Kubota prides itself on building UTVs that can outwork just about anybody. We had a chance to take the new 2018 Kubota RTV-XG850 Sidekick for a test drive.
Price: $14,700 (approx.)
Engine: 851cc Subaru
L x W x H: 119.6 x 63.2 x 52"
Towing Capacity: 2,000 lbs
Cargo Bed Capacity: 1,000 lbs
Working is a big part of the UTV world and Kubota is building its brand around the hardest working outdoor industries. If you work around farming, you will most definitely recognize the Kubota name. The tractor company has built its reputation of reliable hard-working equipment since Kubota Manufacturing of America was founded in North Georgia in 1988. Recently, we had a chance to not only get to know the family of Kubota, but to also test out its new 2018 Kubota RTV-XG850 Sidekick UTV.
The acronym RTV stands for Rough Terrain Vehicle and this is very fitting for the new Sidekick. According to Kubota this machine is made for a consumer who wants to put it to work, including those urban farms or ranches that need a vehicle that is capable of moving across multiple terrain types. Our ride was in the capable gas-powered model, Kubota RTV-XG850 Sidekick and although the terrain was not exactly rough, we did get to know the machine a little better.
Kubota outfitted the RTV-XG850 Sidekick with an 851cc gas engine that is actually an original Subaru design. While Subaru does build the engine currently, Kubota owns the tooling and technology rights and I presume will eventually begin their own facility to bring this all in-house. Quite possibly on the same property already assembling the RTV family of UTVs in Georgia.
Stepping into the cab of the Kubota RTV-XG850 Sidekick, the seating welcomed us immediately. Both the driver and passenger benefit from individually sculpted and well bolstered seats. The shoulder bolsters offer support from the driver’s left side and passenger’s right when cornering. The “almost” half doors provide lower leg and foot protection from worksite or trail debris.
I found the cab of the Kubota RTV-XG850 Sidekick to be very well laid out and the tilt steering wheel location and position accommodates most any driver. There were several test drivers right at the six-foot mark in height, myself at just over 6-foot, and everyone seemed to enjoy the spacious cab. Flooring in the cab is embossed and provides some traction just in case the day gets muddy.
Operational duties inside the cab include a large gated gear selection knob located on the right of the steering wheel that was easily manipulated into position. The parking brake, which worked very well, is located right beside the driver’s left hip on the inside of the cab. One unique feature that I found on the Kubota Sidekick was the rear differential disengagement pedal located right behind my left foot on the floor. Depressing the foot actuator and pressing a button near the driver’s left seat base engages the differential. This allows the vehicle to travel on sensitive terrain very easily without causing any trouble to the earth below. It did take a little getting used to, but it ultimately functions as intended. Both 2WD and 4WD selections are handled (literally) via the center-mounted lever between and below the driver and passenger seating.
After a brief low-down on the machine, it was time to test out the Kubota RTV-XG850 Sidekick on the trail created on an abandoned golf course at Lake Lanier Island in Gainesville, Georgia. Once started and off into the greenery we did notice the amount of steering help we received from the electronic power steering. This system, like many in the industry, is a regressive style. The electronic brain takes many inputs and transfers that information to the controller for the EPS. As you speed up the assist is backed off and at very low speeds the power steering makes driving the machine pretty nice. This is especially noticeable with the wider tires that our RTV-XG850 had been equipped with. The Kubota Sidekick does track straight and is a pleasure to drive.
Putting the 48hp to the ground is what Kubota refers to as the CVT-Plus transmission. It is a standard CVT or belt drive transmission, but has a centrifugal clutch inside the cases. We did not get to see a breakaway of the clutch internals but it sounds familiar in some ways to other CVT transmissions with the same centrifugal clutching. Basically, the primary sheave has a constant grip on the belt and the centrifugal clutch, riding on the crank, allows the engine RPMs to rise while spreading out spring loaded pads to engage the housing attached to the primary sheave. It is complicated, but it works well and is very linear from dead stop to any forward or rearward movement. The CVT is vented or plumbed into the ROPS structure, which is also unique to Kubota. This allows the machine to draw in cool and dry air to help keep conditions inside the CVT housing moderated.
Driving around the property made available to us we found the 2018 Kubota RTV-XG850 Sidekick to be a versatile and very driver-friendly machine at a moderate pace. Kubota press materials note the machine will do up to 40mph and although I did not take an opportunity to get the Sidekick riled up, I have no doubt it can get up to that speed when the mood strikes.
Braking is also very effective and smooth – not abrupt as some can be in the same category. There were some places in the trail where we would cross rough patches of root-filled trail and others that required us to negotiate ditches. The Kubota RTV-XG850 Sidekick gave us no trouble at all negotiating these. And although the suspension is set for heavy loads, we found that it worked appropriately during these rougher sections of trail.
Our last drive section was on the fairway of the former golf course and navigating here we were able to try out the operation for locking and unlocking the rear differential. It is nice to have the ability to split the two rear wheels and I’m sure many jobsite general contractors will appreciate that. Although Kubota is not exactly interested in recreational riding, the RTV-XG850 would make a nice addition to any large property. I can even see it being a go-to rig for that discriminating spender who just wants to explore their land.