Photo courtesy of Kubota

There’s been an evolution happening with UTVs the past decade.

About 10 years ago, most UTVs were rugged work machines that featured very basic cab designs with no added bells or whistles. Today, the UTV is starting to look and function like an everyday car or pickup truck. More manufacturers are adding technology to the cabs: touchscreens, navigation tools and rearview cameras. There’s also demand for heating and cooling, as well as heated and air-cooled seats.

While most UTVs won’t incorporate all these luxuries in a single vehicle, most manufacturers predict this will become standard in the next couple of years.

“People are going to want the same creature comforts they have in their cars (in their UTVs),” says Kurt Reece, assistant brand manager for utility vehicles at Mahindra. “It’s pretty amazing how the technology is going in this space and how quickly it’s moving. Any technology you see in your day-to-day car, you’ll start to see in these vehicles, too.”

Manufacturers agree the automotive industry is driving advancements in the UTV market to make the cabs more like that of a car or a truck. Features such as adjustable seats, tilt steering wheels or cup holders are becoming the norm for UTVs.

An increasing number of UTVs offer entirely closed-cab designs so they can be used in cooler climates. Some models feature full-sized doors instead of bars to make it easier for contractors to hop in and out.

“Back in the day, utility vehicles were more like a piece of machinery. Now, they are much more automotive-like in fit, finish and comfort,” says Tom Mielke, product marketing manager for utility vehicles at Cub Cadet. “Nowadays, the (UTVs) are more comfortable. Frankly, you can work all day long (in them) and on the weekend use (them) to go trail riding or hunting or for recreational purposes. It’s that crossover function that’s another trend in the industry right now.”

Accessorized and versatile.

On top of the creature comforts being added to UTVs, manufacturers say UTVs are also becoming more accessorized and versatile. Mielke notes that his company’s UTV sales are up simply because contractors seem more interested in purchasing machines with versatility.

“Nowadays, the (UTVs) are more comfortable. You can work all day (in them) and on the weekend use them to go trail riding.” Tom Mielke, product marketing manager, Cub Cadet

UTVs can be used for myriad purposes, with the help of accessories and attachments. Adding one or two attachments can turn a basic UTV into a variety of vehicles: a snow plow, a mini hauler, a fertilizer spreader or a vehicle to cart workers around the jobsite.

Because versatility is important to contractors, Reece says Mahindra offers more than 50 accessories and attachments for UTVs, such as post hole diggers, spreaders, tillers, mowers, rakes, cutters, hitches, lifts and blades to name a few. He says there are also different tire treads and tire patterns to pair with these vehicles so they best fit the application needed.

“We wanted to make sure the vehicles could be used anytime, anyplace, anywhere and in any condition,” Reece says. “Ultimately, it’s a versatility game and figuring out how to make these vehicles as efficient as possible.”

Reece notes that Mahindra’s flex hauler and long bed UTV models seem to be most popular among landscapers. Both models incorporate a cargo box that folds down on either side of the tailgate to convert it into a flatbed trailer. This feature allows landscapers to transport mulch, hay or other tools around a jobsite.

Adding attachments can turn a basic UTV into a variety of vehicles: a snow plow, a mini hauler, a fertilizer spreader or a vehicle to move workers around a jobsite.
Photo courtesy of American Landmaster

Cub Cadet faces similar demands from landscapers. Mielke says the company offers a variety of storage options to best serve these customers.

“We don’t know every single tool or gizmo someone will want to use for a job, so we created a system that has attachment points all over the machine where they can configure it how they want,” he says.

Landscapers in different regions of the country also require different options.

Roger Gifford, product manager for the RTV product line at Kubota, says this is one reason accessories are important to landscapers. “Accessorizing and making it yours is the fastest-growing part of this segment,” he says. “The accessory market is really driven to the customer’s needs to make (the vehicle) theirs.”

He says one of Kubota’s models “keeps out weather,” giving users the ability to heat or cool the cab, defrost and wipe off snow or rain on the windshield. The company also offers other accessories for use in other conditions like rear lighting, side lighting, racks and guards.

Another demand he’s noticed is being able to convert UTVs from single-row vehicles to two-row vehicles. This option adds to the machine’s versatility, enabling anywhere from one to four riders on the machine.

“That way, you can either move around a crew and some equipment, or you can have two people in it and carry a larger amount of equipment,” Gifford says.

More green and more power.

Traditionally, UTVs run on gasoline or diesel. However, it’s becoming increasingly common to see electric or hybrid UTV models. Keith Wells, director of sales and marketing at American Landmaster, says there seems to be much more interest today among UTV users in alternative fuel.

Although gasoline and diesel are still more popular, he says electric is gaining momentum. American Landmaster currently offers one electric-powered UTV model.

Accessorizing and making it yours is the fastest-growing part of this segment.” Roger Gifford, product manager, Kubota

“Everything is moving toward electric,” Wells says. “There’s still a lot in development and refinement needed before electric gets across the board, though.”

Mielke agrees that landscapers shouldn’t be surprised to see alternative fuels powering UTVs. In general, he says alternative fuels are particularly beneficial for the landscaping industry.

“A lot of landscapers work in quiet neighborhoods or near golf courses,” he says. “In the same way that they want to leave a minimal (emissions) footprint, their sound footprint is something to think about. Electric vehicles are quiet and let them work toward zero emissions.”

UTVs are also increasing in power and hauling capability.

Wells says he’s noticed an increased demand for UTVs to have faster speeds and more power to pull heavier loads. He says his company’s UTVs can haul anywhere from 500 to 2,000 pounds.

Reece compares a UTV to a small work truck in that both are capable of hauling similar loads. He notes that some of Mahindra’s UTVs can haul about 1,200 pounds.

“It’s just a more fuel-efficient alternative to a truck,” he adds. “It’s essentially easier to use, easier to get in and out of. Especially in a landscape application, you’re able to take these vehicles where a work truck can’t go.”