UTV Review: Polaris’ Ranger 1000 Premium Is an Ideal Light Duty All-Wheel Drive Machine
This mid-level Ranger can haul firewood, pull trailers, and perform off-road
Years ago, mid-level UTVs—much like the Polaris Ranger 1000 Premium in this review—were built to ride like a dump truck; their top speeds just slightly faster than the average person could walk. They were essentially an old-man UTV, built for retired guys who needed a machine with a small bed and not much power for projects around the house.
Today, Polaris’ Ranger is known for its incredibly smooth ride, agile handling, and great value. At $16,399, the Ranger 1000 Premium is an incredible buy, proving that work-oriented UTVs can be comfortable but also fun to drive. I took delivery of a brand-new Polaris Ranger in the fall of 2021, and immediately put it to work on chores around our property, which is what the 1000 is intended for. If you have a few acres of land, a small deer lease or ranch, this is an ideal UTV.
2021 Polaris Ranger 1000 Specifications
- Engine Type: 999cc liquid cooled, 4-stroke, SOHC, 4-valve
- Fuel Delivery: Electronic Fuel Injection
- Transmission: Automatic PVT H/L/N/R/P
- Final Drive: Shaft, High Performance On-Demand True AWD/2WD/VersaTrac Turf Mode
- Front Suspension: Dual A-Arm; 10 in. travel
- Rear Suspension: Dual A-Arm, IRS; 10 in. travel
- Brakes: Dual hydraulic disc
- Tires Front/Rear: 26×9-12, 26×11-12 PXT 2.0
- L x W x H: 120 in. x 62.5 in. x 76 in.
- Bed Box Dimensions (L x W x H): 36.75 in. x 54.25 in. x 12.5 in.
- Wheelbase: 81 in.
- Turning Radius: 13 ft.
- Maximum Ground Clearance: 12 in.
- Fuel Capacity: 11.35 gal
- Weight: 1,485 lb.
- Bed Capacity: 1,000 lb., 600 lb. (California models)
- Towing Capacity: 2,500 lb.
- Warranty: 1 year unlimited miles factory warranty, extended dealer plans available
- Color: Stealth Gray (tested), Onyx Black, Polaris Blue, Polaris Pursuit Camo
- Price: $16,399
The Ranger 1000 Premium Can Haul Small Loads
The Ranger is equipped with a spacious bed which has a 1,000-pound capacity, although California models are only rated for 600 pounds. Towing capacity is 2,500 pounds, making it a viable tool for moving small and mid-size trailers. With AWD engaged, the Ranger pulled our 18-foot car hauler up an incline in the dirt without issue. We were also able to fit a full weekend camping trip’s worth of firewood in the bed of the Ranger before stowing it in the trailer, making unloading the firewood when we arrived at camp easy.
Putting the Ranger 1000 to the Test in the Desert
Thanksgiving week, I packed up the Ranger and headed to Red Mountain, California, with a friend. Red Mountain is a desert destination with dozens (maybe hundreds) of abandoned silver, gold, and other mineral mines. There are miles of uninterrupted desert and mountain trails. Having camped here for decades, we set out in a new direction, taking the Ranger on a long-distance desert trip to test its off-road capability. We threw an electric dirt bike in the bed so we could explore different spots, which proved both fun and useful (some of the mines were atop extremely tall hill climbs).
All Ranger 1000 Premium models are powered by a parallel twin 999cc engine with a single overhead cam. Mated to a two-speed CVT transmission, the Ranger’s 61 horsepower was more than adequate to tackle any terrain we encountered. The Ranger tops out around 55 mph, allowing it to make relatively quick work of lengthy backroad excursions. The engine’s power delivery is buttery smooth and very torquey, favoring low end power over top end pull. This helps to make the Ranger extremely quiet, a quality every deer hunter will appreciate in this UTV. Polaris also sells an upgraded version, the Ranger XP1000, which has a dual overhead cam engine with 21 more horsepower and costs $18,799.
Customize Your Own Polaris Ranger 1000
The Ranger has a full set of dual A-arms front and rear, offering true independent suspension. Gas-charged hydraulic shocks control 10 inches of wheel travel, and the Ranger uses all of the travel well. Ride quality is excellent, filtering out small chatter well while still leaving enough bottoming resistance to drive the Ranger at a quick pace on the trail. The Ranger could handle the bumps, rocks, and treacherous mountain climbs in the Mojave Desert. It never felt unstable, and we didn’t have to back down from a climb.
Engineers put some thought into the Ranger’s cab design, which features pockets and storage everywhere. The interior features six cup holders, seven dash pockets of assorted sizes and shapes, and a glovebox large enough to stow a gallon jug of water with space left over. Under the passenger and center seat, there is another large storage space. Polaris crafted a very wide door opening for the Ranger, so getting in and out is a breeze. The only hindrance is the side nets. They use a clunky attachment system that should be replaced by a full door. Optional hard door kits are available from Polaris through their dealer network, and I would recommend upgrading to them. You can also make the cab a fully-sealed enclosure (this does not come standard on the 1000) that turns the Ranger into an all weather-capable rig. Polaris options A/C and cab heaters in the highest trim models, so the Ranger can work or play in any climate.
Polaris designed the Ranger’s cab enclosure with accessories in mind, allowing owners to transform the Ranger into their own personal work, hunt, or play rig. Full cab options, gun scabbards and mounts, rear bed racks and accessories, cab heaters, snow tracks and more can all be found right through your Polaris dealer.
Seat comfort is excellent, although there is no bolstering to hold you in for spirited driving. The Ranger handles well if you don’t push the machine too hard. Polaris engineers where thoughtful in the chassis setup, but remember, this UTV isn’t meant to be a desert racer. The automotive-style three point seatbelts are great for trail riding, and do not beat you up. And the Ranger’s 11.35-gallon fuel tank allows you have a ton of trail range. Standard electronic power steering also adds a layer of comfort to the driving experience, and the Ranger also features a tilt wheel and sliding driver’s seat.
The Premium model carries a $2,400 upcharge over the basic Ranger 1000, but provides aluminum wheels, a seat slider on the driver’s seat, steel front bumper, premium paint, and aluminum wheels with upgraded tires. EPS is also standard on the Premium model.
During our time with the Ranger 1000, we used it nearly every day for tasks around the property. It functions as a weekend toy as well, offering a great ride, plenty of power, and superior handling. It’s a fine platform to get into the backcountry with so long as you keep your expectations within reason. And with the amount of aftermarket and factory accessory support this UYV has, it can be tailored to fit just about any need.