Test drive: Hyundai HL980A

04 July 2022

Dan Gilkes takes a first drive of Hyundai Construction Equipment’s HL980A and gives Construction Europe an exclusive overview of his experience.

Hyundai Construction Equipment (HCE) is pushing into the heavier end of the construction and quarry business, with the launch of its own larger machines and with the recent acquisition of Doosan Infracore, which gives the company access to a broadened range of earthmoving equipment.

The company now has 10 wheeled loaders in its A-Series line-up, from the 11.5-tonne HL930A, through to the HL980A, which tips the scales at 30.8-tonnes. We’ve been putting this range-topping model through its paces at a test site in Belgium, to see how the HL980A stands up to the competition.

What engine does the HL980A have?

As with many of Hyundai’s larger models, the power is provided by a proven Cummins engine. For the HL980A, the firm has opted for the American power giant’s six-cylinder X12 diesel, delivering 380hp (283kW) from 1,700-1,800rpm. This is backed up by a healthy 1,857Nm of torque, available from just 1,400rpm. That’s a 5% increase in torque versus the previous generation machine and Hyundai claims up to an 8% fuel efficiency gain should be possible in fourth gear applications.

(Photo: Dan Gilkes)

The X12 engine meets EU Stage V emissions regulations, thanks to an all-in-one exhaust system, that incorporates a diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC), diesel particulate filter (DPF) and a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system. This combination meets Stage V without the need for exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), reducing regular maintenance requirements.

The machine is equipped with a Smart Power mode, alongside the regular Eco and Power operating settings. Smart Power automatically adjusts engine revs in heavy applications, to reduce fuel consumption without sacrificing performance. Engine Auto Shutdown is also a standard feature, ensuring that machines are not left idling when not in productive use.

Power is taken through a five-speed transmission with a lock-up clutch, to reduce losses in higher-speed travel operations. There is also an Intelligent Clutch Cut-Off (ICCO), which is designed to reduce drive during braking, without losing power within the torque converter. This makes it easier to change direction without losing drive, reducing heat build-up and excessive wear on the brake discs in constant forward and reverse operation.

The machine also benefits from a thermostat for the transmission cooling system, ensuring that the gearbox reaches its optimal operating temperature swiftly after start-up and maintains that temperature to protect components while working. The drive from the transmission is taken to new axles, with additional load capacity for increased durability. A separate oil cooling system for the axles is available as an option, for those operations that require repetitive braking or high loads to be imposed upon the driveline. A locking differential is stand on the front axle, ensuring maximum traction during loading and digging work.

Comfort and control

The HL980A’s climate-controlled ROPS/FOPS cab offers a comfortable working environment, with an internal sound level of just 72dB, which is said to be among the lowest in this class. The air-suspended operator’s seat is heated as standard and comes with fully adjustable armrests, with an electro-hydraulic servo lever built into the right-hand rest for the boom and bucket control. Our test loader had been equipped with the optional electro-hydraulic fingertip controls, offering separate levers for boom and bucket functions, along with an auxiliary lever.

Likewise, to the left-hand side of the operator’s seat, the HL980A had been equipped with an optional joystick steering system, which can take over control of the steering from the steering wheel for repetitive loading operations. Transmission controls are included within the servo lever head, allowing the operator to drive without having to take their hands off the levers.

The joystick steering works really well, with none of the jerkiness found in earlier systems from some competitors. The steering responds smoothly to lever inputs without over-responding and it is possible to dig and load with minimal effort. It is even possible to drive in higher gears using the joystick, though for longer hauls it would be easier to switch back to the steering wheel.

There is a bank of control switches to the operator’s right and Hyundai’s 7” touchscreen monitor sits on the right-hand cab A-pillar. Similar to the 8” screen found in the company’s excavators, the monitor provides access to a host of menus, to allow the operator to set the machine up to their personal preference.

The screen also provides access to an Eco report function, that allows the operator to see how their driving performance is affecting fuel consumption and productivity in real-time. The system records operating information, including idling time, to help the operator to make improvements on the move.

(Photo: Hyundai)

Boom and bucket kick-outs are standard, making it easy to return to a digging position with minimal input. A ride control system is also part of the standard trim, providing cushioning to the loader arms during faster travel, to allow the bucket to float and prevent bounce in the cab. This too works well, with higher speed runs possible on moderately surfaced haul roads, even with a full bucket load, making the HL980A ideal for a load and carry operation, or when the digging face is further away from the loading hopper than desired.

An optional compressed air line can be installed within the cab, making it easier for the operator to blow out dust and dried material from the footwell. That said, the cab floor is relatively flush with the bottom of the door aperture, making it easy to sweep out debris if required.

Access to the cab is good, with plenty of grab handles and well-spaced steps and, once inside, the full height glazing offers a good view all around the machine. Heated side mirrors make it possible to see behind even on wet or cold days and Hyundai’s Advanced Around View Monitoring system, with cameras all-round the machine creating a 360° view on the screen in the cab, is offered as an option. You can even specify an optional radar system, to detect obstacles behind the machine, that works day or night time.

The machine also boasts a cumulative weighing system, helping the operator manage truck loading operations from the cab and speeding up loading within the quarry for the customer.

Service and Maintenance

As is common in the larger wheeled loader sector, you can open service access doors in the rear engine canopy for quick access to check and fill points. It is also possible to tilt the entire engine canopy backwards, using an electrical switch by the cab steps. This provides much improved access to all service points and to the exhaust system.

Hyundai’s Hi-Mate remote management system is available and the HL980A comes with Engine Connected Diagnostics (ECD), that automatically report any engine component concerns to both Hi-Mate and to Cummins’ own telematic systems, to ensure rapid response and reduce downtime. Hi-Mate allows customers to remotely monitor machinery through a dedicated website or a mobile app. It provides diagnostic information, along with working data, such as operating hours, idle time and fuel consumption. The system can also deliver geofencing, to help protect machinery against theft and unsanctioned use.

Working loader

Designed for face digging and for stockpiling on larger projects, the HL980A has a Z-bar linkage loading arm layout and an XT long boom loader is available as an option. The standard machine has a dump clearance at maximum lift height and with a 45° discharge angle of 3,300mm, while the long boom model has a clearance of 3,620mm.

Standard digging bucket capacities range from 5.0-6.3m3 heaped capacity and the machine offers a bucket breakout force of up to 24,670kg for the standard arm model. The straight tipping load is 23,100kg, with a full turn tipping load of 20,100kg.


Hyundai’s A-Series of wheeled loaders was a big step forward for the company and one that has no doubt attracted many new customers to the brand. The machines have a modern appearance and the strength and robust design that customers require, with the performance to back up the looks. Certainly, few loader customers will feel poorly served in the cab, which delivers a comfortable operating environment for shift-long working on site.

The machines come with proven components, from global manufacturers, offering the level of back-up that is required by the quarry business in particular. There is plenty of technology on show as well, with remote diagnostics and telematics all part of the deal.

Hyundai is working hard to break into the top tier of equipment manufacturers and the A-Series models demonstrate that move forwards. The wheeled loader market remains a very conservative sector, but the HL980A deserves closer inspection.


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Andy Brown Editor, Editorial, UK - Wadhurst Tel: +44 (0) 1892 786224 E-mail: [email protected]
Neil Gerrard Senior Editor, Editorial, UK - Wadhurst Tel: +44 (0) 7355 092 771 E-mail: [email protected]
Catrin Jones Deputy Editor, Editorial, UK – Wadhurst Tel: +44 (0) 791 2298 133 E-mail: [email protected]
Eleanor Shefford Brand Manager Tel: +44 (0) 1892 786 236 E-mail: [email protected]