Cross an ATV with a golf cart and you come up with the hottest 4-wheel vehicle trend in the farm market today. Utility vehicles (UVs) mix the comfort of a cushy golf cart with the power of an ATV. UV buyers like the comfort of sliding into a seat instead of slinging a leg over the top, as with an ATV.

But how do these UVs perform? For the Farm Industry News ATV Rodeo, held August 21 and 22 in Le Sueur, MN, eight manufacturers brought their latest models of UVs for the 10 test drivers to try.

The drivers put the UVs through an informal evaluation, driving them on the ATV course when time allowed. They offered comments about each vehicle's comfort, handling, power and maintenance.

Overall, the drivers were surprised by the lack of speed and power of many of the UVs. Unfortunately, most UVs are designed that way. UVs not exceeding 25 hp and 25 mph are classified as non-road vehicles and are exempt from emission standards. Only the Polaris Ranger exceeds those specifications.

Further ATV/UV Reading:

more ATV/UV articles

The light and the heavy

Most of our test drivers classified the UVs into two categories: UVs for light farm work and UVs for heavy work. The Polaris Ranger and Kawasaki Mule fell into the heavy work category, and all the others fit into the light work group.

“The Ranger and Mule could keep up with the ATVs,” Shirley Hodgen reported. “If I needed to go through a pasture to check my cattle after 5 in. of rain, the Ranger and Mule would get me there.”

The rest of the pack struggled with mud and rough terrain. But most drivers thought there was a place for the low-power UVs on the farm. “They are all right if they are used for light-duty work,” Tim Nicholson pointed out. “You can't pull a 300-bu. wagon around the yard with them, but they would work on smaller jobs.”

One complaint was that some UVs were an odd width that prevented them from straddling 30-in. row crops. “Some UVs were 60 in. wide and fought the rows,” Ronny Ennen said. “If they were just 4 to 6 in. wider, they would fit a farm better.”

Ennen also wanted to see more engine gauges on the vehicles. “I wish they had more instrumentation like the ATVs — a speedometer and other dash gauges to tell you things. Some buttons weren't even labeled,” he said.

Here's a look at each of the UVs at the rodeo.

Arctic Cat SBS 1000

Arctic Cat recently entered the UV market with the SBS 1000 retailing for $7,499. The low-riding UV runs on a 480cc, Briggs & Stratton Vanguard V-twin engine. It produces enough power to haul two people, the 1,000-lb. vehicle and 1,000 lbs. in the plastic bed. The SBS 1000 also is rated for towing 800 lbs. The fuel tank holds 7 gal.

Our test drivers appreciated the UV's comfortable ride and little amenities such as cup holders and storage under the seats. They also liked the plastic bed and the easy access to the machine's parts for service. The vehicle reaches top speed at 16 mph.

For more information, contact Arctic Cat Inc., Dept. FIN, Box 810, Thief River Falls, MN 56701, 218/681-8558, or visit www.arctic-cat.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin.

E-Z-Go Textron

After driving the ST480 UV from E-Z-Go Textron, most of our test drivers said the ride was quiet and comfortable, just like in a golf cart. What else would you expect from the world's largest golf cart manufacturer? The model retails for $7,499.

The ST480 is powered with a 480cc, Vanguard V-twin engine. To handle rough terrain, it includes a locking rear differential and is equipped with front and rear suspension. Top speed is 17 mph. The UV hauls 500 lbs. in its box and tows 1,000 lbs. The bed is fully lined, which our test drivers liked. They also thought it would be easy to service and suited for work on paved or hard surfaces.

“I liked the E-Z-Go vehicle,” Nicholson said. “It is a golf cart with a box on the back. I liked hitting the foot feed and having it start. It would be great for lighter work.”

For more information, contact E-Z-Go Textron, Dept. FIN, Box 388, Augusta, GA 30903, 800/241-5855, or visit www.ezgo.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin.

John Deere Gator

The popular farm equipment manufacturer entered the UV market 10 years ago with the green-colored Gator. Since then, the company has come out with several models, including the 6×4 Gator that our drivers tested.

Equipped with an 18-hp, liquid-cooled engine, the Gator 6×4 provides full-time 4-wd and differential lock. Built low to the ground, its maximum speed is 18 mph. It hauls 800 lbs. in its box and tows 1,200 lbs. The retail price is $8,299.

The drivers noted that, with so many Deere dealers around, it would be easy to find parts for the Gator. But the UV doesn't have the power found in its tractor cousins. Several drivers were disappointed in the Gator's poor performance in the mud. However, kept on hard surfaces, the UV was comfortable and easy to operate.

For more information, contact John Deere Vehicle Group, Dept. FIN, Box 3540, Williamsburg, VA 23187, 919/804-2000, or visit www.deere.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin.

Kawasaki Mule

The Mule has been in the marketplace for several years, and the test drivers now know why. “I wasn't going to put the Mule through the water crossing [on the ATV 4-wheelin' course] but someone was tailgating me and I thought, ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do,’” Kent Lock said. “So I put it through the water and it came out alive.”

The 4-wd Mule selling for $8,799 will handle rugged terrain. A 617cc, liquid-cooled, V-twin engine powers it through most farm environments. Its ground clearance of 71/4 in. is higher than that of other UVs. It hauls 800 lbs. and tows 1,200 lbs. Top speed is 25 mph, also higher than the speed of many UVs.

Features on the Mule added to its attraction. The drivers noted good storage in the front under the hood, car brakes, only one grease zerk, a shaft drive, good suspension and convenient controls. They just wanted the Mule wider so it could drive down 30-in. rows.

For more information, contact Kawasaki Motors Corp., 9950 Jeronimo Rd., Irvine, CA 92618, 800/661-7433, or visit www.kawasaki.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin.

Koyker Raptor

Known for manufacturing loaders, Koyker Manufacturing started building UVs called Raptors several years ago. The company brought three models to the rodeo for testing, including the 4000H and 4000M models. The 4000H runs on a 25-hp, V-twin Kohler engine and features a 4-wd hydrostatic transmission. It hauls 1,000 lbs. in the bed and tows a hefty 2,500 lbs. Top speed is 16 mph. Retail price is $10,995.

The 4000M model is equipped with a 4-wd continuously variable transmission (CVT) and a 16-hp, V-twin Briggs & Stratton engine. It hauls 1,000 lbs. and tows 1,500 lbs. This model reaches 24 mph and sells for $8,795.

The drivers were concerned the steel Raptor might have corrosion problems, especially on its solid floor under the cargo box. Although steel is sturdy, it will start to rust in three to four years.

Both vehicles also struggled in the mud. Drivers noted they were noisier and rougher riding than other UVs at the test drive.

For more information, contact Koyker Mfg. Co., Dept. FIN, 200 N. Cleveland, Lennox, SD 57039, 800/456-1107, or visit www.koykermfg.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin.

Pioneer Club Car

Ingersoll Rand has manufactured UVs for many years. The Pioneer 1200 represents the company's latest design geared to a farm market. Test drivers liked this UV's aluminum frame, chassis and bed floor, because they thought those components wouldn't rust as quickly as steel ones.

The Pioneer 1200 is equipped with a 400cc engine, a 2-wd CVT with rear differential lock and belt drive. It will haul 800 lbs. and retails for $7,200.

“I liked the Pioneer,” Chuck Myers said. “If you lock the rear differential, it goes right up the steep hill. I figured I would be backing down the hill and didn't need to. It never spun the wheels. It must be well built and balanced.”

For more information, contact Club Car Inc., Dept. FIN, Box 204658, Augusta, GA 30917, 800/800-1227, or visit www.ClubCarPioneer.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin.

Polaris Ranger 6×6

Polaris's newest Ranger with a 6×6 CVT was the most popular UV among the test drivers. This vehicle easily handled the same mud, water and slick hills that the ATVs faced in their testing. “The Ranger was heads above everything else,” Myers concluded. “It was like a 4-wheeler and UV all in one.”

Ennen added, “I know you could hop on it and get anywhere, where with some of the other UVs you could not.” He was surprised at how well the two rear axles handled. “I thought they would fight a little when turning, but they didn't. It was a good, comfortable ride.” The Ranger's power is fed to the rear four wheels until a driver hits a dash-mounted switch that operates the on-demand 6-wd. When the 6-wd system senses lost traction, the front wheels are automatically engaged.

A Polaris 499cc, 4-stroke engine with liquid cooling provides the power behind the Ranger, reaching maximum speeds of 40 mph. “The Polaris shined through because of the speed,” Greg Washmon remarked. “Nobody wants to run around at 17 to 20 mph.”

The Ranger lists for $9,949. It will haul 1,000 lbs. in its box and run a long time with its 8.5-gal. fuel capacity.

For more information, contact Polaris's Ranger Information, Dept. FIN, 2100 Hwy. 55, Medina, MN 55340, 763/542-0500, or visit www.polarisindustries.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin.

Toro Twister

Toro wasn't kidding when it named its newest UV the Twister 1600. The vehicle features an in-frame suspension system that twists to keep all four wheels on the ground when traveling over rough terrain. As a result, most of the test drivers found the Twister ride comfortable. “The twisting frame would be good for all terrains,” Ennen said. “Its handling with a tight turning ratio makes this one of the best in the low-power class. The wide stance makes it stable.”

The Twister is equipped with a Briggs & Stratton 480cc, Vanguard twin-cylinder, 4-stroke engine. Maximum speed is 20 mph. A workhorse, it will haul 1,200 lbs. in the composite box and tow 1,200 lbs. It retails for $7,499.

For more information, contact The Toro Co., Dept. FIN, 8111 Lyndale Ave. S., Bloomington, MN 55420, 800/348-2424, or visit www.toro.com or www.freeproductinfo.net/fin.

Before you buy

After trying out the UVs, our drivers agreed that, except for the Polaris Ranger and Kawasaki Mule, the UVs are in a different class than ATVs. The low-power models will not replace ATVs on the farm. “UVs are more for hauling and are just fine for that,” Paul Gervais stated.

Our drivers recommended that, before buying a UV, you should determine how powerful a workhorse you really need and then test drive several models. And today you have more models from which to choose. “Years ago, UV dealers were spread out,” Jeff Ryan said. “Now it is a fairly competitive field.”

Further ATV/UV Reading:

more ATV/UV articles
E-Z-GO Textron
ST480
Suggested price $7,499
Engine 480cc, Vanguard V-twin, 16 hp
Transmission CVT
2-wd
L×W×H 110.5×48×49 in.
Ground clearance 6.0 in.
Dry weight 1,050 lbs.
Fuel capacity 6 gal.
Bed capacity 500 lbs.

E-Z-Go Textron
800/241-5855
ezgo.com

POLARIS
Ranger 6×6
Suggested price $9,949
Engine 499cc, 4-stroke single-cylinder, liquid-cooled
Transmission CVT 6×6 with hi/lo/neutral/reverse
L×W×H 120×60×75 in.
Ground clearance 7.2 in.
Dry weight 1,410 lbs.
Fuel capacity 8.5 gal.
Bed capacity 1,000 lbs.

Polaris Industries
763/542-0500
polarisindustries.com

KAWASAKI
Mule 3010 4×4
Suggested price $8,799
Engine 617cc, V-twin, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled
Transmission CVT 4-wd with hi/lo/reverse
L×W×H 112.6×57.4×76.2 in.
Ground clearance 7.24 in.
Dry weight 1,279 lbs.
Fuel capacity 5 gal.
Bed capacity 803 lbs.

Kawasaki Motors Corp.
800/661-7433
kawasaki.com

TORO
Twister 1600
Suggested price $7,499
Engine 480cc, 4-stroke, twin-cylinder, air-cooled
Transmission CVT with forward and reverse
L×W×H 115×59×48 in.
Ground clearance 7.0 in.
Dry weight 1,075 lbs.
Fuel capacity 7 gal.
Bed capacity 1,200 lbs.

The Toro Company
800/348-2424
toro.com

CLUB CAR
Pioneer 1200
Suggested price $7,200
Engine 400cc, air-cooled
Transmission CVT 2-wd with shift-on-the-fly diff. lock
L×W×H 123.4×54×51 in.
Ground clearance 11.4 in.
Dry weight 1,098 lbs.
Fuel capacity 7 gal.
Bed capacity 800 lbs.

Club Car Inc.
800/800-1227
ClubCarPioneer.com

JOHN DEERE
Gator 6×4
Suggested price $8,299
Engine 617cc, two-cylinder, liquid-cooled
Transmission CVT 6×4 with forward/neutral/reverse
L×W×H 106×60×75 in.
Ground clearance 6.7 in.
Dry weight 1,056 lbs.
Fuel capacity 5.3 gal.
Bed capacity 800 lbs.

John Deere Vehicle Group
919/804-2000
deere.com

ARCTIC CAT
SBS 1000
Suggested price $7,499
Engine 480cc, Briggs & Stratton, air-cooled
Transmission CVT
2-wd
L×W×H 115×59×30 in.
Ground clearance 5.0 in.
Dry weight 1,000 lbs.
Fuel capacity 7 gal.
Bed capacity 1,000 lbs.

Arctic Cat
218/681-8558
arctic-cat.com

KOYKER
Raptor 4000H
Suggested price $10,995
Engine V-twin Kohler, 25 hp
Transmission 4-wd hydrostatic
L×W×H 124×56×55 in.
Ground clearance 15 in.
Dry weight 1,620 lbs.
Fuel capacity 8 gal.
Bed capacity 1,000 lbs.

Koyker Manufacturing Co.
800/456-1107
koykermfg.com