In many ways the Czech’s spec is generous – there’s four pto speeds and automatic powershifts – and it’s also pretty manoeuvrable. But the cab remains pretty old-fashioned and can get noisy with your foot to the floor. Base price: £57,252.
Our first east European contender is an old UK farming favourite. The latest top-spec Forterra is a big step forward for Zetor, with the small tractor specialist on a mission to improve build quality before it unveils a planned 200hp tractor by 2015.
The long levers and cheap rhino hide leather give the Forterra more than a hint of the 80s, but the rest of the cab is an improvement on previous models. The layout is pretty simple – road lights are separate from working lights around the dash and there’s heaps of storage space, particularly behind the seat.
There are still ergonomic aspects that need a bit of work. The hand throttle resides to the right of the steering wheel column, for instance, and the foot throttle is small and lacks precision.
We found the steering easy and precise under load in the field, but at 4.5 turns, the wheel still takes some turning once you get to the headland. It moves a little too willingly on the road and can make the tractor skittish at higher speeds, too.
Elsewhere, the view to the link arms is good but the fat red bonnet limits frontwards visibility. It’s not possible to open the glass roof window, either.
The Czechs still proudly boast of building their own four-pot motors. It promised a lot, too, although it can get a bit vocal at high revs, particularly on the road. Even with the door shut we measured 76.3dBa in the cockpit.
But it’s fair to says it was more bark and less bite. In the Maha test it maxed out at just 94hp and the 415Nm of engine torque came at 1,360rpm.
Specific consumption was about average, although at 273g/kWh it is less efficient than the group average at its rated power.
The tight-turning Forterra has two ranges, five gears and three powershifts, which makes for a grand total of 30 speeds in each direction.
Shunting the position of the stiff, floor-mounted lever displays range changes on the dash, but it’s with the gearstick that we have a bigger gripe. Its excessive play meant it felt like stirring a baseball bat in a barrel of coconuts and the declutch button on its flank doesn’t work with the tractor under heavy load.
There are more buttons on the side of the gearstick to control powershift steps. We found the shifts smooth, even under load, but we couldn’t get it to downshift in auto mode.
Despite being hydraulic, the shuttle scored well, too, although the plastic protection meant we didn’t always know whether we had selected neutral, forward or reverse.
Zetor’s Cat III hardware will lift a massive 8,450kg, has one quick-adjust arm but no quick-release stabilisers. External controls are on offer on both fenders, while in the cab there’s standard Bosch electronics that plenty of operators will be familiar with.
In the hydraulics department there are three double-acting, mechanical spools and one return flow. Each has a float position, but controlling them in the cab is difficult unless you’ve got rake-like hands to avoid pushing them all at the same time. Maximum pump output is almost bang on the group average at 75-litres/min.
Zetor, along with Valtra and Same, scored well for its pto functions. Flicking an electric switch changes gear from 540 to 1,000 and an easy-moving mechanical lever swings between eco and normal mode.
Engagement can be adjusted in three stages and is neighboured by a locking rocker on the B-post to start and stop the pto. There’s a control on the mudguard, too, but it doesn’t stop the pto if it has been started in the cab.
There are no automatic functions for four-wheel drive or diff-lock. Either can be turned on or off through dash-mounted buttons the led backlight can be difficult to see.
Zetor’s one-piece hood reveals plenty of space to perform regular maintenance tasks like cleaning the radiators. There’s good access to filters and very few grease nipples to keep fed.
- Four pto speeds
- Automatic powershifts
- Smooth shuttle
- Tight turning
- Position of spool controls
- Old fashioned cab
- Small foot throttle
- Noisy on the road
The other contenders