Top 10 ATVs and UTVs of 2015

Rick Sosebee
by Rick Sosebee
We pick our favorite machines of the past 12 months

As 2015 draws to a close, we’ve figured it was time to share our top 10 ATVs and UTVs of the past 12 months with you.

This has been a very good year for off-road enthusiasts and with the introduction of many new or improved models coming in the 2016 model year the future looks very bright.

If you look at the overall performance of the ATV and UTV segments, you will see an array of multi-passenger and high-horsepower machines, but the past 12 months has brought us so much more than that. We’ve seen innovative ideas and some reinvigorated manufacturers

We are at a place in our industry where going faster and landing farther is eye catching, but thinking outside the box is what it will take to keep the thousands of adoring ATV and UTV fans ready to throw their money at these big manufacturers.

Combined, the manufacturers offered up dozens of new or revamped machines in the last year. Since we can’t talk about them all, our goal with this feature is highlight to get the ones that best captured our attention. The one thing you might find missing is the Sport ATV segment and that seems to have been left out of any manufacturer’s portfolio for now.

2016 Yamaha Kodiak 700 4X4 Utility ATV of the Year – Winner

2016 Yamaha Kodiak 700 4X4 EPS Review Yamaha has been one of the biggest players in the ATV world for many years, with the venerable Grizzly leading the charge. However, this year we chose the Yamaha Kodiak 700 as our favorite Utility ATV. The Kodiak wins not only for the price Yamaha offers, but also the overall package the Kodiak gives its owner. At a base price of only $6,199 the Kodiak 700 fits in most any budget for buying a new machine.

The comfort that is built into the ergonomics of this machine make it easier to handle and smoother during mount and dismount. Seating is plush for that all-day sit down trail ride or the ride along miles of fence line on the farm. This Kodiak is Yamaha’s big bore working machine and it has our vote for quality and reliability that we know and trust from the Newnan Georgia manufacturer.

2016 Suzuki KingQuad 750
2016 Suzuki KingQuad 750 Utility ATV of the Year – Honorable Mention

[VS Post1]It has been a long ride for Suzuki in the ATV market and the KingQuad has been available for many years, but in model year 2016 Suzuki has revamped the big Utility for a little better overall look and a promise of its future in the market. With the 722cc single cylinder DOHC engine receiving a few changes to help the big bore get down the trail a little better, Suzuki hopes to keep the improvements coming.

We realize that the appearance along with a few tweaks to the engine is not many changes when you are looking at a machine that has remained virtually the same for several years. However, the improvements not the reason we had chosen the KQ as one of our top ATVs of 2015. The mere fact that Suzuki has come back to the drawing board and has made a great effort to revamp its presence in the ATV market is eye opening. Suzuki has always been a great competitor and we applaud its effort to stay relevant.

2016 Can-Am Outlander 1000 6x6
2016 Can-Am Outlander 6X6 1000 XT Utility ATV of the Year – Honorable Mention

[VS Post2]Whether you wish to trail ride or work, the 2016 Can-Am Outlander 6X6 has you covered. Tripping the light fantastic down the trailhead is something this hard-working machine loves, but if you need some serious traction and brute working power this ATV is in a league of its own. The massive 976cc fuel injected V-Twin provides the grunt and the twin rear axles allow the spacious cargo box to handle cargo capacities up to 700 lbs.

We had ample opportunity to give the Outlander 6X6 a run for its money hauling large brush and towing out massive pines that had fallen over the property. The brute strength of this machine proved it could work harder than any traditional ATV on the market today. Combine this with a true dumping bed and power steering and there is nothing to stand in your way. That is why we like the Can-Am 6X6!

2016 Polaris Sportsman XP 1000 High Lifter
2016 Polaris Sportsman XP 1000 High Lifter Edition Utility ATV of the Year – Honorable Mention

[VS Post3]In recent years only three manufacturers have grasped onto the sport of mud riding in the way of a factory-produced mud machine. For 2016 Polaris teamed up with the original lift company called High Lifter out of Shreveport, Louisiana and began making the High Lifter edition ATVs specifically targeted for the deep mud. Using the Sportsman XP 1000 as a base, the product was just clawing at the door to be fitted with some High Lifter Outlaw 29.5-inch tires, full snorkels and a factory-installed lift kit from the same company.

High Lifter has been in this industry for many years and has obviously welcomed the partnership with Polaris. It was very refreshing to see a very dedicated mud riding company like High Lifter get this kind of recognition and we’re sure everyone there appreciates the honor it is to have the High Lifter name on a full factory produced machine. For us here at the significance of this partnership means that the support and recognition of a loyal mud riding community has not been forgotten.

2016 Can-Am Outlander L 570
2016 Can-Am Outlander L 570 Utility ATV of the Year – Honorable Mention

[VS Post4]Competition is always good and when Can-Am decided to get in the fight it not only introduced a worthy budget-minded Utility ATV (originally as a 500) with an incredible 48hp powerplant, but also reduced the price after increasing the displacement. This year’s Outlander L570 is $200 cheaper than the 500 from last year.

Transferring all of the similar technology from the larger displacement Outlander to this L model gives budget-minded consumers a little more pride in the money they spend. The fact that there are three trim levels to choose from should also get the excitement churning. We were impressed with the lineup that included not just a budget machine, but rounded out the trim levels to the 2016 Outlander L LE 570, Outlander L Mossy Oak Hunting Edition, and Outlander L X mr 570. Everyone loves options and having three distinct use models in a mid-bore ATV is wonderful.

2016 Yamaha YXZ1000R Sport UTV of the Year – Winnner

[VS Post5]In this year’s most anticipated release, Yamaha delivered the 2016 Yamaha YXZ1000R. This pure sport machine comes as Yamaha drops into the world of high power and long travel machines with a bang. The incredible power pouring from the inline fuel injected, 12-valve DOHC, liquid cooled 998cc triple cylinder engine is quite fascinating and the engine’s heart-pounding redline of 10,500 rpm makes you take notice. But the power of the YXZ1000R is just one slice of the pie.

Yamaha introduced the first sequential shifting transmission in the market with a console-mounted shift lever and floor-mounted clutch just like a street rod. This sends the fun factor to the stars. The comfortable high back seating combined with a well laid out cockpit makes this Sport UTV a blast to drive. Add in some FOX suspension and long travel control arms and you have a desert assassin ready for battle. We are fully aware that many readers love their belt drive CVT machines. Yes, there were several other UTVs in the Sport segment this year, but if you look at pure innovation in this machine, from the shifting to the engine platform and its potential, Yamaha has stepped out with something that no one else had in a big way. Growth in engineering is what built this industry and not being afraid to add something new is a huge part of that. We love it and that’s why it gets our nod for best of 2016.

2016 Can-Am Defender HD8/HD10 Utility UTV of the Year – Winner

[VS Post6]Can-Am has been churning out Side-by-Sides since the 2011 model year and has a fleet of Sport and Sport-Utility machines in its arsenal. The only thing missing was a true working machine, but that all changed with the introduction of the 2016 Can-Am Defender. Two different power packages are available for the Defender; the 799cc Rotax V-Twin and the 976cc Rotax V-Twin, which gives a little more kick to this bucking horse.

The Defender is Can-Am’s first true step into the hunting, working and commercial use Utility Side-by-Side vehicle market. It looks the part of a Utility machine has has some great Can-Am innovation built in.

2016 Kawasaki Mule Pro-DXT
2016 Kawasaki Mule Pro-DXT UTV of the Year – Honorable Mention

[VS Post7]Coming to market late in 2015 Kawasaki added an alternately fueled machine in the Mule Pro-DXT. Utilizing a 993cc inline three-cylinder Yanmar diesel engine, Kawasaki hopes that the farmers or ranchers using primarily diesel in their equipment will take notice. Being 10-20 percent more fuel efficient over gasoline, the cost of ownership should be lower as well.

The highly acclaimed convertible bed in the DXT models is exactly like its gas powered brethren and will carry three or six passengers around the jobsite. This beast tows an incredible 2000 lbs on the hitch and can carry 1000 lbs in the cargo bed (350 lbs when the second row is in use). You have to give Kawasaki props for the incredible redesign it has achieved with the new Mule and it just seems to be getting better with each variant of the machine. The Mule is still one of our favorites as a hard working versatile UTV and we cannot wait to see what Kawasaki dreams up next.

2016 Polaris General 1000
2016 Polaris General 1000 UTV of the Year – Honorable Mention

[VS Post8]Polaris is no doubt the market leader in the Side-by-Side segment. Polaris always seems to come up with another way to divide out the industry with a unique machine or an entirely new segment. The 2016 Polaris General 1000 is just the latest in Polaris’ attack on the two-up Side-by-Side segment. Competing for a slice of the pie with Can-Am’s Commander and Yamaha’s Wolverine, the General is a recreational working machine. Comfortable, upright, high-back seating allows easy in and out with minimal stress on the driver or passenger. The big ProStar power gives the driver enough grunt to go anywhere. With 12 inches of ground clearance and long-travel suspension, the General is like a billy goat in rough terrain.

Including the 2016 Polaris General in our list was a no brainer. When you have a company that thinks like Polaris and sheds great machines for different sections of the market faster than we can write about them, it deserves respect. This is a great vehicle that is innovative, captures a need and is undoubtedly a star in its own army as well as on the battlefield.

2016 Honda Pioneer 1000-5
2016 Honda Pioneer 1000-5 Deluxe UTV of the Year – Honorable Mention

[VS Post9]When we think of innovation and quality, we would be remiss if we didn’t include Honda in our top 10 list. Honda’s powerful fuel injected engine, DCT automatic transmission and fantastically comfortable interior in the new Pioneer 1000 Deluxe is definitely worth of a nod of approval. The new upgraded look and LED-style lighting provides a classy yet somewhat sinister look that makes any gearhead grin. We love the innovative bed system that comes with Pioneer and the ability to use the seats or haul the mail.

From the outside the doors and new colored panels help the Deluxe Pioneer 1000 really stand out in the crowd. With 14-inch alloy wheels and Maxxis Big Horn tires, you have the right shoes on for any trail.

Engineers like the ones at Honda work hard day and night to give loyal customers more of what they really want with the quality and reliability that is also standard with any Honda off-road vehicle. That in itself is worth all the praise we could give!

Rick Sosebee
Rick Sosebee

Whether he is in Mexico covering the Baja 1000, building ATVs for local racers, or out enjoying the trails, Rick’s passion shows in his stories. Learning to wrench his own machines from his grandfather, Rick also has an undying appreciation for the mechanics of off-road vehicles. Do not let the dirt and mud fool you, though, as Rick also has a deep love for street cars.

More by Rick Sosebee