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John Deere 1-Series vs Kubota BX

Tags :  1023e  |  1025r  | 

Neil from Messick's here with two subcompact tractors, a Kubota BX Series and a John Deere 1 Series. Walk around here with me and we'll make some comparisons between these two tractors. Generally, when I do a competitive comparison like this, I usually have a pretty good idea of what I'm going after when I go to talk about a model. Usually, there's some kind of critical flaw on a machine that you can point out that is something you really should watch out for. Initially, I didn't have anything like that in the back of my head about the 1 series. John Deere sells a fair amount of these tractors, there's a lot of them out there and you'll find a lot of fairly happy owners of them. That said, the more I walk around here, the more little things that I pick up on that were just not as refined as what I typically was used to from a Kubota tractor that I'm on and off of a lot more often. We'll start here at the front of the tractor and work our way back.

The loader is one place that I always find a lot of things on John Deere tractors that I'm just not thrilled about. If you look back here on the backside of the loader, the quick attach system for removing the bucket is one thing that's always a frustration to me. When you want to remove this loader bucket from the loader itself, you take this flip pins here at the back, flip them open and pull them off to allow the bucket to come off. Thats Nice and fine and you have a solution to remove the bucket, but then this coupler up here that's left at the front is not a universal coupler, it's a proprietary coupler. You'll notice that this is something that Deere does, they will repetitively try to lock customers into proprietary systems, forcing them to buy their overpriced implements.

On Kubota's model over here is a skid-steer style coupler and if you look at the back of the skid loader or about 80% of the compact tractors that are out there, you'll find these two handles with pins that drop to the bottom of the coupler. This coupler system is a universal industry standard coupler, it's not something that's proprietary to Kubota, opening up your loader to a whole world of additional attachments that could be fit to the front of this machine. Along with the skid-steer quick coupler, Kubota's also offering now a third function kit for this tractor. What a third function does is add two additional buttons to your loader stick to operate an extra set of hydraulic couplers out on the end of the loader. That allows you to do things like operate a hydraulic angle loader blade, run other hydraulic operated implements on your loader such as grapples. We're starting to see more and more customers picking up grapples all the time now. This tractor can do that simply by adding a Kubota third function kit. Those things can be worked up on just about every tractor. Third functions are new to Kubota on this series but for tractors in the past, and I'm sure on the Deere as well, you can go and have a shop work up the hydraulics that are necessary in order to do that function. The advantage of a factory kit in order to do it is that the installation is a lot cleaner. You'll find shields to go over top of things and clean routing for hoses and nice buttons on the end of the stick without having to hack and tape stuff for and up here. It's just a lot nicer when the factory provides a pathway for those kinds of implements, rather than having to have our shop work things up from scratch.

One frustration that I commonly have with most, every John Deere loader is the difficulty that you find, and in lifting the loader up and keeping your bucket level at the same time. Doing so requires you to stroke multiple functions with the loader stick and for some reason, it's-- That sweet spot is a lot harder to find on their loaders than what it is on other machines. If I start the tractor up, when I raise the loader up by pulling back and go to my right in order to level, I generally get one function or the other. The sweet spot that you need to find in order to raise and keep your bucket level is really small. You end up with this function of-- You end up getting either the boom or the bucket. Being able to find that point that you get both of them moving in unison as smoothly is really challenging. A lot more so than on a Kubota loader. 

Another thing that I noticed here as soon as I sat down that I didn't even plan on talking about is the position of the loader stick itself. On this tractor here, it's back by your side which is nice, it's the more modern way of doing it, but the stick itself is really low. When I set my elbow here on my armrest, I'm reaching down below the level point of the armrest in order to catch the loader valve. If they would have made the stick about three inches longer, I would have found it a lot more comfortable.

This is John Deere's Quik-Park loader and to release the loader from the tractor, you simply reach down and lift these two poles to unhook the loader from the machine which you can do here from this seat. It isn't radically different from the quick-release that Kubota uses as well two latches here at the rear. One difference though on the Kubota loader is when you go to remove the hydraulic hoses that attach to the tractor, the Kubota machine can do that all with a single lever quick-coupler. On the Deere, you have to back your tractor up and then get off the machine and then come around here to this side to release all of your hydraulic couplers. All these are located right here, the manifold around the side of the machine. It's a simple pioneer coupler that you pull the collar out and then pop the hose off, which are a little challenging to use down here at the deck. They also put the hydraulics down in a really low, low location where they're susceptible to damage. If you had the loader removed, your pioneer couplers and everything hang down here in a low position. It's susceptible to branches or something coming by and catching them. This may be nitpicking a little bit which I generally try to stay away from when going through these products, but the Quik-Park loader includes the stand right here to support the loader when the loader comes off.

One thing that would possibly bother me as an owner is that this is basically the front base of your tractor here, this is the piece that then gets put onto the asphalt. Likely as the machine ages and you take the loader on and off, you're going to rub and scrape the paint off of this piece which is going to be the piece that you look at [laughs] when you're looking at the front of your tractor. The Kubota's going to use a more traditional parking stand with legs that come down to support the loader and those pieces swing up and out of the way. It isn't something that you're constantly scraping up this big tubular piece across the ground.

As we move back into the tractor itself, we could start here by flipping up the hood. John Deere famously stands behind their use of plastic in tractors. I'm never so much a fan of the Rubbermaid hoods, but that's me. My impression is, metal can be painted easier, stands up better as things age and that kind of thing. Plastics tend to become brittle, but hey, yes. Six on one half, dozen on the other. One thing that is interesting to me when you look at these tractors, the John Deere physically looks a little bit bigger than the Kubota does. If you look down underneath the hood here, you can see why. There is a lot of air down here. Just dead space above the battery and on the sides of the engine and stuff. Where the Kubota's body panels are much tighter to the engine itself. While this looks a little bit bigger here through the operator's platform, it's not more tractor, it's just bulky and not as compact as what the Kubota design is. The Yanmar engine is used under the hood here, also does not have as much torque as what a Kubota does. Generally, if you go and you compare most any Yanmar engine to most any Kubota engine, in most cases, you'll find Kubota's having about a 10%-15% torque advantage over a Yanmar counterpart.

Torque is really important in a tractor like this, you are buying a diesel engine for its torque and its ability to lug and load. The additional torque from a Kubota means it's able to do more work even when their horsepower ratings might be very similar to each other. Another thing I think I would find challenging on this tractor is a more involved service than simply checking your engine oil. With the hood up like this, you can look in and you could see, "Hey, there is my battery, here's my oil fill and stuff."

If you need to get in and do a deep service on this tractor and actually remove the cowlings from around the front, unfortunately, you've got to get tools out. There are nuts and bolts holding the front here, for the side panels onto this front cowling, plastic clips down here around the bottom in order to hold things in place. Looking back in here, I can see things, like fuel pumps and alternators and all these pieces right here, including the battery as well, which is buried down inside of here. To get in and do some maintenance on these things as it-- Machines age and you have things to take care of. You got a lot to disassemble here in order to really get into the guts of the tractor. On the Kubota, this is a little bit different now. Since they redesigned this hood, you can actually take this entire hood assembly. See if I can do this from the wrong side of the tractor and roll the whole thing forward as one piece. With this hood tipped front, now the whole engine cleared down to the sides and everything that you could possibly want to get to is available right here just by flipping it and tipping it front. From the operator's position up here, there are some things that I'm just a little surprised to see. For a product that's been on the market for several, several years it's a lot of things up here that just aren't very refined for a tractor that’s been around for a while. For instance, when I look at the gauge cluster itself, I feel like I’m looking at a tractor from the ‘90s, just a lot of what I would call an idiot light, just a simple indicator light. Not very much information coming from your dash. It doesn’t appear to be backlit either. A far cry behind where Kubota is now in the 80 series tractors. When I look down to my left and my right, the operator’s platform is where I usually find controls over here on the pods on the side. I am finding myself hunting around a lot in order to find stuff.

A lot of things that would normally on a Kubota tractor be right up here on the fenders are instead located down almost underneath the seat. My selection for which PTO that I want to run or my four-wheel drive engagement levers are actually coming up from down here below the seat, as opposed to being located up here on control pods on the fenders. This is almost laughable to me. It’s the fuel gauge over here on the left-hand side is a little inch and a half, analogue, bouncy little needle thing on top of the fuel tank as opposed to being integrated into the dash and the instrument cluster where it belongs.

Over here on the side where I’d have my cupholder, great, nice and deep. Storage pocket, also nice and deep. My 12-volt outlet for my cellphone is located right here on the top. An issue that we’ve always had with these things in the past is when they are not covered up, they’ll start to corrode. This tractor here has 16 hours on it and already has corrosion happening inside of the DC socket. In their latest Kubota models, now that DC socket is put inside of the cupholder where it’s not going to be rained on and corrode and pick up moisture and those kinds of things.

Another thing that I often have noticed with the Yanmar engines in the past has been the noise level from them seems to be a little bit higher than I’m used to from other machines. This is a little decibel meter right here. I’m going to hold it right here by my ear and start the engine.The Deere topped out at 95.1 decibels. Let’s pop on over here to the Kubota and see how it compares. This comes up at 91.5, so right about three decibels quieter than the John Deere. Three decibels, if you remember, the decibel scale is logarithmic, so small changes are bigger than what they seem. That is a noticeable difference at full revs from one tractor to the next me sitting here. The number showed that the Kubota is quite a bit quieter tractor in operation.

You can see here these are both the backhoe versions of these two tractors. Again, I am just surprised by some of the things I find back here. Deere is capable of producing some really good quality equipment. There’re some things in here that just feel unfinished and unthought out to me. When we go through and we look at the cleanliness of the design of the steel that covers up the controls, for instance. The control pods here on the backhoe on the Deere versus what’s on the Kubota look worlds apart from each other. The Kubota just looks more refined and more thought out like there was more care put into it. The hydraulic hoses in order to attach the backhoe to the tractor hydraulics. In the case of the Deere right here, I’ve got this hard line coming out back here right by my rear tire and a coupler laying on top of the deck. This right-angled hose here is kinked over, as it goes back underneath. Somehow, I guess-- Now I am not sure how you would arrange this to clean it up and get it out of the way versus over here on Kubota’s machines. The hydraulic hoses come out here on right angle couplers and drop right immediately below the backhoe where they’re out of the way of your feet and out of the way of damage.

Looking around the rest of the machine here, there’re some places where I’m seeing steel weldments instead of castings. Deere is capable of creating some amazing castings, the castings up here on the loader for this pole and the loader mounts in down here are really robust and nicely done. On the Deere 3 Series machines and stuff that we just went over there’s a big castings coming out of the side to support the loader. They can build that kind of stuff, but for some reason, back here they’re choosing not to use it. The swing-point’s back in here for the loader are cut steel where Kubota is using significant good castings. It’s just surprising to see that. Cut steel versus a nice casting. Again, cost saving measures, maybe. I suppose, but it’s just surprising. Deere is capable of better than this. This is some of the stuff that we’re finding in this tractor.

Removing this backhoe from the tractor is just like virtually every other backhoe that you’ll find. You simply use the hoe to pick the back of the tractor up in the air and then remove these two pins, right here from the left and the right side, and then lift the backhoe away from the tractor. Kubota went and did one step better here on this latest series machine by utilizing this- I call it a cam. It reaches back and grabs the tractor, and can be released by rotating an arm in order to take the backhoe off. One thing that this should really improve upon is removal of the hoe as years go down the road. One issue that we see on backhoe equipped tractors is that the owners aren’t quick to remove the backhoe. They often leave it on the machine. As that pin sits in that hole, it’s apt to rust in place a little bit or the paint’s going to cause it to stick where this cam system should release easily ever years down the road.

Another difference that you’ll find here on the backhoe side of things is the roll bar. I consider the roll bar part of the backhoe equipment because both of these machines use swivel seats in order to operate the hoe. You’ll notice here the Kubota uses a wider and higher roll bar on the backhoe version of these tractors than they do on the non-backhoe version. John Deere uses the same roll bar across all of these machines. Why that matters is because when you rotate the seat into the backhoe position, this roll bar offers a lot more width and height in order to comfortably sit underneath the roll bar. You’re less apt to bang your forehead on it or catch your elbow on it when you’re spinning around to the rear position than you are on this, which isn’t nearly as spacious underneath. Like I said, this is unique to this backhoe variant. The Kubota tractor loader backhoe versions are dedicated TLBs that come from the factory set-up this way, and so they have additional equipment on them for those backhoe applications, that the regular tractor loader or mower setups don't have.

To be completely fair in my comparison here, I do need to acknowledge a couple of places where the Deere tractor does have an edge on the Kubota. It drives me wild when somebody does a competitive comparison and just blindly glances overtop of the things that one tractor may actually exhibit over the other. In the case of this, one of the most obvious things that you can point out is the three-point hitch control on the John Deere, what’s called a position control where the Kubota uses a quarter inch in valve. John Deere will have a one through eight position for the position of the three-point hitch, while the Kubota is simply up and down. Generally, we haven’t found this to be a big issue with our customers in a small tractor like this because generally you’re going to have your hitch in the up position or the down position and nowhere in between. The in-betweens would usually be used in some kind of grading application if you were dragging a box blade, for instance, but that’s typically something that we don’t see customers do with this size tractor. It’s physically not a big enough, heavy enough machine to do meaningful ground engaging work with the three-point hitch. Not been so much of an issue for our customers, but I did want to acknowledge that something that this tractor offers that the Kubota does not.

Beyond that, I’m not sure there’s a whole lot I can point to. Both tractors have drive-over mower decks. I was going to demo the Deere deck but I couldn’t figure out how it works. I personally don’t love any drive-over mower deck. Other than that, I can’t see anything over here that I can say is a John Deere advantage. Position control, but other than that, to me, the Kubota offers a more compelling value in terms of generally being less expensive. We all know this green paint carries an unnecessary premium.

Being a better engineered, better thought out tractor, this is the tractor that Kubota sells a huge amount of. Our dealership alone sells around 250 BX tractors every year, about 60 or 70 of this backhoe variant. They’re incredibly popular machines that have done very, very well for us and we have a lot of very happy owners out there.

If you’re looking for a sub-compact, then we can help you. Give us a call Messick. We’re available at 800-222-3373 or online at 

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