In the automotive world, platform sharing between models and manufacturers has been going on since the 60s when General Motors first pioneered the cost effective technique. Today that the trend continues with the Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata, the Ford Taurus and Lincoln MKZ, the Audi A6 and Volkswagen Passat, the Toyota Camry and Lexus ES, and the Volvo XC60 and the Ford Focus. Tractors are no different, with manufacturers looking to spread the cost of tooling and development as widely as possible. Thus it makes sense for parent corporation Daedong to share efficiencies with its Kioti and Bobcat divisions. That brings us to this week’s review, the Bobcat CT122.
The Bobcat line up of compact tractors is made up of eight models ranging from 22 to 49 horsepower. The CT122 is the smallest tractor offered, but don’t let that fool you; this is a serious task-completing machine. Sharing DNA with the Kioti CK20S – though by no means a total clone – the CT122 benefits from Bobcat’s 50-plus years of manufacturing experience.
As in the CK20S, the CT122 is outfitted with a Daedong model 3C100LWB three-cylinder diesel engine. This is a quiet, low-vibration powerplant that is EPA Tier IV compliant. With 61.5 cubic inches of displacement, the liquid-cooled engine delivers 22 gross and 16.2 PTO horsepower. The CT122 puts that power to the ground through a two-range hydrostatic transmission controlled by a treadle pedal (unlike its Kioti cousin, no manual transmission is available). Though a treadle isn’t our preferred set up (others will disagree), the CT122 system delivers well modulated control over the entire 0-9.3 mph forward and 0-5.8 mph reverse speed range. We’re not sure why the CT122 reverse speed is slightly less than its Kioti cousin (6.51 mph), but the reverse gearing felt slightly more powerful and responsive on the Bobcat.
As on the Kioti CK20S, the CT122 also positions the split brakes further right, giving the operator the option of slipping their toe from on top of the pedal while traveling forward to underneath and lifting up to reverse. If that’s not your cup of java, just lift your foot and use your heel to step on the reverse side of the pedal. 4WD is standard as well as differential lock; though the positioning is on the busy side with both next to each other and the transmission dip stick right in between. Bobcat hydrostatic transmissions come with bi-metal clutches which are used to modulate PTO engagement/disengagement. The clutch is a bi-metal design, so during extended periods of non-use it’s a good idea to latch the clutch in the disengaged position to prevent materials from rusting together.
The operator’s platform has a nicely finished high-end feel. The dash is easy to read and includes a large analog tachometer in the center flanked by temperature and fuel gauges. Digital indicators for PTO, parking brake, oil pressure and turn signals wrap the main cluster. Levers for rear and mid (optional) PTO engagement and transmission range selection are positioned on the left fenderwell. The loader joystick is integrated into the right fenderwell where position control for the three-point hitch (3PH) is also found. A cupholder is standard.
The CT122 seat is a medium back design with adjustable suspension for a smooth ride. Our testers all agreed this was an area of decided improvement over the CK20S where the seat, though comfortable, lacked the more deluxe feel of the CT122. A retractable automotive-style seatbelt and foldable ROPS along with an operator seat sensing system are all part of the safeties built in. There is no reverse lockout – YEAH! – so while mowing the operator only has to use common sense to back up. In the front fascia below the dashboard are levers for the cruise control and parking brake. Bobcat also adds a pocket for the owner’s manual which is also a good place to store an iPhone or MP3 player.
The hydraulic pump on the CT122 flows 7.7 gpm. This gives the full category-1 3PH the ability to lift 1,140 lbs at the industry standard 24” behind link arms. Power steering is standard and effortless. As mentioned above, the CT122 comes with position control for the 3PH. Adjustable detents allow the operator to return the implement to the exact position each time. A rate of drop control is adjustable from full lock to virtually no hydraulic dampening.
Our test tractor was outfitted with Bobcat’s 6TL loader and is a major departure from the one used on its Kioti cousin. Bobcat knows a thing or two about loaders and the 6TL has the appearance that it was built first and then the tractor was built around it – rather than the other way around. The hydraulic hoses are protected and located inboard of the arms and the coupler arrangement is much more hidden than on the CK20S, which adds up to better protection while being a much more aesthetically pleasing design. Two bucket sizes are available – a 48” and a 54”. Our test tractor was equipped with the 54” and we were amazed at the power and stability without added ballast.
Driving into a pile of heavy wet sand the CT122 would bury the bucket without protest. Credit Bobcat for equipping the CT122 with super aggressive proprietary tires that undoubtedly are a result of years of skid-steer/excavating experience. After moving and pushing around dirt for a while, we discovered that the previous user had left the tractor in 4WD. Shifting into 2WD and driving into the same pile now became a different story, with the rear tires spinning into ruts. No problem though, that’s what 4WD is for. We felt the CT122 handled the 54” well, but our recommendation is to get the 48” if heavy use is going to be the norm. Bobcat rates the CT122/6TL combination to lift 1,140 lbs to the max lift height of 73.3” (at the pivot point). Hydraulic response and cycle times were quite good – enough so that the bucket could be jogged rapidly by toggling the joystick to shake out stuck material. Float is incorporated into the joystick and there is a level indicator that rides on the right boom.
Maintenance on the CT122 is designed to be easy. Fluid levels can be checked without having to lift the hood or access panels. Bobcat outfits the CT122 with a 5.3 gal. fuel tank mounted just behind the rear seat with a second storage tube above it for implement manuals or a thermos. Under the hood, there is a dual element air filter and a pre-screen in front of the radiator to catch leaves and grass.
Our test tractor was outfitted with Bobcat branded and specific 23×8.5-12 front and 33×12.5-16 rear R4 industrial tires (R1 Ag and R3 Turf options are also available). The CT122 rides on a 57.9” wheelbase and is 105.7” overall (front to 3PH arms). Overall height is 81.8” to the top of the ROPS and ground clearance is 12.2”. Turning radius is a nimble 89” and the CT122 weighs in at a hefty 2,026 lbs.
Wish list? Telescoping lower 3PH links and sway bars and the nifty rear remote 3PH control lever the CT225 and larger models get. And a three-range hydro is always on our would-like list.
Talking to the dealer about the differences between the CK20S and CT122, the Bobcat loader and seat along with the instrumentation and cockpit feel were the big differences, but we were told that the list of Bobcat specified improvements before they took on the line exceeded 500 items. Pretty impressive and it makes us wonder how many of those improvements made their way back into the CK20S.
MSRP for the CT122 in tractor and loader (TL) configuration is $17,486. Dealer discounts are possible and for cash purchasers there are additional incentives. Bobcat offers a 24-month 2000-hour full warranty and 36-month 2000-hour driveline coverage. If you are in the market for a compact utility tractor that doesn’t take up too much space but has more performance and capability than a subcompact, you might want to check out the CT122.