Based on the design of agricultural tractors, compact tractors give most things needed for use in horticulture, landscaping, estate and turf works. Specify them on appropriate tyres and the compact provides the means to cultivate, shift materials, haul loads, mow and maintain turf.
While they are intended for hard work, it is still important that you choose the right tractor for your operation. Performance and productivity are crucial these days, and to reduce operator fatigue it is also important to choose a tractor that is comfortable.
In this test we look at just one unit - the John Deere 3045R. It is a utility tractor and as such is an all-rounder. JD has packed it with advance features and comforts that you might only expect on larger agricultural units. But what will our tester make of it?
We asked Keith Hoare, grounds supervisor at Bridgwater College, to put the 3045R through its paces. Hoare has spent his life working in horticulture, starting with the London Borough of Barnet when he was 16 years old. He has also had spells at East Dorset and North Somerset councils, among others, and has spent the past four years tending the grounds and sports facilities at Bridgwater College.
The test was conducted at the Cannington Campus of the college and the weather on the day was sunny and dry.
Keith Hoare, grounds supervisor, Bridgwater College, Somerset
John Deere 3045R
It is clear from the minute this tractor is delivered to us by Mason Kings that this is a truly versatile unit. On the front is a John Deere H165 loader. Slung underneath is John Deere's Drive-Over AutoConnect rotary mower. At the rear, the three-point linkage clinks as it waits for an implement to be attached. If you have got a lot of different jobs to do - building, tilling, aerating, mowing, loading and trailer work - be sure to take a look at the 3045R.
Top model in John Deere's mid-chassis 3R Series utility tractor range, the 3045R was introduced last year. Big and bold, this tractor is also good looking. There is nothing "toy" about this - it has the appearance of a farm tractor but is in fact a powerful compact. It has a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder, turbocharged, intercooled Yanmar diesel engine providing 44.6hp and featuring a high torque reserve to provide plenty of power under load.
Four-wheel drive is standard on the 3045R, helping to increase pulling power and improve traction in slippery conditions. It can be engaged or disengaged on the go when the tractor is not under load - useful in loader work. A foot-activated diff lock also comes as standard to assist traction through the rear wheels when the going gets tough.
It has John Deere's eHydro (electronic hydrostatic) transmission, which combines a three-range electronic hydrostatic unit with simple-to-use TwinTouch forward/reverse pedals to give direction of travel and speed. That means no clutching - a must for those quick changes in direction when looking to up the stakes in loader work - and even at full throttle the transmission allows infinite ground speed so that the tractor's speed can be matched perfectly to the job in hand.
Tied in to the transmission is the cruise control. This is located on the control pad of the console to the right of the driver and works just like in a car to give precise speed setting. Power steering is a great help when mowing around obstacles.
But it is the advanced features on this tractor that really up its versatility. Helping with loading operations is the MotionMatch feature. Set via a switch on the control pad, MotionMatch offers seven settings for longer/shorter acceleration/deceleration distances.
Another advanced feature, the LoadMatch function, comes to our aid when moving heavy loads and mowing thick grass. If torque requirements increase significantly, the transmission automatically reduces the tractor's drive speed to compensate for the increased load on the transmission, so maximising torque to the drive wheels and minimising stalls.
A third feature, SpeedMatch, enhances the eHydro cruise control by allowing the operator to preset a maximum speed - useful when operating rear-mounted implements such as aerators, when spraying or when manoeuvring in confined spaces such as the workshop or machinery shed.
Our unit is sat on golf tyres. They are quality, and combined with the transmission features of the 3045R they make for a gentle drive when turning on turf.
Controlling the power take-offs (PTOs) is via the M-B-R selector lever to the right of the driver. You can run the mid and rear PTOs at the same time. Simply choose M for mid, R or rear or B for both and then pull the PTO switch to the right of the dash. The speed of lifting the rear implement can be adjusted.
While it may look a beast of a compact tractor, the 3045R oozes comfort features. Hoare nearly hits his head on the mirror as he climbs onto the tractor but once he is in the seat he finds all controls are within easy and convenient reach. The steering wheel tilts for comfort and the commanding seat position gives excellent all-round visibility.
The seat is air-suspended, providing the driver with a joltand vibration-free ride. "It certainly is a comfortable tractor," says Hoare. "I would be happy to sit on it all day - comfort is very important."
We use the open station model, but for the ultimate in comfort you should perhaps consider the cabbed version. It has a high-performance air-conditioning and heating system, and should help to block out some of the engine noise. This is a premium tractor but is not that quiet. "It does seem a bit on the noisy side," notes Hoare. "I am glad I've got my ear defenders." But he likes the clear dashboard. "The panel lights up well and you can still read it when the sun is shining across it."
This tractor has all the safety features we would expect, including road homologation as standard.
The wraparound-style halogen lights provide a wide angle for better night-time visibility and optional rear work light kits are available. There is also an operator presence control system under the seat, a roll-over protective structure (ROPS), with reflective strips, for safety and the key switch prevents bypass starting.
Lights on the dash indicate when the rear or mid PTO is running and there is a Reverse Implement Option for safe mid-PTO operation. The park brake must be on and the transmission in the neutral position if you want to run the rear PTO while not in the seat.
Maintenance looks a doddle. Access for daily checks - engine oil, hydraulic oil, coolant and water separator - is easy and can be completed without tools. For more periodic checks, the hood is released by a single-point latch mechanism. The tractor is equipped with on-board self-diagnostic features.
The model that is loaned to us is fitted with the H165 front loader. Quick and easy to attach and remove, it has a maximum lift capacity of 964kg and lift height of 2.6m. A built-in parking stand automatically moves into position when the loader is demounted.
A wide range of implements can be fitted to the rear of the tractor but if you want to mow we suggest you look at John Deere's AutoConnect drive-over rotary mower. No more sliding the mower in from the side and fiddling to connect. Simply line up the front wheels with the reinforced wheel-paths on the mower deck, drive forwards onto and over the deck and the driveshaft automatically connects. Reverse off to disconnect.
The AutoConnect mower is available in two cutting widths - 1.5m and 1.8m. Both are side-discharge units but they will mulch and can additionally be equipped with an optional materials collection system if removable of the clippings is required.
Hoare's verdict: "It is a beast of a tractor yet in a compact package. I think this is a great machine for parks. You can load mulch and compost, mow, take it over the pitches with a Verti-Drain. It's very versatile and a pleasure to drive. It is roomy and clear for mounting and dismounting, although you have to watch your head on the mirror. I am used to single-pedal operation so the twin pedals are unusual for me, but they are soon mastered, and the steering is very responsive."
Engine Three-cylinder turbocharged 44.6hp (32.8kW @ 2,600rpm) Yanmar
Max torque 137Nm @ 1,560rpm
Fuel tank Open station: 51 litres/Cab version: 47 litres
Transmission eHydro two-pedal automatic
Max speed 19mph (30.6kmh)
Brakes Wet disc
Steering Power steering
Diff lock Standard
Four-wheel drive Standard
Hydraulics Open centre
Flow 52.5l/min total, 32.5l/min implement, 20l/min steering
Hitch Cat 1 three-point standard
Lift capacity At lift points: 1,148kg/61cm behind lift ends: 999kg
PTO 540 independent, rear and mid standard, front optional
ROPS (or cab) ASAE, OSH standards compliant
Total length 3.23m
Total width 1.32-1.73m
Height ROPS: 2.33-2.37m/cab: 2.26-2.28m
Weight 1,400kg (1,700kg cab)
Total permissible weight 3,180kg
Towing capacity 4,000kg
Tyres Turf, golf, industrial, agricultural
List price c/w ROPS: £23,007 + VAT; complete with 1.5m AutoConnect mower: £26,757 + VAT (£27,668 for 1.8m mower); basic H165 front loaders start at £4,045 + VAT but without ballast or bucket
Tel John Deere - 01949 860491.