Test Drives

CAT® 302 CR Mini Excavator

US-headquartered manufacturer Caterpillar is one of the major and most instantly recognisable players in the global heavy equipment industry, with its flagship Cat brand presiding over an extensive product portfolio and long boasting a reputation for bringing to market products designed to get the job done.

Among the recent additions to this portfolio, Cat has introduced a line of five mini excavators, with the range of 1-to-2 tonne class machines sporting a variety of features focused on performance, versatility, safety and comfort, all packed into a compact size.

The 302 CR mini excavator, weighing in at a minimum operating weight of 1945kg/2045kg (canopy/cab), is the largest of these five new models, with Cameron Balzat, Caterpillar Asia Pacific Marketing Manager, explaining that it incorporates a number of noteworthy technologies for a machine of its size.

“Across the full range of mini excavators we have introduced new technology,” Cameron explained.

“What’s unique about the 302 CR is the air conditioning – it’s got an air conditioned, sealed and pressurised cab, which you don’t usually see in machines of this size. Typically, you don’t see air conditioning in an excavator until you get above 3 tonne in size.

“This gives you the ability to obviously keep yourself cool while you’re working, but you still have the engine power that you need to dig and do everything else you need to do in one of these machines.”

The size of the 302 CR’s cab is certainly a standout feature at first sight, which is further highlighted by its overall compact form factor – and, when it comes to first impressions, all indications are that the 302 CR is a machine that goes above and beyond in allowing operators to go about their work in comfort.

A Compact Machine With A Large Cab

The 302 CR’s sealed and pressurised cab provides operators ample room, so much so that it is more akin to a cab designed for a larger 30 tonne model – and, putting the 302 CR through its paces, operations are noticeably quiet. Adjustable wrist rests add to the comfort factor, along with a suspension seat option, while the air conditioning is, simply put, fantastic.

Like the four other models in the new mini range, the 302 CR features a stick steer option allowing operators to switch from traditional lever and pedal travel controls to joystick operation via the push of a button. Cat states that automatic two-speed travel complements this functionality, speeding up machine positioning and control – and, across a range of applications, I was impressed by the 302 CR’s ease of operation, with it delivering a seamless experience.

Cat states that it has designed the controls to be intuitive, with a pattern changer, allowing operators to select their preferred system between excavator and backhoe pattern, while an LCD monitor provides easy-to-read machine information, complemented by a jog dial designed for easy navigation and interaction with the monitor.

When it comes to visibility, the 302 CR sports large glass areas on the sides and rear of thecab, along with a skylight, helping operators to keep an eye on what is happening in their vicinity, while the front window is designed to slide upward and store overhead. Having the option to slide the front window up with a small machine of this sort, which may often be operating in tight spaces and in close proximity to other workers, is a valuable feature, making it very easy to communicate with other workers.

Another noteworthy feature of the 302 CR is its push-to-start option, which sees a Bluetooth enabled key signal its proximity to the machine, allowing it to start at the push of a button (with the additional option of a key combined with an operator pass code). Meanwhile, Bluetooth pairing with my smartphone was a simple process, with the smartphone connecting immediately and allowing for music control.

Impressive Reach And Power

The 302 CR is powered by a three-cylinder diesel Cat C1.1 engine with 14.3kW net power, which meets Tier 4 Final/Stage V emissions regulations – with Cat stating the engine sports a power dense design, delivering consistent performance across a wide speed range – and I was very impressed by both the reach of the machine and how much power it had at full reach.

Operators can adjust the flow of the hydraulics, according to the task they are undertaking, providing enhanced control. Cat advises that its new line of mini excavators use a load-sensing hydraulic system with an electronically controlled variable displacement piston pump capable of oil flows to 66 L/min, with flow rates, coupled with high main-relief pressures, providing the hydraulic capacity to generate high digging and lifting forces, along with managing power attachments. The standard auxiliary hydraulic system provides one way, two way and continuous flow, with Cat advising that its new line can be fitted with a Cat-manufactured manual coupler, along with Cat-manufactured buckets, including general duty digging, wide mud and tilting ditch cleaning. Meanwhile,  other available Cat attachments include augers, hammers and compaction wheels. Engine idle control and automatic shutdown systems provide for enhanced fuel efficiency, with the 302 CR sporting a compact radius design and retractable undercarriage (expanding from 1090mm to 1400mm), allowing operators to work in tight areas, while its dig-to-blade and dozer float features are designed to allow for easy clean up.

Easy Maintenance And Built-In Safety Features

When it comes to maintenance, the 302 CR is designed to provide for quick and easy inspection, with routine maintenance check points accessible at ground level through the side doors, allowing operators easy access.

As far as more advanced maintenance is concerned, a tilt-up cab allows operators to reach additional service areas, delivering access to major hydraulic components, via what Cat describes as a simple process that can be completed in under five minutes

Meanwhile, when it comes to safety, Ca has built in a number of features, including courtesy work lights and a fluorescent retractable seat belt, while boom lights help to illuminate work areas. Cat’s new line of mini excavators also feature tie-down points on the track frames, designed to facilitate securing of the machine for transportation.

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