MARKET GUIDE: Compact Loaders

Peter Anderson reviews the extensive range of compact wheel loaders available

Compact wheel loaders, with operating weights below 10-tonnes, first appeared in the early 1970s. Equipped with a bucket and pallet forks, they are used as a key load and carry machine across many industry sectors, including agricultural and equine applications. Equipped with hydraulically powered attachments, they are also used as universal tool carriers, typically on high value-added applications. In many countries they are also used as a general construction site utility machine, performing the work of both a dumper and a forklift.

The demand for such machines, particularly from Continental Europe, has skyrocketed over the past few years. Judging by the number of new entrants to the market, with ever-expanding ranges, demand looks likely to continue to increase. The first battery-powered examples are on the market. Several manufacturers offer a version with a telescopic boom., which further blurs the difference between a compact wheel loader and a small telehandler.

For more than 50 years, Atlas Weyhausen has been synonymous with compact wheeled loaders, the firm now selling the products under their Weycor brand. They offer 11 models with operating weights below 10-tonnes, with standard bucket capacities ranging from 0.7cu.m to 2.6cu.m.

The range starts with the 2.5t AR320, to the AR580 at 9.6t, powered by a mix of Yanmar, Kubota and Deutz engines, rated from 18.5kW to 100kW. An interesting variant is the AR480T model, which features a telescopic boom. All models feature heavy-duty axles equipped with diff lock on both axles.


Bobcat entered the compact loader sector in 2021 with the L85 model, which was later joined by the L75 and, more recently by the top-of-the-range L95. Operating weights extend from 4.63- to 5.37-tonnes, powered by engines rated between 41kW and 55.2kW. The L75 and L85 models have been upgraded, with some of the features introduced on the L95.

Top of this list is the heated cab, with joysticks integrated into the seat two-way adjustable steering wheel, automatic parking brake and a 13cm control screen complete with a jog shuttle control. In addition, the automatic ride control system has been improved.


Four updated F-Series compact wheeled loaders have been launched by Case, the 21F, 121F, 221F and 321F models. These have operating weights from 4.57- to 6.195-tonnes, offering standard bucket capacities from 0.7cu.m to 1.3cu.m. The new models feature increased travel speeds and an upgraded cab.

Cab improvements include a low effort all-in-one electro-hydraulic joystick, which controls all bucket and loader arm functions. There is also an upgraded control system with an automotive-style monitor, providing clear access to all major machine functions and system controls.


There are six models in the Caterpillar line-up of compact wheeled loaders under 10t-tonnes, starting with the 5.73t 906 model, through to the 920 at 9.86t. These are powered by engines rated from 55.7kW to 90kW, providing bucket capacities from 0.95cu.m and a whopping 3.5cu.m.

The three smaller models, the 906, 907 and 908, have recently been upgraded, including a larger and now pressurised cab, with the new Cat C2.8 engine driving an upgraded drivetrain. A multifunction joystick controls travel direction and speed, proportional auxiliary flow, differential lock, and constant hydraulic flow.


A five-model range of compact loaders, with weights between 3.75- to 5.2-tonnes is available from Develon, including a model with a telescopic boom. Powered by engines rated at 48.5kW and 55kW, they drive through a four-wheel drive hydrostatic transmission, which provides a maximum speed of 30kph and 35kph.

The range features an all-in-one joystick, with all the essential controls at the operator’s fingertips, including the shuttle part of the transmission, speed modes, diff lock. The operator has full control of the hydraulic settings, aided by a spool valve memory function.


JCB offers a series of compact wheel loaders, from the 403 model weighing 2682kg, up to the 9.6-tonne 417. The latest addition to the range is the 403E, JCB’s first electric compact wheeled loader. The machine boasts the largest standard battery pack in its class, with a 20kWh capacity, with productivity matching the conventional 403 diesel model.

The battery powers a three-mode 33.4kW drive motor, together with a 20kW two-mode hydraulic pump. The drivetrain consists of ZF axles with an integrated drop-box for permanent four-wheel drive.


The three-model, Komatsu Dash 8 range of compact loaders comprise the WA70M-8, WA80M-8 and the WA100M-8 models, with operating weights of 5.3-, 5.99- and 7.46-tonnes respectively. They are powered by in-house engines rated at 46.2kW, 53.7kW and 69.8kW, driving a fully automatic hydrostatic transmission, which sends power to all four wheels.

The Dash 8 versions feature a larger cab with a multi-functional, high-resolution, widescreen monitor, together with the option of air conditioning. There is also a new, more ergonomic, multi-function joystick control.


Liebherr has expanded their compact wheel loaders offering with the 4.6-tonne L504 model, joining the L506 and L508 at 4.97- and 5.7-tonnes respectively. Power is provided by an in-house engine delivering 34kW for the L504 and 47.5kW for the two larger models, which are also available as 30kph variants.

All models have an updated cab, which features far more glass for better all-round visibility. There is the option of high lift arms on the two larger models, while the two smaller models remain under 2.5m for better access and easier transport. All are available with Liebherr’s fully auto hitch system.


The Manitou Group has recently expanded its range of compact articulated loaders by introducing 12 new models. This has resulted in a total of 22 models being offered through sister brands Gehl and Manitou. with the example in the range having a nominal maximum load capacity of 3.3-tonnes.

The new models provide a lifting capacities ranging from 700kg to 1.5-tonnes, with lifting hights of 2.5m and 3.7m available through either standard or long front end equipment. They are powered by 18.6kW and 36kW engines.


Mecalac produces two compact wheel loaders, the AF1050 and the AF1200 models, both powered by a 55.4kW Deutz engine. With operating weights of 5.8- and 6.0-tonnes respectively, they offer maximum bucket capacities of 1.5cu.m and 2.0cu.m.

Both models feature a rigid chassis, combined with four-wheel steering system. There is an automatic steering adjustment feature, which is said to improves stability and manoeuvrability. The working equipment consist of a monoboom with a z-bar linkage, which also provides parallel lifting when equipped with pallet forks.


German-based Schaffer produces a seven-model range of compact wheeled loaders offering tipping loads from 1354kg to 3300kg, with operating weights between 1.82- and 5.22-tonnes. The top of the range 5470Z is powered by a Deutz engine rated at 55kW while the other models are equipped with Kubota engines delivering 18.5kW to 48.6kW.

Engines drive through a Schäffer power transmission, an electronically controlled auto-drive that adapts to the torque properties of the engine, allowing for lower fuel consumption, easier start up on slopes and a cruise control function.


Four models, the L30G, L35G, L45H and L50H, make up the Volvo larger compact wheel loader line up, weighing in at 5.5-, 6.1-, 8.67- and 9.5-tonnes respectively. They are powered by in-house engines rated at 55.4kW, 75kW and 87kW, with bucket capacities ranging from 1.0cu.m to 1.6cu.m. Multi-function joystick control all operating functions, including differential locks.

There are an additional two smaller battery-powered models, the L20 and L25, together with the L25F, the latter available with the choice of parallel or Z-bar loader linkage. 


A six-model range of compact wheeled loaders produced by Yanmar extends from the V7 to the V120, with operating weights between 4.25- and 7.0-tonnes. Maximum bucket capacities run from 0.7cu.m to 1.8cu.m and they are powered by in-house engines, rated from 35.5kW to 74.4kW.

The most recent additions to the range are two version of the smallest V7 model, one of them in heavy configuration at 4.25- and 4.45-tonnes respectively. Both versions have a height of less than 2.5m and a bucket width of 1.85m, with an overall length of just 5.24m. Expect batteruy-powered vesrions of the V7 in due course.

This article featured in the April 2024 issue of Earthmovers Magazine

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