Valtra says its new N-series tractors will be primarily aimed at mixed livestock and arable producers, so it seems only fair to test the unit paired to a loader.

Available in the traditional Valtra colours – red, green, blue, silver or metallic versions thereof – the N-series is an attractive beast.

A short rounded bonnet and clean cab lines give it a stylish look.

The tractors will be available in three specification levels:

The low cost Classic, the confusingly titled standard spec Hi-tech and the bells-and-whistles Advanced models.

We trial the N121 Hi-spec variant as this is the model Valtra expects to shift most of in the UK.

Firstly it’s into the cab where plenty of drab grey trim is the order of the day.

Mounted on a fully-adjustable steering column, the sporty-feel steering wheel is surprisingly small and chunky.

This being the mid-spec Hi-tech unit, Valtra fits a clutchless shuttle.

Lower specification Classic models have a manual mechanical shuttle.

The Hi-tech’s electro-hydraulic shuttle can be programmed to allow the user to denote the gear that the tractor defaults to when the direction changes.

This works well for loader work as it allows you to select a faster speed for reverse, avoiding a gear change or high revving to achieve decent operating speeds.

Another bonus point of the shuttle is that it features a park function as well as neutral and forwards/reverse direction selection.

However, thanks to its short throw it is very easy to flick the lever to the opposite direction of travel when in fact it is neutral you were hoping for.

Other than to start the engine, the operator doesn’t really need to use the clutch.

Each of the gear levers – one for range selection and one for gear selection – features a declutch button that when pressed cuts transmission drive.

This allows you to change gear and indeed range on the move without using the clutch.

Within each gear there are three powershift steps.

These are smooth and with good guesswork you can manually simulate speed matching when changing gear.

Valtra N-series

Loader operation

To help with loader work, weight distribution is said to be a 60:40 rear/front split, as opposed to the 50:50 set-up of older models.

A Valtra-badged Quicke unit, the loader is responsive and has enough power to dig deep into the muck heap.

A transmission mode tagged as “N-drive” helps in this department by getting the clutch-pack to function in conjunction with the brakes.

Unless 1000rpm is exceeded the gearbox will not engage and as soon as the brakes are applied drive to the wheels is cut.

This system proves its use in loader work, but is let down by the braking performance.

As soon as you touch the pedal the wheels stop spinning but the brakes don’t hold unless you assert considerable calf-aching pressure, which could make long periods of loader work on slopes a real chore.

One other annoyance is that the loader controls clash with the indicator stalk, this can be resolved by tilting either the steering wheel or the loader controls, but then either one or the other is a long reach away.

Due to arrive later this year, Advanced models will have an arm-rest mounted lever, which may be worth considering as a retro-fit.

Summary

The N-series is a big improvement over the Finnish firm’s less sophisticated A-series tractors.

Particular thought has gone into making these new models well suited to loader work.

Perky engine performance and decent hydraulic performance will make it well suited to this type of task and light fieldwork duties.

Priced to slot right in among its rivals, it has the potential to be a worthy competitor in its sector.

Top-spec Advanced models will appear in the UK late in 2006 and for those wanting a little more sophistication they may be worth holding on for.

Click here to go to the Farmers Weekly interactive special report on tractors

fwmachinery@rbi.co.uk