Kubota RTV-X900 utility vehicle

Kubota RTV-X900 - image: HW
Kubota RTV-X900 - image: HW

Kubota claims that its RTV 900s have been the best-selling diesel utility vehicles in Europe since 2006. It is easy to see why. RTVs (rough terrain vehicles) have quickly gained recognition as roughty-toughty utilities that provide a smooth ride and plenty of muscle for work. Once you got used to the hydrostatic transmission, as opposed to mechanical gearboxes in many vehicles, the RTV 900 could be taken almost anywhere and would show its muscle when it came to hauling and carrying loads.

Kubota has now upgraded and improved the 900. In its latest format, the X900, this RTV has more legroom, better drivability, greater strength and more comfort. It now has independent suspension all round and it is all adjustable in five settings to suit the load carried.

The X900 also has a new gearbox. The bodywork has been enhanced and pulling power doubled. The cab has been improved and is now an add-on, bit-by-bit system so you can increase driver protection should you find that you need it at a later date. Controls, such as the handbrake, are more conveniently positioned. Ground clearance is increased. Under-seat storage has been added. In fact, the only original feature of the 900 is the engine - a Kubota diesel, so no problem there.

The result is an even better driver experience, improved performance and more work achieved for your money. If you liked the old 900, then you will surely love the X900.

The three-cylinder diesel engine has proven off-road performance and reliability. But what makes this model stand out from the crowd is VHT-X (variable hydrostatic transmission). Kubota has more experience than most in hydrostatic transmissions, and it shows. The result is less shifting - though our testers have a little difficulty at first - and there are no belts to slip.

"It's a very good machine, once you know how to use the gears. But I did struggle for a bit," says Braund. Hugerre agrees: "I know it is hydrostatic, but sometimes I found it difficult. I don't like it." Perwitt joins in: "You have to depress the brake fully then almost hold off for a second before you move the gearstick. That releases the pressure and makes shifting easy."

With the issue sorted, Prewett notes: "If you are using the vehicle generally, you don't need to change gear - just leave it in 'HI'. I drove it down the bottom of the lane, across the field, over some deep ruts and left it in HI all the time. Pop it into HI and you can do almost anything. It's almost a one-use gear. It's only when you want to crawl up a steep bank, bordering on vertical, then you need the 'LO' range and four-wheel drive."

The X900 has a high-rigidity steel frame that should be capable of taking lots of punishment from heavy work and rough terrain. Ground clearance is a full 10.4in. Independent suspension is found on all four wheels. It is height adjustable with 8in of suspension travel for a smooth ride irrespective of load or ground conditions - something our test cannot dispute. "It's a very nice, very smooth ride, really comfortable and you feel secure," Huguerre confirms. "The power steering is good and you turn very well."

Braund, returning from the steep slopes and mounds of the quad bike track, adds: "It really will go anywhere." He found the true four-wheel drive, with a limited-slip front differential and locking rear differential, helped to give control, with no wheelspin, on the steepest of accents.

"I like the fact you can engage the diff lock with your left foot for a short time. There's no worry about engaging it and leaving it in and wearing the tyres down," he adds. CV joint protectors and heavy-duty metal skid plates provide protection against rock impact on the bumpy mounds. Rear lights are positioned under the cargo box for protection.

But it is the dynamic braking that most impresses our testers. "The engine braking is very impressive," says Huguerre. You don't really need to use the brake actually. You just manage the engine and still feel secure on slopes."

Prewett agrees: "I took it up to 22mph, took my foot off the accelerator and it brought itself to a stop in about the same time as you would expect had you used a brake."

A lever beside the seat engages the hydraulic tipping. It takes five seconds to lift and four to drop down, and the tailgate can be unhitched to fold down completely or removed altogether.

"That's good," says Prewett. "There is nothing worse that tipping out the materials and then waiting for the box to slowly come back down. That makes it a great vehicle for tipping things like bunker sand on a golf course. You could carry half a tonne in the box and pull another tonne (less trailer weight) behind."

He continues: "It is not as fast off the mark as the Polaris, but then it isn't built for that. The Kubota makes a great day-to-day general vehicle for moving materials."

All maintenance points are easily accessible and under the bonnet we find two wires that, if disconnected, give speedometer readings in mph. Connect them again and the readings revert to kilometres.

There are two hitches, front and back, for pulling in forward or reverse - ideal for caravan sites where you might want to pull and push units around. Front and rear winches can also be fitted. The hydraulic system could, for instance, power a small log splitter. Prewett thinks a small crane could also be powered to help load the box or trailer with a carcass or timber.

So where would we use this Kubota? Shoots, farms, estates, forestry, parks, gardens, caravan parks, golf courses, sports grounds - almost anywhere.

Engine: Kubota D902, three-cylinder, four-cycle diesel, overhead valve
Displacement: 898cc
Net power: 21.6hp/15.4kW at 3,200rpm
Cooling system: Liquid
Fuel tank capacity: 30 litres
Transmission: Continuously Variable Hydro Transmission (VHT-X)
Gear selection: HI-LO range forward, neutral, reverse
Speed: 0-25mph (0-40km/h)
Four-wheel drive system: Front: limited-slip differential; rear:
foot-operated differential lock
Steering: Hydrostatic power
Brakes: Front/rear: wet-disc; parking: rear wheel, hand operated
Suspension: Front: independent, dual A-arms with adjustable spring
preload; rear: independent with coil over shock
Ground clearance: 266mm front/263mm rear
Turning radius: 4m
Dimensions: 3.11x1.61x2.02m (LxWxH)
Wheelbase: 2.05m
Weight: 941kg
Towing capacity: 1,000kg
Payload capacity: 679kg
Cargo bed: Steel 1.47x 1.03x0.29m (WxLxD)
Cargo bed load capacity: 500kg
Cargo bed volume: 0.43cu m
Cargo bed height: 88.7cm (unladen)
Dumping action: Hydraulic pump
Colour: Orange/camo
List price: Starting from £13,300 + VAT
Tel: Kubota (UK) - 01844 214500

Reviewed This Issue
- Kubota RTV-X900
- Polaris Ranger 4x4 570

Review Panel
Sam Braund, grounds worker, Cannington Campus, Bridgwater College
Aymeric Huguerre, senior gardener, Cannington Walled Gardens
Giles Prewett, arboriculture technician, Bridgwater College

Workhorse or racehorse? In this test we look at two very different utility vehicles. Yes, they both have four wheels, powerful engines, tipping cargo boxes and optional cab systems. But one is diesel, one is petrol. One has pure muscle, the other is better at speed. Transmissions are different. Weight is significantly different.

With a team of three testers at hand, we visit the Cannington Landbased Studies Centre of Bridgwater College in Somerset. Our testers come from gardening, grounds care and forestry backgrounds. What will appeal to them? Will it be the strength of carrying 500kg and hauling an additional tonne? Or will it be the ability to race across the terrain at speeds of up to 80km/h?

On the day of the test the weather was hot and sunny. Lack of rain over the previous week meant the ground was dry, even dried out, bumpy, hard and rough. We also used the college's quad bike training facility to check out the vehicles' climbing power and stability.

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