Review: Sunward SWE18UB mini excavator

By: Lyndsay Whittle, Photography by: Justin Bennett

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  • Earthmovers & Excavators

With a quiet engine and smooth hydraulics, the Sunward SWE18UB mini excavator is a stable machine to operate. Lyndsay Whittle tests it out on a job

Sunward _SWE18UB_excavator
The wide bucket proved a little awkward to use

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Two separate opportunities recently combined to create the perfect test environment for a 1.8-tonne Sunward SWE18UB Zero Tail Swing mini excavator to be put through its paces on a real job.

While it’s possible to carry out a test on any given piece of equipment by simply setting it a set number of tasks that are appropriate for its intended purpose, there’s nothing quite like getting stuck into a proper job where you don’t have to imagine how things might work.

Such was the case with the Chinese SWE18UB, as the guys at New Zealand distributor Endraulic had given me the machine for a couple of days to do a test on a job I’d been evading for several weeks – the placement of six cubes of GAP40 gravel inside and in front of my truck port.

I’d arranged to collect the mini excavator from Endraulic’s headquarters at Mangere with my own transporter, as opposed to going out there in a ute and towing the machine back on a trailer.

My reasoning was three-fold: firstly, it would leave one of Endraulic’s trailers free for other jobs; secondly, getting the machine up on the back of my truck would give me an early acquaintance with it; and thirdly, the selfish side of me didn’t want any more pieces of kit to clean up at the end of the job than was absolutely necessary.

Sunward SWE18UB mini excavator
The Sunward SWE18UB weighs in at 1880kg

Endraulic supplied me a brand-new machine with only pre-delivery hours on the clock, along with the standard set of three buckets.

So naturally, I paid particular attention to stay well clear of any overhanging branches that may scratch the paintwork.

As I only required the use of the wide bucket for this particular job, I elected not to try out the other two. But I did have a play with the quick-hitch system to see if it was easy to operate – which it was.

I’ve been at several incidents over the years where people have come to grief in one way or another simply by not paying due attention to engine revs and speed when loading and unloading machinery from trucks and transporters.

The machine went up and down my truck’s ramps, and I felt that it was a well-balanced and stable little unit.

It was late in the afternoon when I arrived back at the worksite and I hadn’t intended doing any work until the next morning. But having got the machine off the truck, I couldn’t help but give it a bit of a tool around the yard while I still had my butt on the seat.

Sunward SWE18UB mini excavator
Good, clear instrumentation

No earmuffs

Five minutes turned into about 20 before I finally decided to park the digger for the night, and it wasn’t until I turned the key off and went to remove my earmuffs that I realised I’d neglected to put them on in the first place.

Suffice to say, the Sunward’s Perkins 403-D11 engine ran quietly!

Back on site the next morning I got stuck into the job at hand, consisting mainly of spreading the basecourse over an area comprising about 150 square metres, linked in with one bay of my truck port, which required digging out some clay that had mysteriously reared its ugly head.

Sunward SWE18UB mini excavator
The Perkins engine outputs 14.7kW (19.7hp) @ 2200rpm

On the job

Operating the machine in the shed (even in the smaller end bay) was a doddle and was certainly helped by the near zero tail-swing and the exceptionally bright work light on the Sunward’s boom.

The backlighting on the dashboard, situated to the right of the operator, was bright enough to make for easy reading of the fuel and temperature gauges, along with the number of functions on the digital readout pane.

I found the flip-out pedals that convert the forward and reverse levers from hand to foot operation came in handy later in the day when I had to transport a couple of dozen bucketloads of material over a distance there and back, as all I needed to do was sit back and enjoy the ride.

One feature of the SWE18 UB that I didn’t need to use on this job was the expanding track capability, as there weren’t any narrow spaces to negotiate in this instance.

As an aside, I have often wondered why they’re called ‘expanding’ tracks and not ‘retracting’ tracks, given the fact that 90 per cent of the work carried out by tracked machines is done with the tracks in the ‘out’ position (at least that’s what I prefer to do anyway).

While I was busy working away and minding my own business, some my colleagues decided to pay me an unexpected visit.

Being keen to get a handle on the Sunward’s performance as well, Randolph Covich (brother of Aussie reviewer Evarn) climbed aboard for a short stint, preparing another part of the property for the placement of some basecourse, which will be spread at a later date.

Thanks for that, Randolph! You can read his comments below.

Sunward SWE18UB mini excavator
Flip-down pedals help conserve space

The bottom line

I found the SWE18UB very quiet to operate. It has a comfortable operating position assisted by two height-adjustable wrist pads situated directly behind the joystick controls.

The hydraulics are smooth to operate and the machine is stable, even when spreading an extended bucket-load of metal aggregate.

The zero tail-swing proved its worth in the confines of the smallest bay of my truck-port but didn’t appear to impede the machine’s stability at all.

The generously sized canopy kept me dry even during one particularly heavy bout of rain that lasted for about 10 minutes.

I’m probably being pedantic here, but I found there was just one thing that I thought could be improved upon and that was the bucket design, which I felt could do with a slight tweak, so it would be able to grab a fuller load when the bucket was operating close to the machine.

In any event, I could see the machine performing well for drainage contractors, landscapers, nurseries, and the like and would be a great labour saver on the farm or lifestyle block.

Sunward SWE18UB mini excavator
Operating the machine was a doddle

Randolph’s 2c worth

I haven’t had the opportunity to climb aboard a small Sunward machine for a while, so thought we should pay Lyndsay a visit and take a closer look at the SWE18UB.

I can’t really class my 20-minute stint behind the controls as a full-on test, but it did give me a good feel for what the 1.8-tonne excavator had to offer.

The work I was on consisted of removing soil and cutting clay to level, so Lyndsay could later place aggregate on the excavated area.

While the work didn’t represent any full-on hard digging, such as trenching, the machine more than adequately handled the task I was using it for.

The controls were responsive and the machine had a nice solid feel to it, especially when cutting into the clay.

I wouldn’t have any reservations about using it for heavier work.

As Lyndsay mentions, I also found the wide bucket a little awkward to use, but I put this down to the design of the bucket and nothing to do with the machine’s capabilities.

I said to Lyndsay that I’d happily look closely at purchasing a SWE18UB if I were looking for a something in that size and price range.

It is a nice little machine to operate.



Weight: 1880kg

Engine: 1100cc 3-cylinder Perkins 403D-11

Power: 14.7kW (19.7hp) @ 2200rpm

Travel speed high: 4.2km/h

Travel speed low: 2.3km/h

Transport length: 3820mm

Transport width: 1170mm

Tail-swing radius: 1080mm


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