Kubota have been a major player in the mini excavator market since 1974, when they produced their first model the KH-1. The company first started to export machines in 1979, with the very first exported model being the KH-1D. It was around this time that we first started to see Kubota mini excavators here in the UK, with the full KH range becoming available in 1980. This was followed by the upgrade to KX series in 1991, KX-2 series in 1996, KX-3 series in 2001 and the current KX-4 series in 2009. Up to March 2011, Kubota had produced a total of 369,300 mini excavators worldwide. I have operated a number of smaller Kubota’s over the years, but this was my first time at the controls of the company’s largest offering, the 8 ton class KX080-3.
My initial reaction when the machine arrived was what a smart looking excavator it was, a comment I heard echoed by a number of site operatives. The machine just looks right; compact, strong and it has exceptional reach capability. The machine still looks very modern, which is amazing considering that this model was actually first launched back in 2006.
Kubota’s build quality is almost legendary, and it’s safe to say that this Japanese manufactured machine is in fact overbuilt with massive amounts of metal in all the right places, from the undercarriage, up to the offset boom joints where 60mm pivot pins are fitted, and then on up to the substantial boom casting, it’s clear to see this machine is built to work hard and last a long time!
Another concern for mini/midi excavator owners is access for routine servicing. With the KX080-3 this is no problem. The machine is fitted with two upper bonnets and a side panel bonnet that folds outwards on a hinge to allow access to all major components, including engine oil, air and fuel filters from the rear and the control valve block, hydraulic oil filter and the battery from the side panel, also included and stored inside the side panel is the electric refuelling pump, which includes an auto-stop function and is a very welcome standard fitting on the Kubota.
Climbing into the cab for the first time felt very familiar, as many of the switches and controls are similar to those fitted across the Kubota range. Not the most exciting layout, but totally functional and well proven components. The cab interior itself has a very spacious feel for a midi excavator offering plenty of room to stretch out inside. Leg room is never an issue for a vertically challenged chap like myself, but well known KX080-3 owner Eddie Warrener who is 6’4” tall, commented that the Kubota cab accommodates him very comfortably. All round visibility is excellent with large sliding windows to the operator’s right, and the two piece front windows which see’s the top section retained above the operators head, whilst the bottom section can be lifted out and stored behind the seat which is ideal for improved visibility down a deep trench.
Kubota also fit as standard a deluxe suspension seat, which is multi-adjustable, so whatever size or shape the operator is, he is always guaranteed a comfortable operating position. Full air conditioning is also fitted as a standard, which is always a big bonus during long shifts at the controls. There is also a decent pair of track control pedals fitted, something which is often a bit of an after-thought with many manufacturers. Track pedals are a very important tool in the cab, as we are often moving or swinging in materials in a simultaneous action, something I found really easy with the KX080-3. Talking about moving around, the two speed tracking function is nicely located with a green button on top of the dozer blade lever, when clicking the switch the operator is notified of the change in gear by an audible buzzer and a green “hare” light is illuminated just behind the right hand joystick. The machine’s two travel speeds are, low = 2.7 km/h and high = 4.9 km/h.
I put the machine to work digging some external drainage around the house plots we are working on at a Barratt Homes site in Looe, Cornwall. The machines ultra smooth hydraulics impressed me straight away. You simply cannot beat the quality feel that Japanese machines offer in my opinion, and the KX080-3 is no exception. The Kubota’s are fitted with a load-sensing hydraulic system, which allows oil to flow according to the specific range of the operator’s lever motion. I found you could feel everything with fantastic feedback through the levers, which is so important when working around services and block work on the housing plots.
The ground conditions we are working in are tough, but the machine had plenty of power in the dig with Kubota’s own 47.8kw (65hp) diesel engine providing the grunt. Visibility down into the trench was superb, with the machine tracked in close to the plot and the offset boom slewed 70 degrees to the left, I had a full and unobstructed view down into the excavation. The machines compact dimensions were also evident as I was able to work close to the building and still have enough clearance to slew and discharge the excavated material to one side without the fear of hitting the building. The impressive 7170 mm ground level reach was also a big bonus, with the fitted 2100mm arm offering a very substantial dig depth of 4600mm.
At the end of the day I took the machine up onto our large spoil heap to tidy up and make safe, here I was able to put the sturdy dozer blade to work pushing out a track way, and see how the machine coped digging and shaping up with the grading bucket.
I was not disappointed, this well balanced machine coped admirably, it had tons of power even when pushing hard with a fully loaded blade, I don’t recommend heavy dozing with excavators equipped with blades, but this was purely a test to see how it would cope. On the shaping up front the hydraulics were awesome and silky smooth, and ideal for any landscaping works or final trim operations.
In summary I couldn’t fault this excavator, with the only downer for me being the fact that in this particular machine there was no radio, but that is me just being picky. The all round package is superb with a lot of machine for your money; including Kubota’s own Anti-Theft programmed key system. Another important factor is the resale value, with second hand KX080-3’s often commanding excellent prices on the market. One of our well known local plant dealers Steve Powesland of SPK Equipment Sales, here in the West Country, was inspired to write on the Digger Blog Twitter page that the KX080-3 is the best 8 tonner on the market, a fitting tribute I thought.