Test: Kubota M5-111

The latest addition to the Plummer family business fleet is a brand-new Kubota M5-111 ROPS, chosen for its compact size and versatility

Over the years, the Plummers have invested in five other models of Kubota, so clearly there’s something about the brand that’s proving its worth to the Waikato-based business.
In fact, Dayne Plummer and his son Richmond have a long-time relationship with Kubota tractors, dating back some 25 years when they first purchased an orchard tractor for what was then a kiwifruit farm.

With a change of focus now around dairy farming and their BioStart business (specialising in biological farming solutions), the addition of the 103hp M5-111 is certainly not the largest tractor in the yard, but it does, however,​​ lend itself to a wide variety of jobs.

Since arriving it has been used for everything from filling in for jobs traditionally done by the forklift and handling bales and silage (with a shear grab), to post ramming and loading ingredients for the Biostart business.

Set among 220 hectares of rolling to steep hills, this self-contained dairy farm is home to a herd of 250 cows. Also on the property is the Patetonga MotoX and speedway track, a nod to Dayne’s background in the sport and as a previous stock car racer.

The brand-new Kubota M5-111 ROPS

The BioStart business is also based here, with truckloads of ingredients from seaweed to skim milk arriving and requiring being handled most days. While the business originally started in a shed in Morrinsville in 1994, these days it offers an impressive selection of 20 different products: for soil health, biofertiliser, crop protection, animal health, and leaf health.

With such a practical mindset, Dayne’s focus on achieving results also came into play when choosing the brand and model of tractor most suited to the needs of his business.

Dayne wanted a low maintenance tractor but with enough versatility to be able to adapt its usage for both the farm and the business. Quality and durability were also important, along with performance.

World-renowned for its engines, Kubota has a long and impressive history in the ag market, with models ranging from 18hp lifestyle tractors through to the 170hp top of the range M7-2 tractor.

The new M5-1 ROPS series powered into the New Zealand market at the end of 2020, offering models in both a standard and narrow configuration. With ROPS tractors making up an estimated 30% of all tractors in Kubota’s horsepower category in New Zealand, the M5-1 line-up lends itself to a variety of uses, in farming, horticulture, viticulture, and across the lifestyle market.

Its 2.57 metre height increases its practicality, and the ROPS model means the operator can stay in touch with workers around the tractor while operating.

For Dayne, much of the appeal lies in the tractors’ compact size and straightforward mechanical gearbox. He was looking for a tractor simple enough to be used on a daily basis by a variety of operators without too many technical complexities to wrestle with, and the Kubota M5-1 ticked all the boxes.

Like the best old-school tractors, there’s much to admire in the simplicity of being able to get in, turn the key, select a gear, and shuttle forward. The shuttle control gives a forward and reverse option without needing to change gear – ideal for loader work, which makes up a significant part of this machine’s day.

Equipped with a straight six-speed gearbox, with three ranges, ensures simple operation with plenty of choices. Larger Kubota models have Hi-Lo gearbox selection on the move, which gives 36 gears to choose from, but this is unnecessary for this operator’s workload.


The DPF Regen System under the bonnet

Despite the compact size, there’s plenty of power, thanks to 103hp engine, unexpected in a tractor weighing in at 3.8 tonnes (with loader). This level of horsepower is more traditionally found in tractors in a much larger weight class.

The electrically controlled engine technology has been redesigned to give maximum horsepower at the lower engine speed of 2400 rpm. The Kubota V3800 CCR Tier 4i engine has four cylinders, 3.769 litres displacement, turbocharging, common rail, and a particulate filter. That’s more than enough attributes to impress in this size tractor market.

No AdBlue is required, as the M5-111 boasts a DPF Regen system, more commonly found in its bigger sibling tractors. Equipping this size tractor with this technology is a first for Kubota and has the added bonus of ticking plenty of boxes when it comes to being environmentally efficient.

This Regen can be done on the move for added efficiency and is likely to need doing every 15–20 hours of operation. However, if in an environment unsuitable, such as a hay shed or other enclosed area, the operator can defer the notification until in a safe environment. Then simply park the tractor up, push the button, and leave it to carry out the Regen cycle, which can take around 20 minutes.

The Regen action works to clean the soot and ash from the Diesel Particle Filter by burning it off. This results in better fuel efficiency.


The easy-to-reach 6-speed gear shifter 

When it comes out to controls, simplicity of operation is a stand-out feature. The adjustable steering column is framed by a forward and reverse shuttle on the left-hand side. The large six-speed gearstick is at convenient operating height on the right, along with the hand throttle, hydraulic and SCV controls, and PTO operations – all the usual controls you’d expect to find on this size tractor.

PTO speed as standard is 540 or 540E, selected mechanically at the rear of the tractor. An optional extra kit allows for 1000rpm.Central display is well lit and easily visible. Speed, temperature, and gear selection are all immediately obvious, along with PTO speed and fuel consumption. There’s nothing too complex here to challenge even beginner operators.

New to this model is the addition of a handbrake, with a loud alert beeper. Original models were only equipped with a transmission lock, a useful safety feature, particularly on hills. This still remains as part of the design.

However, in earlier models, the transmission lock (which does resemble a handbrake) may have caused some confusion for new operators. It’s important to note that the tractor must be completely stationary before applying it or there’s the risk of transmission damage.


Adjustable steering column provides plenty of operator space

Another attractive feature of the Kubota M5-111 is the crown and pinion (Bevel Gear) steering system. This protects the working mechanisms against wear and tear and allows for an extremely tight turning circle, a big selling point of this tractor.

Also worth noting is the auto diff lock system. The front diff lock is simply selected by a button next to the forward/reverse shuttle and manual diff lock for the rear is activated by a pedal by your right foot. Having a separate diff lock for the front allows the operator the ability to still turn on hills with this feature operating, rather than the tractor trying to sledge.


The Kubota M5-111 with owner Dayne Plummer and Kubota dealer Mark Browne

Oil flow for the hydraulics is 64 litres per minute. As standard, the tractor comes with two service control valve ports with space for a third to be added.

One feature of this purchase is the fact Dayne wanted to retrofit an existing loader from a previous tractor of a different brand. This required some extra groundwork from Ngatea Kubota dealer Mark Browne from Central Motors, who had to source loader brackets for the MX loader, along with a suitable loader hydraulic system.

With parts at a premium due to post-COVID conditions, this was something of a challenge for Mark who needed to search New Zealand wide to find suitable parts.

“The amount of effort Mark went to in sourcing these parts was a definite selling point,” says Dayne, “as we had actually been looking at purchasing a second-hand tractor. Price-wise and aftersales service-wise, this one stacked up to be worth a bit of additional investment.”


Tight turning circle on the M5-111 is a major drawcard

Running 360/70/R24 tyres on the front and 480/70/R34 tyres on the rear gives a low but wide stance for added stability on hills and during its main job of loading and unloading. The BioStart business requires a fast manoeuvrable tractor for rapidly loading and unloading freight trucks.

While a forklift is part of the fleet, the new tractor proves even more useful, as it can cope with different terrain other than a sealed surface.

It’s also used for loading bales into a Kuhn mixer wagon. While the shorter height of the machine and the retrofitted loader has a height reach of 3.5 metres, it isn’t quite enough reach for the top of the mixer wagon sides. This has been easily resolved, however, by having the mixer wagon park up against a loading bank, giving the Kubota some extra height.

Rear-wheel weights fitted to the inside of the rims on this machine help hugely as counter weights while loading also (rather than filling the rear tyres with water, which can vastly reduce the life of the tyres on hard surfaces).


Wheel weights mounted inside rear wheels

The robust build quality is in keeping with all Kubota machines, with a strong chassis for mounting the loader off as well as supporting the engine and running gear. The stylish modern-shaped bonnet opens right up for easy and quick access to the engine for daily running checks and servicing.

The completely flat operating platform at a low height adds to the overall feeling of stability, plus, it makes operating easy, particularly in terms of mounting and dismounting the tractor to open gates or unwrap a bale of silage.

Visibility from the seat is unimpeded with the sloped bonnet giving a full view for loader work and changing loader implements, as the hitching points are clearly visible. The same can be said for attaching rear-mounted implements onto the three-point linkage. This is done with ease, with the plough arms fitted with quick release balls and top link.

Plenty of attachments and extras are available as added options, including a ROPS sunroof, wheel weights, and the MX loader.


A modern machine with horsepower to spare

Not all properties need a large or high horsepower tractor and the more compact size of the M5-1 Series brings with it a lot of versatility and functionality – important when investing in machinery. Plus there’s the added bonus of it being fit for purpose in terms of fitting into narrow spaces and lower heights than larger tractors. The redesigned engine technology for maximum horsepower at a low engine speed (2400rpm) also brings with it greater fuel efficiency – music to an operator’s ears these days!

Kubota M5-111 specifications

Engine V3800 CCR Tier 4i
Cylinders Four
Rated revolution 2400rpm
Rated engine 103hp
Fuel tank capacity 105L
Overall length 4045mm
Overall width 2068mm
Overall height 2570mm


  • Excellent turning circle
  • DPF system eliminates the need for AdBlue
  • Great visibility
  • High horsepower for its weight
  • Basic, easy-to-operate tractor
  • Transmission brake for real safety stopping on hills


  • Transmission lock looks like a handbrake
  • On the move hi-lo would be useful

Find new and used farm machinery for sale in NZ 

Photography: Justin Bennett

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