Test: Can-Am Defender HD10 XT

Farm Trader gets behind the wheels of the Can-Am Defender HD10 XT with Kiwi legend Sir David Fagan

Can-Am HD10 out of 10

New Zealand is fortunate to boast some impressive rural icons who are notable not only for their achievements but also for being outstanding humans. I recently spent the day with Sir David Fagan and his lovely wife Wendy at their beef finishing property between Otorohonga and Te Kuiti, the shearing town he helped make famous.

Having notched up countless shearing titles both here in New Zealand as well as on the world stage (he’s also a 10-time world record holder), Sir David Fagan was knighted in 2015 for his services to shearing. Although retired from competitive shearing, he’s still involved in the industry and also helped his son Jack plan a successful world record attempt in December 2022 for the solo eight-hour strong wool lamb record, with 754 shorn on the day.  

With Farm Trader’s speciality around machinery, equipment and tools of the trade being used on farms around New Zealand, shearing was not the focus on the day of our visit. Our interest lay in the Can-Am Defender HD10 XT helping him achieve results on the Fagan farm.

Farm Trader tester Mark Fouhy with a couple of legends outstanding in their field: Sir David Fagan and the Can-Am Defender HD10 XT

One key component around success, even with shearing, is ensuring you have quality gear suited to the job required. If your gear isn’t right, you’ll struggle right from the get-go.

I think Sir David has continued this mantra into his farming operations, across both his beef finishing block and 600-cow dairy farm. When it comes to his mode
of transport to get around these properties and travel between them, quality and reliability are essential, and his choice is the Can-Am Defender HD10 XT side by side.

Test time

While we were fortunate to be able to view a couple of different Can-Am models on the property, our test machine for the day was Sir David’s 2022 model Can-Am Defender HD10 XT. This sits towards the top end of the Can-Am Defender range of side by sides, with a 967cc petrol engine producing 82hp – plenty for most daily farm tasks.

However, I wouldn’t say the Fagan property was easy, yet the Can-Am Defender HD10 XT proved to have plenty of power and stickability climbing up hills, going along the edge of hills, and also comfortably navigating down hills.

Rocker switches provide easy 4WD/diff lock selection

What I particularly liked was the ability to engage the diff lock at the flick of a switch for extra traction when needed – and the fact that didn’t make the steering feel much heavier or affect steering lock and turning ability.

Although we didn’t really challenge
the 4WD capability to the max, a rocky creek crossing did test out its ability to get power to the ground and to the wheels to keep it moving in the right direction. We also hooked up a car trailer with a load of water pipe and headed up a decent hill. With the load probably sitting somewhere around the 600kg mark, this was well within the Defender’s 1134kg rated tow capacity. Even with a rough hill, it proved no challenge, which is reassuring particularly for farmers who may well require the high tow capacity hauling multiple feed bins or loads of fencing gear.

Some of the upgrades that are standard for the Can-Am Defender XT include steel front bumper, winch, skid plate and roof. It’s an upgrade from the base Can-Am Defender packages in that sense. Other extras fitted on the Fagan’s machine included front and rear windows – the front with windscreen wiper and opening options (partly open works well at preventing dust sucking into the cabin in summer, while fully open works well for pest eradication and shooting). The other option is half doors, which keep tyres from throwing mud at you while driving. These worked well and are my preference over standard mesh doors, which often end up being rolled up out of the way.

Clear, easy-to-read digital dash


Can-Am uses reliable Rotax petrol engines. Rotax has a history of building engines (for more than 100 years) with reliability coupled with plenty of power. The 976cc petrol engine of the HD10 produces an impressive 82hp. At almost 1000cc, these are still pretty efficient on fuel, however, if you need some more power, there’s plenty there in reserve if you put your foot down.

One of the main refinements engine-wise for the latest model Defender is an added baffle, decreasing overall engine noise from the exhaust. Quality Donaldson air filtration systems are fitted (just like you find on tractors) to ensure only the cleanest air goes through the engine. Diesel has long been considered the cheaper fuel for on-farm use, however, with current fuel prices, I’d personally go for the performance of a petrol-powered Rotax over the equivalent diesel-sized engine. Given the only other machines running Rotax engines standard are Ski-Doo and Sea-Doo, you get an idea of the performance of these engines.

With service intervals set at 200 hours, downtime spent getting a frontline machine serviced is half that of some other brands, which also keeps the overall running costs of the machine down. A two-year, 15,000km warranty (whichever comes first) shows good manufacturer confidence and the faith they have in the Can-Am product line-up.

Top scenery with NZ’s top-selling side by side


The Pro Torque belt-driven, automatic transmission with low, high forward ranges, neutral and reverse is one of the simplest and most effective on the market. The wear point is the belt, and as this is easily and cheaply replaced, it helps avoid any potential transmission issues. In the past, an issue with some auto transmissions has been the lack of engine braking, more so for less experienced and less confident operators. Can-Am has this sorted with the electronic Hill Descent Control, definitely an added safety feature. Machine stability is also impressive, thanks to the wide wheelbase and low centre of gravity.


All of the Defender range are considered full-sized machines: standard versions designed to fit three passengers. If you only have one or two passengers, the centre console has storage underneath and cup holders.

A car trailer loaded with water pipe proves easy towing for the Can-Am HD10 XT: the largest of the Defender range

It’s within the cab that some of the most innovative and clever design is found. Fold-up passenger and centre seats provide room for removable storage toolboxes. Sir David has found one of these useful as his water fitting/tool storage box, so he can fix any issues on the farm as he finds them. Another removable storage box in the dash with a lid is great for the likes of the fence tester, so you know where it is, and it’s not left behind. I think Can-Am has nailed the clever use of space for storage, an area some other brands are certainly lacking.

Large arched double A arms connected to twin tube, gas-charged shocks provide a comfortable ride with 27.9cm of travel and 33cm of ground clearance. Driving position suits all sizes with the adjustable steering column providing a comfortable position for
long days behind the wheel. The electronic dynamic power steering makes steering effort minimal, also decreasing driver fatigue.

For additional comfort levels, the options available allow for a fully enclosed cab, with heating, cooling and stereo choices similar to the Defender Limited model. Within the cab are easy-to-operate functions for 4WD and diff lock, lights, etc., along with a single lever to operate the transmission.

Sir David Fagan relies on his trusty Can-Am for daily farm work

The distinctive Can-Am modern aggressive styling has remained relatively unchanged over models for the last few years. Quality 8 Ply tyres are fitted as standard to give the best puncture resistance and fitted on 14-inch alloy rims.

What makes this machine so versatile is the load-carrying capacity (454kg), with the 96.5cm long x 138.4cm wide rear tray and tow rating of 1134kg. One area that could be improved (in my opinion) is the ability to turn the tub into a flat deck like the Can-Am Pro (pick up), although, this model does cater for that option, so perhaps it’s not necessary.


Sir David has been a fan of the Can-Am brand for some time, having started out with quad bikes from the brand before making the move to side by sides. With the machines offering so much versatility in terms of both performance and capacity, it’s easy to see why Can-Am is proving so popular on properties around New Zealand.  

Can-Am Defender HD10 XT Specifications 

Engine Rotax HD10 V-Twin, liquid-cooled, EFI
Power 976cc, 82hp
Fuel Petrol
Transmission PRO-TORQ transmission, Extra L/H/N/R/P
Power Steering

Dynamic power steering (DPS)
Turf mode/2×2/4×4/ and rear locking diff Front Visco-Lok auto-locking front

4WD System differential

Front, dual 220mm discs with hydraulic twin-piston calipers
Rear, dual 220mm discs with hydraulic single-piston calipers
Park brake-Transmission and Brake holding mechanism

Dimensions LxWxH 319.4cm L x 162.5cm W x 203.5cm H
Wheelbase 211.5cm
Ground clearance 33cm
Storage capacity Total 61.3L
Towing capacity 1134kg
Payload capacity 680kg


  • Excellent 4WD system, easy and safe to operate
  • Clever storage solutions within the cab
  • Good cargo bed and tow capacity ratings
  • Almost limitless options to customise your new machine
  • Quality aggressive 8 ply fitted as standard
  • 200-hour service intervals, keeping running costs down
  • Reliable, powerful Rotax engine
  • Extras of the XT version, hard roof, front bumper, skid plate and winch


  • Cost: HD10 XT is a top-end machine. If budget is an issue, a lot of the features are similar throughout the Defender range.
  • Tray convertible to flat deck would add to flexibility

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