10 of the best UTVs

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10 best UTVs 10 best UTVs

Side-by-side utility task vehicles (UTVs) are must-have workhorses for farm applications, combining agility and off-road ability with multiple seats, some form of cargo tray and — importantly — roll-over protection (ROPS).


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While single-seat all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), or quad bikes, are still very popular in agriculture, many government and private safety bodies are recommending a switch to UTVs.

For example, the Victorian Government has put in place a $6 million ATV safety subsidy scheme under which eligible farmers are offered up to $600 each for up to two ATVs to fit rollover protection, or $1200 towards the cost of buying a safer ATV or UTV.

We're seeing a wider range of new UTVs for sale at the moment than ever, with more useful cargo trays, better comfort, improved engine braking and a smoother side. Of course, you can't discount the older models either, with a plethora of used UTVs for sale on this website and in Farms & Farm Machinery magazine.

With all this in mind, and drawing on our database of independent UTV tests, we've corralled together ...

 

10 of the best UTVs

Polaris Ranger HD 1000

Polaris Ranger HD 1000 UTV


The Polaris Ranger line-up has done well in Australia because people trust the brand, and because there are few diesel models to choose from among hard-working side-by-sides.

Rangers work on farms and in light commercial applications as payload and people movers, with seating configurations from three to six. Yep, the Ranger’s versatile.

The Ranger HD 1000 has been made more robust than before, but the biggest change is to the drivetrain. The previous Ranger diesel had a mid-engine layout with the engine more or less under the seat. 

The new Ranger has a 1028cc, three-cylinder Kohler diesel, and it’s under the cargo bed, so you’d be correct in calling this a rear-engine layout – just like a Porsche or Ferrari, but a different colour.

We liked this side-by-side, even though we also identified a few things that leave room for improvement.

This diesel ATV is priced at $20,990 including GST, and $19,086 excluding GST

 

Can-Am Defender 1000

Can-Am Defender 1000 UTV

 

While the side-by-side market is bumper-to-bumper out there, it has to be said that most of these UTVs are not as tough as their propaganda makes out.

There are only five or six brands known to be hard workers on a fair dinkum farm. The rest are lightweight machines for ‘lifestyle farmers’. So be it.

But Can-Am is one of the brands known for strength and longevity. The makers have been around forever, are always updating the spec, and in the Defender 1000 have produced a machine with few weaknesses.

One of the stand-outs of this machine is the cab, which is the best in the business by miles. Can-Am engineers have showed everyone how to do it.

Another is the noise it makes — or, rather, doesn't make. f you spend a lot of your time managing stock, the Defender won’t spook ‘em. Can-Am says the 1000cc machine is five decibels quieter than any other side-by-side.

As always, it's not perfect, and there are a few things we'd like to see tweaked. Price as tested at the time was $23,000.

 

Kymco UXV 450i

Kymco UXV 450i UTV


On the face of it, the Kymco UXV 450i looks like any other petrol-driven side-by-side, but one thing stands out – its size.

This ATV is so compact you could almost call it a mid-size utility vehicle. It’s certainly mid-size if you compare it with Yamaha’s three-seater Viking, or Can-Am’s 72hp Defender.

Kymco says the 450i will fit in the tray of any full-size ute – which would be handy – but we couldn’t test this theory.

The point is, Kymco deliberately made this thing compact to tempt people away from the average 4WD ATV. It’s a smart move and might just work, particularly for ‘boutique farmers’ who, by the way, now account for a large slice of equipment sales, but typically prefer pretty to practical.

Ride quality is very good, it won't spook your livestock and acceleration is surprisingly quick. The price of the UXV 450i at the time of testing was $13,000.

 

Kawasaki Mule Pro-DX EPS

Kawasaki Mule PRO-DX EPS UTV


The 2016 version of the Kawasaki Mule Pro-DX EPS side-by-side we tested had been upgraded with a 1000cc Yanmar diesel engine that threw out a useful 24hp (17.8kW) at 3600rpm but won't be any use on a drag-strip — in fact, it's speed-limited to about 50km/h. 

The $19,999 (price as tested) Pro-DX is a three-seater and our test unit was kitted with a half-windscreen and roof. This seems like a sensible combination for users who don’t like full windscreens, but do like weather protection

The Mule has an automatic transmission. Two and four-wheel drive selection is controlled by rocker switches on the dash, and the machine doesn’t decide when you need four-wheel drive – you do. Activation of the rear diff lock is also controlled by flicking the rocker switch.

The entire thing is built for hard work, with no fancy-pants doo-dads. Each occupant gets a seatbelt, while the grab-handles are well-positioned. However, given our painful experience with the shoulder bolsters on the Polaris ACE (see below), we’d like the Mule bolsters padded with something softer than steel.

 

Landboss 800D LE

Landboss 800D LE


When machinery distributor Mojo Motorcycles went looking for a diesel-powered UTV to complement its CF Moto petrol-powered range, it had to find one heavy duty enough to survive the flogging that Australian farmers will give it.

Enter the Landboss 800D LE side-by-side, a machine that combines diesel toughness with a solid chassis with decent suspension, power-steering and a serious four-wheel drive system with front and rear diff locks,

The cab is surmounted by a beefy roll cage and the sculpted bench seat is big enough for two blokes but might become a test of deodorant performance with three big fellas in there. 

Gears are arranged in a simple H L N R pattern and stirred by a lever to the left of the steering wheel. Our first impression is this set-up looks awkward but we am wrong. It turns out gear selection on the Landboss is smoother than just about any UTV we’ve driven/tested/photographed or watched go by.

Check out the review for our impressions of this nifty UTV, which sold at the time of writing for $18,000.

 

Polaris Ace 570

Polaris Ace 570


Is it a UTV? Is it an ATV? Well, the Polaris Ace 570 is a bit of both — a snazzy single-seater with a steering wheel. And a roll-cage. And a seatbelt.

Getting in and out of an Ace takes a little longer than throwing a leg over a quad, but it’s a trifling annoyance when you consider how much safer you are in an machine designed to protect you over one that is not. 

We think the 325 Ace was underpowered, and still do. But not the 570. The fuel-injected Pro Star single-cylinder engine has gobs of power, in fact enough to make the speedo needle walk the plank.

The Ace hit 90km/h on a 600m section of dirt road on our test property and was still gaining speed when we had to slow for a cattle grate.

It's comfortable, quiet, torquey and good value at $12,000 (at the time of testing) The only real criticism we can offer, after flogging it up, down and sideways for two days, is that the Ace lacks any real storage space.

 

Honda Pioneer 500

Honda Pioneer 500


The Honda Pioneer 500, is a compact, light, two-seat side-by-side with a 475cc single-cylinder engine and a semi-auto transmission, operated by nifty little paddle shifters on the steering wheel.

Honda has obviously gone to some trouble to keep this thing as compact as possible without making it too small for the average human being to get in and drive. There isn’t a huge amount of space in the cab, though, and not a lot of storage space either.

To keep the Pioneer uncomplicated in its basic configuration, where you’d expect to find a cargo box is a mere carry rack. Really, it would be more practical with a storage box on the back.

It doesn’t have power-steering, doesn’t need it, and no doubt all the less than burly individuals will be glad to hear it. The steering is light, neutral and direct, but not so direct that the vehicle feels twitchy.

To up-shift the five-speed ‘semi-auto’ transmission you tap the right-hand paddle. To down-shift, you tap the left-hand one. End of story. True, your first shifts might be a bit clunky as you get used to it, but after 10 minutes you’re making smooth changes every time.

Put simply, it’s a compact, narrow, midsize machine made to get in and out of tight spots. It’s certainly not fast, but you don’t need speed on a farm, you need reliable functionality. It’s also good value for money, at $15,000 as tested.

 

Kymco UXV 500

Kymco UXV 500 UTV


Founded in 1963 Kymco is a Taiwanese company manufacturing motor scooters, motorcycles and ATVs for worldwide distribution. The company originally made parts for Honda but began marketing under the Kymco brand in 1992.

We took the Kymco UXV 500 for a fang on a  a 3,350-hectare farm in the middle of New Zealand's North Island, taking it up what the Kiwis call a 'hill' but is, in fact, a decent-sized mountain.

The 3km track up to the peak was at least 300mm deep in mud, and almost twice that deep in places. But the proved no problem for the UXV 500’s 33hp (25kW), 500cc 4-stroke double overhead camshaft (DOHC) engine, even when the muddy track got narrower and deeper as we climbed.

The UXV 500 is very user-friendly and rides incredibly smoothly, even with its knobbly tyre pattern. It can be operated in either two- or four-wheel drive and in low or high range.

Kymco Australia now offers the UXV 450i (see above) and 700i as new, but if you're after a used UTV the 500 is well worth checking out.

 

Kubota RTV-X1120D

Kubota RTV-X1120D


The Kubota RTV-X1120D is a utility task vehicle featuring a variable hydrostatic transmission and a 1,123cc diesel engine that produces 24.8hp (18.5kW) at 3,000rpm. It’s a quiet engine, even when working hard.

Pretty much everything about this UTV suggests a devotion to hard work. The front differential is a limited-slip unit and the rear diff can be locked by pushing on a small pedal behind the driver’s left foot.

The Kubota goes about its job in understated fashion. The 2-speed transmission is smooth and engine braking certainly up to the task of slowing the little truck on the type of hills you would expect to negotiate during a day’s work.

Even with a wheel off the ground — a long way off the ground — the machine feels stable and its progress is uninterrupted.

The cabin is quite large and has decent legroom. Overall, the RTV-X1120D is comfortable and easy to operate

 

Arctic Cat Prowler 700 HDX

Arctic Cat Prowler 700 HDX


The 700 HDX is a top-of-the-line model with every mod con (except ground clearance) and a bench seat with plenty of room for three boofy blokes or even three boofy women.

Apart from the obvious dump box, the Prowler has plenty of space to stash equipment. There’s a large box under the bonnet and a large storage box on either side of the body.

The dump box tilts manually, and has a rated capacity of 454kg.

Ride quality is first rate, and unlike most side-by-sides, or even quads for that matter, the 700 HDX has genuinely adjustable Fox air shocks on the back.

However, being a long wheelbase model the HDX 700 isn’t all that flash as a rough-terrain vehicle.

You won’t have any trouble fording creeks if the water level is reasonable, but you might find the 700 occasionally hung up on humps in the terrain where the belly lacks sufficient ground clearance to clear them.

(Click on the link and watch the video for an example of the 700 HDX's lack of ground clearance in which we belly out over two small humps.)

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