Twenty years ago Kubota introduced the G3 ride-on mower. Updated and upgraded over the years, it is now designated the G23-II Twin Cut. It is a powerful machine with Kubota's own three-cylinder, ETVCS water-cooled diesel engine. Nothing wrong there then. We expect exceptional power and efficiency and that's what we get, but not straight way.
With the induction complete, it was foot on brake, start engine and off mowing down the hill. But we quickly stalled. As with the John Deere, we started too low and had to raise the cutting height by twisting the dial. Then it was a great drive.
The G23-II is certainly agile and it makes sharp turns to cut in tight spaces. Like the John Deere, the Kubota is hydrostatic. But on this one there is only one pedal. Push down on the front to make the machine go forwards or heel down on the back for reverse. The same orange/yellow/black colour coding is used and there is also a diff lock to get you out of sticky patches. For kerb climbing, the deck raises to 150mm.
"It's a really nippy machine - zips around," says Baldwin. "I like the single pedal. It's simple and makes the machine so manoeuvrable that you get an area cut quickly. It feels a little faster than the John Deere but if you're not careful you can experience more bounce at very high speeds."
Removing grass remnants or a blockage from the chute requires the pulling of a lever, but on the Kubota there are two levers. It's a long chute. From the driving seat, an easy-reach lever rotates the jump plate inside the chute to clear any accumulated grass into the collector. Another lever positioned on the deck helps clear any blockages should they occur right at the front of the chute.
There is also a reverse cutting ability. Kubota calls it the KRAS, or Kubota Reverse Awareness System. Just like on the John Deere, engaging reverse immediately knocks out the PTO. The KRAS overcomes this at the push of a button. Baldwin finds it easier to engage. "It seems more reliable," he comments. "You get it every time."
The main difference lies in the operation of the deck and collector. Whereas on the John Deere these functions are controlled by a single joystick, on the Kubota the operations are performed by separate levers - one to lift and lower the deck, one to open and close the hopper. As not everyone feels at home operating a joystick, this provides a good alternative.
The fatigue-reducing hydrostatic power steering is appreciated when cornering and mowing around trees, although the tight turning circle unnerves a few of the faster-driving students. "Thank goodness for the seat belt. I thought I was going to fall off," says one.
With the lesson about speed learnt, we inspect the machine for its daily checks. The coolant is a sight check - the dip stick and air filter are easy to access. The dash is clear and easy to read.
Only the seat adjusts, not the steering wheel. Nevertheless, this mower does not lack in comfort. The seat is comfortable and the operator's platform roomy. We put it to the vote again and find four out of 10 students would prefer to use the Kubota if they had to mow all day.
Engine: Three-cylinder water-cooled Kubota D902 diesel, 23.3hp at
Transmission: Hydrostatic, F/R single pedal
Drive: Two-wheel drive
Diff lock: Standard
Cruise control: Standard
Speed: 15.5kmh forward
Brakes: Internal wet disc
Fuel tank capacity: 20.5 litres
PTO engagement: Electric drive clutch
Mower drive: Gear
Deck lift/lower: Hydraulic
Width of cut: 48in (122cm), 54in (137cm) optional
Height of cut: 1-4in (25-100mm) in - in steps via dial
Number of blades: Two, each 673mm long
Collector capacity: 560 litres
Fill indicator: Standard - audible and dashboard indicator
Turning radius: 1.55m uncut diameter
Weight: 720kg (with mower and collector)
Width: c/w 48in deck 1.15m
Ground clearance: 23cm
Wheel base: 1.39m
List price: £10,510 + VAT
Tel: Kubota (UK) - 01844 268000
Tested This Issue
John Deere X950R (low dump)
Kubota G23-II (low dump)
The Review Panel
Mike Baldwin, director of learning, Derby College Broomfield Campus
Level 3 horticulture students, Derby College Broomfield Campus
Covering the ground quickly, ride-on mowers are popular in commercial situations. More often than not, the clippings will be left in situ and gradually decompose. But sometimes it is important to collect them - perhaps in play areas in housing estates, lawns outside country houses and the part of the park where office workers take their sandwiches at lunchtime.
In such places it is increasingly accepted that clippings should be removed, not only because large clumps of mow grass can look unsightly but so they are not carried away on feet and trampled into the carpets of houses and work centres.
In this test we look at two collecting mowers. Both work on the same concept, having mid-mounted twin-bladed rotary mowers of the same cutting width. They have similar sized engines and almost the same collector capacity. Both are hydrostatic, feature low dump of the clippings, offer visual and audible warnings when the box is full and have a mechanism for unblocking the chute from the seat. We really are testing like-for-like in this one.
The test took place at the Broomfield Campus of Derby College with director of learning Mike Baldwin leading the review. He was assisted by level 3 horticulture students, enthusiastic to gain as much experience as they can before leaving college this summer. Many already have jobs in the industry. Conditions on the day of the test were dry, warm and sunny.