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2020 KUBOTA RTV-XG850 SIDEKICK REVIEW

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A LITTLE WORK, A LOT MORE PLAY from KUBOTA
Written By: 
John Arens


You can do no better than a Kubota RTV if you need a hard working UTV. Think of the Kubota RTV lineup as the tractors of the off-road world, which makes sense. Kubota is one of the worlds largest manufacturers of small to mid-sized tractors and they’ve earned a reputation for durability. We see the bright orange machines everywhere. When it came time to build a hard working UTV, Kubota engineers went with what they knew best. The utilitarian design and hydraulic drive systems on the RTVs are definitely meant for a lifetime of hauling, pulling, and hard work. The trouble is, that leaves out a lot of owners who also use their UTV for recreation.


 EVERYBODY NEEDS A SIDEKICK

We’ve all got a friend who can be counted on for any adventure. Kubota’s aptly named Sidekick is the 4-wheeled version of that friend, without some of the quirky, personal idiosyncrasies. Key features of the Kubota RTV-XG850 SIDEKICK are:

  • 48hp, 851cc liquid-cooled, DOHC twin-cylinder engine with Engine Braking

  • CVT Transmission with High, Low, Neutral, Reverse

  • Selectable 2wd / 4wd with Diff lock

  • Speed Sensitive Electronic Power Steering

  • SAE J2194 and OSHA approved ROPS standards cab structure

  • Heavy duty steel chassis and fully independent suspension front and rear

  • Receiver hitch with 2000 lbs towing capacity, 1000 lbs cargo bed load capacity

  • Multiple storage compartments in dash and under seats

  • LED lights front and rear

  • Steel cargo box and tail gate for durability, and integrated tie-down loops. Some units with sprayed in bed liner

  • Common maintenance parts – air filter, oil filter, dip sticks - grouped for easy access

  • Two Year / 1000 hour warranty


EVERYDAY SIDEKICK

There’s no better way to learn about a machine than to work with it and maintain it on your own. Since the Sidekick XG 850 was a new platform and direction for Kubota we wanted to spend extra time getting to know exactly what it was capable of. We’ll get right to it; there isn’t much it can’t do!

The XG850 Sidekicks strongest point is its versatility. It’s happy to work all day, but is also great for casual rides through the woods, and during hunting season it was perfect for hauling back a whitetail. It excels at simple jobs like hauling landscape bark, but it has no problem with heavy loads of sod, dirt, or bales. We can’t say enough about the durable steel box and tailgate on the Sidekick. Stiffening ribs give it rigidity and it’s built to last. We also love the rear latches. They’re simple, strong, and they work every time. One feature we recommend with the Sidekick is the power dump box lift. It’s worth every penny, and a switch on the dash turns the Sidekick into a mini-dump truck. You can thank us later.

The cab on the Kubota Sidekick is very comfortable. There is plenty of room for your feet, the dash is laid out nicely with an easy to read gauge, and the shifter is on the dash. The transmission and shifter always click into place with a definite feel, but the Sidekick prefers you make any shifts at low RPMs. We especially like the comfortable tilt steering wheel on the XG850, and the speed sensitive electronic power steering provides the perfect amount of feedback from the trail without taking away feel. You can hop over a log and it doesn’t spin the wheel from your hands. There is also ample headroom from the roll bars, and the seats are sculpted to hold you in place. One of the best features about the cab is the on-board storage. The seats flip up for storage bins underneath, and there is a good sized, sealed storage box in the dash. We’re also happy to have doors for lower leg protection and they close securely without rattling around on the trail. We would even make them bigger! Finally, behind both seats is a mesh steel “headache rack”. Should anything get loose in the box it won’t be joining you in the cab. It’s a great safety feature.

On the trail the RTV-XG850 Sidekick is quiet and smooth! The engine purrs along nicely, with a top speed of just over 41mph. It’s happy to run there all day, and the engine never seems to resist or overheat. We pulled trailers of firewood and a lawn aerator with it, and it never cared what was behind. Bumps, rocky sections of trail, rough harvested fields, and downed logs were soaked up by the suspension with little feedback to the driver or passenger. We did manage to high-center on a log once, but the differential lock got all wheels clawing at the ground to break us free. We feel the engine has the power for larger tires, which would also provide a little more ground clearance, but we would likely change clutch springs and weights first so we didn’t inadvertently give up any torque.

One feature we really like about the Sidekick is the routine maintenance tasks. Kubota did a great job of grouping the engine and rear differential dip sticks, the oil filter, and the air filter all in one location. That makes it so easy to insure your machine is ready to go. Thank you Kubota!

 

WHAT WE WOULD CHANGE

With all the XG850 Sidekick has going for it, there are a few things we would like to see Kubota improve. The most immediate change we would make is also one of the easiest. We would re-calibrate the clutch.

Kubota wanted the Sidekick to accelerate quickly, and it certainly does. It’s faster off the line than all other crossover UTVs from Polaris, John Deere, Can-Am, etc. The problem is, CVTs work in both directions, and it’s equally quick in reverse, bordering on too aggressive. Lets just say, don’t park your new pickup behind it in the garage. Kubota felt that owners would like quicker acceleration and this might also be a selling point. We would surmise they would much prefer better control for backing up, hooking up a trailer, or for any slow operation, and having the quickest acceleration is far down their list of priorities. It’s also easy to understand Kubotas dilemma. The snowmobile companies have been refining CVTs for over 60 years, and that is a lot of knowledge to catch up on. A development partnership with a company like TGB or Team Industries could get them in the ballgame quickly. It would be an immediate, easy to implement change that would improve the usability of the vehicle.

A second change we would make would be to the cab area. We like the doors very much, but we would make them bigger. That would provide better protection and increased security, and it eliminates another problem. At the side of each seat is a bar that is designed to help hold you in place. The problem is, the shape also helps keep you out. Changing the bend radius and angles on this part would allow much easier access, but by making the door larger you can eliminate the bar entirely. A larger door increases security, provides easier entry / exit, and even reduces manufacturing cost.

While we were working on changes to the cab we would also relocate the differential lock lever and button. Currently they are on the floor, and at your left hip respectively. The Kubota tractors also have controls on both sides of the seat, but the Sidekick would be much improved by grouping controls together. Ideally, this would be on or under the dash, – including the 4WD engagement lever – but if not possible there, at least next to the 4wd lever by your right leg. Having levers in 3 different spots is a little too “tractorish” for this machine. The exception being, we do like the location of the parking brake which is immediately off your left hip where you can set it when exiting the cab.

Our final change would be to the tailgate. While we love this tailgate and latch, the gate ends have a flange that serves no purpose, but does have one unintended effect. The flanges fill up with dirt, landscape bark, or any loose material, and in doing so prevent the latch from working. When that happens you find a pointed object and root it out, only to repeat the process after the next load of loose material. Get rid of the flange (which is only there for cosmetic reasons) and it will never be a problem.


REVIEW WRAP-UP

The RTV-XG850 Sidekick takes Kubota deep into new territory, just as it was designed to do. It’s got serious recreational capabilities, yet it doesn’t abandon the hard working traits of the utility class models in the Kubota lineup. There isn’t much we would change and we expect Kubota will continue to refine the Sidekick with each model year. Whether at work or play the XG850 Sidekick did everything we asked of it, and it was always ready for more. Isn’t that exactly what you want in any UTV?

NOTE: Special thanks to Capital Equipment of Dewitt, Michigan for setting up our XG850 Sidekick. They’re a full-line Kubota dealer with many models in stock, and the knowledge to help you with exactly what you need.

Capital Equipment, 12263 Old U.S. 27, Dewitt, MI 48820 Phone: (517) 669-5533

www.cedealer.com

https://www.kubotausa.com/products/utility-vehicles

https://www.kubotausa.com/products/utility-vehicles/full-size-gas-utility-vehicles/rtv-xg850-sidekick


2020 KUBOTA RTV-XG850 SIDEKICK specs

Engine:     851cc, twin cylinder 4-stroke, DOHC, liquid-cooled, 48hp

Transmission:     Automatic CVT with High, Low, Neutral, Reverse

Final Drive:     Selectable 2WD/4WD with locking front differential, shaft drive

Engine Braking:     Yes

Suspension -FT:     Independant Dual A-Arms, adjustable spring preload, 9 in. travel

Suspens - REAR     Independant Dual A-Arms, coil over shocks, 8.5 in. travel

Tires (F & R)     25 x 10.00R – 12 6ply

Wheels:     Steel. Optional Aluminum Alloy on General Purpose and Worksite model. Alloy Wheel is Standard on Special Edition model

Steering      Electric Power Steering (EPS)

Brakes      4-wheel hydraulic discs at all wheels

Gnd Clearance     9.8 in

Fuel Capacity     8.6 gal

Cargo Bed      (LxWxH) 40.5 x 57.5 x 11.4 in, 1000 lbs capacity. Power lift optional

Lighting      LED headlights, LED taillights

Overall Dim     117in L x 63.2in W x 79.5in H

Curb Weight      1761 lbs dry

Towing     2000 lbs with 2” std receiver hitch

Turning Radius     13.1 ft

Instruments       Multi-function digital meter with speedometer, bar-style fuel gauge, gear indicator (L, H, N, R), driving mode (2WD/4WD/4WD+Diff Lock) indicator, clock, odometer, trip meter, hour meter, water temperature, battery gauge, temperature, seatbelt warning lamp, oil warning lamp, engine check lamp, water temperature warning lamp, parking indicator lamp, EPS warning lamp

Color Choices     Kubota Orange, Green, Black, AP Realtree Camo

Warranty:     24 months - 1000 hours, whichever comes first

MSRP:    $10,649 U.S. beginning price for base model