While Yamaha gets most of the
credit for popularizing the sport UTV
market, Polaris actually had a somewhat sporty Ranger years before
the Rhino. That unit was a Ranger
500, and over the years the Ranger
line has seen major improvements.
Most notably is a smooth-riding, four-wheel independent suspension system and an equally smooth twin-cylinder engine. Wheel-travel numbers
on the current Ranger 800 read 9. 6
inches up front and 9 inches in the
back. At 60 inches wide, this Ranger
will squeeze into the back of any full-size pickup.
The Ranger 800 is powered by
Polaris’ proven 760cc, liquid-cooled,
parallel, two-cylinder engine. These
days it’s fuel injected and has seating for three. Power steering is also
available, as well as a variety of color
schemes. Our test unit is the spe-cial-edition Sunset Red model with
EPS and has a price tag of $13,299.
If you don’t want EPS, you can save
$1000 by picking the camo model, or
save an additional $700 by selecting the Sage Green model for only
The Pioneer completely replaces Honda’s first attempt at a UTV,
the Big Red. The Pioneer uses the
same 675cc, liquid-cooled, four-stroke
engine and is mated to a hydraulic three-speed transmission. Wheel
travel on all four independent corners
has been increased to 7. 9 inches up
front and 9 inches in the rear.
What makes the Pioneer stand apart
from other UTVs is that the four-seat
version incorporates stowaway jump
seats that fold completely out of the
Even though most of the excitement surrounds the high-performance sport segment, the sport utility market has way more customers nationwide—that’s why
Honda and Yamaha are trying to stay in the game with Polaris.
way in the dump bed. When needed,
you simply pop them up one at a time.
The only downside is that it cannot
transport a full-size pallet in the bed
like the other two. On the other hand,
the Pioneer, at a slim 60 inches wide,
fits the easiest into the back of a full-size pickup. Pioneers are available
in red, olive green or camo colors.
The four-seater starts at $11,699, and
the two-seater is only $9999. Honda’s
Phantom Camo color adds $600.
The new Yamaha Viking has big
shoes to fill in replacing the ultra-pop-ular Rhino. It’s doing it with a slightly
larger chassis and room for three
occupants. Power is provided by
an updated single-cylinder, liquid-cooled, 686cc engine. That motor
is placed behind the driver’s compartment to reduce cabin noise and
to make room for the center of three
Three occupants in the Viking sit low and snug. Both passengers have a big grab bar to hang on to. Plus, the floorboard is
very well positioned for everyone.
We have always liked the ease of use of the Polaris bench
seat. The middle passenger is the most uncomfortable, with
no hand-holds to hang on to and his knees being very close
to the dash.