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Review rewind: Kubota RTV-XG850 Sidekick

As part of our annual bike feature, Farm Trader revisits our test review of the Kubota RTV-XG850 Sidekick with Brent Lilley behind the wheel

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The Kubota RTV-XG850 Sidekick is a fresh offering from Kubota, which is well positioned to cross over between utility an​​d recreational users. 

Engine

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The cooling package is accessed under the large single-piece bonnet

In the past, Kubota side by sides have either featured smaller petrol engines or larger diesels. The Sidekick slots itself in between these, with a powerful but economical 851cc twin cylinder, liquid-cooled petrol engine.

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The responsive 851cc engine is mounted low in the chassis with easy servicing access

The engine is mounted low in the chassis under the rear cargo tray, giving a nice balance of weight over the rear wheels. Cooling is via a large radiator under the front bonnet. With the tray up, there’s easy access for daily checks and servicing.

This engine has plenty of power to weight, putting out an impressive 48hp. Equally notable is the torque the motor produces, especially at lower engine RPM. I have a nice steep hill that’s my go-to for testing side by sides.

The Kubota handled it with ease, powering up in high gear with two of us on-board. Acceleration from a standstill is also good and with plenty of top-end speed, the limiter kicks in at around 65km/hr.

Transmission

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A centrifugal clutch in the drive line gives engine braking at all speeds 

As you’d expect, the engine is coupled to a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) unit, which is built in-house by Kubota. It runs a double cogged drive belt for responsiveness and longevity. Also included in the transmission is a centrifugal clutch in the drive line.

This keeps constant tension on the drive belt, giving engine braking at all speeds, something that’s vitally important in my opinion. In practice this worked quite well coming back down my steep test hill.

I could feel it holding the machine back, although, the foot brake was still required to hold the descent speed on the steepest sections. Luckily, the four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes can pull the machine up to a halt.

To hold the machine stationary when parked, the handbrake is more than adequate. There’s no park lock on the transmission, something that will be missed by some when stopping on steeper slopes.

Cargo tray

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The steel cargo tray can be tipped manually or optioned with electric over hydraulic

The large sturdy steel cargo tray is built tough and rated to carry 454kg. It features a locking rear tail gate and steel tie-down points. A higher headboard at the front of the tray is well designed to help stop anything moving forward.

The tray is tipped manually with the help of gas struts and can be upgraded to electric over hydraulic for effortless tipping from the cab. While I didn’t carry anything around with me other than Finn the dog (who thought it was a pretty good place to ride), I’m told the suspension set-up handles distribute the weight when carrying a load so well that the ride height barely changes when loaded.

It uses fully independent suspension at the front and rear for a smooth ride with plenty of ground clearance. The Sidekick provides ample pulling power and is rated for towing just over 900 kg, which is more than adequate for this size machine but something people should keep in mind before hitching up the fully loaded palm kernel trailer.

Controls

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All controls are within easy reach and the steering wheel tilt is adjustable

With plenty of cabin space, upright seats give a good driving position with plenty of legroom. To keep you secure, the seats are sculpted, with seatbelts, half-height side doors, and shoulder guards.

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The digital display panel uses a combination of clear warning lights and an easy-to-read LCD screen showing all the vital stats 

The steering wheel is adjustable, and all controls are in easy reach of the driver. An easy-to-see display panel features warning icons to alert of all major vehicle functions, and an LCD screen shows the vital stats, including engine temperature and RPM, the gear selected, and current speed.

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More handy storage under the seats

The inclusion of a fuel gauge is great to see and probably the only thing missing is a clock (yes, I’m old school like that). Storage is well thought out, with cup holders and cubby holes in the dash as well and a decent-sized glovebox on the passenger’s side. Flip up the seats for more storage with two large plastic bins.

Speed-sensitive Electronic Power Steering (EPS) is also worth a mention. At slow speeds, you get the full benefit of EPS, making the machine highly manoeuvrable with little effort.

As the forward speed increases, the effect of the EPS decreases, giving a more positive feel to the steering. This improves handling and increases stability, even under heavy load.

Accessories

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The Kubota sits on 25 x 10-12 tyres on all four corners

Bolting on accessories is a great way to customise your UTV. Like most manufacturers, Kubota offers a huge range of accessories, with choices of roof types, front and rear windscreens (in acrylic or glass), and full height doors allowing for a completely sealed cab.
For the exterior, there are winches, extra lighting packages, additional guards, and a cargo tray extender.

Verdict

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The Sidekick is a versatile all-rounder

While Kubota hasn’t strayed too far from its history of building no-nonsense utility machines designed for work, the Sidekick offers a lot for recreational users as well, making for a versatile crossover machine. With plenty of power for acceleration and shifting decent-sized loads, the Kubota handles well on hills, with quality suspension giving a smooth ride over rough terrain.

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The Sidekick is an excellent crossover from a utility workhorse to a recreational machine

Kubota RTV-XG850 Sidekick specifications

Engine

851cc, twin-cylinder, liquid-cooled

Transmission CVT belt-drive transmission with high/low range, neutral, and reverse
Drive system

Selectable 2wd/4wd, limited slip front and locking rear differential

Fuel capacity

33L
Front suspension Independent with dual A-arm with 229mm of travel
Rear suspension

Independent with coil over shock with 216mm of travel

Tyres 25 x 10–12 6 ply
Brakes

Four-wheel hydraulic disc

Ground clearance

249mm

L x W x H

3093mm x 1605mm x 2020mm

Cargo bed capacity

454kg

Towing capacity

907kg

Pros

  • Responsive 851cc engine delivering 48hp
  • Well-designed CVT transmission with downhill engine braking
  • Sturdy steel cargo tray with almost a half a tonne payload
  • Speed-sensitive Electronic Power Steering
  • A huge range of bolt-on Kubota accessories

Cons

  • No park lock on the transmission

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Photography: Brent Lilley

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