Honda Side-by-Sides: How do they compare with Polaris?


Side-by-sides are typically hard things to compare. Companies make such similar products that it really comes down to what you like in a vehicle, however, I believe that Polaris has better side-by-sides than Honda. They typically have more power, more options, and more space.

If you are a side-by-side enthusiast then you know that Polaris is one of the top names in the market. Few companies have side-by-sides that compare to Polaris’s innovation, selection, and quality.

Thanks to the beauty of capitalism however, many different companies such as Can-Am, Yamaha, Arctic Cat, and even Honda have manufactured side-by-sides that strive to compete with the giant, Polaris.

While Can-Am would probably be pegged as the runner-up in the industry, or tied completely with Polaris, depending on who you ask, Honda has been making some pretty big waves in the side-by-side world recently with their 2020 lineup.

We all know Honda for their easy fairly cheap and easy to maintain cars. The Japanese company has been in the vehicle industry for around 70 years and while they have been making cars and motorcycles for quite some time, they only have been making side-by-sides for about 21 years.

Because of a relatively late start in the side-by-side market, and the fact that Honda uses much of its resources elsewhere, the company does not have too many side-by-side models to choose from.

In fact, for Honda’s 2020 lineup, there are only nine various side-by-side models that are being produced. While, there are older models that Honda has such as the ‘Big Red’ model, as well as others, that are still out on the market that you can only really ever buy these models second hand.

Many of those models have been discontinued and have been replaced by the current models offered from Honda on their website. So in general Polaris has a lot more side-by-sides than Honda does.

What is exciting is that Honda has just released a new sports/racing model called the Talon, that will be able to rival even Polaris’s top RZR model so it seems.

Hopefully through a process of comparing and contrasting we can better lay out the details of the various models and see how they match up to one another and while we can’t say for certain that one company is better than another, primarily because their products are just so similar, we can compare side-by-sides head to head from both Polaris and Honda.

Then after doing all of that you can determine for yourself whether or not a specific Honda side-by-side is better than the Polaris counterpart.

Recreation/Utility Models

Because there are so many different models, and each side-by-side model has different areas in which they excel I will divide the side-by-sides into two separate categories Recreation/Utility Models and Sport/Racing Models.

The recreation/utility models tend to be tuned down when compared to the sport/racing models. They can have similar engine size and power outputs, but they won’t perform in the same manner that the sport/racing side-by-sides do.

Utility side-by-sides, which is the largest selection for Honda, are typically more inclined to do hard work such as towing or hauling heavy cargo. If the side-by-side is more recreational then the vehicles may have a more sporty suspension and engine give the side-by-side a more recreational or trail-oriented feel.

The first recreation/utility model that we will compare is Honda’s Pioneer 500 and compare that to the Polaris Ranger 500.

Honda Pioneer 500 vs Polaris Ranger 500

Honda Pioneer 500: $9,199 +$660 Destination Charge

The Honda Pioneer 500 is what I would consider a great “mid-range” utility vehicle. It has enough power to do hard work but it is also a versatile enough vehicle to take out into the trails and have some fun on the weekends.

The Pioneer 500 has a 50-inch wide stance, so it is great for squeezing into smaller parts of trails, where other side-by-sides typically would not be able to reach.

Transmission

A really cool feature that I like about the Pioneer 500 is its transmission. Honda does something really different with their side-by-sides that I love and that is giving the option between an automatic (AT) and manual (MT) transmission.

While using the automatic transmission, the Pioneer 500 will shift for you as you drive along, or if you choose to use the paddle shifters, then you can do that as well. You can even switch between automatic and manual transmission on the fly in the cabin of the vehicle.

While the manual transmission of the side-by-side is not what I would consider a “true manual” with a clutch and shifter, the paddle shifters do make a nice touch of added control given to the driver.

Performance

Performance-wise the Pioneer 500 is nothing to scoff at. This side-by-side comes with a 475cc, liquid-cooled, single-cylinder, four-stroke engine and for the size of the vehicle that is plenty enough to give this side-by-side some get up and go.

The Pioneer 500’s engine is electronically fuel-injected which allows for cold weather and high altitude riding and is also specially tuned for low rpm-torque giving you that extra kick needed when towing or hauling.

Speaking of towing and hauling, the Pioneer 500 has a heavy-duty receiver hitch that can allow the vehicle to tow up to 1000 pounds.

I will say that Honda really focused on providing the engine with a lot of parts that allow it to run well in high altitudes and cold weather.

With the help of a closed-loop injection system, you should be able to start up the Pioneer 500’s engine in cold weather without a problem and run it just as well.

We mentioned how the Pioneer 500 does a fantastic job at giving low rpm-torque and that due in part to how the engine is mounted within the vehicle.

Honda oriented the crankshaft of the vehicle front to back in the chassis which allowed for the flow of power to go straight to the wheels instead of using right-angles as to reduce the powertrain friction of the vehicle.

Suspension/Drivetrain

The Pioneer 500 uses its TRAXLOK system that provides a 2WD or 4WD option, so you can choose how much traction that you want when you want it.

Suspension wise, I do find this side-by-side to be a little lacking. It only offers 5.9 inches of travel in the front wheels, 5.9 inches of travel in the back wheels and 8.5 inches of ground clearance overall which just really is not all that much.

The springs that Honda uses in this side-by-side are pretty good though, they use dual-rate springs that help allow for more cushion when driving over bumps and rough terrain.

All in all the Honda Pioneer 500 is not a bad side-by-side. It has decent enough power for its class, is fairly comfortable, and has an awesome transmission.

The downsides I think would be that it does not have much ground clearance or travel, and the towing power is pretty weak. With all of that being said, let us take a look at how the Honda Pioneer 500 stacks up against Polaris’s Ranger 500.

Polaris Ranger 500: $9,499

The Polaris Ranger definitely dominates the utility side-by-side world, and this Polaris Ranger 500 is a highly commendable vehicle. The Polaris Ranger 500 has a width of 58 inches, so it is slightly wider than the Pioneer 500.

Transmission

The transmission of the Ranger 500 is where I find yet another point where the vehicle lacks in comparison to the Pioneer. As I said most side-by-sides do not offer a manual option, and are typically all automatic.

The Ranger 500 is no different in that regard. This side-by-side uses Polaris’s PVT transmission that has high, low, neutral, reverse and park gears. The Ranger 500 does not offer a paddle shifter option, which is why I say it lacks when compared to the Pioneer 500.

That does not make the Ranger any less efficient it just is an area in which I believe that Honda outperforms Polaris between these two models.

Performance

As far as performance goes, I think that Polaris has the upper hand with their Ranger 500. The Ranger 500 uses Polaris’ ProStar 500 engine which is a 500cc, liquid-cooled, four-stroke, single-cylinder engine that produces 32 horsepower.

In reality, the engines of the two side-by-sides are very similar, both liquid-cooled, both four-stroke, single-cylinder and so forth. The only real difference between the two is that the Pioneer 500 has a 475cc engine and the Ranger 500 has a 500cc engine.

So Polaris has slightly more engine displacement than Honda does with these two side-by-sides, giving Polaris a bit more power overall.

The fuel system in the Ranger 500 is also the same as the Pioneer 500 using an electronic fuel injected system.

The Ranger 500 truly outperforms the Honda Pioneer 500 when it comes to towing and hauling capability. The Ranger 500 is the class leader in these categories and can tow up to 1,500 pounds and the cargo box on this side-by-side can carry up to 500 pounds of cargo.

Suspension/Drivetrain

The suspension and drivetrain is yet another area in which the two side-by-sides differ.

The Polaris Ranger 500 uses the On-Demand True AWD/2WD/VersaTrac Turf Mode system. This is actually a really fantastic system that I applaud Polaris for.

While the 2WD and the AWD are not too different from a standard 2WD/4WD system, the VersaTrac Turf mode is where the magic really is. The turf mode helps the vehicle handle more smoothly and lighter when on grass, turf, or soil that you would not want to mess up or damage.

That is a setting that really comes in handy when driving these vehicles around a farm or the yard and gives Polaris a leg up against the competition.

Another area in which the Polaris Ranger 500 excels when compared to the Honda Pioneer 500 is in the amount of travel and ground clearance that it has.

The Ranger 500’s suspension, in general, is much better than the Pioneer 500’s. The Ranger 500 uses MacPherson struts in the front of the vehicle that gives the front suspension 9 inches of travel.

In the back of the side-by-side, there is a dual A-arm, IRS that gives the vehicle 10 inches of travel. In all the Ranger 500 has 10 inches of ground clearance, at least 1.5 inches more than the Pioneer 500.

The Ranger 500 also offers a gas-assisted dump bed that helps with unloading the dump bed when it is has a heavy load to move. Add that feature to the Lock and Ride accessories that one can attach to the Ranger 500 and Polaris seems to outshine Honda just a little.

Honda Pioneer 700 Vs Polaris Ranger 570

Polaris does not really have a similar model that would compare with the Honda Pioneer 700. The next model up in the Ranger category for Polaris is the Ranger 570 and then it is the Ranger 1000 which we will compare later to Honda’s 1000 model utility side-by-side.

So the next best bet in comparison would be the Ranger 570 to the Pioneer 700. While the engine sizes and power will be pretty different, other features, I believe, are similar and compare and contrast relatively well for these two side-by-side models.

Honda Pioneer 700: $10,999

The Honda Pioneer 700 is Honda’s middle model between the 500 model and the 1000 model, and quite frankly it is a pretty good looking and quality utility vehicle.

The Honda 700 does have a four-person version, however, the only difference between it and the two-person model is precisely the amount of people that can fit inside the side-by-side.

So all other performance and suspension specifications will be the same if not very similar varying in size only due to the added seats in the four-person model.

Transmission

The Honda Pioneer 700 is similar to the Pioneer 500 in the fact that it produces a good amount of torque, but in a different way than the 500.

The Pioneer 700 has a heavy-duty torque converter as well as three hydraulic clutches that allow you to get smooth shifts, a consistent amount of power, and good engine braking.

The Honda automatic transmission also includes a two-stage shift map that optimizes power and torque delivery at high RPMs.

There is also an EPS edition that allows for electronic power steering in the Pioneer deluxe edition that is around two thousand dollars more. The Pioneer 700 also has the automatic/manual transmission options that the 500 has with the paddle shifters in the deluxe model.

Performance

The Pioneer 700 comes with a 675cc, fuel-injected, liquid-cooled, four-stroke, single-cylinder engine. It is rubber-mounted so that the cabin vibrates less which is a really nice touch because side-by-sides can get really loud in the cabin.

Honda really stepped up their game with this side-by-side in the towing and cargo bed capacity. Where the Pioneer 500 lacks the Pioneer 700 excels. The Pioneer 700 has a towing capacity of 1,500 pounds and a cargo bed capacity of 1,000 pounds.

When you are towing things or hauling things, you’re going to want to be able to brake and brake well. Thanks to Honda’s triple-disc brakes you will be able to brake the car in mud, turf, gravel, and any other type of terrain.

The triple-disc brakes have a patented scraper system that helps prevent debris build-up, which is actually really nice, especially when these side-by-sides are typically being driven around in less than pristine conditions.

One cool feature that the Honda Pioneer 700 has is its quick flip seating feature. The seats can be switched from a two-seat mode with the tilt cargo bed option to a 3 seat option with the seats flipped up.

Suspension/Drivetrain

Having a slightly bigger side-by-side like the Pioneer 700 means you will need a slightly better suspension. The Pioneer 700 has independent double-wishbone suspension in the front as well as the rear of the vehicle.

This suspension gives the side-by-side 7.9 inches of travel in the front and 9.1 inches of travel in the back with right around 10.7 inches of ground clearance overall.

The drivetrain in this side-by-side is pretty nice utilizing a 3 option system comprised of 2WD, 4WD, and 4WD with differential lock. The diff lock really helps with towing and hauling so its a nice feature to have when you are able to tow and haul to the capacity that this side-by-side is capable of.

Polaris Ranger 570: $10,199

As I stated before, the Polaris Ranger 570 does not really stack up against the Pioneer 700 simply because the engine sizes are drastically different, but if we are sticking to most similar side-by-sides for their classes then these two would be counterparts.

Transmission

The transmission on the Ranger 570 is nothing fancy. It is just the standard Polaris PVT transmission. No paddle shifters or manual option like with the Pioneer 700.

Performance

Besides the fact that they are pretty, different in engine size as well as physical size, the specifications for these vehicles are not too different. The Ranger 570 has a 567cc ProStar engine that produces 44 horsepower whereas the Pioneer 700 has about 36 horsepower.

The engine in the Ranger 570 is very similar to that of the Ranger 500 is a single-cylinder, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC, that has electric fuel injection.

If you haven’t realized by now a lot of these engines are typically the same for each class, with only slight differences in power levels.

The Ranger, even with its smaller engine, keeps up with the Pioneer 700 in towing and cargo box capacity too. The Ranger 570 has a towing capacity of 1,500 pounds and 800-pound capacity gas-assisted dump box.

The gas assist is really what helps put Polaris over the edge with this vehicle in this class. Although the Pioneer 700 does have a dump box that allows for 200 extra pounds. It really depends on what you prefer, gas-assist or capacity.

Suspension/Drivetrain

The suspension on this side-by-side runs pretty darn close to the same specifications of the Pioneer 700 as well. It has 9 inches of travel up front, and 10 inches of independent travel in the back of the vehicle. Overall that gives you 10 inches of ground clearance for the vehicle which is pretty nice.

The Ranger 570 uses the same Macpherson 9 inch struts that the Ranger 500 uses as well as the Dual A-arm IRS suspension in the back. The drivetrain is the same as the Ranger 500 and is the standard drivetrain that most Polaris side-by-sides use that being the On-Demand True AWD/2WD/VersaTrac Turf Mode.

Compared to the Pioneer 700’s suspension I would say the Ranger 570 may have a bit better suspension, but overall they are very similar designs, Polaris just gives us the brand name that they use for the suspension such as Macpherson.

Honda Pioneer 1000 Vs Polaris Ranger 1000

These two models make up the utility sections biggest and baddest side-by-sides. They have the most power in their class and show it off in different yet exciting ways.

Both Honda and Polaris offer four-seater selections for these models as well as deluxe editions. We will discuss some of the deluxe features lightly but for the most part, we are going to focus on the base model stats here.

Honda Pioneer 1000: $15,799

The Honda Pioneer 1000 is great for working or for playing. It is the perfect example of a side-by-side that dominates the worksite just as well as it dominates the trails.

Transmission

Honda really outdid themselves with the 6-speed DCT (dual-clutch transmission), Advanced Transmission Logic system that they put into all the Pioneer 1000 model side-by-sides. This transmission will sense how you drive and then adapt accordingly.

So if you are a more relaxed driver then the system will sense that it gives you early shifts to ensure a more quiet ride at lower speeds. If you are more of a sporty driver however the system will adapt to that and give you longer shifts at higher RPMs.

Plus with the true engine braking, you get better stability when traveling downhill.

Performance

The Honda Pioneer 1000 uses Honda’s best technology to fuel their 999cc twin-cylinder engine, and for all of you gear heads out there, did I mention the engine is an inline engine?

Honda utilizes the same Unicam cylinder head design that they put into their motocross bikes because it is compact, but still delivers the kind of power you want and would expect out of a vehicle of this caliber.

The Pioneer 1000 has a 2,000-pound towing capacity so you can literally tow a “ton” of things around if you need to. The vehicle also offers a Hill Start Assist feature that helps when having to stop on a hill and then continue upwards.

You can go ahead and move your foot from off the break unto the gas pedal and the side-by-side will stay in position without any of the rollback issues most side-by-sides would have in that situation.

The High/Low Subtransmission gives a 42 percent gear reduction between High and Low gears, which allows for the needed torque in all six gears.

Suspension/Drivetrain

The Drivetrain is yet another area in which the Pioneer 1000 shines. Especially since they have made the I-4WD system that is truly quite impressive.

I do a lot of research into side-by-sides and see a lot of different suspensions, drivetrains, etc. and this one actually impressed me which was a pleasant surprise.

The I-4WD has An industry-first brake-traction control system for side-by-sides. Basically, this “intelligent” 4WD system allows for all the perks of a locking front differential without the drawbacks.

This allows for wheels to operate individually of each other, so if one wheel is stuck in the snow, mud, or ice the rest of the vehicle will remain with its traction.

But even with all of this, you still get light steering, better tracking at high speeds, better turning radius and reduced kickbacks that are typically problems with unlocked front differentials.

The Pioneer 1000 also comes with EPS, and the chassis utilizes FOX QS-3 shocks and the drivetrain options are a bit different on this side-by-side as well. There is an added turf mode, to compete with the Polaris, as well as the diff lock.

With its independent suspension in both the front and back of the vehicle, the Pioneer 1000 is impressive. It has 10.6 inches of travel in the front, 10 inches of travel in the back, and 12.7 inches of ground clearance overall.

Polaris Ranger 1000: $12,999

Transmission

Unlike Honda, Polaris did not do anything fancy to their transmission for this model, it maintains the standard PVT transmission that all the other Ranger models have.

Performance

The performance is really where Polaris stepped up with this model. Equipped in the Ranger 1000 is the new ProStar 1000 twin-cylinder, SOHC engine. It produces a whopping 61 horsepower and 55 ft-lb of low-end torque.

The engine also has all of the other features of the Ranger engines such as liquid-cooling and electronic fuel injection.

The Ranger 1000 has a towing capacity of 2,500 pounds and a cargo box capacity of 1,000 pounds so it definitely outperforms Honda’s Pioneer 1000 in that regard.

Suspension/Drivetrain

I will say that the areas where Polaris most improved are in the suspension/drivetrain area as well as in the added features of the vehicle.

The drivetrain on the Ranger 1000 is the High-Performance On-Demand True AWD/2WD/VersaTrac Turf mode. I have mentioned the high-performance mode in other articles. The real difference is that the drivetrain is specifically tuned to handle the larger engine and output that these vehicles create.

The front suspension is a dual A-arm suspension that gives the vehicle 10 inches of travel and the rear suspension is a similar dual A-arm suspension that also gives the vehicle 10 inches of travel.

In total, the vehicle has 12 inches of ground clearance giving it a slightly lower ground clearance than the Pioneer 1000. Supposedly the chassis of the Ranger 1000 is more rigid, how that directly compares to the Pioneer 1000 I am not too sure.

Features

The features are where Polaris has the most advantage and difference from Honda. The ranger 1000 has 18.6 gallons of cabin storage space, 25 percent thicker seats, and an extra 5 inches of room for entry and exit of the vehicle and up to 8 cupholders.

There is also a heavy-duty skid plate that is 50 percent larger than the average skid plate Polaris typically uses attached to the bottom of the vehicle to help keep the undercarriage protected.

With these features and more that you can add when purchasing the XP (deluxe) edition the Ranger 1000 is quite the side-by-side.

Sports/Racing Models

The sports/racing models are both Polaris’s and Honda’s top of the line racing models that provide speed and power on some amazing racing suspensions.

Polaris once again has many more of these sport/racing models than Honda does. I will go ahead and list two of the Honda models and compare them to Polaris’ counterparts.

There are four sport/racing models for Honda overall, although two of them are just slightly different from their base model in either seating, or suspension, so I will talk about the Talon1000R which is the base racing model for Honda and the Talon 1000X FOX-Live Valve.

They will be compared to the Polaris RZR XP 1000 and RZR XP Turbo S models respectively.

Honda Talon1000R vs Polaris RZR XP 1000

Honda Talon 1000R: $TBD

Transmission

The transmission in the Talon 1000 R is the same as the Pioneer 1000 that is the 6-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) with High/Low sub-transmission.

Performance

The Talon 1000R uses the same 999cc, liquid-cooled inline twin that the Pioneer 1000 uses. However, the engine is set longitudinally in the chassis and is managed by Honda’s PGM-FI engine mapping system.

This system is what sets it apart from the Pioneer 1000, the mapping system in these sports models is what makes them be able to handle and distribute the power differently from the utility models.

The Talon 1000 R also uses Honda’s Unicam cylinder head design to make the engine nice and compact but still produce the amazing power that it does.

The engine is also equipped with roller rocker arms in the valve train as to help reduce engine friction, create faster, higher revs, and make the engine more efficient.

Suspension/Drivetrain

The suspension is where this model gets set apart. The Talon 1000R uses FOX Podium 2.5 shocks with QS3 quick adjusters so you can adjust your suspension just how you want it outside the vehicle.

The rear suspension is something new for Honda on their side-by-sides. The Talons all feature a 4+ link rear suspension with 20 inches of travel, while the front suspension is an independent wishbone suspension that gives 17 inches of travel.

The rear suspension here helps to control wheel geometry so that the rear-wheels toe only varies 0.3 degrees throughout the entire stroke giving the chassis more stability under stress.

Throw that suspension on some high-performance disc brakes and you have yourself one heck of a side-by-side.

The Drivetrain on this side-by-side is also the same as the Pioneer 1000 in the fact that it uses Honda’s I-4WD system and is part of that automatic/manual 6-speed dual-clutch.

Polaris RZR XP 1000: $18,999

Transmission

Although this is a RZR the transmission is not changed on this model as it uses the PVT transmission that all the Polaris side-by-sides use.

Performance

Though the transmission isn’t much, the engine on this machine is a beast though, it Polaris’s ProStar 999 HO. It produces 110 horsepower and is a twin-cylinder, liquid-cooled, well-oiled machine.

The RZR XP 1000 has a towing capacity of 1,5000 pounds and a cargo box capacity of 300 pounds, remember it is a racing vehicle not a workhorse like the utility models.

Suspension/Drivetrain

The RZR XP 1000 goes a different way with their shocks and uses 2 inch Walker Evans Needle (WEN) shocks in the front and 2.5-inch WEN shocks in the back.

The front suspension is a dual A-arm with a stabilizer bar in the front with 20 inches of usable travel, while the rear suspension is a trailing-arm suspension with a stabilizer bar and 20 inches of travel.

The RZR XP 1000 has a ground clearance of 14 inches

Honda Talon 1000X Fox Live Valve Vs Polaris RZR XP Turbo S

Honda Talon 1000X Fox Live Valve: $TBA

The only real difference between the Talon 1000X Fox Live Valve and the 1000 R is the suspension and the fact that it seats four people.

Transmission

The transmission for the Talon 1000X Live Valve is the same 6-speed Dual Clutch transmission as the other 1000 model side-by-sides.

Performance

The Talon 1000X Fox Live Valve has the 999cc, liquid-cooled inline twin engine with the PGM-FI mapping system.

Suspension/Drivetrain

Here is the real kicker for this vehicle. The Talon 1000X Fox Live Valve side-by-side has an awesome suspension system.

There are 2.5-inch shocks on all four wheels and the system adjusts for dampening automatically, independently, and up to 16 times a second to ensure less pitch and roll of the vehicle.

The other difference is that instead of a 4+ link rear trailing arm suspension like in the Talon 1000R the Talon 1000X Fox Live Valve has a 3-link rear suspension with 15 inches of rear travel.

Polaris RZR XP Turbo S: $22,499

Transmission

Standard PVT transmission

Performance

The biggest difference with this model when compared to the RZR 1000 XP and the Talon 1000X is that it has a 925cc turbocharged twin-cylinder engine that produces 168 horsepower.

The RZR XP Turbo S also has a cargo box capacity of 300 pounds, while the towing rate is not listed.

Suspension/Drivetrain

The suspension and drivetrain are once again an are where this side-by-side shines out among the rest. The RZR XP Turbo S has what Polaris calls DYNAMIX control system.

With the DYNAMIX control system, the driver can adjust the 3.0 Fox internal bypass live valve shocks fro the cockpit of their vehicle. It is a lot like the Live Valve shocks on the Talon 1000X but you control these manually through a screen whereas the Honda does it automatically.

The RZR XP Turbo S also gives 25 inches of usable travel and 16 inches of ground clearance which is significantly higher than the Talon 1000X Fox Live Valve.

The RZR XP Turbo S much like the Talon 1000X Fox Live Valve uses a rear trailing arm suspension with a stabilizer bar.

So clearly there are many differences between the two models, which one is better is up to you to decide.

Matthew King

I'm 23 years old and love to hike, camp, and shoot guns. I also know Spanish which can come in handy!

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