Kubota’s range revamp continues with the launch of its 60-95hp M40-series tractors. Nick Fone test-drives the flagship 95hp M9540 to find out what’s changed.
Small tractors are big business. Every year Kubota sells 10,000 60hp-120hp tractors in the US so it must be doing something right. Machines around the 100hp mark still make up a big chunk of the sales in the UK, too. Traditionally, these have been seen as bog-standard stockman-spec machines, but even those buyers are expecting more for their money nowadays.
Kubota hit the ground running when it first started pushing into the UK ag market in 2003. It already had a full range up to 120hp, which had been selling in the USA like hot cakes for over 10 years.
Kubota’s new 9540 is a lively little load-lugger.
Then last year the company had a spring-clean, chucking out the old stuff and refreshing what was good. The result? Two ranges of tractors that look the business and stretch from 60hp to 128hp.
As range-topper in the smaller M40-series line-up, the M9540 made its first appearance at Grassland this year.
This a pretty tractor. The clean, sleek lines of the one-piece bonnet mean it’s whipped up in one to reveal the engine block in its entirety. So maintenance is easy, with pull-out-and-shake gauze screens for the radiators and loader brackets that don’t impinge on access.
The loader is the same US-built unit used on Kubota’s larger tractors. It will lift 1.9t and reaches 3.4m up, but what’s most impressive is how easy it is to get on and off the tractor.
KUBOTA M9540 spec
3.8-litre mechanically-governed 4-cyl turbo, EGR
36F x 36R – 3-range, six-speed manual with splitter and clutchless shuttle
In-board wet discs
£31,675 with loader
Cab – nice but seating position needs attention
Kubota has obviously put some effort into addressing the space and layout criticisms previously levelled at its cabs. The M9540’s B-pillars are set well back, meaning that getting in is no longer a squeeze.
The top of the front screen is arched by 2 or 3in, which makes all the difference for bale stacking. So there’s no longer the need for startled-ostrich impressions just to try to get a peek at the top bale in the stack.
Views skywards are impressive thanks to the arched front screen.
The control layout is logical enough. Steering column tilts with a kick of the central pedal but get ready for a knee clash.
The cab may feel spacious, but it can be difficult to find a comfortable seating position if you’re tall. You can’t tuck your knees under the steering wheel and though the steering column can be angled, it won’t extend.
I settled on having the seat rammed right back against the stops and set as low as it will go – not an ideal driving position. A telescopic steering column could be the answer.
Cranked goose-neck lever looks after the loader with smooth cable-controls.
Orange-capped sticks handle range changes, throttle and transmission lock while mechanical linkage controls live down alongside seat.
Transmission – unconventional but logical
Levers on the right-hand console deal with the transmission in an unconventional, but not altogether illogical way.
Likes and gripes
- Roomy cabin with excellent views
- Responsive hydraulics
- Clunky, positive-feel shuttle
- Self-cancelling winkers
- Noisy transmission
- Uncomfortable driving position
- Flimsy cab trim
- Awkward transmission lock
Creep, low and high ranges are handled by a stubby, insignificant-looking lever forward of the main gear-stick. It’s a bit tucked away, but that’s fine because there is rarely any need to switch between ranges – high box’s 12 ratios take care of most tasks.
Around to the side is another taller, more prominent orange-topped lever. This is the optional transmission lock. The salesmen tell us this will be useful to hill-farmers when they park up on steep slopes. But because of its awkward action we suspect it’s only the HSE men that it’ll keep happy.
To use it you’ve got to first knock the gearbox into neutral and then negotiate a tight, clunky gate to get it to engage. It’s more like something you’d expect to find in a Victorian signal box. If Kubota wants to go down this route, why not follow the John Deere example and integrate it all into the main gear lever?
Aside from these gripes, the main gearbox is a slick six-shifter with a smooth-working splitter and the clutchless shuttle involves a positive-feel, long-throw lever.
Kubota has struck a good balance between ancient and modern by only adding electrics where they’re really needed. 4wd is looked after by rocker-switch rather than the previous mechanical lever. This has enabled four-wheel-braking to be introduced. It works well – really well judging by the rubber left on the roads after a spot of bale-carting.
Even the lardiest of operators won’t struggle with access thanks to wide-swinging doors and cab B-pillars set well back.
Pto engagement is handled by a twist-on/thwack-off switch (although too many thwacks for the demo tractor meant by the time it got to us it was dangling on its wires after just 100 hours).
In the dash there are just two digital displays with a couple of buttons to swap between pto rpm and hours, mph and kph. On the other hand, direction changes with the hydraulic shuttle are prompted through a mechanical linkage between the man-size shuttle-lever and the gearbox. Simple, uncomplicated stuff.
Engine – a perky performer
On the engine front things are also kept simple. Kubota has managed to meet the latest round of emissions regs while sticking with a mechanically-governed fuel pump rather than a more complex common-rail setup.
For a little four-pot, it’s a perky performer. On the round-baler it wasn’t fazed by heavy swaths and on the road it barely grumbles at heavy loads of bales.
Kubota M9540: 97hp £27,825
This is a good little tractor. It’s not over-complicated, but you won’t be disappointed by it, even in its most basic guise – clutchless shuttle, air-con and all-wheel braking are all standard. It’s let down a bit by some poor cab layout details and transmission whine that’ll have your ears ringing after a long day on the road. Put that to one side and for well under £30,000, it’s good value.