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Honda Pioneer 1000-6 vs. Can-Am Defender

1. Introduction

The off-road market is currently saturated with options for utility task vehicles. One of the most recent being the introduction of side-by-side vehicles. Honda has been a long-standing dominator in the motorcycle world and has stepped into the power sports automotive market with a very strong and confident approach. Honda has a long-standing reputation for building dependable and reliable equipment. Not to mention that they have obtained some of the highest customer satisfaction and loyalty ratings in the automotive world. Can Am is relatively new to the power sports sector, however, they have blown in like a hurricane and spiced things up a bit. Can Am is known for being outside the box and going against the norm. This, in turn, has forced other manufacturers to step up their game as Can Am has set new levels of expectation. With these personalities and reputations clashing, it is worth researching the end result. Both companies are releasing some groundbreaking new UTV models. The Honda Pioneer 1000 and the Can Am Defender are two models that are not quite like the usual side-by-side. These are more like tiny trucks. So much so that they have been claimed to fill the gap in the market between a full-size truck and a traditional side by side. With impressive features like seating for 5 and a dump bed, it's not that farfetched. In this write-up, it is my goal to point, click and shoot out as much information as I can. This will undoubtedly be a dry comparison of facts as the models have not been released yet and I cannot physically examine both units. This guide will be broken into two sections. Each section will pertain to the model it is discussing. Step by step, I will move through the whole unit giving a breakdown of each and every aspect. The first section will be the Honda Pioneer. This will start with the standard model and I will then repeat each section comparing it to the same section of the Can Am unit.

1.1 Overview of Utility Side-by-Side Vehicles

Only a few manufacturers have the ability to make a utility side-by-side that is in between sporty and with the ability to accomplish hard tasks. Honda, for a long time, has been one of the leaders in the side-by-side world for building machines that are reliable and have the ability to power through tough jobs and off-road trails. Can-Am is known for being a powerhouse in the sport side-by-side industry, but with the release of the Defender, they've made a great utility machine. It is well known that Honda is a leader in reliable side-by-side, but now the Can-Am Defender has reached Honda's high standard of reliability. This makes it very difficult for a consumer to choose the vehicle that best suits their needs. Now, let's compare some utility side-by-sides from Honda and Can-Am.

Traditional side-by-sides were designed and used specifically on farms. These machines are very agile and give a strong, smooth ride. In recent years, the recreational side-by-sides have really taken off. These machines are very sporty and tend to be quicker and more powerful. Lately, the side-by-side market has really taken off, which can make it very difficult for consumers to differentiate between a utility side-by-side and a sport side-by-side.

Utility vehicles are designed to complete tasks more competently than a general-purpose vehicle. These vehicles are used to get from one location to another and encompass the ability to reach a speed of more than 20-25 mph. Side-by-sides give the driver and passenger a choice of transportation. Side by sides are designed to act as a workhorse. These machines are frequently equipped with a bed or cargo box and have four-wheel drive.

1.2 Importance of Choosing the Right Vehicle

If you fall into the category of strictly utility work, there are a lot of things to consider. Chances are cost is a factor. You don't want to be dumping a bunch of cash into a recreation toy, when all you need is reliable work transportation. Long term reliability and ease of maintenance are also important issues to consider. You need something that will last and won't be a pain to keep running. Ride quality and horsepower while nice to have, are probably very low on the priority list. You may also be looking for additional accessories to make your work easier, such as a cab, additional lighting, or a winch. These are all things that play a factor in choosing the right machine.

The first question you need to ask yourself is "What am I going to be doing with this machine?" Are you strictly doing utility work such as hauling, plowing, and towing? Are you looking for a machine that can do double duty as a work/play vehicle? Or do you just need a reliable machine that is as basic as possible and can get you from point a to point b?

For many people, a utility vehicle isn’t just a toy; it’s an investment. Heck, some even depend on their UTV for their livelihood. These days, there are so many choices out there that selecting the best vehicle can be an overwhelming task. Our goal of this comparison is to help identify the strengths and weaknesses of two of the top UTV choices on the market to help you make the best decision for your specific needs.

2. Performance and Power

This is where these two machines differ. While Can Am has a reputation for high-performance machines, the sheer size and weight of the Defender prevent it from being a performance powerhouse. Its limiter kicks in at 47 mph in high gear. Those who own a Defender and wish to remove the speed limiter may do so, but the vehicles will not go any faster than 60 mph. The Defender is a torquey machine that gets its power to the ground through a very smooth engagement CVT clutch system. The Defender has proven to be a capable workhorse whether it's being used for work or play. The Honda Pioneer is no slouch in this department, sporting a 999cc engine that is no larger than the Defender's 976cc, but somehow feels faster. The Pioneer tops out around 70 mph and will get there in a hurry with a top speed run that shows it will reach 70 in about 5 seconds. The Pioneer is a high-revving machine, which some may view as noisy or obtrusive for a work vehicle, but the performance is undeniable. The power is put to the ground through a 6-speed, fully automatic Dual Clutch Transmission. This is one of the highlights of the Pioneer. The DCT feels very much like a manual transmission with the ease of an automatic. This allows the driver to remain in auto mode or switch to manual mode for the more exciting riding, especially when offroad. The paddle shifters provide quick, crisp shifts that are useful in many situations, such as engine braking down a steep incline. Step-mashing the throttle off a sharp turn will also provide you with a tire-spinning power slide that is suitable to elicit a response like "Bro, did you see that?". The Pioneer also has an integrated Sport Mode, that when selected will maximize the performance of the DCT. All of these technological features provide the Pioneer with a fun-to-drive quality that cannot be matched by the Defender.

2.1 Engine Specifications

The requirements for the vehicle's engine are quite similar for these two very versatile machines, so let's dig into the specifications here. The engine is always at the heart of any vehicle and the power it produces can be the defining characteristic of any model. In terms of power, the Pioneer has a 999 cc liquid-cooled, twin-cylinder design. Honda decided to utilize a 72-degree V-twin on this engine, which allows for more efficient power production as well as a lower overall engine height. Can Am counters with an 800cc, liquid-cooled V-twin with 4 valves per cylinder. The smaller displacement could be a red flag for prospective buyers, but rest assured the Defender does build the power to match the Pioneer through its advanced engine design. One benefit of the smaller displacement, aside from engine torque, is going to be fuel economy. Can Am has stated that this model has a 10-hour riding range for every 20L of fuel. The Pioneer has a fuel capacity of 27.7L. This would mean in terms of fuel range the Defender is capable of journeying farther from its start point, though it does require premium unleaded gasoline. Continuing with the engine characteristics, the Pioneer employs a 10:1 compression ratio which allows for great power output across the entire power band. Can Am brought out the big guns with a 10.6:1 compression ratio, though torquers should take heed. Both vehicles use a belt transmission, the Can Am utilizing one that is CVT, while the Pioneer has a 6-speed automatic with the option of manual switching using paddle shifters. Overall, in terms of power, these two engines are going to be relatively comparable with the lower displacement Defender engine overcoming its size disadvantage through importuning compression ratio and modern engine design. At this time, we have no power measurements for the Pioneer engine, but updated information should become available as this new model rolls out.

2.2 Off-Road Capability

In summary, both machines are designed to get the job done on rough terrain suitable for trail riding and a utility machine's all-terrain needs, but with the versatility offered by different build packages and the all-out mud capability of the high-geared Defender HD10, the Can Am has a slight edge in the off-road department.

A locking front differential is an excellent feature when the going gets tough, and true to its off-road focus, Can Am offers the Defender in a DPS HD10 package specifically for challenging terrain. This model features a 24% gear reduction compared to the base model for improved torque in mud and on slopes, ECO and Work presets for a more flexible power delivery, a more responsive front diff lock engagement, and a separate rear differential gear lock, all brought together with specific tuning to allow the best use of the HD10 model's greater power.

The Defender comes with Selectable Turf Mode, a feature normally found exclusively in large displacement 4WD utility ATVs, which unlocks the rear differential for less understeer and damage to sensitive terrain, and provides for a tighter turning radius when the going is smooth and the driver wants to avoid tearing up turf to get the job done. The ability to switch between 2WD open rear diff and 4WD is a staple feature for any utility ATV or UTV, and the Defender uses a similar system, but there is no true 4WD with a front diff lock offering, and the front wheels are always driven in 2WD or 4WD.

Despite having no DCT, the Pioneer features I-4WD, a unique system that allows the user to engage an electronic locking front differential, much like using a diff lock on a traditional 4WD ATV, plus an automatic mode that senses wheel slippage and diverts power to the front wheels as needed. The standard 1000-3 and 700-4 Pioneers rely on a more basic open or locked 2WD/4WD system. With 10" of front and rear suspension travel on all but the 5-seater Pioneer, the I-4WD feature makes the 1000-6 the most capable off-road machine in the Pioneer lineup.

Among the major advantages of a UTV over an ATV is typically a smoother ride due to the extra weight and lower COG inherent to a side-by-side, plus the added stability of a second pair of driven wheels. However, something that's typically not much different from an ATV is the way 99% of these rigs are used; most miles put on a utility UTV are clocked in the dirt. Both Honda and Can Am recognize this and put forth significant effort into making sure their machines can handle off-road terrain. The Pioneer 1000-6 and Defender are each available in a few different build packages with interesting differences between them featuring different tire sizes and more.

2.2 Off-Road Capability

2.3 Towing and Hauling Capacity

When it comes to cargo box capacity, maybe the numbers speak for themselves, but the Honda has a clear advantage in that it has a two-level cargo box. This is an innovation in the UTV market that has been seen on ATVs for a few years now. The upper level can hold a cooler, gas cans, tool box, etc... basically any supplies that you'd need to take to a location. The lower level can hold a heavy load of mulch, firewood, gravel, etc. With in-floor tie down loops in a very well thought-out design, this cargo box could be what gives the Honda a big advantage over the Can-Am.

Real world, the difference is not as large as the numbers imply. Both units can pull small trailered loads easily, with the Can-Am being able to pull something similar to a car hauler without trouble. In a brief test pulling out a 1/8 mile section of deep woods trail with a 600 lb tree and root ball, neither machine was able to pull the tree the entire way. However, both machines were able to back up and pull out the roots after the tree was cut up, and move the roots to their intended location without excessive tire spin.

The towing and hauling capacities of the Pioneer 1000-6 and the Defender are critical in a UTV comparison. Both of these vehicles are marketed as workhorses, designed to make manual labor easier on their owners. The abilities of a machine to move cargo are perhaps second only to how easy it is to operate in terms of importance. On paper, the Honda excels. Honda claims that the cargo box capacity is rated at half of a ton, while the towing capacity is of a full 1 ton. This is compared to the Can-Am cargo box limit of 454 kg (approximately 1/4 ton) and towing limit of 1,500 lbs. Both machines share a feature that stands out from the towing and hauling numbers, and that's their ability to enable a locked differential to aid in towing heavy loads.

3. Comfort and Convenience

Technology and infotainment features Both vehicles contain an analog display with an integrated digital display that changes in appearance dependent on the situation (e.g. different modes). The Pioneer has an extra detail display at the bottom that shows information such as fuel level, miles, trip, and transmission status. The Defender does have some more expensive models that come with a full-color display and others with an integrated radio kit, but comparing a vehicle with equal price, it lags behind the Pioneer in this department.

Storage options Once again, the Pioneer wins this round due to the fact that it has a truck-style bed (albeit smaller) that can seat 3 across with multiple positions or fold down to make the vehicle a 3-seater with generous legroom. Storage in the cabin is also better, with a bigger glovebox and separated passenger vs driver storage compared to all the passengers sharing one long center console on the Defender.

Cabin design and ergonomics The Defender utilizes Can-Am's trademark "dual-phase steel". The difference in the two vehicles is immediately noticeable, with the Defender cabin being more industrial and Spartan-like, and the Pioneer does a better job of feeling like a car.

Seating capacity and configuration The Defender vehicle has a 3-person capacity, while the Honda has 3 front seats and a convertible bed that allows for up to 6 people. Both vehicles have seat belts for all positions.

3.1 Seating Capacity and Configuration

The Pioneer 1000-6 has the option to seat 3-6 passengers depending on the configuration. The rear seats can be folded up and down to make a flat bed or a pair of seats and comes with a tilting function to allow easier access to the engine and storage under the bed. The tilting function is something unique to the Pioneer, and it can be useful not only for mechanics, but for hunters who have game to bring back to camp over difficult terrain. The bed is 2 inches longer than the Defenders at 39 inches, and has a 1000 lb capacity. This is 200 lbs more than the Defender. The Pioneer has 6 seats, but the rear 2 seats are considerably smaller than the front seats. This makes the Pioneer 1000-5 a more realistic comparison to the Defender's 4 seat configuration. Both vehicles are compatible with Honda and Can Am's accessory roofs, windshields, and rear panels which can better protect passengers from the elements. The Can Am Defender comes in a 1, 2, and 4 seat configuration meaning that there are currently no 6 seat UTV options for the Defender. The Defender MAX comes with a smaller cargo box (though still with the same 1000 lb capacity) to allow for a larger second row of seating. This cargo box has several configurations, including dual level or a flat bed, and can also accept LinQ accessories. A cargo box is somewhat of a stark contrast to the Pioneer 1000-6's unique tilting bed, but it still can serve the basic function of hauling. The regular Defender has only 1 row of seating, and in place of the second row is a larger cargo bed necessitated by a longer frame. This makes the 1 seat Defender a direct competitor to the Pioneer 1000-5, while the 4 seat configurations are more similar. All the Defender models have a similar 10 inches of ground clearance.

3.2 Cabin Design and Ergonomics

A well-designed cabin is one of those things that the more you use, the more you can appreciate. A shining example of this is the Honda Pioneer 1000. The first time I swung a leg over the seat to give it a try, I liked it. The tenth time I did the same thing, and even after an hour of cutting cookies in rocky terrain, I still liked it. Over time this would turn into love. The shape, placement, and padding of the seats, the driving position, the steering wheel, and the dash layout all come together to make a wonderful place to work and play. Everything is easy to access, nothing feels cramped and there are even a number of little storage nooks. The 1000-5 and 1000-3 models have bench seats designed to accommodate the rear passengers and make both models as small as possible. Because of this, there are complaints from smaller riders about the seat being a little too high, though this is no problem in the aforementioned models. As for the Can Am, it is all about space. Plenty of it. With the Defender coming in 3 models, there is a wide range of seating capacity and configuration- though either way, there is lots of room. The seating position and situation is pretty standard and while I have not had much time in a Defender, I have not heard any complaints. When it comes down to it, both Honda and Can Am have all the bases covered. I just have to sing a bit more praise for the Pioneer with how perfectly the cabin has been designed.

3.3 Storage Options

The Honda Pioneer 1000-5 has a tilting bed with a rated capacity of 1000 pounds and dual-swinging doors that give the option of either rolling down the sides or latching them in place. You can also get an optional bed extender. The 1000-5 also has a comprehensive line of accessories that can satisfy nearly any storage need. There are hard top and soft rear panels that attach to the top of the bed and fixed door lowers are also available to enhance and enclose the storage area, all of which are excellent for keeping out the elements and securing stored items. An in-cabin console and door storage bags provide additional options for keeping small items on hand and dry. To further expand dry storage options, the 1000-5 can be equipped with an accessory cooler tub that is designed to fit into the cargo bed. And if more cargo bed capacity is needed, Honda Genuine Accessories offers a Trail Wagon UTV Enclosure, which is a metal cage platform designed to fit in the cargo bed converting seating space to extra storage. This all comes at the minor cost of converting from a 5 to 3 person capacity. The 1000-5 lacks a rear dump bed and instead has a tailgate that can be opened to access the cargo bed. A Honda 1000-5 Cargo Tray can be installed to provide an above sub floor solution for smaller items and keep them from getting muddy.

3.4 Technology and Infotainment Features

Though neither the Pioneer 1000-6 nor base model Defender come equipped with a full infotainment system, both machines are ready for you to take the next step and add tunes to the trails. The Pioneer comes standard with Bluetooth and an auxiliary plug located in the dash, which hooks to the waterproof Pioneer/MTX overhead audio system without any additional wiring. At the rear of the cabin, an accessory electrical plug can be used to power a wide range of electronics, and up to 4 USB power ports can be installed to ensure everyone's devices stay charged. The Defender has a similar setup, ready to power your gadgetry with its 12V dash outlet and available 4 USB ports spread across the front and rear seating areas. Additionally, both Can-Am and Honda offer their own Bluetooth speakers and sound systems as optional add-ons, providing quality audio with simple installation and no fear of damaging aftermarket accessories. For 2018, the Defender also has a clever LinQ accessory system webbed across the inside of the front storage area, providing a convenient anchor point for any stored items and allowing quick removal/installation of LinQ compatible accessories. Honda also has a variety of accessories to expand the capabilities of their machine, including a heated steering wheel, seat heaters, and a remote operated bed lift and lower system, though not all the items are offered as factory options from the base model.

4. Safety and Reliability

The Pioneer provides three-point seat belts for all occupants. The Can Am offers only a lap belt for the center seat. Lap belts are inadequate in a side-by-side vehicle and should be considered a deal breaker for anyone who plans to carry passengers. Both machines offer a roll cage that extends to the rear of the vehicle to protect passengers and cargo. The Honda has an Occupant Protection Structure (a steel tube frame) that helps to protect the occupants during a rollover. The structure is covered by Honda's six-month warranty, which is meant to cover the workmanship. The build quality and durability of the Honda is not in question. Honda is well known for both these in all of their product lines. The Can Am has not had any issues with build quality and durability. Customer reviews are a great way to gauge a vehicle's reliability. Unfortunately, the Can Am Defender is a new model for 2016, so there is limited information available. What you can find is very positive, but only time will tell if the Defender can live up to the Honda's reliability. The Pioneer has an outstanding reliability and satisfaction rating, with 81% of its owners saying they would buy it again. The Pioneer comes with a 12-month warranty and optional extended coverage. Optional coverage should not be necessary for a brand new machine, but is something to consider as Honda's extended coverage is quite affordable.

4.1 Safety Features

The Can Am Defender also features a Dual Phase 980 steel frame with a fully enclosed ROPS that is tested to the highest, and only ROPS standard for Recreational Off Highway Vehicles (ROHVA-1-010). It has top of the line impact protection features such as its Integrated Front Steel Cab Frame and the Dual Phase 980 steel cargo box. However, the Defender's main safety feature is its adaptation of driving modes for different types of operation, as this is a utility vehicle and it offers 3 different driving modes which can be selected by the driver to tailor throttle control and engine braking to the conditions and/or the desired level of control. ECO mode limits the amount of power delivered to the wheels, and is ideal for slippery or muddy conditions where wheelspin would be counterproductive. The normal mode has a good balance between performance and fuel economy. Work mode delivers smoothest power output for the best control, and it is the mode with which the engine braking settings discussed previously are integrated. This is almost a passive safety feature, as reduced wheelspin and slippage in varying conditions ultimately means that control is maintained and this leads to incident prevention.

The Pioneer 1000-6 features a full range of standard safety equipment such as front and rear crumple zones incorporated into the vehicle frame as well as a roof structure that is designed to crumple progressively, therefore reducing the impact forces on the occupants. The occupant area is sealed off from the cargo and engine areas by an integrated Roll Over Protection Structure (ROPS), which is enclosed for protection against the elements, and may also be fitted with an accessory roof, or a full cab which features steel doors and windows. During ROPS testing, 3 Pioneer vehicles were rolled 64 times before the structure failed, at which point it was determined that this was sufficient testing given that it is unlikely for a vehicle to roll more than 25 times. Honda states that the results of these tests are only valid with the use of seatbelts, since they may prevent the occupants from being thrown from the vehicle, and have proven to be correct, with countless stories from riders who have narrowly escaped injury by remaining within the protective cage.

When considering the safety features of either of these vehicles, it is important to have an understanding of the conditions in which they commonly operate. These vehicles are put to work in many different capacities, from leisurely drives with friends or family, to hard days labor working the land, and sometimes even in conditions where the safety of the occupants is the last concern, such as emergency and defense operations. It is clear that the priority in most of these tasks is to get the occupants from A to B without incident, and both Honda and BRP have taken this into consideration.

Safety was a major consideration in the development of both of these vehicles, and both the Pioneer 1000-6 and Defender offer a large range of safety features, from pre-existing features borrowed from their 4-wheeled siblings, and new features unique to the SxS market. It is impossible to say that one vehicle is safer than the other, as they offer different features which are best suited to different drivers in different conditions. The decision comes down to which features you deem the most useful for your type of operation, and whether you feel that the vehicle is safe enough for your intended use.

4.2 Build Quality and Durability

The build quality and durability of the Honda Pioneer 1000 and the Can Am Defender are both very high. Both vehicles feature an incredibly strong frame and roll cage. The roll cage of these machines is not merely an afterthought that has been added on after the vehicle was designed, but it is actually integrated into the frame. Both of these vehicles feature plastic polymers that are much higher quality than the plastics used in ATVs. These polymers are scratch resistant, and the panels are much more difficult to remove than the pop-off bodywork found on many utility vehicles. The Defender and the Pioneer both feature a heavy-duty driveline with a direct drive transmission and final gear reduction. The Honda driveline has been "proven in the harshest conditions" in ATVs, so they are offering no weak links to consumers with their new side by side. The Defender touts its transmission, claiming it is the most heavy-duty transmission in the market, and goes on to offer a 4WD lock with a front differential and an electrical actuator. Both vehicles feature a 999cc motor, so all indications are that these machines will be pulling their own weight with no issues. Overall, both companies are offering vehicles that are built to last through years of hard work, and it would be tough to declare a winner in this category. Honda Pioneer 1000 Can Am Defender Winner: Tie

4.3 Customer Reviews and Reliability Ratings

Pioneer 1000-6 is one of the most reliable UTV on the market. A lot of people have complained about the transmission problems in the Pioneer 1000-5. Although the 1000-6 is somewhat similar, it comes with an updated transmission which solves the problem. The engine is very reliable. Honda has been making engines for a long time and you can usually trust them to build a reliable engine. Suspension is also very reliable. On the whole, there haven't been a whole lot of complaints concerning the Pioneer 1000-6. The Defender is also a very reliable machine. Confirmed by polls done on other forums and from comments on this forum, the Defender has fewer problems and complaints than the leading Yamaha and Polaris machines. The newer 2018 and 2019 models are also rumored to be more reliable. The Defender has an extremely strong frame and build quality. The engine is also reliable and doesn't overheat. The Defender is a heavy machine and sometimes can feel underpowered, but this takes strain off the engine and actually improves reliability. Overall, the Defender is a very reliable machine.

Honda Pioneer 1000-6 vs. Can-Am Defender

The Honda Pioneer 1000-6 and Can-Am Defender are two of the most popular UTV models on the market, offering robust features and capabilities for off-road enthusiasts. For a comprehensive comparison of these two UTVs, explore the resources below:

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