2016 John Deere 1023E Review

An economy tractor that feels anything but

By Geof Fowler, Photography by John Deere, Jul 27, 2016
John Deere E (economy) Series tractors include 12 models spread across four series with horsepower ranging from 22.4 to 135. But economy, once the designation for stripped down, entry-level machines, has become a bit of a misnomer, with so-categorized tractors having features and niceties that just a short time ago were considered premium. In the case of the $11,748 (base MSRP) 1023E, those features and niceties include diesel power, engage-on-the-go 4WD, Cat I three-point hitch (3PH), rear and mid power take-off (PTO), power steering, a cup holder and storage trays, hydrostatic transmission, fender level fuel fill, folding ROPS and a long list of quick and easy to attach implements.

Power for the 1023E is by a Yanmar 3TNM74F-NCJT .993L indirect injected three-cylinder engine that produces 22.4 gross horsepower, 14.5 PTO horsepower, and 36.3 lb-ft torque at 3200 rpm. The 3TNM74F-NCJT is a good example of steady diesel technological progression, with earlier variants showing up in the 2210 and 2305 subcompact predecessors. For the 1 Series, EPA Final Tier 4 (FT4) compliance is accomplished without a diesel particulate filter (DPF) or the need for diesel exhaust fuel (DEF) additions.

2016 John Deere 1023E Right

Output from the engine is sent via shaft through a Kanzaki hydrostatic transmission that has two ranges and is controlled by a side-by-side foot pedal arrangement. Unlike the 2210 and 2305, the 1023E now comes with an oil cooler instead of a fan that in some instances was prone to damage by sticks and other debris. Low range is 0-4.1 mph and high range is 0-9.1 mph.

COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2016 New Holland Workmaster 33

Hydraulics run through an open center system using a single gear pump flowing 2.8 gpm to the power steering circuit and 3.5 gpm to implement demand (6.3 gpm total) all at 2150 psi. This gives the Cat I 3PH a lift capacity of 681 lbs 24” behind link arms. Though the 1023E has a Cat I rating, it is considered a limited Cat I due to a lift height limitation created by the smallish frame and tires. Prospective purchasers should note most Cat I implements will work fine on the 1023E, but some such as post hole diggers and some taller box blades etc. may not. Many implement manufacturers, though, do have lineups specifically made for limited lift height subcompact tractors. Control over the 3PH is through “select control” (not to be confused with “position control”) which uses a non-graduated rockshaft lever to raise/lower the hitch. While this works fine, it does require some guesswork to return an implement to the same height.

2016 John Deere 1023E Left

Climb up into the cockpit and settle into the spring suspension seat and there are some differences between the 1023E and more deluxe 1025R. Look closely and you’ll notice the seat back is lower, there are no armrests, the hood guard is a little less hefty, and there isn’t as much of the contrasting black colored paneling that looks nice but adds nothing to tractor performance. What you do get is a one-piece sloped hood for good visibility, minimal dash with tachometer, temperature gauge and LCD display, grab rails on both fenders, color coded controls, and a mechanical fuel gauge on the left fender fore of the abovementioned fuel fill cap.

COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2016 Kioti CS2210

The subcompact class is considered somewhat of a compromise, not quite a compact utility tractor (CUT) though with those same capabilities slightly scaled down, but larger and more capable than a lawn & garden tractor designed primarily to mow. To that end, John Deere offers two mower decks, a 54D and 60D. Both are drive-over designs of the numerically indicated size and made from one-piece stamped decks. An autoconnect PTO shaft coupler system is a $252 option and offers the ultimate in ease of mower deck attachment. For deck size, our recommendation is to choose the larger one whenever possible as it decreases the uncut circle, improves edging ability and effectively moves the ROPS further away from branches and obstacles while reducing mowing time. Cut height is adjustable from the operator platform using a rotary dial with L-M-H markings with hashtags in between (1” – 4”) and detents for install and lock (4” transport height).

2016 John Deere 1023E Loader

Two loaders are available, the $2599 D120 which can lift 570 lbs to 71.2” and the $3334 H120 which can lift 512 lbs, also to 71.2”. While the D120 can lift slightly more weight, it is not a quick attach loader in that the park stands are stored in the cross torque tube and require manual attachment/detachment. The H120 comes with a built in park stand that lowers/raises hydraulically. Both loaders support 49”, 53” and 61” quick change buckets that require only the removal of two pins for changeover.

COMPARISON: Read our review of the 2016 Mahindra 2555 Shuttle Open Station

For purchasers requiring a backhoe, the John Deere 260 is the match for 1 Series tractors. The $5,997 260 can dig to a depth of 6’2”, has 8’8” of reach, and can use 8”, 12” or 16” buckets. Dig force at the boom is rated at 1,187 lbs and at the bucket 2036 lbs. For ease of transport, a 15-degree trailer ramp angle is supported. John Deere utilized customer focus groups in the design of the 1 Series, which is evident in many of the features and ease of use, but perhaps no more evident than making sure the tractor, mower deck, loader and backhoe were all compatible with each other. This means an operator does not need to remove the backhoe subframe to attach the mower deck.

2016 John Deere 1023E Studio

Other standard niceties to note: the one-piece hood that raises on a pair of gas struts, integrated loader joystick, halogen headlamps, left heel actuated differential lock, left side brake pedal (not above the hydro pedals) and 5.6 gallons of onboard fuel. Options to consider might be the independent hydraulic lift kit for the mower deck, third selective control valve (SCV) kit and power beyond (required for backhoe). The 1,345-pound 1023E rides on a 57” wheelbase, is 47” wide, and has a front axle clearance of 7.7”. Turn radius is 7.4’. R4 (industrial), R3 (turf), and R1 (Ag) tires are available, all in size 18 x 8.5-10 front and 26 x 12-12 rear.

With over 100 implements (Frontier) available, surprisingly deluxe features, six-year powertrain warranty, and competitive pricing, the John Deere 1023E might just be that perfect compromise tractor that really doesn’t compromise after all.

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