Farmers Weekly Interactive Tests Five Diesel UTVs on the Farm

| November 30, 2009 | 0 Comments

Farmers Weekly Interactive

Quad bikes are wonderful things, but what if there’s more than one of you wanting to take a ride? Or you need to carry something bulky but don’t want to have to hook on a trailer?

Farmers Weekly tests four of today's diesel utility vehicles on the farm

Farmers Weekly tests five of today's diesel utility vehicles on the farm

The answer to both questions could well be a farm buggy, also known as a side-by-side or utility vehicle. Though many of the current designs started life as either a golf cart or a parks-and-gardens-style runabout, they’ve now metamorphosed into fully farm-friendly bits of kit.

The test was carried out by journalists from Farmers Weekly, France Agricole (France) and Top Agrar (Germany). All five models we chose for this test are red-diesel powered, have four-wheel drive and reasonable underbody clearance.

Gearboxes were mainly CVT belt types, though one was hydrostatic. All five models can carry about 500kg and some have either a hydraulic, electric or manual tipping mechanism. All can carry two people, with one (the Kawasaki MULE) capable of converting to a four-seater.

However that’s where the similarities end, for the five machines’ performance, noise levels, suspension and general degree of refinement varied massively.

The five contenders:

The tests

  • Time taken to traverse a 500m track
  • Hill climb with a round bale on the back and a 550kg trailer
  • Ability to keep the wheels in contact with the ground, even on undulating terrain
  • Noise level
  • Turning circle
  • Ability to soften out bumps
  • Storage/build quality
  • Ease of engagement of gears plus effectiveness of engine braking on downhill slopes

KAWASAKI Mule 4010 Trans 4×4 – best all-rounder

KAWASAKI Mule 4010 Trans 4x4

KAWASAKI Mule 4010 Trans 4x4

First impressions:
A Unimog-esque, almost military, look with good ground clearance and a sturdy brushed-steel roll cage.

The whole vehicle is well thought out, with the Trans option giving the choice of seating for four or a longer load bay.

Chassis and suspension

The engine bay is a more compact, boxed-in affair than on the other machines, which helps to deaden noise and limit the amount of mud that gets thrown up around the engine and gearbox.

Engine and transmission

The engine was the smoothest, quietest and most refined on test – its 953cc and 3-cylinders pumping out 24hp. The twin-range, belt-driven CVT is smooth and the range of ratios in “Hi” means there’s never the need to drop into “Lo”, even on the steepest of slopes.


Drives more like a 4×4 than a buggy – straightforward and responsive. The gear change located up on the dash is easy to fathom and undemanding.

Diff-lock and 4wd are engaged via simple lift-and-shift mechanical levers that are unlikely to ever give grief. The power steering is exceptionally light.

It has single wishbones, coil springs and dampers up front and a rigid rear beam (like the Kubota) supported by a combination of leaf springs, coil springs and dampers.

Key Specifications:

  • 953cc Four-stroke, three-cylinder, liquid-cooled, OHV, diesel
  • 25 mph Top Speed
  • 7.0 in. Ground Clearance
  • 1,632 lbs. Load Capacity
  • Cargo Bed Capacity – 400 lbs. (4-person mode) / 1,100 lbs. (2-person mode)
  • Towing Capacity – 1,200 lbs.

More test information: Kawasaki Mule 4010 Trans 4×4

Manufacturer website: Kawasaki Mule™ 4010 Trans4x4® Diesel

John Deere Gator XUV 850 D

John Deere Gator XUV 850 D

John Deere Gator XUV 850 D

First impressions:

Most golf buggy-like of them all, but well built, neat and thoughtfully laid out overall.

Chassis and suspension

Rubber bushings and engine mounts fail to dampen a raucous, ear-splitting clattering at idle that recedes to nothing once you give the 3-pot Yanmar a few revs.

The suspension is relatively hard and willing to “cock a leg” but this doesn’t seem to affect traction.

Engine and transmission

Yanmar motor and belt-drive CVT put the power to the ground in a smooth, progressive way. And, like the Kawasaki, there’s rarely any cause to shift out of high range.


The centrally mounted gear selector can be a bit fiddly for larger drivers, but electrically-engaged 4×4 is a bonus. Traction is unbelievable and it scaled everything we flung at it, even in high range.

Key Specifications

  • 854 cc (24.6 hp) liquid cooled, 3-cylinder , 4-cycle Yanmar diesel engine
  • 30 mph top speed (17 mph in low range)
  • Two-range CVT transmission
  • Independent Rear Suspension
  • On-demand 4-wheel drive
  • Rear traction assist
  • 11-inch ground clearance
  • Cargo Bed Capacity – 1000 lbs.
  • Towing Capacity – 1300 lbs.

More test  information: John Deere Gator XUV 850 D

Manufacturer website: John Deere Gator XUV 850 D

Kubota RTV 900

Kubota RTV 900

Kubota RTV 900

First impressions:

The most workmanlike looking of the lot, with a robust roll bar, bull-bars and a useful grille at the back to stop loads sliding forward.

Overall build quality is good inside and out, although the gearstick seemed a little flimsy.

Chassis and suspension

Like most of the other buggies on test, the RTV900 uses a step-frame chassis with the engine and transmission carried in a separate cradle under the load deck.

Up front, independent springing comes in the form of a single-wishbone/coil-spring and damper set-up. At the rear there’s a rigid tubular axle carried on leaf springs with shock absorbers.

Engine and transmission

A beefy aluminum powertrain gives away Kubota’s compact tractor heritage. The 21hp, three-cylinder, 898cc engine and three-range hydrostatic transmission come straight from the Japanese firm’s groundscare product range. In fact it was the only hydro CVT on test.


The high driving position is a bonus and the layout makes it feel like a proper work vehicle.

It’s the only vehicle to have three speed ranges, although we reckon it could manage OK with two. Because it’s hydrostatic, Kubota had to fit a pressure-release system (handled by a dash-mounted knob) to help the lever engage the gears smoothly. It’s a bit of a works and the knob would be better on the floor or on the gear stick itself.

A good point was that it was also only one of only two machines to have powered steering, which was positive and not too light. However there’s some power loss (due to the hydrostatic transmission) and the hill climb needed to be
tackled in medium range.

Key Specifications:

  • 898cc 3-cylinder diesel
  • Top speed – 25 mph
  • Towing Capacity 1323 lbs.
  • Cargo Bed Capacity – 1102 lbs.

More information: Kubota RTV 900

Manufacturer website: Kubota RTV900


Massey Ferguson 20 MD

Massey Ferguson 20 MD

First impressions

With its canvas cab, it looks like a dune buggy/rickshaw hybrid. Overall, it feels like a low budget machine, but equally it has high-quality engine materials like aviation grade brake pipes.

Chassis and suspension

The engine is bolted directly to the chassis which would explain the vibration and racket that it produces. But the MF employs a double wishbone suspension at each corner with coil springs and adjustable dampers. This makes the ride and handling very stable and there’s even an anti-roll bar linking the two rear units.

Engine and Transmission

A loud 20hp Perkins three-pot lurks under the seat along with a two-range belt-drive CVT. The shift lever presides over a difficult-to-engage, close-gated range box with a flimsy selector linkage. There’s a mechanical diff-lock for the rear and limited-slip diff up front.


The gear layout is straightforward and gears easy to engage. The buggy has plenty of poke and tackled all tasks without complaint.

However the starting procedure is tedious – you need to have the handbrake on as well as putting the gear selector in neutral. If the handbrake is applied while the engine is running and it’s in gear, it’ll cut out.

The jerky foot throttle also means it’s near-impossible to inch forward or backwards and the heavy steering makes it difficult to maneuver in tight places.

More information: Massey Ferguson 20 MD

Manufacturer website: Massey Feruson 20 MD




First impressions:

The most modern-looking, in a moon-buggy sort of way. A bit too much plastic, but components are well made and common to other JCB machines. Our road-ready version looked a little unfinished, with some exposed wiring.

Chassis and suspension

Suspension is clearly an area that JCB took a lot of time over. Up front it’s pretty standard stuff with MacPherson-style coils and dampers. But at the back it has opted for independent trailing arms hinged just behind the seat and supported by variable-rate springs.

Engine and transmission

Power comes from a 768cc, 26hp Lombardini three-cylinder engine via belt-driven CVT. Positioned right in the centre of the chassis, this is good for weight distribution but means the Groundhog is decidedly loud.


Though heavier to steer than the others, the JCB is maneuverable and responsive at low speeds. However it has a tendency to wander at higher speeds and can be tricky to get into 4wd and reverse.

The belt has a strong tendency to slip on steep hills. When ascending with a heavy load, it’s a case of pausing and waiting until the belt regains traction again.

More information: JCB Groundhog 4×4

Manufacturer website: JCB Groundhog 4×4

Farmers Weekly Interactive
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Category: Featured, John Deere, Kawasaki, Kubota, Utility

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