Recently, I attended a press day with E.P. Barrus Ltd at the company's headquarters in Bicester, Oxfordshire. The occasion was the launch of their new Cub Cadet Big Country 4x4 utility vehicle. I was in the company of a number of journalists from other trade magazine putting the vehicle through its paces.
These press days are all well and good, but they simply cannot put the machine in a full on working environment. Time just does not allow. So, working closely with Angie Jamieson, Publicity & Marketing Executive at Barrus, we agreed a format for trialing the Cub Cadet with a number of Pitchcare members.
Barrus dealers delivered the vehicle to six separate venues leaving the vehicle on site for a few days to enable the staff to put it through its paces in their own environment and, importantly, without the attendant pressure of sales reps.
The six sites chosen were:
Harper Adams University (Newport, Shropshire), Groundsman Tom Joslyn
Rugby School (Rugby, Warwickshire), Groundsman Ronald Werkman
St Albans School (Harpenden, Hertfordshire), Head Groundsman Ian Smith
Wolverhampton Wanderers FC, Assistant Groundsman, Ken Bates
Ashridge Golf Club ( Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire), Course Manager Sean Jarvis
The vehicle on test was the Cub Cadet Caterpillar diesel powered 3 cylinders 20 hp 4X4 utility vehicle with full ROPS safety, capable of speeds up to 25mph and with a loading bed capacity of 400Kg and a towing capacity of 500Kg.
Each independent tester was asked to answer fifteen questions about the vehicle's performance and give a score between one to five, with five being the best.
The benefit of conducting this sort of trial allows the end user the opportunity to try out new products and provide valuable feedback to the company.
The results are as follows:.
1. What first impression do you have of the Cub Cadet UTV?
Tom Joslyn: First Impressions of the Cub Cadet was that it was a large, well built and heavy duty vehicle. It was also considered to be quite wide and relatively short. Rating: 4
Ronald Werkman: A smart looking vehicle, solidly built and looks as if it is capable enough to perform the work that it is intended for. (4)
Ian Smith: When it arrived all the staff thought it looked the part. Ours was in the camouflage body colour; good if you are using it for conservation work and you don't want to stick out like a sore thumb. (4)
Jim Cassidy: It would not look out of place on the streets of Baghdad with the camouflage bodywork and its rugged looks. (5)
Ken Bates: Smart and robust looking vehicle. (4)
Sean Jarvis: On arrival I thought, 'it's quite big, probably too big and over engineered for our application'. It was solid in construction, wasn't impressed though by the camouflage bodywork, which was also a thin plastic/fibreglass which I thought would be damaged easily. Machine was delivered with tyres too aggressive for a golf course application! (3)
2) Starting procedure and ease of starting operation?
TJ: Straight forward with alarms to prompt you should you forget something. Rating: 5
IS: The pre-start checks were okay, the dip stick is not that obvious - maybe a sticker to point you in the right direction. (5)
JC: Starting was easy, engage neutral, a good safety feature, and away you go. If you engage gear and the hand brake is on there is a rather annoying beeping to warn you. (4)
KB: Does not start very well on cold mornings. (2)
SJ: Very easy, it was a case of just put it in neutral, and turn the key. Started first time every time. (5)
3) Fuel - ease of filling and how much fuel used? Is it economical to run?
TJ: Very economical to run over the period of the trial and refuelling was easy and similar to a standard car. Rating: 5
RW: Refilling is easy and the vehicle is economical to run. (5)
IS: Fuel fill up fine. Starting up was very easy although the engine is a little on the noisy side. (5)
JC: No problem with filling. I don't know how economical it is as we did not have the machine for a long enough time to evaluate. (3)
KB: Fuel filling no problem. (4)
SJ: The fuel filler was in an easy and accessible location, however I didn't need to fuel up so I couldn't comment on how economical it was. (5)
4) Road speed/gear ratios - ease of gear changing?
TJ: With a top speed of 25mph it was quick on flat ground. Gear changing was simple; however it must be stationary to do this. When reversing it was either too slow or too fast and there was no gradual increase in speed and therefore no mediocre speed to reverse at. Rating: 3.5
RW: The road speed is excellent and the gear changing is very smooth. (5)
IS: Travelling speed was very good. With a site as big as ours, and with a staff of just six, we have to be productive. We currently run Club Cars and a John Deere 6x4 Gator and the Cub Cadet is significantly quicker than both. At the same time it seems stable. With the extra speed you need a good braking system which it seems to have. (4)
JC: It is quick, maybe a little too fast for use on a golf course in the wrong hands, but I am sure this could be governed. The gear lever is clunky and not smooth to engage. There is plenty of torque from the Perkins diesel engine. (3.5)
KB: Very quick for type of vehicle. Gear change no problem. (5)
SJ: Basically the machine has forward and reverse operation and no gear change as such; on the road it was quite fast, in my opinion too fast for a golf course application. For that reason I would have to mark it down as a 3.
5) Driving position and operator visibility -subject to there being a cab, how easy does the shape of the UTV allow clear view in all directions?
TJ: Allows good visibility all around and the seating position is relatively high which aids this. However, with the vehicle being quite wide, it can be difficult to judge some manoeuvres. The left hand drive can take some getting used to. Rating: 4
RW: Driving position is ok, little bit awkward to get in for the driver as parts of the metal frame are in the way. Visibility is excellent, clear view all around. (5)
IS: The driving position seemed comfortable with good visibility. (4)
JC: Good driving position, no cab fitted but visibility is good. (4)
KB: Once I became familiar with the left hand driving position I was okay! All round clear view. Slim roll bars do not obstruct view. Do not know what cab looks like so cannot comment. (3)
SJ: No concerns. (5)
6) Control layout - does the operator have easy access to all controls, in terms of throttle, gears, hand br
ake, switches (indicators/beacon)?
TJ: All the controls were in easy reach for the operator, although some of the switches were on the small side. When first learning to use the vehicle it can take time to locate certain controls on the dash board. The indicator switch, for example, is an important and frequently used switch but is small and insignificant in appearance. Rating: 3
RW: Control layout is user friendly, but switches are quite far away. For instance, leaning forward to look for the indicator switch could be a potential hazard while driving. Throttle and handbrakes are easy to get to. (3)
IS: Control layout is user friendly. (5)
JC: All controls are close to hand, the control panel did not look too sturdy, in fact the ignition switch was loose. A fuel gauge rather than a low fuel light would be advantageous as would an indication that 4 wheel drive is engaged. (2.5)
KB: Indicator switch would be better as a column change or even the position changed with the light switch. Arm catches on bar at the side of seat when applying the hand brake. (3)
SJ: Everything is good here, all controls are to hand and very easy to use. (5)
7) How noisy is the machine during operation? How much vibration or unnecessary bouncing is there?
TJ: It's a noisy machine during operation and this can prove a major factor when working round a college environment. The vehicle may have to reside unused during certain times of the year, for example when exams are in progress. There were no problems with excessive vibrations or bouncing. Rating: 3
RW: The first thing you notice when you start the vehicle is that the engine is very noisy - even when the engine has operated for a while, the noise doesn't quiet down. However, bouncing and vibration are hardly noticeable. (3)
IS: The first thing you notice when you start the vehicle is that the engine is quite noisy. (3)
JC: Very noisy when in use. I would expect to wear ear protection when driving although I am not aware of the decibel level. Vibration and bouncing is minimal, in fact it gives a smooth ride. (3.5)
KB: Machine is very noisy. Not much vibration and no unnecessary bouncing. (2)
SJ: The machine is extremely noisy, my first impression on driving it was, "God! It sounds like a lorry." There would be no way I could use this machine around golfers, without complaints aplenty and, for this point alone, I think it generally unsuitable for the golf course environment. (1)
8) Operator comfort - Does the machine respond quickly to gear/speed changes, does the seat offer a comfortable operation? Does the driver feel safe in operation? Do pedals require additional exertion than would be expected?
TJ: Comfortable machine to use due to a good suspension. However, it was slow when responding to speed changes. Due to the low sides the driver could feel exposed, especially at higher speeds. Rating: 4
RW: The seats are very comfortable and function well with the suspension. The machine is quick to react when throttle gets pushed down quickly. The seatbelts, and the 'cage', give the driver a feel of security. (5)
IS: The following day I took it over the school's farm to see what it would be like for conservation work. Some of the fields had recently been ploughed, so I put the Cub through its paces over the furrows. It had 4-wheel drive but we didn't need it. The drive was fairly smooth with the suspension taking the worst of the bumps. It also has a very
good ground clearance which certainly is an advantage on the rough ground or in the woods. (5)
JC: Acceleration is fast, there are no gear changes as it has hydrostatic transmission, the deceleration was excellent with steady braking coming from the transmission. The driver seat was of the highest quality and should be standard for the passenger seat. The driver would feel safe when operating the machine, they are well protected by the rollbar. Control pedals are easy to use. (4)
KB: Operator comfort was ample for type of vehicle, felt safe while driving, brake and accelerator pedals no problem. Responded well to speed change. (4)
SJ: Comfortable to drive, good seating position and brakes. My negative point would be that you have to give a reasonable amount of throttle to get the hydrostat to drive, so it isn't particulary smooth and, going back to my last point, because of the extra throttle needed the machine is too noisy. (3)
9) Manoeuvrability of the machine - good bad or indifferent?
TJ: Manoeuvrability was heavy and quite stiff even when moving and this would have been partly due to the four wheel drive capability. If power steering were to be added then the steering and manoeuvrability would be significantly improved. Rating: 4
RW: The machine is overall quite manoeuvrable, it is very sturdy on the road and hardly diverts to the left or right. If equipped with different type of tyres (turf friendly) then probably shorter corners can be taken without having an impact on the surface. (4)
IS: The machine is overall quite manoeuvrable. (4)
JC: Turf tyres were not fitted to the demonstration vehicle and would be essential in our environment, the tyres fitted did leave an imprint. (
KB: Machine manoeuvrability was good, only problem I found was starting off in reverse the vehicle tended to jerk causing the driver to lunge forward slightly. (4)
SJ: Poor, the turning circle is the poorest I've used in a golf course machine, even in the yard I was finding myself doing three point turns. (1)
TJ: It was found that the weight/ground ratio was very good and although tested in dry conditions, there was little or no tyre imprint from the vehicle. Rating: 5
RW: Tyre imprint is negligible - would be even better with different type of tyres. (4)
IS: The tyres we had were quite chunky which was fine for us as we need all terrain, but, for sports turf, you would want turf tyre. (4)
JC: Slight imprint left from tyres. (3)
SJ: Difficult to say, when I tested the machine, the ground conditions were dry so an imprint was not left on the turf. However, the machine was delivered to me with tyres less than ideal and definitely not suitable for turf, more agricultural or estate suited. (3)
11) Cleaning down of the machine. A job we all hate but it has to be done, is it any easier now?
TJ: Cleaning down the machine would be easy and relatively quick due to the small surface area that needs to be covered. The surface of the Cub Cadet was generally smooth and free of small hard to reach areas and gaps which reduces the time needed to clean it. There is also the added bonus that all the materials are washable and water resistant, with no fabrics or wooden parts which again makes cleaning easier. Rating: 4.5
RW: It is easy enough to clean the machine. (4)
IS: It is easy enough to clean. (4)
JC: Not a problem. (4)
KB: Machine was easy to clean, access to areas where dirt gathers was good. (4)
SJ: Didn't actually need to clean down, but it didn't look any more or less difficult to clean than other machines. (3)
12) Engine power and performance? Is 4-wheel drive a requirement for your application?
TJ: The machine was a little too powerful for what was needed around the grounds of the college and the four wheel drive would be virtually obsolete and not necessary due to most of the work being carried out on flat ground. Rating: 4.5
RW: It has plenty of power, you can tell that from the way it accelerates. (5)
IS: 4-wheel drive would be used on the farm in winter. Drove over very rough, but dry, ploughed field easily in 2-wheel drive. (5)
JC: Engine power and performance is excellent. 4-wheel drive would be useful when conditions dictate. (4)
KB: Engine power and performance was very good. The 4-wheel drive might be used but very rarely in our situation. (5)
SJ: Amazingly powerful - overkill for most golf course operations. It would be unlikely that the 4-wheel drive facility would be of much use in general operation around the golf course, but extremely impressed by its traction. (4)
13) How would you rate the smoothness of the ride over rough terrain? How did you rate the unit if tested on hills?
TJ: The Cub Cadet was tested over a variety of obstacles around the college grounds including speed bumps, kerbs and small grass slopes and it performed extremely well even though these were relatively small obstacles. The overall ride was very smooth and comfortable and gripped surfaces very well. Rating: 5
RW: It rides very smoothly, even in rough terrain and it copes with going up and down hills more than adequately. (5)
IS: It has a smooth ride, especially over rough terrain and it copes well with inclines. (5)
JC: The ride is smooth for the driver over rough terrain because of the seat, the passenger will not be as comfortable. (4)
KB: The smoothness of ride over rough terrain was exceptional. Unit was fine on hills. (5)
SJ: Extremely smooth in ride, you could barely feel any bump in the ground, which could be seen as a down point also! Being so smooth the tendency is to drive too fast for the environment it is being used on. I tested the unit off road extensively, on our estate. We have many steep valley and river crossings, all of which the unit took in its stride with considerable ease. (5)
14) Did you test the loading capacity and would 409kg be suitable for your application?
TJ: The rear capacity was too short for most of our uses such as transporting standard length grounds tools such as strimmers and brushes. Looking at the vehicle it was surprising to find that it was only capable of carrying 409kg especially when the build quality and power of the machine are taken into account. It was also found that the height of the rear cargo box made it difficult to load and off load heavier objects such as a pitch marker. Rating: 3
RW: We didn't test the loading capacity.
IS: Capacity in the back was fair but not overly large. The model we were trialing only had manual tip which, if you want to get right back in to the heap to tip, means you are standing right in the heap. Not ideal. Also, to save your back, I would pay the extra for an electric lift bed. After we had scarified we top-dressed. The Cub was used to collect bagged loads that are stored on the farm. This it did quickly and with no effort collecting 20 x 25kg bags at a time. (4)
JC: The load capacity was not tested, the unit did not have a tipping mechanism which is an option and should be standard. (2.5)
KB: Loading capacity was okay for small jobs but definitely not suitable for the main jobs required on site. (3)
SJ: Didn't use the full payload, in my opinion the loadbed in too high off the ground. It would be a slight health and safety concern for me, operators lifting machines and materials; other golf course utility vehicles have easier loading. (3)
15) In general was the machine easy to use? Did you like the machine? .
TJ: Overall I liked the machine and it was easy enough to operate and a comfortable ride. Rating: 4.5
RW: Easy to use, and gave us an overall good impression. But the noise that it makes while in operation is a sticking point. Whilst we did like a lot of aspects of this machine it wouldn't be my personal choice. (4)
IS: The machine was easy to use, and gave a good impression. I preferred it to the Club Cars and the John Deere Gator we currently run. (5)
JC: The machine was easy to use and I think everyone who used it liked it including myself. (4)
KB: Machine was easy to use but found that the tipping could have been a little easier and the back workspace was too high. (4)
SJ: Easy to use, easy to tip loads, although I would expect a vehicle in this sector to come with an electric tip not manual. (3)
Summary of Results
Tom Joslyn, Groundsman
Harper Adams University
Overall it was a good quality and well built utility vehicle that was fast and comfortable to ride in, however for the sort of work that is carried out on a day to day basis around the college grounds, the power of this machine would be a little wasted as would the four wheel drive and the suspension. The rear capacity is also too small (in terms of length) for what we require here and the vehicle overall is slightly too wide. For work over rougher terrain and more heavy duty work, the machine would come into its own and perform extremely well.
Overall Rating: 4.1
Ronald Werkman, Groundsman
The machine was easy to use, and gave an overall good impression. But the noise that it makes while in operation is a sticking point. So, whilst we did like a lot of aspects of this machine it wouldn't be my personal choice.
We are using the Toro Workmans and, as these vehicles are battery powered, it is very hard to draw comparisons between them and the Cadet.
I would suggest that they reduce the noise of the engine by better insulation; levers for the indicators rather than switch on panel; widen the entrance on the drivers side.
Overall rating 4.1
Ian Smith, Head Groundsman
St Albans School
Here at St Albans we are fortunate to have a lot of new and up to date kit. But, with a programme of rolling replacement on everything we have, we are always looking forward to our next purchase.
I am now also in charge of conservation, not just on the 73 acre sports fields but also the school's 390 acre farm.
To sum it up it is a little noisy and I would want an electric lift bed but, apart from that, it is fast and rugged and certainly gets the thumbs up from all my staff and me.
Overall Rating 4.4
Jim Cassidy, Course manager
Ashridge Golf Club
I have been in charge of maintenance and development of the club for the past fourteen years. I have seven permanent staff and take on two additional seasonal staff during the summer. I report to a committee team of eight who are responsible for running all aspects of the golf club.
The Cub Cadet is a solid machine, comfortable and stable, but some of the plastic components and switches may let it down. It would be interesting to see if sprayers and other attachments could be fitted.
I have only tried the Kubota RTV 900 to compare and would say that the Kubota in my opinion would be my choice between the two, due to its reputation and my past experiences.
Overall Rating 3.63
Ken Bates, Assistant Groundsman Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C.
I have worked at Wolves full time for two years, before that I used to help out on match days at Molineux.
There are three of us on the ground staff myself, Wayne Lumbard and Terry Carver.
Between us we look after Molineux, the Sir Jack Hayward training ground, the adjoining St Peter's School sports field and the dome, which is an artificial surface, a total of eleven pitches. My main role is working at the training ground.
The Cub Cadet was a nice machine to use, I was very limited to what daily jobs I could use it for, I do not think it would be that useful in our environment, mainly because of the capacity of the back work space.
A good machine for the right environment.
Overall Rating 3.66
Sean Jarvis, Course Manager
Astbury Hall Golf and Leisure
At the moment we only have nine holes which were built three years ago. A back nine is currently under construction, and a third nine is planned in the near future
Not a machine for me and a golf course environment, too noisy, and basically overkill for what I would need. In a general estate or an agricultural use I believe the machine would be excellent. For the price, I'm led too believe there's not a lot of change from £10k, I could buy two smaller utility vehicles more suited to my situation.
Overall Rating 3.46
Response from E P Barrus
We would like to thank Pitchcare for giving us the opportunity to have our machine trialed at so many different venues.
We would like to re-affirm that the noise issue, as detailed by most of the 'testers', is currently being addressed. Silencers will be fitted for the coming season whilst retro-kits will be available for existing models already in the marketplace.
Thanks to our members for carrying out these tests. It is clear that the machine is a tad noisy for some environments, an area that Barrus are addressing. However, with an average score of 3.89 out of 5, that's a pretty good result for a new model onto the market.