Polaris – our verdict

polaris atvPolaris


Two-seater version of Sportsman 500 workbike with watercooled, fuel-injected petrol engine. £5899 + VAT.

Our rating: 2nd=

Two-seater version of Sportsman 500 workbike with watercooled, fuel-injected petrol engine. £5,899 + VAT.

Looks, build quality ++++

Big, sleek and well screwed together, the Sportsman matches the Arctic Cat in quality if not eye appeal.

Equipment, cost +++

Fuel injection and front rack-cum-box are unique in this group, as are the unlockable rear diff and multi-mode 4wd. LCD/analogue display is the most comprehensive. Alloy wheels, winch, windscreen and cargo boxes are options.

Practicality ++++

Keyswitch starting in gear plus easy gearshifting make for simple riding, though the linear-movement stick isn’t as foolproof as Arctic Cat’s gated lever. A big lidded front box is standard, opening to a shallow tray and a deep box below the seat adds to extensive stowage. Rack capacity is second only to Arctic Cat, but roping a load is difficult. Highest towing capacity (555kg) with extended towbar to help trailer attachment. 12V outlet up front. Negatives: no replaceable wheelarch extensions or lamp protection and the footwells collect mud. Analogue speedo not as easy to read as digital and hard to hold forward speed constant.

Performance +++++

Unrestricted engine’s 35hp makes light work of 330kg load and is a blast ridden solo. The stepless belt drive blunts the engine’s instant snap compared with Honda but makes for easier riding. Group’s fastest performer with 55mph max, though low range halves this. Once selected, 4wd engages only as required.

Fuel consumption ++

Acceptable given the Polaris’s weight and performance, but 24.9mpg is still second from worst in this test. Belt transmission seldom lets revs fall below 4000rpm, which can’t help.

Brakes +++

Average stopping performance from a four-disc arrangement that has good feel but denies the rider independent front/rear use in slippery going. Engine braking is very effective and maintained in reverse.

Ride, comfort, noise +++++

Pipe and slippers comfort over any surface easy on the bum and spine. Excellent stability but some handlebar shimmy. Noise level low but characterless.

Handling, steering +++

Feels big in a confined space, partly as the seat forces a wide stance. Yet it’s surprisingly wieldy thanks to a reasonable turning circle. The ability to unlock the rear diff in 2wd is a definite plus.

Maintenance +++

Engine dipstick and coolant tank easy to reach unless you have very big hands. The battery is not best placed, forward of the engine.

Weighted score 3.47. Easy-riding and plain good fun to be on, the Polaris will fly through the work if you can afford to buy and fuel it.