More commonly spotted on UK livestock farms, Zetor has yet to make any discernible impact on the arable sector. Though it is something the Czech maker intends to do, with its resurrected six-cylinder Crystal tractor range.
Geoff Ashcroft visited a user to find out more.
Zetor’s Crystal tractor range appears to be reaching out to a younger generation who find it increasingly difficult to ignore what could prove to be serious value for money.
This is the thought process of Greg Mountford, who farms 242 hectares (600 acres) at Middle Heldre, Trewern near Welshpool, along with his brother Gavin and their father, Fred.
When the time came to replace one of their 10-year-old John Deere 7530s, the Zetor Crystal 160 suddenly appeared on his wishlist.
Greg Mountford explains: “We looked initially at a John Deere 6195R, though it offered much more spec and more power than we needed. It also came at a hefty price too – the cost to change was considerable.”
Motivated like many by the increasing cost to change, Mr Mountford recalls seeing press reports of the new Zetor Crystal.
“It looked like a serious contender, with modern curves, a decent engine, long wheelbase and at a very sensible price,” he says. “And when Tunstall Tractors had one in stock, Gavin and I took a closer look at it, and the deal was done.”
The tractor arrived on-farm in April 2017, and has since clocked up more than 800 hours in five busy months. It has so far been bullet-proof according to its owner, save for a small oil leak on the engine at 35 hours which required a new fan belt and a seal – all done under warranty.
Equipped with Zuidberg front linkage and pto, the Crystal 160 is said to comfortably hold its own with a front/rear mower conditioner combination, a three-metre power harrow drill combination, cultivator, Trioliet feeder wagon, and on trailer work too.
“It is a really handy bit of kit on the mowers,” Mr Mountford says. “And unlike others, it is 160hp all day long – no boosts, no confusion, just a solid level of power from its Deutz engine. If you do empty the fuel tank in a day, then you have had a long day and got a lot done.
“It also has 540/1,000 pto speeds – both with economy too. It is proving to be quite a versatile tractor, though I have yet to try it on our Kverneland five-furrow plough.”
The Mountfords run a mixed fleet. Alongside the Crystal 160 is a 6,500-hour Case IH Puma 200 with front linkage and pto, plus three John Deeres; a 7,000-hour 6220, plus a 6930 with loader and a 7530 with front linkage. The latter two are 9,000-hour examples. A pair of JCB telehandlers and a New Holland self-propelled forager are also part of the line-up.
All are kept busy with the farm’s diverse approach, with includes 32ha (80 acres) of wholecrop and 32 ha (80 acres) of maize in addition to grass leys for its 420-cow herd, plus 600 beef cattle it finishes, 450-ewe flock and 7,000 store lambs it finishes on local root crops.
“Our tractors never seem to sit idle,” he says. “They are all worked hard.”
While he concedes the Crystal 160 is not quite as well polished as the Case and Deere, there is a lot to like and not a lot to dislike. And when it comes to operator comfort, Mr Mountford says the Crystal is up there with the rest of the farm’s tractor fleet.
“The cab is relatively quiet, and it rides really well on the road thanks to its suspended front axle and sprung cab,” he says. “Although the cab is slightly smaller than the others, it is not a big issue. Its three spools are cable-controlled and very reliable, but they are fixed flow rates. They would be more useful if we could adjust them.
Plenty of pto speed choices at the rear end, with convenient drawbar storage.
“Work lights are fantastic, the mirrors are heated and so is the rear window,” he adds. “And while the AdBlue tank looks like a bit of an after-thought, it is easy to get at. Zetor has fitted it on the opposite side to the fuel tank – but at least it makes it easier to put the right fluid in the correct tank.”
“It only has a 40kph gearbox, so we do miss that extra turn of speed on longer hauls, but we are not disappointed with it,” he says. “The spec does include air brakes too. And everyone who has driven the Crystal has been pleasantly surprised by it. I think it has been above everyone’s expectations.
The 160hp Crystal is equally at home with the feeder wagon, as it is with a front/rear mower conditioner combination, a 3m power harrow drill or trailer.
“While it does not have the gadgets of more expensive tractors, it is not a complex tractor to operate. It is refreshingly straightforward, and it is not a numb, heavy lump. And the five-speed gearbox with its three powershifts in each gear, plus low and high range, gives us enough choice with field work.
“Yes, I have taken a bit of a risk, but based on its current performance and reliability, I cannot see any reason why we would not consider more of them in the future,” he says. “Would I have been better off spending the same amount of money on a used Deere? I will only know that in five or six years’ time when the Crystal’s residual value lands on the kitchen table.”