2012 4-Seat Sport UTV Comparison Conclusion

April 19, 2012
JC Hilderbrand
JC Hilderbrand
Off-Road Editor|Articles|Articles RSS|Blog |Blog Posts |Blog RSS

Hilde is holding down the fort at MotoUSA’s Southern Oregon HQ. With world-class dirt bike and ATV trails just minutes away, the hardest part is getting him to focus on the keyboard. Two wheels or four, it doesn’t matter to our Off-Road Editor so long as it goes like hell in the dirt.

Polaris is the way to go if all that matters is riding as fast as possible.

Our riders and passengers were all struggling to choose which four-seat side-by-side is the best. The good news is that there’s no wrong answer in this particular comparison. It’s great to finally get a chance at putting our familiar RZR 4 against similar technology. The results were favorable across the board, and some of our preconceived notions proved true while others were shot to hell. Both machines surprised us with their capabilities.

Polaris boasts its RZR lineup of Ranger side-by-sides as the ultimate blend of power, suspension and agility. “Blend” is the key term. Individually, some of these categories are pretty close between the two machines, but the RZR 4 is able to combine them in a way that makes each area feel more impressive than it does by itself. The Polaris definitely has the Kawasaki covered in the suspension category, and that allows it to drive different lines and feel more agile than its long wheelbase would typically allow. Also, since the RZR can absorb terrain better, the driver doesn’t have to lift off the throttle as much, which allows the engine to run up in the rpm where it’s best. Our testers were all drawn to the Polaris when it comes to pure sport performance. Even though our model isn’t equipped with power steering, we found it’s not really a disadvantage, especially in terrain that the RZR prefers, such as the dunes. The RZR doesn’t just go fast, though. Its long wheelbase provides as many benefits as it does drawbacks when crawling over technical terrain.

Kawasaki offers four-seat buyers a different
set of options, and the flavor was one that all
our drivers and passengers could appreciate.

Kawasaki’s V-Twin engine is a proven design that makes the torque needed to yard around a full family, plus we were surprised to find that it matches the RZR on top-end performance. It scored top marks in the drivetrain as well because all of our riders love the centrifugal clutch. It allows the V-Twin to make the most of its impressive bottom end and also gives the driver ultimate control with the throttle pedal. There’s no jerky engagement and belt life is greatly increased. It’s exactly what is needed on a CVT-equipped vehicle designed for heavy loads. Kawasaki also put more emphasis on the rider comfort. More cab space and wider seats accommodate even extra-large passengers. The doors are also a feature that spoils Kawi riders. They’re much better at protecting against mud, water and branches, and they make getting in and out a breeze instead of fumbling with nets.

The RZR is definitely the rig of choice for hauling ass. It’s minimalist and fast. We all want to pin the throttle all the time, but the purpose of owning a four-seater is to include other riders, some of which are probably going to be kids. Kawasaki’s formula is better for hauling four people. It’s comfortable and durable. Ultimately, our testers lean toward the Kawasaki when it comes to personal choice, electing to slow down a bit through the whoops in exchange for a more enjoyable rider interface and longer service intervals.

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