Can-Am Defender vs Honda Pioneer – Which One Is Better?

Although most people associate side-by-sides with speeding across the sand dunes or deep mud, there is so much to UTVs than just sport. In fact, the “U” in UTV stands for utility and, originally, side-by-sides were intended for work and recreational purposes. The majority of UTV’s sold every year are used to perform jobs on farms or construction sites and for hunting, trailing, and family trips.

Can-Am Defender XT
Can-Am Defender XT
Honda Pioneer 1000
Honda Pioneer 1000

Here we’ll focus on two model series that excel in both work and recreational environment. Can-Am Defender and Honda Pioneer UTVs are capable of making the hardest jobs easier as well as taking you to the adventure through the backcountry and to your favorite fishing or hunting spot. Both come from manufacturers that are the cream of the crop in the UTV world. It means that they are powerful, reliable, and have enough capacity for a wide range of tasks you may put in front of them. Each series features diverse models, so you’ll probably be able to find the right fit for you. The wide range of vehicles on offer also means that they are ready to face any working condition and handle any driver, from newbies to experienced UTV users.

Brief Overview of Can-Am Defender and Honda Pioneer Series

Vehicles from Can-Am’s Defender series are some of the toughest UTV’s ever built. When it was launched, Can-Am’s intention was to add to its lineup a side-by-side that would be 70% utility and 30% recreational. And even a quick glance over Defender’s specifications reveal that it indeed is a workhorse ready to effortlessly deal with the daily grind. Powerful, with plenty of storage space, and convenient for use, Defender fits perfectly on whichever work site you put it. To achieve this Can-Am implemented plenty of innovations not seen in their previous models. This enables Defender owners to get the most of the available space and power. Almost every part of the vehicle can be used as a storage, including a dash glove box, seats that flip, and an adjustable cargo bed.

Defender series includes no less than 18 models, each powered with a reliable Rotax engine ranging from 38 to 82hp. Each UTV in this lineup features CVT transmission and is easy to handle while remaining stable on and off the road. The Defender is also easy and relatively cheap to maintain, with accessible oil and full filter, electrical connections, and anything else you may want to tinker with.

As is the case with everything that comes from Honda, UTV’s from Japanese manufacturers are reliable, versatile, and affordable. Pioneer series features 11 different models who are designed to satisfy specific needs various owners may have but share some characteristics. With Honda, high–quality materials and refined engineering are a give, as is the innovative, smart technology. A variety of options, including size, power, capacity, and a number of seats make Pioneers suitable for a range of activities. They are hardworking machines that you can also use for pleasurable and exciting outings with your family or friends.

Honda always took pride in its customer support and attention to users, which is especially the case with Pioneer UTVs since they are produced on American soil, in a plant in South Carolina. Also, another important feature that Pioneer models share with other Honda vehicles is complete dedication and full attention given to the safety of the driver and passengers with features such as hard doors, side nets, three-point seatbelts, or four-wheel disc brakes.

How Do Can-Am Defender and Honda Pioneer Compare?

Since both series feature a variety of different, in the interest of fairness and proper comparison, we split them into three groups. As power is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of these machines, the UTVs were divided according to their engine displacement. Besides power, we’ll focus on capacity, another important future necessary for superb work performance

Models up to 500cc

Can-Am Defender Lineup: basic Defender version, DPS

Honda Pioneer Lineup: 500

The vehicles in this category are light, quick, and nimble, but still capable of handling the work on your property. They are especially convenient if your work, or nature outing takes you through tighter spaces or narrower roads. All models feature selectable 2WD / 4WD drive and automatic transmission and Defender DPS brings Dynamic Power Steering. That is also the only difference between the two Can-Am models. Defender is a bit more powerful and has higher capacity, but Honda makes up for it with its versatility. Also, Can-Am models can fit even larger engines if you’re in need of some more punch. Their ground clearance is a bit higher than it is the case with Pioneer, which is important if your riding takes you across particularly bumpy and rocky roads.


Both Defender models feature the same engine – Rotax 427cc, with the single-cylinder and 38hp. Pioneer 500 comes with a 475cc liquid-cooled, single-cylinder engine producing 28.6hp. The power both vehicles provide is more than enough for basic daily work chores, getting from one part of a farm to another, or quick and enjoyable ride across the trails. It’s more in less in line with similar side-by-sides in this class such as John Deere Gator XUV590 or Polaris Ranger 500. As we already mentioned, with Can-Am you have the option of purchasing these models with more powerful engines.


This category has a clear winner and it’s the Can-Am Defender. With a payload capacity of only 450lbs and 1000lbs towing capacity, the Pioneer 500 won’t help you much if you need to transport especially heavy and robust load, such as heavy equipment or piles of dirt and debris. On the other hand, the Defender’s capacity makes it stand out in its class. Cargo box dimensions of 38 x 54.5 x 12 inches and 600lbs capacity (with added 250lbs of tailgate capacity) make it possible to handle an even more robust load. The towing and payload capacity of the defender is 1500 and 1200lbs, respectively. Purchasing the Defender version with stronger will increase these numbers even further. Also, higher ground clearance makes the Can-Am UTV’s more capable of handling larger loads on rough terrain.


The list of manufacturer’s suggested retail prices:

  • Can-Am Defender – $10.399
  • Can-Am Defender DPS – $11.899
  • Honda Pioneer 5oo – $9.199

Models up to 800cc

Can-Am Defender Lineup: XT, DPS Cab, Max, Max XT

Honda Pioneer Lineup: 700, 700 Deluxe, 700-4, 700-4 Deluxe

Set in the middle between compact and full-size models, UTV’s in this category provide you with the best of both worlds. Enough power to withstand heavy loads even on extremely steep terrain, but still good enough handling and agility. Vehicles from both manufacturers in this category are versatile, suitable both for work and play, and bring numerous useful features. Also, in this class, we have a couple of four and six-seaters, so this may be where you look if you need a family side-by-side. Similar to the previous group the Defenders pack a bit more power and capacity compared to Pioneers, so may be a better fit for work purposes. The standard offer includes switchable 2WD and 4WD drive for both manufactures. Honda Pioneer in the Deluxe version brings a possibility of toggling between manual electric-shift and automatic transmission mode and features EPS (Electric Power Steering).


The Defenders in this group feature a reliable 50hp Rotax 800cc V-twin liquid-cooled engine. With Defender XT, you have the option of upgrading to a more powerful 82hp engine. In terms of power, Honda Pioneer lags a bit behind, with its 36hp 675cc liquid-cooled OHV single-cylinder four-stroke engine. the advantage here is clear and it’s clearly on the Defender’s side.


In terms of capacity, Honda Pioneer does a little better than in the previous group, but still not enough to seriously challenge the Defender. With the similar cargo box dimensions as their relatives in the previous category, the Defenders listed here have significantly higher 1.500lb payload and 2.500lbs towing capacity. The XT models also have additional storage capacity within the cabin, making use of the dash and space below the passenger’s seat. The capacity Honda Pioneer 700 is respectable but nowhere near that of the Defender. Although 1000lbs cargo bed capacity is comparable to the Can-Am’s vehicles, towing and payload capacity of 1500lbs is somewhat behind. The Defenders have the upper hand when it comes to passenger capacity, too. XT and DPS Cab can fit 3 passengers, while Max and Max XT have enough space for 6 people. Honda Pioneer 700 only fits the driver and a single passage, and the 700-4 version, as the name says, is enough for 4 people.


The list of manufacturer’s suggested retail prices:

  • Can-Am Defender XT – $16.199
  • Can-Am Defender DPS Cab – $20.999
  • Can-Am Defender Max – $13.799
  • Can-Am Defender Max XT – $17.899
  • Honda Pioneer 700 – $10.999
  • Honda Pioneer 700-4 – 12.399

Models over 800cc

Can-Am Defender Lineup: Limited, X MR, Max Lone Star, Max Limited, Max X MR, 6×6 DPS, 6×6 XT, Pro DPS, Pro XT

Honda Pioneer Lineup: 1000, 1000 Deluxe, 1000 Limited, 1000-5, 1000-5 Deluxe, 1000-5 Limited

Now we’re in a territory of serious beast-like machines. There’s no terrain tough enough or work task hard enough for these vehicles. Power and capacity make these UTV’s stand out, but there are a number of other useful features that make these side-by-sides perfect for just about any purpose you can think of. If you like to take a family trip you can choose 5 or 6-seaters among this group. For those whose work involves hauling heavy load some of the Can-Am models have the monstrous capacity. This group even includes a couple of Defender six-wheelers for the best possible handling of the worst trail conditions. If most of your riding is in the extremely muddy conditions, then we suggest you give the Defender Max XR, Can-Am’s mud specialist a go.


Following the already established pattern, the edge here is on the Defender’s side. Each of the models in this group comes with the same 82hp Rotax 976cc V-twin liquid-cooled engine providing you with more punch and strength then you’ll probably ever need. The Pioneers are not too much behind here, they feature a 999cc twin-cylinder liquid-cooled Unitac engine which packs 72hp. However, they are lighter than their Can-Am counterparts allowing them to reach a respectable maximum speed of 67mph.


Pioneer’s 1.000lbs cargo bed capacity and 2.000lbs of towing power is perfectly fine in its own right but pales in comparison to Can-Am models. The Defenders mostly feature a standard 1.000lbs cargo box, 2.500 towing and 1.200-1.600lbs payload capacity. 6×6 modes even exceed this with the towing capacity of 3.000lbs and 1.700lbs payload capacity. The defender vehicles can carry 4 or 6 people depending on a model, while Pioneer passenger capacity is 3 or 5 for the 1000-5 model.


The list of manufacturer’s suggested retail prices:

  • Can-Am Defender Limited – $25.499
  • Can-Am Defender X MR – $20.399
  • Can-Am Defender Max Lone Star – $21.099
  • Can-Am Defender Max Limited – $28.199
  • Can-Am Defender Max X MR – $21.999
  • Can-Am Defender 6×6 DPS – $18.699
  • Can-Am Defender 6×6 XT – $21.499
  • Can-Am Defender Pro DPS – $17.899
  • Can-Am Defender Pro XT – $20.799
  • Honda Pioneer 1000 – $15.899
  • Honda Pioneer 1000 Deluxe – $16.899
  • Honda Pioneer 1000 Limited – $18.999
  • Honda Pioneer 1000-5 – $17.299
  • Honda Pioneer 1000-5 Deluxe – $18.299
  • Honda Pioneer 1000-5 Limited – $20.999

Can-Am Defender of Honda Pioneer – Which One to Choose?

Basically, there’s no right or wrong answer here. Both the Defender and the Pioneer have a place among the best UTV’s in their class and their manufacturers are a guarantee of the finest craftsmanship and quality. Different people have different demands when it comes to utility vehicles and your own requirements should be the main factor when deciding on the UTV that is right for you.

Going strictly by numbers, the Defender clearly has an edge, more power and higher capacity in every category should not be dismissed. However, Honda has a couple of aces up its sleeve too. Their side-by-sides are more affordable and friendly to the budget which is an important thing to consider, especially with the probable upcoming economic crisis. The price difference can even be used to invest in additional features. Also, Honda is famous for its near-perfect user support and the ease of maintenance. And last, but not the least, Pioneer modes come in several different colorways, while the Defender doesn’t provide that range of esthetic options.

If your needs are more professional and you’re looking for a proper workhorse of a vehicle, our recommendation is to set aside a couple of extra bucks and go with one of the Defender models. On the other hand, if you’re looking for versatile side-by-side that can put in the work but also serve for enjoyable outings with friends and family, then we fee that the Honda Pioneer is a way to go.