Send eight farmers into a gun club preserve with nine brand-new utility vehicles and what do you get? Eight farmers who want to buy one. Even the die-hard ATV owners wanted to deal on a vehicle while still at the rodeo.

UVs are coming of age. Clearly the quality, features and durability of vehicles have improved since the last Farm Industry News UV Rodeo held just two years ago.

“The industry has raised the bar since we first tested UVs,” stated Paul Gervais, Tracy, MN. “The parking brake on every one of them held on the hill. Backing up the hill was not an issue with any of them. They perform better. And all the vehicles are getting safer. It is interesting to see the number of players now in the UV field.”

This year, Team FIN farmers tested UVs from nine different companies ranging from the well-known manufacturers in the business like Polaris, Kawasaki and Arctic Cat to lesser-known brands like Land Pride, Bush Hog and PUG. Farm Industry News invited all major companies to participate.

“Overall, I was really impressed with most of them,” reported Keith Brown, Merrill, IA. “About 70% of them had fantastic rides, good suspensions. But durability is always a big question. I don’t know how they will last. It’s a lot of weight and hauling on not much more than motorcycle engines.”

Top scores
To help growers answer questions about how UVs will perform on the farm, our Team FIN drivers put the vehicles through tests designed to resemble farm jobs. Then they filled out detailed score sheets. The scores were tabulated and the top scorers in each test and overall were identified.

Rising to the top of the rankings was the new John Deere XUV 850 diesel, which is a big change from two years ago when a Deere Gator sat at the bottom of the testers’ list. “The Deere vehicle was way better than the last Gators I rode here,” stated Clark McPheeters, Gothenburg, NE. “This one is not in the same class. I would buy one this time.”

Second place went to the powerful Polaris Ranger XP Browning Edition, which was just a few points away from the Deere vehicle. And following close behind was another surprise, the Land Pride 4420 Treker. “I call Land Pride the most improved from two years ago,” reported Kent Lock, Avon, IL. “Land Pride has got it together. I am impressed.”

Listing the vehicles by total score doesn’t tell the whole story. Team FIN farmers varied widely in their preferences and scores. So we report the four vehicles with the top scores in each test category to help farmers determine what vehicle is best for their own needs. Because the UVs are so competitive, it is no surprise that many of them make the top four in at least one category.

Maintenance
Some farmers like to service their own vehicles so Team FIN testers scored each UV based on ease of maintenance. They looked at how easy it is to change the fuel and air filters, change the oil, and lubricate the vehicle. In this category, the scores were very close. Only one point on a scale of 1 to 5 separated the best from the worst. The Deere XUV earned the top score and the Kawasaki Mule came in second. Feterl’s PUG was third and the Cub Cadet 4x4 was fourth.

The four top vehicles in this category all had high scores for the convenient locations of the oil, coolant, spark plugs (when applicable), battery and air filter. Plus the vehicles required little lubrication and the brakes were easy to adjust or change.

Loaded hauling
Farmers need to use their vehicles to haul tools and supplies, so this event duplicated hauling a light load on the farm. About 240 lbs. of salt bags were thrown in the UVs’ cargo beds, and the farmers drove the vehicles up and down hills, testing brakes, power and suspension.

The Polaris Ranger with its big cargo bed and engine was the clear winner of this event. Universally the drivers scored the Ranger high for power, handling and braking with the load. About a half point behind were the next three UVs: the John Deere XUV, Arctic Cat Prowler and the Land Pride Treker.

Some of the drivers reported that, although this weight was low for a test, a few of the vehicles did struggle going up the hills.

Continue reading on next page: More UV ratings and information

Low-speed handling
UVs are wider and heavier than most ATVs, but farmers still want them nimble enough to maneuver around livestock and into tight spots. Our drivers tested the UVs’ handling capabilities by weaving them through barrels, forward and backward.

“Steering was a big thing here,” reported Peter Bakken, Garretson, SD. “Some vehicles had power assist or power steering and some steered really hard. The true test of steering was doing the barrels. On some you could one-hand it around and the next you would need two hands.”

The John Deere XUV again took the top spot in this category, with the Polaris Ranger close behind. The Land Pride Treker earned the third spot and Arctic Cat the fourth.

Four-wheelin’
The four-wheelin’ test really brought out a difference of opinion among our test drivers. Some drivers wanted a work vehicle only and did not want a fast ride, which they suspected may be less safe with children and employees. Other drivers wanted a faster, sportier vehicle that could do hard work.

In this event, the drivers took the vehicles out on a gravel road and into a wooded area where they tested braking, handling and 4-wd performance. They also checked mud and water protection by driving through a stream.

The final tallies in this category show most of the vehicles scored within a half point of each other. The drivers repeatedly said most of the vehicles could handle a four-wheel course including a stream crossing and still keep the driver clean and comfortable.

The Polaris Ranger took the top spot, and the John Deere XUV was in second place. The Land Pride Treker was third, and the fourth spot went to the Kawasaki Mule.

Overall comfort
Finally, the drivers evaulated each vehicle’s comfort, styling and accessories. They were asked to check the ergonomics of the seat, foot pedals and steering wheel; the convenience of the controls; the styling; and how well accessories would work with the vehicle.

The results of this category show that farmers do care how a vehicle looks. The stylish Arctic Cat Prowler pulled the highest score with its sleek design and aluminum rims. Drivers also noted it had a comfortable seat and two electrical outlets. Second in this category was the John Deere XUV, third the Polaris Ranger and fourth the Land Pride Treker.

Driver Kent Lock measured step-in height to the driver’s seat and lifting height for the cargo box. The step-in height of all the vehicles ranged from 13 to 19 in. and lifting height ranged from 41 to 46 in. The Land Pride, PUG and Cub Cadet had the lowest step-in heights, which the drivers preferred. The John Deere XUV and Kawasaki Mule had the lowest heights on the cargo bed.

Next page: Individual Ratings - John Deere, Polaris, Land Pride

John Deere XUV 850D 4x4
John Deere returned to our rodeo with a machine that was very different from the Gator the company brought two years ago. “This vehicle is the most improved since the last rodeo,” stated Scott McPheeters, Gothenburg, NE. He called the vehicle well engineered and durable and noted its conveniences like blinkers and a horn.

The drivers tested Deere’s diesel XUV that is powered by a 24.6-hp Yanmar engine and reaches 30 mph. “I liked the diesel engine,” Clark McPheeters said. “It was really quiet going down the road. It’s just a well-mannered, predictable vehicle to drive. It could use just a little bit more power on the hills.”

The XUV’s bucket seat drew positive comments. “Deere had an adjustable seat that we could scoot all the way back,” commented Gary Appleby, Tuscola, IL. “Some of the vehicles didn’t have enough leg room.”

Another plus for the XUV was its handling. “It steered like it had power steering but didn’t,” reported Jack Appleby, Atwood, IL.

Suggested price: $10,599
Engine: 854cc, 24.6 hp, liquid cooled, 3 cyl., diesel
Cargo box: 1,000 lbs.
800/535-2967
www.johndeere.com/vehicles
Score: 4.44

Polaris Ranger XP Browning
Described as a workhorse, the Polaris Ranger XP won praise for the power created from a 40-hp, twin-cylinder Polaris engine. Top speed for the vehicle is 50 mph and it features on-demand all-wheel drive that needs no engagement from a driver. According to Polaris, the Browning Edition runs higher in price than other Rangers.

“Polaris rode the nicest and had good power,” Gervais concluded. “Top speed isn’t crucial, but for my application it is nice to have it to go between fields. The Ranger was the best blended package and I could ride it all day.”

The only consistent negative that the drivers listed was that the vehicle has a six-month warranty and not a one- or two-year warranty like the other UVs have.

Other drivers noted that the Ranger handled anything on the ride — from carrying cargo to driving up a rutted, mud-slick stream bank. As a result, they gave it high marks.

Suggested price: $12,299
Engine: 700cc, 40 hp, liquid-cooled, EFI
Cargo box: 1,000 lbs.
763/542-0500
www.polarisind.com
Score: 4.41

Land Pride 4420 Treker 4x4
Land Pride, a division of Great Plains Manufacturing, improved its standing among the test drivers since the last rodeo with its new 4420 Treker model. This vehicle earned top scores in a couple of categories with its 20-hp, V-twin Honda engine that speeds up to 30 mph. And the ride earned it considerable praise.

“I really enjoyed riding the Land Pride,” Brown reported. “I’m older and heavier and didn’t want to sit and bounce. It had a lot of power, nice smooth transmission and handled everything I put on it. It is middle-of-the-road for size and features. I would probably write a check for it.”

One driver noted that the Treker easily started up a steep hill even while loaded. The vehicle’s controls were simple, another driver remarked. This was a negative for another driver who said the vehicle was “generic.” And the suspension that one driver liked, another thought was “too squishy” until the vehicle was loaded.

Suggested price: $9,199
Engine: 620cc, 20 hp, V-twin, air cooled
Cargo box: 900 lbs.
800/231-9533
www.landpride.com
Score: 4.28

Next page: More individual Ratings - Arctic Cat, Bobcat, Kawasaki Mule

Arctic Cat Prowler 650Hi XT
The drivers were impressed with the Prowler — Arctic Cat’s entry into the UV market. Many of them liked its sleek design and high power, while others considered it too much for the farm. “The Prowler is kind of like a Corvette; it’s just a little too fancy and fast for a farmer like me,” Gary Appleby remarked.

Other drivers considered the Prowler among the best in the test. “I thought it was the most powerful of the whole bunch,” Clark McPheeters reported. “It didn’t have the smoothest power delivery, probably because it is a single-cylinder engine. The styling was really nice, and it is probably the most capable off road because of its high ground clearance.”

The Arctic Cat 641cc engine powers the vehicle to 50 mph. Its composite cargo box drew excellent reviews, while its parking brake did not.

Suggested price: $10,199
Engine: 641cc, single-cylinder, liquid cooled
Cargo box: 600 lbs.
218/681-8558
www.arcticcat.com
Score: 4.08

Bobcat 2200D
Drivers liked Bobcat’s new 2200D UV powered with a 3-cyl., 20-hp Kubota diesel engine. “I liked the quiet diesel engine,” Clark McPheeters reported. “It is a high-quality machine that seems very durable and will give many years of trouble-free service.” Its top speed is 25 mph, and it features an automatic, on-demand 4-wd system.

The aluminum frame earned praise, but not the aluminum in the cargo bed where a load would rattle. One persistent complaint was the difficulty getting in and out of the seat due to the vehicle’s high ground clearance and tight space between the steering wheel and armrest. The steering wheel does tilt, and other drivers noted that the high clearance helps the vehicle clear trail obstacles.

Overall, the drivers gave Bobcat a thumbs-up. “I would put the Bobcat in a work category because it is a big, strong vehicle, probably one of the best performing of the diesels,” Brown concluded.

Suggested price: $12,187
Engine: 20 hp, 3 cyl., diesel, liquid cooled
Cargo box: 800 lbs.
701/280-8700
www.bobcat.com
Score: 4.0

Kawasaki Mule 3010 Trans 4x4
The Kawasaki Mule powered with a 953cc, 3-cyl. diesel engine received a good review. “Kawasaki has been in the business a long time and the Mule is well put together,” Lock reported. “The vehicle has the softest footprint of the UVs in the test so it won’t tear up my pastures. I love the power steering.”

What caught the most attention was the second bench seat that easily folds back into the cargo bed. Drivers admitted they hadn’t thought about multiple seating, but after seeing it, they figured they would really like having it.

One complaint that surfaced was a rougher ride. Clark McPheeters suggested the “suspension needs more travel to make it more capable and comfortable in off-road conditions.”

Bakken added, “I think the Mule is a good machine, but it has some older technology. The vehicle had a lever to switch into differential and 4-wd. Why not make the differential automatic and 4-wd a rocker switch?”

Suggested price: $10,899
Engine: 953cc, 24 hp, 3 cyl., liquid cooled
Cargo box: 1,100 lbs.
949/770-0400
www.kawasaki.com
Score: 4.0

Next page: More individual ratings - Cub Cadet, Bush Hog, PUG Frontier

Cub Cadet 4x4 diesel
A first-time participant in the rodeo, Cub Cadet brought a 4x4 diesel UV powered with a 20-hp, 3-cyl. diesel engine. Drivers wrote positive comments on the vehicle’s styling and comfort.

“The yellow Cub Cadet felt nice to drive,” Brown said. “I liked the ride and performance until I put some weight in it and then it fell down a little.” Other drivers also noted that the vehicle seemed underpowered. One driver suggested increasing the horsepower to 25 or 30 to solve the power issue.

Clark McPheeters liked the diesel engine. “I had thought all the diesels would be loud and not a lot of fun to drive,” he said. “But they were actually all pretty quiet. The Cub Cadet was a nice machine with good suspension. Overall it was pretty decent.” However, he noted that the accelerator pedal was too short and his foot quickly tired.

Suggested price: $10,799
Engine: 760 cc, 20 hp, 3 cyl., liquid cooled
Cargo box: 900 lbs.
877/282-8684
www.cubcadetuv.com
Score: 3.95

Bush Hog Trail Hand TH4400
The Trail Hand was the first Bush Hog vehicle to be tested in the rodeo and it delivered a solid performance. “The Bush Hog is a good, rugged vehicle with adequate power,” Brown remarked. “It is something a farmer wouldn’t mind owning.”

The vehicle is powered with a 24-hp, Honda V-twin engine. Drivers commented that the suspension was comfortable but that the vehicle felt big and bulky to drive.

Two features drew the most comments: the plastic cargo bed and the glass windshield. The plastic bed was quiet and the glass windshield would not scratch as quickly as plastic, most drivers said. But one driver thought the windshield trapped dust and didn’t want it.

The debate over the perfect seat continued with the Bush Hog. Some drivers liked the bench seat because they could get out on either side, while others preferred a bucket seat. A couple of drivers remarked that it was difficult squeezing between the wheel and armrest on this vehicle.

Suggested price: $9,399
Engine: 670cc, 24 hp, V-twin, air cooled
Cargo box: 1,000 lbs.
334/874-2700
www.bushhog.com
Score: 3.75

PUG Frontier 4x4
Feterl Manufacturing purchased the PUG line of UVs a year ago and started redesigning it. They participated in the rodeo as a test of their product line and left with a lot of suggestions from the drivers.

The Frontier 4x4 is powered with a 20-hp, twin-cylinder engine. Most of the drivers thought it was underpowered for an off-road course but would work fine on a flatter terrain like that in central Illinois.

They also thought the suspension needed redoing. “They need to get rid of the leaf springs in the back and get some struts,” Clark McPheeters suggested. “And they need to do something to eliminate the dust that billows into the cabin area.”

The drivers liked the tilt steering wheel and low step-in height of the vehicle. They mentioned that the gas pedal and brake should be closer together because they had trouble moving their foot from one to the other.

“I certainly admire them for jumping into such a competitive market,” Clark McPheeters said.

Suggested price: $9,565
Engine: 614cc, 20 hp, twin cylinder, air cooled
Cargo box: 1,000 lbs.
605/421-1664
www.feterl.com
Score: 3.39