Video: Valtra T234 tractor on test with a Sumo Trio cultivator

Valtra has always been the quirky alternative in the Agco tractor line-up.

While Challenger takes care of the tracklayer market, Fendt does the premium end of things and Massey appeals to the masses, it’s not always obvious where the Finns fit in.

 

But the new T-series should shake things up a bit. It now looks like a modern arable workhorse should and on paper it offers just as much as its bright-red brethren.

To see if it delivers on those promises we got hold of a top-of-the range T234 Versu, hooked it to a 3m Sumo Trio and went to work on some fairly stiff Gloucestershire ground.

What’s new?

From the outside, the first thing you notice is that the tractor has a completely different stance to the old one.

Instead of having a good chunk of the bonnet hanging over the front axle, it now has a wheel on each corner. This means the wheelbase is longer and the tractor is more stable on the road.

The turning circle is also considerably tighter at 10.5m, compared with 12.2m on the old one. This stays the same if you fit wide tyres, a front linkage or loader, too.

© Jonathan Page

© Jonathan Page

But the biggest change by far is the cab. The old one had been knocking around for about 20 years and it showed. It was small, pretty noisy and the seating position was too low.

The controls were scattered about wherever there was a spare slot in the plastics and the passenger had to sit on a seat that looked like it had been pinched from one of Ebbsfleet United’s lesser grandstands.

The new one is a massive improvement. It’s light, airy and there’s plenty of space for the driver, passenger and all the other paraphernalia a tractor driver likes to lug around.

It is a five-pillar design so there’s one massive piece of glass on the right-hand side and a slim B-pillar on the left that means you get a smaller door that’s handy to open and shut.

Controls are all pretty much where you would expect them to be and it’s fairly obvious at a glance what everything does. It is quiet, too, and there is a mixture of floor and roof vents to keep your feet warm in the winter and your head cool in the summer.

The cab roof has been slimmed down massively, too, and the Finnish designers have managed to include an opening roof light for loader work and to let the fresh air in.

Valtra T234 Versu

Engine 7.4-litre Sisu with Adblue

Power (with boost) 235hp (250hp)

Torque (with boost) 930Nm (1,000Nm)

Transmission Versu semi-powershift

Rear lift capacity 9.5t

Weight 7.3t

Price £137,428

What’s not new?

Valtra claims there’s virtually nothing left of the old tractor, which isn’t quite true. A lot has changed, but there are still plenty of familiar bits and pieces lurking around from the old one.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. We’ve always rated the Finn’s forward/reverse shuttle lever and that remains virtually unchanged, other than a hill-hold function that we’ll come back to later.

The engine is still a Sisu – albeit a slightly newer and greener one – and these have always performed well when we’ve sent them to be tested at the DLG labs in Germany.

The transmissions are also similar and we tend to get on pretty well with them too – although the Direct stepless box isn’t the slickest on the market.

Not so good is the fact that Valtra has stuck with same funny little armrest screen that would look more at home on a 1990s games console.

It’s barely changed and still has a strange selection of menus with slightly obscure logos. Once you’ve got your head round it, it’s not actually that hard to use, but it would have been nice to see something a bit slicker.

Still confusing?

Valtra has clearly put a lot of effort into making the T-series easier to use. There are still traces of the Finn’s slightly bizarre logic, but on the whole it’s a pretty simple tractor to drive.

The controls are all grouped neatly either on the seat-mounted armrest or in a small bank of buttons and dials on the right-hand console. You still have to do some strange things in order to change the more obscure settings, but most people won’t ever need to tinker with these.

Better transmission?

Our tractor came with the semi-powershift Versu gearbox, which is almost identical to the old one – other than being beefed up a bit to take the extra hit of power from the bigger engine.

That means there are four ranges with five powershifts in each, which you can choose to shift manually or in one of two auto modes.

© Jonathan Page

© Jonathan Page

From a driver’s point of view it’s completely different, though. Instead of buttons for upshift, downshift and declutch, there’s a neat thumb-like stick. In its normal position it can be pushed back and forth to change powershift steps and the plus and minus buttons on the side control the range change.

But flick it right and it’s in auto mode. Here the tractor will flick up and down the powershifts for you and it will automatically change between ranges C and D. You still have to use the plus and minus buttons for the other range changes, though.

Likes and gripes

Likes

Roomy and quiet cab

Proper passenger seat – at last

Good driving position and visibility

Simplified control layout

Gripes

Tiny screen

Fridge too tall

Delay between C and D range change

Easy to accidentally flick in to auto shifting mode

This whole system is much more straightforward than the old one. The only problem is that it’s very easy to flick into auto mode when you’re pressing the range change buttons in manual.

Like before, Valtra offers two auto modes. Auto 1 is set up in the factory and can’t be adjusted easily, but flick into Auto 2 and keener drivers can play around with the shift points to their heart’s content.

On the Trio job we chose to drive in Auto 1 and let the tractor do the work for us. We just set a target speed using one of the pre-set cruise buttons and the tractor adjusted engine revs and powershifts on the job.

Like most of these systems it was a bit slow to react to changing conditions. That meant the engine would sometimes get dragged down too far before it started dropping the gears. It wasn’t bad though and at least it’s easy to flick into manual if you think you can do a better job.

Another new feature in the transmission department is the hill-hold function. This is controlled using the forward/reverse shuttle and will hold the tractor on a slope without you having to have your foot on the brake. You then step on the accelerator and it’ll pull away.

We’re not sure how often we’d use it, but it certainly makes it easy for the ropiest of drivers to do a hill start with a heavy load in tow.

Is it more powerful?

Yes. The T234 is a new, bigger model that has a rated power of 235hp and boosts to 250hp. Previously the biggest model with Versu gearbox was the 213, which pumped out 215hp as standard and boosted to 225hp.

Torque is up, too, at 930Nm standard and 1,000Nm with boost, and it meets the latest round of emissions regs. It’s still the same 7.4-litre block though – it’s just had a few upgrades.

Any back end changes?

The two most noticeable improvements are that the spool valves are now all on the left of the top link (rather than being split either side) and three pto speeds come as standard.

The electric spool paddles are as they were, but we liked them anyway. Other changes include a more powerful hydraulic pump and a higher rear-lift capacity.

© Jonathan Page

© Jonathan Page

Verdict

The new T-series ticked most of the boxes for us. We’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for old one, but the cab and control layout always let it down in tests.

Now that those things have been addressed there’s a much shorter list of things to grumble about. The screen is still a let down and looks a bit out of place in the revamped cabin, so we wouldn’t be surprised if a better one comes along in the next couple of years.

Underneath, it shares a few of the same mechanical elements as before. That’s no bad thing though as they’ve always been pretty good, particularly the Sisu engine.