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Honda Pioneer vs. Polaris General

1. Introduction

When it comes to self-recreational vehicles (ROVs), Honda Pioneer and Polaris General truly stand out as the perfect off-road vehicle for individually different riders and purposes. This comparison will demonstrate the predominant pros and possibly hidden cons of each vehicle. Some of the pros and cons are coinciding in the two-by-two world but can be looked at differently from each ROV's unique perspective. This is not a specific competition between the two models, but a detailed comparison. This type of comparison sets the standard for multiple other ROV comparisons to come. This data was retrieved from months of research and experience so you do not have to put the extra work in on trying to figure out what the best possible buy is. With that being said, let's begin with what most consumers look for in a perfect ROV suspension. Both ROVs have completely different suspension system designs, but both excel in what they were designed for. [1]

2. Performance

Let's jump to that punch section here on hp and performance between these two. It's no secret that we all want power and we all think we are race car drivers at heart. Let's be honest, I will always pick the faster of two things and that is no different when it comes to Honda and Polaris. Honda built the Pioneer to be a workhorse and it is nothing less than that. It features a 700 class engine. Horsepower has not been officially listed anywhere so it makes it a little tough to gauge, but we are going to say it's going to sit around that 35hp range. It is a single cylinder and super quiet. This motor was taken out of the Rincon which is a great all-around quad. Looking to the other side is the Polaris General. It is first in its class as a "crossover" machine. Essentially trying to mix the best of both worlds for utility and sport. With that said, Polaris put more of an emphasis on the sport side. The General comes with a 100hp twin-cylinder motor. Smooth and has a lot of power for a machine of its caliber. The General also has a feature to put it in "performance" mode. This increases the throttle response and essentially puts the machine in AWD (always on), giving more HP to the ground. The winner in this category goes to the Polaris General. A significant amount of horsepower in this category and performance mode is a cool feature to have for a little extra pep in its step. Sorry guys, that new Talon has not proven itself to be a contender in this category.

2.1. Engine Power

Analysis of the engine power of both UTVs is an important element to look at when considering performance. Construction, the engine power of a vehicle, is an important puzzle pick when considering your vehicle's performance. The Honda Pioneer 1000 comes equipped with a 999cc 8-valve Unicam, four-stroke parallel twin. It is designed to utilize strict emissions logic and engine control systems to improve on-market engine energy efficiency, reduce emissions, and elevate the design and assembly of quality internal combustion units. It is a lightweight and oversquare engine with a unique design incorporating a highly efficient drivetrain with special low-friction coatings used in more than a few internal parts. The result is an extremely well-engineered compact engine that offers excellent horsepower and torque where it's needed. The Pioneer 700 comes with a 675cc liquid-cooled OHV single cylinder. It has taken the design from the very reliable and well-designed Honda motorcycle engines and added liquid cooling for newer age technology. The motor is situated longitudinally in the frame, which offers a direct drive shaft line to the transmission. The power is then transferred to the rear or all four-wheeler when automatic system differing between the two and four-seater options in the 700 series. The Polaris General 1000 EPS has a much simpler drivetrain. The ProStar 1000 engine is tuned to put out an impressive low-end torque with a linear horsepower production. It has smooth power and an excellent throttle response. It is a fuel-efficient engine using electronic fuel injection tuned with 44mm throttle bodies. An important thing to note is that Polaris has kept all the air for the system passenger inside the cabin by high mounting the clutch intake systems and engine air intake slits. While Honda puts a snorkel intake for the air cleaner and clutches top the 700 pioneers intake control pod is sealed and rubber-mounted, and the whole system is elevated from the transmission to avoid drivetrain noise transfer. The result of the differences in engine power between the two vehicles means that the drivetrain power loss from the engine to the wheel is much more efficient, and you will feel more of the engine's power at the pedal with the Polaris General. Both vehicles have put a lot of time and engineering into producing an engine that is reliable and efficient for the long term with regular usage. This will be in ages of internal combustion engine due to the nature of fuels used in this day and age. Honda has made a super efficient engine knowing that it will cut emissions in the future. The engine kill switch, requiring the driver to press and hold the switch with the brake depressed, has been added for safety. Polaris knows the nature of off-road vehicle usage and has made sure the engine is reliable but adding a machine always on transmission, meaning that the primary clutch is always engaged to belt to reduce belt wear and there is no belt slippage or power loss in the reasoning. The shift in engine power specifications was Honda opting to not renew its contract for automotive engines with its Indy car design, which freed up resources for a UTV and a new generation ATV, and Polaris replying to the wave of demand for off-road vehicles in its targeted customer ranges.

2.2. Suspension System

The suspension system on Pioneer is capped off with a 28% Hill start assist that will help prevent roll back on a hill, as well as descent control which is able to control the vehicle speed to low levels while still maintaining slip speed on rear wheels. Overall, this is highly functional, easy to use, and effective. This could be the very best suspension package ever offered in a SxS, and it will certainly allow the Pioneer to penetrate the market with all intended customers. This package is designed to target the heart of the recreational SxS market that has been very well established by the RZR lineup.

Suspension system of Honda Pioneer is an independent double wishbone setup, with 9.5 inch of travel on all corners and the shocks are 5-way preload adjustable. This would make for a ride quality that is very easy to handle and possibly a little stiff from the factory. When preload is backed off a bit, it should allow for very comfortable cruising on the roughest terrains. The sway bar is straight steel tubing and is mounted in the rear and directly to the frame up front. What this does is reduce body roll and weight transfer to the outside tires through tight turns. This ensures constant knobby contact and greatly reduces the need for a thick and heavy tire, which can reduce performance by adding unsprung weight.

2.3. Towing Capacity

What must be noted is the payload capacity of the Pioneer. At 1000 pounds, it is 500 pounds more than the General 1000 EPS and General 1000 Premium, both with a 600 pound payload capacity. This means the Pioneer can carry more cargo in the bed of the UTV than the General. However, in saying that, the General has much better rear suspension than a typical utility UTV. Considering that most of the time in the past when people purchased UTVs with dumping beds was to have suspension equal to that of a RZR so they could drive to their hunting stand easily, the General has that much and more with its upgraded bed. All the same, the Pioneer is no doubt a candidate for the best utility UTV with its high payload capacity and ability to tow 1000 pounds on an implement as well as the 2000 pounds on a trailer.

Both the Pioneer and General can handle whatever task you throw at them with these high towing capacities. Whether it be yard work or building a deer stand, having a UTV with a high towing capacity is important.

Honda's Pioneer 1000 has set the bar very high by boasting the ability to tow 2000 pounds and carry 1000 pounds of cargo. These are substantial numbers for a UTV. All UTVs have a receiver hitch on them to allow towing, but this does not mean they all have high towing capacities. The Polaris General 1000 EPS is no slouch when it comes to towing, with a 1500 pound towing capacity. Even the Polaris General 1000 Premium, with its smaller 12-inch rims and 25-inch tires, has a 1500 pound towing capacity. This is 500 pounds more than the RZR 1000 (1000 pounds) and 500 pounds more than the Can Am Commander (1000 pounds).

3. Features and Technology

Honda provides some outstanding features, especially within the comfort and convenience department. To begin, tilt steering is standard and assists in finding the most comfortable driving position. The only way to shift the Pioneer is through a lever, you will not find any paddle shifters on the steering wheel, something many consumers may actually prefer. The Pioneer 1000 provides a manual state-of-the-art paddle shifter mode with the option of switching to fully automatic. Both the Pioneer 1000 and 700 have three-person seating capacity and offer fast and easy transformable seating configurations. High, low, and super high transmission settings are available and assist when towing heavy loads. Mode and EPS options vary per model. In relation to the Polaris General, the Rec/Trac and Work/Stand featured on the Pioneer 1000 allows all riders to enjoy their experience. During the test of multiple Pioneer models, the suspension had the ability to absorb speeding bumps and slight jumps comfortably. Step-through seating is featured with the Pioneer 700, making access of entry and exit more convenient. The Pioneer rivals the General with its massive enclosed storage space, but both large body types provide ample space for comfort. LED overhead and cargo lights allow better vision during the night. Dual A-Arm suspension and adjustable seats are additional comforts that the Pioneer offers to its riders. Now stepping into the side-by-side crossover market, the Polaris General offers a blend of features shared between the RZR and Ranger models. With aggressive body styling and sporty roll cage, it's clear that the General wants to be more than just a utility vehicle. The Polaris General features a deluxe and premium model with the option of a four-seater design. General 1000 EPS is the base model with the standard 999cc ProStar engine, two color options, 12-inch rims, and no engine braking system. General 1000 EPS Deluxe adds features of a Sport Low mode, engine braking system (EBS), active descent control (ADC), and two more color options. Much like the Pioneer 700 and 700-4, the General 1000 EPS 4-seater takes the design of the previously released model. The biggest difference between the Deluxe and Premium General 1000 EPS 2 and 4-seater models is the suspension and tire configuration. The deluxe model has 12-inch rims and has no ADC. Premium offers a two-tone color choice, full body color, cut and sew seats, and a better suspension and tire package. There are many available optional accessories for the Polaris Generals, as well as available in most countries in meeting street legal vehicle requirements. High/Low/Reverse on-demand AWD, dump bed, and auto-locking rear differential all include with the Honda Pioneer but Polaris has provided much more, described as a mix of General, RZR, and Ranger accessories. Both vehicle manufacturers are confident in the durability and lifespan of these machines, providing a 3-year warranty.

3.1. Comfort and Convenience

The comfort and convenience of the vehicle is something that is underrated when purchasing a side by side. However, when the days get long and the miles get high, you will quickly realize the great decision it was to go with a Pioneer. The Pioneer has adjustable tilt steering, which can be a lifesaver when you're climbing in and out of muddy creek beds or parking in cargo trailers. With the push of a lever, you can move the wheel to your preferred position and go about your business in comfort. This would be an invaluable feature for those in the more extreme ranching settings. Also, the Pioneer comes with ergonomically designed seats which have proven to reduce fatigue on long days and rides compared to traditional bench seating. Add some cushions to the back of the seats, and no one would ever know they were in a side by side rather than a sedan. The bench design can be useful, say if you are trying to stack four or five bales of hay on the bed, you can always pull the foam off and have back seating available. The Pioneer offers plenty of head and legroom as well, and for fitting a variety of shapes and sizes in the cab, this is extremely important. The steel doors that are available on the Deluxe model make for excellent protection from the elements. These are great for preventing sticks and bushes from poking through or reducing damage from a clump of mud or dirt that might slide off from a hill above. The nets, as seen on the base model, can be sufficient as well, and Colorado riders would appreciate this openness in the summer months. Moving to the back of the vehicle, the Pioneer has an easily accessible tailgate-style door for the bed, above it which folds up so you can keep it clean. The bed is rated to haul 1000 lbs, and having a lower height than most side by sides makes it quick and easy to get just about anything in and out. The bed has proven to be more useful than an ATV and can rival a truck in many aspects. When considering the ways to convenience and ease of access, the General can't stack up to this. Although the General has 11 inches of 'chucking' and easy access with parking brake engagement, the door nets and massive foot holes are no comparison to the Pioneer. Last but certainly not least, the General uses a transmission, and as reliable as it might be, it will never replace the security of the manual parking brake that many models are now steering away from. Again, the Pioneer has proven to be the right tool for the job in the most unkempt terrain.

3.2. Infotainment System

Conversely, the General has no built-in infotainment system nor specific audio options available by Polaris. However, it does have a built-in Bluetooth connection for smartphones. Generally, a smartphone would be stored in the glove box or other storage compartment; however, Polaris offers an optional molded plastic mount to hold the phone on the dash for easier access. Music or navigation audio from the phone can be played through the vehicle's integrated and weatherproof Rockford Fosgate audio kit, sold separately from the General. This award-winning system kit includes two speakers, a 10-inch subwoofer, and a 400-watt amplifier. Overall, the Honda has an edge with a more advanced and integrated infotainment system compared to the more simple audio and Bluetooth options from the General. However, someone who is content using their phone for music and directions may prefer the General due to the different audio and input options available.

There are considerable differences between the two units in both models. The Pioneer features a built-in loudspeaker system and a bracket designed to hold a large tablet device. The system allows the user to plug in a variety of devices including a tablet, MP3 player or USB stick and utilize them as a source. Once a device is plugged in, it can be stored in the waterproof dry box which is large enough to hold most tablets, a standard feature on the Pioneer 700-4 model. Music stored on the device can be played through the loudspeaker system which includes four 6.5-inch speakers and a head unit. Pricing is not yet available on the Honda system; however, you can separately purchase an audio system with more affordable pricing. In addition to the infotainment system, the Pioneer has a GPS navigation feature specific to the 700-4 model. With Garmin being a trusted name in ATV GPS navigation, this is truly an appealing and convenient option for owners of the 700-4 model.

3.3. Safety Features

Standard safety equipment on both machines includes 3-point seat belts, a seat belt interlock system (which won't allow the machines to go into gear if the driver's seatbelt isn't fastened), a ROPS and a parking brake. The machines also have headlights and taillights as well as turn signals. Both machines have a dry weight between 1451-1466 pounds with a wheel base of 85.5" for the Honda and 81" for the General. Measures of length and width are quite similar although the Pioneer 1000 has about 2" more ground clearance and the General is about 2" taller. These rather small differences can certainly affect the stability of a machine. Both machines offer a version with power steering. Power steering can be a great safety feature helping to prevent arm pump and fatigue and allowing the driver to more easily operate the machine with only one hand. Honda offers their new EPS system and Polaris uses their tried and true (but rather slow) variable assist steering system. A more significant difference comes in the braking system between the two machines. Honda features automotive style/pedal operated brakes. Although they are more consistent in performance the General offers high performance on-demand AWD/2WD/Versa Trac turf mode with an automatic locking front differential before turf mode. The locking front differential can be a great assist in steering capability when in tight situations. Honda's brake system is safer but the General's capability for two wheel drive steering with the locking front differential is superior in all out control of the machine. Honda leads the industry with a Hill Start Assist system (Automatic Deluxe model only) and the General uses their engine braking system to control the machine's descent down a hill. Both systems are quite effective to maintain a steady speed or stopping point when descending down a hill. However, the Honda's system is more convenient as the driver does not need to shift to neutral in order to activate the system. The Honda's system also allows free-rolling if the driver gives heavier gas application. Engine braking will activate the moment the driver lets off the gas pedal. Engaging/disengaging is easier with the Honda's system with the flip of a switch on the dash. Both machines have a driver seat belt speed limiter which limits the top speed of the machine to 15 mph if the seat belt is not fastened. Finally, the on-demand AWD/2WD feature common in many UTVs is included in both of these machines. Honda's DCT system automatically switches between drive modes and the Polaris allows electric switching with a simple flip of a switch on the dash. With all of these safety features and systems, we can see that both the Honda Pioneer 1000 and the Polaris General are highly equipped to assure the safety of its passengers and driver.

3.4. Utility Accessories

Individuals interested in setting up a Pioneer as a dedicated work tool would likely go for some of the optional safety nets and a hardtop roof to provide more cover from the elements. Farmers will be looking at the rear hitch and ball for towing around the property or the sprayer and spreader accessories. Having a variety of accessories available gives users more options to custom tailor their Pioneer to suit their individual needs. Approximately 40% of Pioneer owners add a windscreen to their machines, which further shows the importance of having different accessories available as not all Pioneer owners will want the same add-ons for their machines.

The Honda Pioneer has a huge range of accessories you can purchase from the Honda factory. Some of these include hard storage boxes for the rear cargo bed, a front rack bag, fabric and poly windshields, a rear cab net, and a new bed rail accessory system which makes installing clamp-on accessories much easier. Other accessories available include plow systems, winches, snow blowers, sprayers, and the list goes on. By purchasing a Honda accessory, it ensures a perfect and secure fit to your machine thanks to Honda's rugged, durable build quality. Genuine Honda accessories are pretty much bulletproof and made to last.

Utility accessories are extremely popular for these machines, and it is clear that each company has made major efforts to dominate the market with what they feel is the best accessories available.

4. Price and Value

As stated earlier, the Honda Pioneer 1000 starts around the $27,000 mark. This is an accurate price for a two-person, brand new UTV with 1000cc. However, many dealers are going to charge you for freight, setup, and tax. These charges could be an additional $1000.00 on to the base price. Total, the Honda Pioneer can cost anywhere between $28,000 and $30,000. This puts it in the price range of a 1000cc two to four person UTV with various options. The Polaris General runs about $21,500 to $23,000. This is a lot more affordable, especially for a two-person UTV. With various rebates, discounts, and financing incentives, this price can drop a lot lower. Many dealers may not even charge you for freight, setup, and tax, especially for a purchase order. An average of $22,000 with lower additional charges gives the Polaris General great initial cost value in comparison to the Honda Pioneer. When comparing the initial cost of both machines, the Polaris General gives the buyer a chance to save his hard earned cash. This UTV is not overpriced, and is definitely a great value for what you get. Pricing on the Honda Pioneer is reasonable for a top quality Honda product. But when looking at the bigger picture, that $30,000 spent could have been used for many other important investments. This gives the Honda a poor value of initial cost in comparison to the Polaris.

4.1. Initial Cost

The primary advantage that the Honda Pioneer has over the Polaris General in initial cost is that Honda is known for releasing a longer lasting model before making changes. This can be seen through ATV and Dirtbike models that typically will run for 5-10 years with minimal changes to the vehicle. This is great for a consumer who is looking at purchasing a new UTV but does not want to invest in a vehicle that will be outdated within a year. The Pioneer falls into this category given that its first model was launched in mid-2013 and is currently still the newest model available. The timing of new model releases vary by company and Polaris in specific is notorious for making just a few minor changes in their first release and following up with a more complete model the next year which can obviously be frustrating for someone who just invested in a vehicle. The Polaris General was released in mid-2016 and is only a fraction of the projected future with the Polaris UTV line. This factor should be taken into consideration when comparing later models of the Pioneer to the General.

The initial cost for both the Honda Pioneer and Polaris General are listed well above the market average for a recreational UTV. The Honda Pioneer starts out at $11,999 for the 2-seater 700 model, and can range up to $17,199 for the 5-seater 1000 model. The Polaris General comes out the gate starting at $15,999 for the base model, and tops off at $20,999. The comparison on initial cost shows that both the Honda Pioneer and Polaris General are well above average compared to the recreational UTV price noted in the "Introduction". The Pioneer however does have an advantage in the fact that it typically comes with promotions such as 0% credit card interest on financing and extended warranties which could relieve some of the financial burden on consumers.

4.2. Maintenance and Repairs

If neither of these keep you entertained, or you still need a side by side, you might reconsider a Honda Pioneer or a Polaris General. In the world of SSVs, maintenance is crucial. Every machine needs it, but some are far less frequent than others. Honda has been known for being one of the most reliable manufacturers of cars and motorbikes since World War 2. Their reputation has been kept with the development of the Pioneer series. This means you can expect the Pioneer to have decent life longevity and minimal maintenance as it ages with proper care. The Honda is built simple, no fancy gimmicks, all with mechanical function. This can be a positive as the issues are easily fixable. The negative being the lack of fancy electronics takes away some of the fun and experience. Now, this means less to repair and a more complex machine that the engine can require major work if not maintained. This can be a huge factor you need to consider when purchasing the side by side. If you’re looking to save money in the long run with minimal repairs and part replacements, the Pioneer is a fantastic machine for dependability and low maintenance. A machine with plenty of power, but more electrical power is the Polaris General. With such power steering, power seats, and power all over the place, it can be a little much. Given it's a great feature to have and a luxury a lot of us are used to, but this simply raises the issue of possible electrical failure. With hard riding in forest terrains, water crossings, mud, and dust, electrical components can be highly susceptible to damage. Pricey part replacements and constant electrical diagnosis and repair can be quite overbearing for some. This is really the trade-off for the levels of comfort and convenience with machines. Does the machine deliver a driver comfort and utility experience with less movement maintenance? Or is the maintenance today and in the future worth the comfort and convenience?

4.3. Resale Value

Both of these vehicles are not cheap. The Honda-powered Pioneer 700 will run you about $8,500 and the new Pioneer 1000 will cost you about $13,000. The General 1000 has a price range from $16,000 - $20,000. And the General 4 1000 is ranging from $20,000 - $22,000. All of these prices are assuming you are buying a brand new current year model. However, don't fret if these prices make you a little squeamish. It is well known that these prices are negotiable, and the more patient and persistent buyer can bring the price down. If buying secondhand is more your cup of tea, it is possible to find a Pioneer in the range of $5,000 - $10,000 depending on the model and condition of the vehicle. A 2016 General 1000 in good condition can be found from $10,000 - $13,500, and if you are looking to buy a General 4 1000 but would like to avoid breaking the bank on a brand-new model, you may be able to find a used 2016 model from $10,000 - $16,000. Overall, both are known to have stable resale values, making it a lower risk investment than some of the other options currently on the market for UTVs in this category. This comparison could be summarized by saying that the Pioneer will have a lower depreciation rate but with the higher initial cost it still a larger monetary loss. The General has a higher depreciation rate but with the cheaper initial cost it still a smaller monetary loss, therefore they are more equal in this regard.


[1] T. C. Petterson, "Development of an electric vehicle for autonomous use on a New Zealand dairy farm.," 2020. canterbury.ac.nz

Honda Pioneer vs. Polaris General

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