True to form

Kub­ota RTV X900

Farms & Farm Machinery - - Contents -

We like Kub­ota gear. It’s solid, well en­gi­neered and well made. What you see is what you get with this brand, which never dis­ap­points us with sloppy assem­bly or in­ad­e­quate per­for­mance. It’s not the fastest util­ity ve­hi­cle in the shed, true, but the peo­ple who buy it are no­to­ri­ous stick­lers for re­li­a­bil­ity, value for money, and care noth­ing for top speed.

The medium end of the util­ity mar­ket, where this Kub­ota lives, is dom­i­nated by the Po­laris Ranger diesel and var­i­ous John Deere Gator mod­els.

The Kub­ota is made in Ge­or­gia (USA) and comes in three vari­ants. The base model we’re test­ing here is known as the ‘gen­eral pur­pose’ model with ATV tyres and a man­ual cargo bed. Above it are two ‘pre­mium’ mod­els, the X900W-H with work-site tyres and a hy­draulic cargo bed, and the X900W-A, with ATV tyres and the same tilt­ing cargo bed. You can think of the X900 as an en­try-level model if that helps you place it in the over­all scheme of things. His­tor­i­cally, buy­ers are farm­ers, coun­cils, lightin­dus­trial oper­a­tors and air­port man­agers who must move weird ob­jects be­tween all those Boe­ings and Air­buses.

The X900 gen­eral pur­pose sells for $22,165 in­clud­ing GST. That’s well priced com­pared with some of the lesser mod­els that can’t match its en­gi­neer­ing and longevity.

You get what you pay for in this busi­ness and Kub­ota of­fers a lot for the money. A hy­dro­static trans­mis­sion and hy­dro­static power steer­ing for ex­am­ple, along with a highly rigid steel frame, un­der-seat stor­age, in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion front and rear and heavy-duty skid­plates.

The cab has a ROPS, as you’d ex­pect. Steel bol­sters help

pre­vent driver or pas­sen­ger ex­it­ing the ve­hi­cle in­vol­un­tar­ily, though we don’t re­ally like steel bars for this pur­pose. One of our testers needed shoul­der surgery af­ter rolling a Po­laris Ace and hav­ing his shoul­der come into vi­o­lent con­tact the bol­ster. There must be a bet­ter way of achiev­ing this safety ob­jec­tive and one day a util­ity man­u­fac­turer will find it.

Con­trols are sen­si­bly laid out and easy to use. There’s no P in the gear­box but a ratchet-type hand­brake. The shift pat­tern is what man­u­fac­tur­ers like to call ‘lin­ear’: L-H-N-R, with no P to com­pli­cate things. The shift ac­tion was very notchy on our test ve­hi­cle but the thing was brand new and that’s a good ex­cuse. As most peo­ple know, you can ex­pect the shift ac­tion to free-up af­ter sev­eral hun­dred kays.

The dig­i­tal in­stru­ment pack was cen­tred in the dash and easy to read. To start the ma­chine you make sure it’s in neu­tral then turn the key.

Vis­i­bil­ity to­ward the front was good; im­por­tant when you’re scram­bling over rough ter­rain and need ac­cu­rate wheel place­ment. (I know I’m off-topic here but the lack of for­ward vis­i­bil­ity in mod­ern cars re­ally peeves me. I had a Camry hire car for this photo shoot and try­ing to park that lump in an un­der­ground carpark sub­di­vided by con­crete pil­lars wasn’t easy. The Camry, and cars like it, don’t need a re­vers­ing cam­era, they need a ‘for­ward­ing’ cam­era be­cause the driver can’t see any part of the car be­yond the bloody wind­screen.)

As al­ways, my first im­pres­sion climb­ing into a Kub­ota was that the ve­hi­cle feels com­pact and that you sit high where you can see ev­ery­thing. The pas­sen­ger grab-bar is set into the ver­ti­cal ROPS pil­lar in front of him, but to me this was a stretch to reach and spoilt an oth­er­wise com­fort­able seat­ing po­si­tion. You could al­ways hang on to the shoul­der bol­ster I sup­pose, though that comes a bit too close to hav­ing an arm out­side the ve­hi­cle, or they could fit an­other grab-bar in the ROPS above your head.

On the other hand, I might be the only dope to men­tion this so ev­ery­thing I’ve just said about that grab-bar, as Mel Brooks once ob­served, is “au­then­tic fron­tier gib­ber­ish”.


Hav­ing a hy­dro­static trans­mis­sion on a small ve­hi­cle like this may seem like overkill but it’s not. With high and low range, a limited-slip front diff and a foot-op­er­ated lock on the rear diff, the only ob­sta­cle to make an X900 flinch is a hill re­quir­ing more than the 21.6hp (16kW) its three-cylin­der diesel pro­duces. Mea­gre horse­power is its only lim­it­ing fac­tor, more so when the ve­hi­cle is laden to ca­pac­ity with two blokes up front and

a steel tray full of heavy gear. Sus­pen­sion front and rear is by dual A-arms. Ad­just­ing ride height is done by chang­ing preload set­tings on the shocks, though how many users would ac­tu­ally do this we have no idea. Each man­u­fac­turer claims his in­de­pen­dent set-up is su­pe­rior but in truth not much has changed in the world of UTV sus­pen­sion since what’s-his-name in­vented the coil spring. All UTVs ride well. On the other hand, they’re not all as quiet as this one.

But steer­ing has changed, par­tic­u­larly with the ad­vent of power as­sis­tance. Watch our video and you’ll see Kub­ota Mick steer­ing with one fin­ger as the X900 tra­verses a boulder field. The ben­e­fit of hy­dro­static power-steer­ing is the to­tal lack of kick­back, and though we wouldn’t rec­om­mend driv­ing ev­ery­where with only one fin­ger on the steerer, Mick’s way of prov­ing his point was con­vinc­ing. Power-steer­ing and a rea­son­able turn­ing cir­cle (four me­tres) help make the X900 ma­noeu­vrable in tight sit­u­a­tions. That’s handy. It also makes this model easy for any­one to drive.

The engine is well muf­fled, the trans­mis­sion quiet and daily main­te­nance checks straight for­ward. The fuel tank sits in the chas­sis on the driver’s side.

Lift­ing the bon­net gives ac­cess to the ra­di­a­tor, the coolant bot­tle, the brake fluid reser­voir and the two-stage air fil­ter, the lat­ter con­tained in a clip-can­nis­ter on the right-hand side. There’s a de­cent-size glove­box and plenty of un­der-seat stor­age for items you’d like to keep dry.

And with that we’d like to make the point that Kub­ota’s trans­mis­sion breather doesn’t like you punt­ing the X900 through wa­ter deeper than half-wheel height. I was gen­tly rep­ri­manded for do­ing that on an­other Kub­ota test, though I have to say noth­ing hap­pened that day to sug­gest that the breather was too low. Kub­ota doesn’t rec­om­mend it though, so don’t do it.

Not ev­ery Ja­panese man­u­fac­turer makes a diesel-pow­ered UTV and not all these fac­to­ries per­sist with the no­tion that UTVs are work­horses, not play­things. Yamaha stuck with that idea for a long time with the Rhino but had ob­vi­ously changed its tune by the time it re­leased the more sporty Vik­ing, then the five-speed, pad­dle-shift­ing YXZ1000R.

But Kub­ota per­sists with the orig­i­nal idea. There’s no ‘sporty’ Kub­ota; apart from the petrol-driven RTV400Ci and the RTV500GHD, they’re all diesel and all work­horses with no in­ten­tion of be­ing race horses.

The X900 is pop­u­lar be­cause it gives buy­ers good en­gi­neer­ing at a very nice price, and that’s al­ways hard to beat.

It’s also easy and pleas­ant to drive and that will win friends among those with lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence in small cross-coun­try ve­hi­cles.

Above: The base model X900 has no tilt tray, ATV tyres, and re­tails for $22,165

1. The split bench seat ac­com­mo­dates two and on the driver’s side is ad­justable fore and aft. Hy­dro­static power steer­ing is first rate, in fact one of the best things about his ma­chine2. Con­trols are well laid out, though as you can see, the ped­als are slightly offset. The shift ac­tion was notchy but will im­prove with time3. Ac­cess to daily main­te­nance items iswhat you’d ex­pect in a mod­ern UTV4. In­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion at each endgives a nice ride for such a small ve­hi­cle 5. & 6. Our test ve­hi­cle had no trou­ble with mud and deep ruts though con­ser­va­tive out­put (21.6hp) could be a lim­it­ing fac­tor when the slog gets tougher and hills steeper. Down­hill brak­ing was ex­cel­lent

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