The RTV900 is powered by a 21.6hp Kubota three-cylinder, water-cooled, diesel OHV engine. We know Kubota understands engines, so this one should prove reliable. It is certainly strong and powerful. It is happy to haul and ploughs through the dirt. But what really sets this vehicle apart from the crowd is its three-range variable fully hydrostatic transmission, instead of continually variable transmission. That is VHT, not CVT. Put simply, there are no belts - this is direct drive using gear-driven shafts.
The VHT means there is a single foot pedal to give infinitely variable forward speed in three ranges - hi, med and lo - with no need to clutch. There is no change on the move but it makes for simple driving. Select the speed range that suits the terrain, then put your foot down. Bring the vehicle to a halt to engage a different range or reverse.
Acceleration is quick. Top speed is 40kmph (25mph). But what impresses most is how the additional hydrostatic assist motor kicks in just when you need it - automatically shifting down and instantly delivering more torque to the drive wheels for climbing steep slopes.
Even more impressive, albeit slightly disturbing if experiencing it for the first time, the VHT provides dynamic braking for downhill runs. Take your foot off the throttle and the vehicle stops - there is no freewheeling with this one. A foot brake gives you instant stopping ability.
"You have to get used to that transmission," Topham comments. Goodson finds the engine braking a bit of a surprise. "That is something else. It has real advantages coming downhill. It doesn't run away from you," he says.
There's a 2WD/4WD lever on the dash. A rear-mounted diff lock is operated by the driver's heel if needed. Also on the dashboard are the gauges for temperature and fuel, plus an hour metre. The 12V charging socket can be used for a beacon accessory.
Because off-road is a tough environment, Kubota has given the RTV hydrostatic power steering so that you can respond quickly and easily to changes in terrain. Better still, we reckon, is the suspension. The vehicle has ample ground clearance for a confident ride over unpredictable ground.
But it is the advanced rear suspension that delights our test team. The semi-independent suspension-type DeDion axle, leaf spring and shock absorber on each rear wheel work together to minimise bumps and jolts. The front suspension is fully independent suspension using McPherson struts. Goodson is impressed. "It gives a smooth ride over rough ground," he says. Nolen agrees: "You can't feel the bumps."
Smith is a Kawasaki fan but admits: "The Kubota feels that bit sturdier and meatier when hitting the bumps." The bench seat is generously padded and it is contoured so there is less sliding when cornering quickly.
Daily check points are under the cargo bed and seat. Topham is pleased about access for servicing. "I like the way everything is so accessible. You can get at the radiator, the battery, air filter - it's all straightforward," she notes. Making it particularly suitable for summer use, the RTV has a fan to provide additional cooling when work involves short travel distances on hot days.
We check out the exterior. At the front is a reinforced steel guard for protection. The ROPS frame is lightweight but strong. The high-capacity cargo bed will take a 122cm (48in) pallet and has lever-operated hydraulic tipping to dump material. This one powers up and down.
The tailboard is user friendly. The locking mechanism allows it to open and close with a single touch. We like the real-tree camouflage, although the RTV900 is also available in Kubota orange. Another option is the Streetlegal Special version, complete with heavy-duty ROPS, bucket seats, rear-view mirror, headlights, indicators, reflectors and license plate board.
The RTV900 is so different that some folk are bound not to take to it instantly. But get to know this machine and you will find there is not much to dislike.
Engine: 898cc Kubota four-stroke, three-cylinder, liquid-cooled diesel
Transmission: Three-range variable hydro transmission, top speed 40kmph, 4WD with 2WD selection
Diff lock: Foot operated with mechanical holder
Tyres: 25x10-12 various profiles
Suspension: Front: independent McPherson strut/Rear: semi-independent DeDion with leaf springs and shock absorber
Brakes: Wet-disc front and rear
Turning diameter: 7.9m
Ground clearance: Front: 215mm/Rear: 195mm
Fuel capacity: 24.2 litres
Payload capacity: 770kg
Towing capacity: 590kg
Curb mass: 830kg
List price + VAT: £10, 395
Contact: Kubota UK - 01844 214500.
TESTED THIS WEEK
Kawasaki Mule 4010 Diesel 4x4
THE REVIEW PANEL
Simon Goodson, park warden, Charlecote Park, Warwickshire
Eddie Nolen, park and garden assistant, Charlecote Park, Warwickshire
Paul Smith, gardener, Charlecote Park, Warwickshire
Lisa Topham, parks and garden manager, Charlecote Park, Warwickshire
The team at Charlecote Park, a National Trust property in Warwickshire, continues to search for a utility vehicle that satisfies the needs of the garden and parkland work.
The estate includes both formal and informal gardens, plus more than 30ha of parkland where fallow deer have roamed since Tudor times. A vehicle is needed as a fast response unit and also to move personnel, equipment and tools.
In this test, we look at the suitability of the Kawasaki Mule and the Kubota RTV. Conditions on test day were cold and frosty.
For more Utility vehicle listings, reviews and buyers guides see whatkit.co.uk.