At just under 1.3m wide and shy of 2.2m tall, the Kramer KL14.5 is a machine for specialised operations where space is limited.
Whether this be in poultry sheds, around stables or just old farm buildings where larger machines simply cannot manoeuvre, the Kramer KL14.5 could be the right answer.
Up until recent years, this sub-1,200kg payload loader class has been largely dominated by small skid-steer loaders, especially on poultry farms.
However, manufacturers such as Manitou, Weidemann and JCB have all focused on offering compact wheel loaders and telehandlers for such applications.
In this space, Kramer now offers its KL14.5 (900kg payload), its smallest loader offering after the KL12.5 (750kg payload).
We got behind the wheel of the KL14.5, putting it to work at a mix of tasks, which ranged from clearing litter out of a poultry shed to handling round bales and pit silage, all to see how it performed.
Handling and hydraulics
Straight away, it is evident the KL14.5 is a seriously nimble and agile little tool that is rated to lift 900kg to a height of 2.68m.
Firstly for our test, we cleared out litter from a poultry shed. With the litter being dry, the loader was at its ease using its own 1.25m (0.35m3) bucket, so we swapped it out for a larger 2.1m bucket with the aid of a Euro bracket adapter.
It was well able for the larger bucket when handling the chicken litter, but heavier material could leave the bucket unsuitable.
It – and the smaller KL12.5 – come fitted with Kramer’s own mini headstock, which has hydraulic locking by means of diverting the third service. A Euro headstock is available as an option if required.
Our machine was supplied with the third-service pressure release button on the boom, which is definitely an option worth forking out for.
We fed round bales of second-cut silage. It handled the bales with no issue in terms of hydraulics, but the backend began to feel a little light. With caution, the occasional silage bale could be managed.
Although best suited to a 4ft 6in shear grab, we gave it the challenge of a 5ft 6in grab. Initially we were doubtful, but were pleasantly surprised with its capabilities. However, a narrower grab would have been easier to push into the pit.
The boom uses a Z-linkage, which automatically levels the headstock as it lifts – a great job for lifting pallets, but not so much when loading using the bucket.
Our machine was fitted with the standard 30l/min Rexroth hydraulic pump, which did all that was asked of it. Having said that, the optional 60l/min pump would have made opening and closing the grab that bit quicker, especially while on the move back to the pit.
The boom suspension function made a notable difference while on the move, a must-have on such a small wheelbase if venturing off a smooth surface.
Once the cab is exited, the parking brake automatically engages, a good feature now on most loaders, but one could easily fall into a habit of getting out without intentionally putting the brake on.
Our machine had only one steering mode, which was all-wheel steering, as opposed to selectable all-wheel steering, front-wheel steering and crab-steering modes.
Engine and transmission
Providing grunt to the KL14.5 is a three-cylinder Yanmar Stage V (DOC and DPF) diesel engine churning out 38hp.
Aside from being a little noisy on cold start, it’s a capable engine and does all asked of it while being quite efficient on fuel.
The cooling pack, which seems rather sizeable for a small engine, accounts for a large part of the engine bay.
However, from a service and maintenance perspective, everything is easily accessed from either side.
The isolator switch is also positioned alongside the battery in the engine bay.
Driving power to each of the wheels are compact Poclain hydraulic motors.
The two-speed transmission is switchable from the joystick on the move, with 0-7km/h achievable in low range and the full 0-20km/h in high range. There is an optional top speed of 30km/h.
There is no mechanical range change, just the limiting of flow supplying the wheel motors.
The ability to switch range on the go saw us do the majority of heavier loading in the low range, as the throttle pedal is de-sensitised before switching to high once moving.
We found the operator needs to ease off the throttle to prevent a jerk forward when changing range.
However, pickup of the transmission is fast, quickly reaching its top speed of 20km/h.
The nature of hydrostatic drive saw us rarely reach for the foot brake, instead using it more as an inching pedal to control speed more finely for loading and unloading.
This brake works by limiting the supply of oil to the wheel motors, which naturally prioritises the hydraulic pump for faster cycle times.
Three drive modes are offered as standard – power mode, eco mode and accelerator pedal mode (CSD).
Eco mode, in particular, we found made little to no difference regardless of the task.
CSD mode allows the manual adjustment of engine speed. Travel speed is then controlled via the foot pedal – this mode would come into its own for tasks requiring constant flow via third service – ie road sweeping.
Both engine rpm and forward speed can also be controlled independently via switches beside the joystick.
Cab and controls
The cab fitted to the KL14.5, like the cabs fitted to the larger wheel loaders, cannot be faulted really.
For the size of the machine, you get ample space and comfort. Entry to the cab is spot on, a big benefit to a machine of this type compared with most skid steers that have front entry.
Visibility in all directions is good, with no obstructions. The cab door opens around 180°, locking into position. Given the size of the door in respect to the machine, when it’s latched back it’s almost in harm’s way.
Care just needs to be taken, as it could be easily shattered. The right-hand window opens partly as well as 180°, which is a nice feature considering our unit was not fitted with the optional air con.
A small loader used predominately for winter farm tasks with either windows or a split door does not need air conditioning, we feel.
Driving position is good, with the joystick falling to hand nicely. Most of the switches are placed alongside the armrest, while there are a few located to the left-hand side of the driver’s seat. All switchgear lives up to the German reputation for quality.
The steering column is adjustable to an extent. The size of the dash display is the only thing inside the cabin that we feel may have been skimped on. That said, it displays all it needs to.
With the cab being slightly recessed into the chassis, there is a 5cm raised tunnel in the floor, back from 17cm in the previous model.
At first, we thought this would leave one side of the floor hard to sweep out, but Kramer was one step ahead. On the right-hand side of the cab, the lower window or cleaning flap opens, allowing for easy access to the cabin filter and main control unit, as well as leaving the floor easily cleaned.
Both the diesel tank (48l) and hydraulic oil tank (40l) are located in front of the cab on either side. The hydraulic oil tank has a sight glass on the side.
The KL14.5 is a nimble and agile loader. Its tight turning circle leaves it almost possible to turn anywhere.
Occasionally, we felt one side become a little light, especially turning sharply on the go and unloaded.
However this to some degree is to be expected with compact loaders if operated on uneven surfaces due to the narrow track width – caution just needs to be taken.
Build quality is of the usual high Kramer standard. In comparison to a small skid steer, which you could argue is a fair competitor, the KL14.5 trumps it in most areas, apart from stability.
However, the narrow track width will have its advantages in some applications, bringing us back to the point that this is a fairly specialised machine.
A wider body would give a greater sense of security to the operator in your typical mixed farming scenario where width doesn’t tend to be the issue.
If not restricted of dimensions, then spending an extra couple of thousand on the larger KL18.5 or KL19.5 may make better sense, offering more reach and power.
But having punched well above its weight, the KL14.5 is well suited for specialised applications in tight environments, up there with the best in its class.
Engine: 38hp three-cylinder Yanmar Stage V.
Transmission: independent hydrostatic motors with dual range (20km/h max).
Max lift capacity: 900kg.
Max lift height: 2.68m.
Hydraulic output: 30l/min at 240 bar (60l/min optional).
Tyres: 27 x 10.5 R 15.
Starting list price: €53,990 plus VAT.