Reviewed - Tractors

A flatpack tractor and a John Deere sub compact tested at Mysercough College. Sally Drury reports.

Siromer 244E - image: HW
Siromer 244E - image: HW

Coming at a bargain price, the Siromer tractor has already had an impact working on smallholdings, undertaking conservation work and even hauling boats out of the water in the Lake District. We decide to test it. Only one problem - we have to build it first. In this review, Myerscough College's level 2 mechanics find out how easy, or difficult, it is to build your own tractor. Then we test drive it.

See tractor listings, buyers' guides and reviews at Whatkit.co.uk

The John Deere 1026R is classed as a sub-compact tractor. It comes with a mid-mounted mower but will take a range of implements on the rear and has features normally expected on larger models. We look at its suitability for use in a wide range of situations - including its potential as a training unit for learner drivers. Conditions on the day of the tests were dry and sunny, but puddles remained from previous rainfall.

- Siromer 244E

All this for just £5,600? If value for money is your priority, then you must have a closer look at this tractor. More than 3,000 Siromer units have been sold in the UK over the past 13 years and it is said that wherever you are in the country, you will be within 10 miles of a Siromer owner - and that includes the Isle of Wight.

Siromer tractors, ranging from 20hp to 40hp, come from China. You can buy them ready-built (adds about £750-£1,000 to the price) but we opt for the even greater value-for-money route - we build it ourselves. In fact, we build two.

Flatpack tractor

Siromer tractors arrive in the UK in flatpack form in a metal crate. They are EU-approved and come with high-torque Tier III water-cooled diesel engine, separate power-steering pump, selectable four-wheel drive, creeper gearbox giving 12 forward and four reverse speeds and dual-stage clutch.

The deck is semi-flat and there is a side hand throttle, quick-release ratchet handbrake, full electronic dash, dip and main-beam headlights, sprung-comfort seat, folding ROPS, front and rear towing hitch, Hi Lift hydraulics, two-speed PTO (540/1,000), Cat I three-point linkage and a choice of "ag" or turf tyres.

The specification seems more than generous for the price, but how easy is it to build the tractor? We ask Myerscough College level 2 mechanics students to give us a hand. They have only been in college for six weeks but are full of enthusiasm and know a thing or two about spanners.

Classroom duties mean we are not able to build a tractor in one go, but totting up the hours we reckon two people should comfortably be able to assemble a Siromer tractor within five or six hours - a vast improvement on the Siromers first brought into the country in the late 1990s. Most of the tedious work has been removed and now it is really just an "assemble and connect" job.

Perhaps embarrassingly, our biggest problem proves to be removing the crate. You either need a forklift, hoist or a lot of patience. "The most difficult part was unbolting the crate and taking the parts out," Burland confirms. "But you need to get the tractor chassis up in the air to get the bottom of the crate away. You need a hoist or forklift, otherwise you have to resort to cutting the metal bars of the crate away from under the tractor to be able to position the axle stands and then pop the wheels on."

First job

We fetch a forklift. After that, things run smoothly for our young mechanics. The tractor body consists of full engine, gearboxes and front and rear axles attached to the chassis. First job is attaching the front weight bar then the front wheels and the rear wheels. Already it is starting to look like a proper tractor.

The ancillary equipment comes next - drawbar, PTO shaft guard cover, fan belt adjustment and step adjustment. Attaching the mudguards, roll bar and rear cover prove to be tricky and, while Siromer UK's own mechanic has mastered the technique, we call in all hands to hold pieces in place while long bolts are secured on each side.

"Care is needed with the roll frame. You have to put it on right. There are six bolts in the bottom, bolting around the axle, and there are four into the side. They are important for the roll frame to function in the event of a roll," says Burland.

At the front of the tractor, another young mechanic puts the battery in place, the bonnet is fitted and the exhaust put in place. We have an issue with one bonnet, but being fibreglass we are able to take a file to it. Side panels then go on easily and electrical snap-fit connections are made. The throttle and handbrake are connected and then adjusted.

With seat and steering wheel in place, we turn our attention to the three-point linkage and hydraulics. The hydraulic levers on one of the tractors are difficult to seat and once again we require more than one pair of hands.

With all nuts and bolts checked and tightened, we replace the shipping oils with UK specification oils, add coolant, check nipples are greased, add fuel and finally connect the battery. Will it work?

Successful start

A couple of turns of the key results in a puff of smoke from the exhaust and the engine fires into life. With the right equipment, building a flatpack tractor is not as difficult as you might think. "There were no major issues with the build, just little problems," says Burland. "You would need a little mechanical knowledge and inclination but it is really straight forward - although a few more diagrams in the manual would be helpful."

And so onto the test drive. France drives the 244E down to the test track. "My first impressions are that it's not a bad little tractor and would be good for smallholdings and conservation areas," he says. The Siromer looks large as it stands next to the dinky little John Deere 1026R, yet surprisingly has the smaller engine. We like its versatility.

"It's a multipurpose tractor, capable of loader work and cultivation as well as mowing," says Trice. "And it looks well built." Well, he had to say that, didn't he? But joking aside, the 244E does give an air of functional strength. It is sturdy.

The Siromer might not have the sleek styling that some other tractor manufacturers offer in the UK. But that does not put Lunniss off. She learned to drive on a big agricultural tractor, which she admits she found intimidating at the time. "The size and build of the Siromer give you confidence to drive it. It's great - you can jump on and go," she explains. "It has great applications and can certainly do the jobs we need in countryside and habitat management."

The gears seem a bit stiff but we expect them to wear in. However, we have no trouble with identifying the controls - everything is where you would expect it to be - and no difficulties using the tractor in general. Most students find it easy to drive. There is plenty of room on the operator platform and the ride is fairly smooth. The seat is comfortable.

Thornton is impressed, especially with the price. "It's half the price of a lot of other tractors," he says. "Yet it is multipurpose and looks strong. It has a nice turning circle, which is useful for yard work and confined spaces." He also thinks it makes a good training tractor. "It's good for students. It's not got a synchromesh box so they quickly learn the difference."

The 244E supplies everything needed, and a bit more, from a tractor of this size. The question is: do you buy it ready-made or build it yourself? In truth, there is something rewarding about putting the tractor together. It gives you a sense of ownership as well a greater understanding of the mechanical bits and bobs and, should anything go wrong in the future, you are more likely to know what is required to put it right.

Siromer also supplies a wide range of implements, from cultivators and harrows to mowers, hedge cutters, sprayers, loaders, blades and trailers.

Specifications

Engine: 24hp (17.6kW) vertical, water-cooled, three-cylinder, direct-injection diesel

Transmission: Mechanical 12f/4r (3+1 high/low and creeper)

Max speed: 26.35kmph

Brakes Foot: combined/independent left and right; Hand brake: EU ratchet

Steering: Hydraulic ram, hydrostatic

Differential lock: Selectable engage/disengage

Four-wheel drive: Four-wheel/two-wheel drive engage/disengage

Hydraulic flow: 20 litres/min

Cat I three-point hitch: Standard

Lift capacity at lift points: 800kg

Lift capacity 610mm behind lift ends: 428kg

PTO: Semi-independent dual speed rear

PTO speed: 1,000/540

Spool valves: Dual double-acting spool

Gauges/indicators: Oil pressure, rev counter, engine temperature, hour meter, ammeter, fuel gauge

ROPS Standard

Total length: 2.69m

Total width: 1.46m

Wheelbase: 1.56m

Turning circle: 3.2m

Height: 2.35m ROPS folded

Weight: 1,650kg

Turf tyres: 7.50-12 front/11.2-20 rear

Wide ag tyres: 6.0-12 front/12.5-18 rear

Chinese ag standard tyres: 6.0-12 front/8.3-24 rear

List price: £5,600 + VAT flatpack - expect to pay £750-£1,000 more to have it built for you

Tel: Siromer Tractors UK - 01253 799029

John Deere 1026R

Do not be mistaken. With its small-sized rear wheels, the 1026R may take on the appearance of an oversized lawn tractor, but it has a lot going for it. It provides best-in-class power, performance and versatility.

It also offers a number of standard features you would normally only expect on larger machines. In use, it is nippy, turns well and gives confidence with its John Deere build. The power from such a small machine has to be experienced.

A completely new model from the company that makes grounds care, turf and agricultural kit, the 1026R sub-compact should appeal to residential and commercial users who need to do more than just cut grass.

The mower deck is quick to detach and re-attach. Its rear linkage taking a range of implements and the ability to mount front implements or to fit a front-end loader make it suitable for councils, municipalities, private contractors, landscapers, owners of large property and smallholders.

Ease of use

The 1026R has a 26hp three-cylinder diesel engine (23.8hp rated at ECE R24) and a two-range hydrostatic transmission with Twin Touch pedals for ease of use and precise operation. Both four-wheel drive and power steering are standard. Together with the compact size of the tractor, the result is excellent manoeuvrability in all conditions. A track width of 1.2m - wider than expected for a sub-compact - provides stability.

"It's got a tight turning circle - you can fairly whip it round. It's quick, nippy between forward and reverse and it gives a smooth ride - not much bouncing, even at high speed," says France. "It's like a large lawn mower but the loader and other attachments could be useful for smallholdings and work on estates, parks and in conservation areas."

Another student adds: "It's very responsive - you can wheelspin it." Additional comfort and simple operation are provided by the flat-floor, easy-to-access platform, standard cruise control and tiltable steering column as well as a deluxe suspended seat. A high-specification lighting package, a 12V outlet and a foldable Roll-Gard ROPS are also standard.

"I found it a bit tight between the seat and steering wheel but it does adjust so it is possible to access and exit and be comfortable," notes France. "All the controls are easy to identify and there is HI and LO in the hydrostatic, so you can drop it down if needed."

Another student finds the seat to be a little too far forward but has no complaints about the controls. All of the controls are easily identified and use the same colour-coding system as on JD's larger tractors - making it ideal as a tractor to learn on before moving on to something bigger and more powerful. Everyone likes the hydrostatic transmission. "Spot on," yells one tester.

The new 1026R can carry dozens of attachments and implements, including a quick-attach front loader with a lift capacity of 380kg to full height. The tractor's three-point linkage with position control has a maximum lift capacity of 525kg at the link ends or 309kg at 61cm behind the link arms.

A Category 0 front hitch is also available, designed specially for the European market. It means that you can use the 1026R with cultivation kit, brushes, snow-clearance equipment and other mowing machinery.

Mower deck

The 3.5mm or 4.5mm thick mid-mounted mower deck is available in cutting widths of 1.37 or 1.52 respectively, and uses JD's AutoConnect system to quickly attach it ready for work. Simply drive over the deck ramps, listen for the two clicks and you are done. There is no need to leave the seat.

Cutting height can also be adjusted from the seat while lifting and lowering of the deck uses an independent system controlled by the standard front loader joystick.

We test the open-station version, but an optional comfort cab, with large doors, deluxe cloth seat and integrated work lights, is also available. Overall height with cab fitted is still under 2m, making this a useful tractor for accessing low buildings and polytunnels or for working close to trees and other obstacles. All in all, this tractor has far more going for it than first appears and it could find work in a lot of different situations.

Specifications

Engine: Yanmar 26hp (18.5kW) three-cylinder diesel

Rated: PTO 18hp (13.5kW)

Max torque: 63.7Nm @ 1,900rpm

Transmission: hydro two-pedal automatic

Max speed: 9.1mph (14.6kmph)

Brakes: Wet disc

Steering: Power steering

Differential lock: Standard

Four-wheel driveP: Standard

Hydraulic system: Open centre 148bar

Total flow: 24 litres/min

Implement: 13.2 litres/min

Cat I three-point hitch: Standard

Lift capacity at lift points: 525kg

Lift capacity 610mm behind lift ends: 309kg

PTO: Independent rear and mid (front optional)

PTO speed: 540 rear/2,100 mid and front

ROPS: Standard complies with ASAE, OSH standards

Total length: 2.85m

Total width: 1.2m

Wheelbase: 1.45m

Height: 2.28m ROPS/1.99m cab

Weight: 700kg (850kg with cab)

Towing capacity: 1,370kg

Turf tyres: 18x8.5-10 front/26x12-12 rear

Industrial tyres: 18x8.5-10 front/26x12-12 rear

List price pounds: 11,300 + VAT

Tel: John Deere - 01949 860491


The Review Panel

Martin Burland, part-time mechanisation instructor, Myerscough College, Lancashire

Mark France, degree-level mechanisation student, Myerscough College, Lancashire

Kate Lunniss, level 3 diploma countryside management student, Myerscough College, Lancashire

David Thornton, agriculture instructor, Myerscough College, Lancashire

Chris Trice, horticultural machinery lecturer, Myerscough College, Lancashire

Countryside and habitat students, Myerscough College, Lancashire


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