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The Best Side-by-Side UTVs For Off-Road Thrills & Utility

Best Side by Side UTVs 00 Hero
Photo: Can-Am Maverick X3

The vast majority of wheeled vehicles are designed exclusively for use on paved roads, and though there are certain trucks that lend themselves particularly well to use in the dirt, mud, and sand, seldom can they hold a flame to a purpose-built side-by-side. Everything from their chassis to their suspension to their ride height is designed specifically for use off-road, and as such are not only capable of typically taking far more abuse, but are also markedly more competent in rough, untamed conditions. First introduced in the 1980s, the SxS market has seen a host of noteworthy advancements year after year, culminating in the latest crop of these machines.

As this segment has continued to grow in popularity, manufacturers have consequently been releasing increasingly capable and competitive models in an effort to attract buyers towards their respective offerings. However, with more models — and model variants — to pick from than ever before, shopping in this space can be an intimidating process, especially for the uninitiated. So, with this in mind, we’ve scoured the sector to deliver this guide to the best side-by-side UTVs, counting down our picks for the dozen best models currently in production, while also touching on the main factors to consider when shopping.

The Best Side-by-Sides & UTVs

  • Best Value Pick

    CFMOTO ZFORCE 950 Sport

  • Best Crossover Pick

    Hisun Strike 1000 EPS

  • Best Single-Passenger Pick

    Polaris RZR RS1

  • Best Hybrid Pick

    Segway Villain SX10 H

  • Best Overall SxS

    Polaris RZR Pro XP

  • Show more

Breaking Down The Segment

What Exactly Are Side-By-Sides & UTVs & How Do They Differ?

While there share a great many similarities, there are some fundamental differences between SxSs and UTVs that are crucial to understand when shopping. Short for “utility task vehicle,” a UTV is an off-road-capable machine that’s primarily intended for work use — almost like a more powerful ruggedized golf cart. Often see on ranches, around country clubs, and at convention centers, sports complexes, and on other large campuses, UTVs typically feature 4WD, tight turning radiuses, and powertrains that afford them robust towing and hauling capabilities. 

Side-by-side vehicles — or SxSs — are a type of UTV, though, instead of being engineered as an off-grid workhorse, side-by-side models are designed more for off-road thrills. Modified and used to compete at events like the Baja 1000 and the Dakar Rally, side-by-sides typically have greater acceleration and top speeds, and boast better suspension travel and ground clearance. Their respective use also results in the different type of optional add-ons and aftermarket upgrades available for these vehicles, with SxSs having more recreational-leaning upgrades such as stereos and onboard coolers while UTVs usually have more work-focused add-ons like luggage racks and winches. 

All-Terrain Traits

What To Consider When Shopping For A SxS

While they share a great many components, functions, and similarities, purchasing a side-by-side is a very different experience and process than buying a normal car or truck. As such, we’ve opted to highlight seven of the most crucial areas to consider before pulling the trigger on your purchase.

Engine: As the heart of a SxS, a model’s powertrain is of extreme importance. When reviewing this area, you’ll want to consider an engine’s size, layout (i.e. number of cylinders and configuration), and cooling system, as well as whether to not a given engine is turbo or supercharged or naturally aspirated. In more recent years, the sector has also started seeing both hybrid, gas-electric powertrains and full-electric units as well.

Componentry: The performance of a SxS will largely boil down to its engine and running gear, with this latter area consisting of the frame, suspension and braking components, and other vital elements. When looking at this area it’s important to consider the brand of the suspension pieces, what type of setup is being used, and what kind of performance specs are offered in terms of ground clearance and travel.

Performance Capabilities: Unlike road-going vehicles, UTVs and SxSs have to contend with all manner of obstacles and challenges that are present on untamed terrain. As a result, these vehicles’ performance capabilities become extremely important — whether looking at one for work or play. When coupled with its weight, a UTV or SXS’ horsepower and torque figures (and gearing) will directly determine the machine’s acceleration and top speed, as well as its payload and hauling capabilities. What’s more, while it’s primarily owed to the vehicle’s chassis and suspension setup, you’ll also want to check on any model’s go-anywhere prowess in the form of its suspension travel, ride height, and approach, break-over, and departure angles. 

Passenger & Cargo Space: Another way in which side-by-sides and UTVs can hugelly differ from model to model is in their passenger and cargo space — an element that’s particularly important when looking at one of these vehicles for work use. This is because these machines can vary from single-passenger vehicles that are practically devoid of cage space, to models with seating for half a dozen passengers plus room to accommodate all of their gear. It’s also worth noting that most of these vehicles can have their overall storage space increased through the addition exterior cargo racks. 

Crash Protection: Because side-by-sides are intended for use in harsh off-road conditions, they need to be able to withstand quite a bit of abuse, which is where crash protection comes into play. Many SxS models come straight from the factory with items such as skid-plates, rock sliders, and steel bumpers or bull-bars. A decent number of these models also feature protected exhaust systems.

Transmission: This is another area that’s become increasingly important, as no longer are simple five and six-speed gearboxes the standard in the industry, as these transmissions have been supplemented with semi-auto items, paddle shifters, and other additions that make this area well worth exploring. Gearing and two and four-wheel drive modes are also worth exploring here.

Creature Comforts: Historically, side-by-sides have been decidedly spartan, minimalistic items that feature only the bare essentials and little else. This has changed in recent years as creature comforts such as windows, heating and AC, infotainment systems, and the like have all been becoming increasingly common.

Supplementary Features: The concept of smart devices has permeated just about every industry on the planet, and the SxS market is no exception. High-end sound systems, battery charging stations, Bluetooth connectivity, and pairing with dedicated smartphone apps have also become more and more common in this space.

Upgrade Packages: Most SxS models are offered in numerous trims, with a base model, and then up-specced versions that feature a host of factory upgrades such as winches, crash bars, and special liveries. You do always have the option of upgrading a base model using hand-selected aftermarket parts, though some of the higher-spec SxS models make for stellar turnkey machines right out of the box.


  • Equipped w/ independent suspension fore & aft w/ QUADLINK rear-end
  • Offers outstanding bang for your buck
  • Has CVTech transmission & variable electronic power steering
  • Powered by 85-hp liquid-cooled liter-sized V-twin
  • Comes standard w/ 2” hitch, cargo box, & integrated 3,500lb winch
  • Features skid plate, bumpers, & crash bars as standard
  • Lacks performance & build quality of more expensive models

Best Value Pick: Almost certainly representing the best bang for your buck in the SxS class by a pretty significant margin. The ZFORCE’s roughly $13K MSRP gets you a 85hp liquid-cooled V-Twin engine mated to a CVTech transmission, a one-piece HSLA steel frame that’s been paired with dual-A arm front suspension with fully adjustable gas shocks and a QUADLINK rear suspension setup, all LED lighting including DRL-equipped headlights, a TFT display, a 3,000LB winch, LED lighting, DC power and USB ports, a 220lb cargo rack, 14” alloy wheels shod in 27” all-terrain tires, a 2” hitch, full-coverage skid-plates, and an electronically-controlled throttle — all of which come offered as standard.

Engine: Liquid-Cooled 963cc V-Twin
Power: 85HP & 60FT-LBS
Seats: 2
Weight: 1,400LBS
Suspension Travel: 11″ Front, 11.8″ Rear
Ground Clearance: 12.2″
MSRP: $14,999

Hisun Strike 1000 EPS

Photo: Hisun Motors
  • Excellent workhorse & thrill machine
  • Made in Texas
  • Is highly versatile & offers fantastic value
  • Comes loaded w/ 4WD w/ locking differential
  • Great build quality considering the price
  • Features skid plate, winch, & steel bumper all as standard items
  • Lacks performance of more expensive models

Best Crossover Pick: Straddling the line between a high-performance SxS and a utilitarian UTV, Hisun Motors’ Strike 1000 EPS is part thrill machine and part workhorse. Made in Texas and backed by a two-year warranty, the Strike 1K is also another choice that offers pretty stellar value, considering an electronically fuel-injected, liquid-cooled V-Twin engine dual A-arm suspension front and aft with Nitrogen-assisted hydraulic shocks, electronic power steering all come included in the vehicle’s sub-$15K MSRP, as does an included roof, windshield, 14″ aluminum wheels, a 4,500lb winch, and side mirrors. Available in four color options, this model also sports 2WD and 4WD drive modes with a locking diff.

Engine: Liquid-Cooled 976cc V-Twin
Power: 65HP
Seats: 2
Weight: 1,742LBS
Suspension Travel: 10″ Front & Rear
Ground Clearance: 13″
MSRP: $14,599

Polaris RZR RS1

Photo: Polaris
  • Incredibly fun, nimble, & narrow single-seater SxS
  • Heavily-inspired by racing SxS machines
  • Comes standard w/ Walker Evans needle shocks
  • Has 13″ of clearance & an absolutely massive 21″ of travel fore & aft
  • Powered by 110-hp ProStar twin cooled via race-style rear-mounted dual-fan radiator
  • Is slightly more prone to tipping/rollovers compared to 2 & 4-seater SxS models

Best Single-Passenger Pick: The most lightweight and nimble Razor Polaris has ever built, the RZR RS1 is a unique, single-seater side-by-side with a central cockpit and a host of competition-derived features. Weighing less than 1,400lbs, the RZR RS1 is powered by a 110HP, liter-sized ProStar twin-cylinder engine that’s cooled via a race-style rear-mounted dual-fan radiator and features a top-shelf suspension package with stage-tuned Walker Evans Needle shocks that afford an even 21″ of travel front and rear. Other noteworthy standard fare includes a two-foot brake pedal and oversized 29″ all-terrain tires.

Engine: Liquid-Cooled 999cc Parallel-Twin
Power: 110HP
Seats: 1
Weight: 1,383LBS
Suspension Travel: 21″ Front & Rear
Ground Clearance: 13″
MSRP: $17,999

Segway Villain SX10 H

Photo: Segway
  • World’s first hybrid side-by-side model
  • Loaded w/ tech & smart features
  • Includes 3,500lb winch as standard
  • Sports ultra-sleek futuristic appearance
  • Has massive smartphone-connected 10.4″ TFT touchscreen infotainment display
  • Offered w/ 64″ or 72″ track width
  • Manufactured in China
  • Limited aftermarket parts availability

Best Hybrid Pick: The first-ever use of a hybrid powertrain to be used in the Powersports industry, the Segway Villain SX10 H is a modern SxS that was born out of the smart era and is equal parts high-performance and high-tech. Its 196hp 1,000cc DOHC parallel-twin motor has been paired with a 144kW electric motor that allows the hybrid system to generate a whopping 184.4ft-lbs of instantly accessible torque. The entire SxS is constructed around a high-strength Chromium-molybdenum steel frame that’s been paired with front dual A-arm suspension and a torsional trailing-arm arrangement — helped along by a front and rear axle diff lock. In addition to connectivity to a smartphone app, the Villain SX10 H also sports a massive Tesla-style 10.4″ TFT touchscreen central display.

Engine: Hybrid Gas-Electric Liquid-Cooled 1,000cc Parallel-Twin
Power: 196HP & 184.4FT-LBS
Seats: 2
Weight: 2,247LBS
Suspension Travel: 14.7″ Front & 16.5″ Rear
Ground Clearance: 13.8″
MSRP: $18,299

Polaris RZR Pro XP

Photo: Polaris
  • Made in America
  • Is kicked along by potent 181-hp turbocharged twin-cylinder engine
  • Has Walker Evans 2.5 needle shocks affording over 20″ of travel
  • Offered w/ optional RIDECOMMAND display & Rockford Fosgate audio system
  • Enormous aftermarket part & upgrade availability
  • Expensive base price

Best Overall SxS: Touted by Polaris as being its most capable and versatile Razor to date, the RZR Pro XP sets the industry standard for performance with a 181hp, turbocharged powertrain that allows for a top speed of more than 80mph — more than enough for almost any off-roading application. Riding on 14″ cast aluminum wheels wrapped in 30” MAXXIS Carnivore 2.0 tires, the Pro XP-spec RZR also boasts a cool 14.5″ of ground clearance, 20″ of front suspension travel and 22″ in back, Walker Evans 2.5 needle shocks, and the Polaris’ Xtreme Performance Isolated True On-Demand AWD/2W system.

Engine: Liquid-Cooled, Turbocharged 925cc Parallel-Twin
Power: 181HP & 120FT-LBS
Seats: 2
Weight: 1,760LBS
Suspension Travel: 20″ Front & 22″ Rear
Ground Clearance: 14.5″
MSRP: $24,599

Yamaha YXZ1000RR SS XT-R

Photo: Yamaha
  • High-performance SxS brimming w/ factory-installed upgrades as standard
  • Has FOX Dual Spring suspension, beadlock wheels, underbody protection, custom bumper, & WARN winch
  • Powered by potent liter-sized inline-three engine
  • Engine comes mated to paddle-shifted five-speed sequential transmission
  • Made in Japan
  • Array of upgrades come at $2,800 premium over base model

Best Factory-Upgraded Pick: With an outward appearance that’s just as aggressive as its performance, Yamaha’s YXZ1000RR SS XT-R is one of the more capable and best-equipped stock SxS models on the market, kicked along by a potent 998cc inline-three engine mated to a paddle-shifted five-speed sequential transmission. Adorned in a special edition livery, the Japanese brand’s YXZ1KR SS XT-R comes straight from the factory with a WARN winch, color-matched wheels shod in Yamaha‑exclusive Maxxis Carnage tires, selectable 2WD and 4WD modes, and a three-way locking differential.

Engine: Liquid-Cooled 998cc Inline-Three
Power: 103.1HP & 113FT-LBS

Seats: 2

Weight: 1,625LBS
Suspension Travel: 16.2″ Front & 17″ Rear

Ground Clearance: 12.4″
MSRP: $24,699

Can-Am Maverick X3 X DS Turbo RR

Photo: Can-Am
  • Powered by Austrian-built Rotax ACE Turbo RR engine
  • Benefits from numerous race-developed components
  • Offers 14″ of clearance & 20″ of travel fore & aft
  • Uses semi-active FOX Smart-Shox & Smart-Lok differential as standard
  • Features super rugged build quality
  • Enormous aftermarket part & upgrade availability
  • Expensive price

Most Powerful SxS: There are two models that consistently dominate the SxS sector and account for an enormous market share, with one being the Polaris RZR and the other being Can-Am’s Maverick X3. The Can-Am features a turbocharged 900cc three-banger cranking out an even 200hp and 136ft-lbs of torque, as well as a lockable front differential with an exclusive Smart-Lok tech, plus a trio of 4WD modes. Soaking up bumps in the dirt is a dual A-arm suspension setup in front and a four-link TTX arrangement out back — both of which are equipped with sway bars and paired with FOX 2.5 Podium piggybacks. Standard amenities on the X DS Turbo RR version also include rear tow hooks, an 850W magneto, integrated front bumper, quarter-doors, and a full HMWPE skid plate.

Engine: Liquid-Cooled, Turbocharged 900cc Inline-Three
Power: 200HP & 136FT-LBS
Seats: 2
Weight: 1,501LBS
Suspension Travel: 20″ Front & Rear
Ground Clearance: 14″
MSRP: $27,899

Volcon Stag

Photo: Volcon
  • Made in America
  • Blurs line between UTV & SxS
  • Boasts solid performance w/ 80-mph top speed & 140hp & over 260FT-LBs on tap
  • Can receive over-the-air updates
  • Kicked along by fully-electric 107-kW motor
  • Comes loaded w/ tech & smart features
  • Limited aftermarket parts availability
  • Very expensive price
  • Requires charger & can’t be refueled off-grid

Best EV Pick: Based in Texas, Volcon ePowersports is e fledgling firm that’s been developing a growing number of battery-powered off-roaders, including a several electric Rokon-style farm bikes and, for the sake of this list, a fully-electric side-by-side. Known as the Volcon Stag, this EV model blurs the line between a traditional UTV and side-by-side with a design that’s just as capable of delivering off-road thrills as it is serving as an all-terrain workhorse. Kicked along by a 107-kW motor, the Volcon Stag puts down a class-leading 140 more horsepower and 265ft-lbs of torque, ultimately allowing for a top speed of 80mph, a 1,550lb payload capacity, and a 2,000-lb towing capacity. What’s more, this American-made model is also equipped with EV components from General Motors including its 42-kWh battery — an item that affords a range of over 100 miles and requires a recharge time of only six hours, too. Rounding out the Stag are multiple drive modes including on-demand four-wheel drive, seating for four, 26.7 cubic feet of bed space, a 64” track, and a fully-connected, tech-laden cockpit with two TFT displays, a pair of onboard action cameras, and connectivity to the Volcon smartphone app.

Engine: 107-kW Electric Motor
Power: 140HP+ & 265FT-LBs
Seats: 4
Weight: N/A
Suspension Travel: 14″ Front & Rear
Ground Clearance: 14”
MSRP: $39,999

The Best Single-Rider ATVs For Hitting The Trails

Best ATVs 00 Hero
Photo: Can-Am Renegade X MR 1000R

Interested in checking out an additional selection of all-terrain vehicles capable of delivering off-road thrills and utility? Then be sure to head over to our guide to the best ATVs on the market for our favorite quads currently on the market.