linkage cannot be controlled via the loader joystick, which would be useful, but we expect Kubota will address this after customer feedback. There is a slightly cheap and ‘plasticky’ feel to controls, but we appreciate it is early days for this tractor.”
As contractors, they have found the tractors have attracted plenty of attention from customers.
Mr Jolliffe says: “Farmers were pretty sceptical, but once they have had a look around the tractor and seen what it can do, they are impressed. We are really happy with the M7171 and would recommend it to other contractors.”
A large, airy cab and good all-round visibility for hedgecutting from one-piece glass doors and narrow mudguards were among the first features Mr Farnell noted on the German prototype.