It is without a doubt the perfect time to be an ATV-loving kid. The youth quad genre continues to grow and improve. Today's mini ATVs have unprecedented options available, with machinery light-years ahead of quads around just a short decade ago. These two entries from Kawasaki, the KFX50 and KFX90, are the latest additions to the mini section. At first glance, the siblings appear nearly identical thanks to the same plastic and a shared steel chassis design. However, their personalities are quite different. The smaller 50 is aimed at neophytes and is engineered to provide a safe learning curve. Conversely, the 90 is built to handle bigger and more capable riders, though it does have removable restrictors for beginners, too. And following a trend that makes a lot of sense, the smaller members of the green ATV family purposely resemble the soon-to-debut king of the pack, the KFX450.
Besides similar plastic and frames, both models have electric starting with kickstart backup, a single-shock swingarm rear suspension, A-arms up front, full floorboards, dual mechanical front drums and a single hydraulic rear disc brake along with an adjustable screw-type throttle stop and a Constant Velocity Transmission (CVT) with a removable collar speed-limiter. In addition to the mechanical speed limitations, engineers have helped parents retain a little more control over their amped tyros by making a key necessary to start the new KFXs.
As a further sign that Kawasaki is devoted to safe and responsible off-highway vehicle recreation, the company will pay first-time buyers of a new Kawasaki ATV $100 for completing an ATV rider safety course conducted by the ATV Safety Institute (800/887-2887; www.atvsafety.org).
The moderate track at Pitchell Ranch, east of Temecula, California, was ideal for our young tester to burn lap after lap while sizing up these two machines. After half a day riding in the baking sun, we were finally able to pry him off-pretty good testimony to how nice the new rides are in our eyes and enough for us to decide that we need our own in the Primedia garage.
Dial a speed to match skillLooks just like the big ATVs
Heavy at 232 poundsKickstarter juts out awkwardly
Either start saving money or don't let your kid see this issue
KFX50 SpecificationsMSRP: $1749
Engine type: Air-cooled, four-stroke, single cylinder
Bore x stroke: 39.0x41.4mm
Carburetion: Keihin PTE 16mm
Transmission: Continuously variable automatic
Front suspension type/travel: A-arm with twin shock absorbers/2.8 in.
Rear suspension type/travel: Swingarm with single shock absorber/2.9 in.
Front tires: AT16x8-7 tubeless
Rear tires: AT16x8-7 tubeless
Front brakes: Dual mechanical drums
Rear brake: Hydraulic disc
Claimed dry weight: 232 lb
Ground clearance: 5.3 in.
Length/width/height: 55.1/34.7/NA in.
Colors: Lime green, white
KFX50Sporting an air-cooled, 49cc, four-stroke overhead-cam engine, the smallest Kawasaki ATV is chock full of features perfect for beginners 6 years old and up. From its wide (for a mini) 35-inch stance and full floorboards, the 50 exudes stability and lets the little guy or gal concentrate on learning and having fun. Of course, parents are more concerned about safety, and the little Kawi has several methods of limiting junior until his motor skills develop and he has mastered the tricky nature of off-road riding. Besides the CVT speed- and throttle-limiters, which allow parents to set speed and power limits to suit their youngster's skill and experience, it also has a kill tether. Unique to the 50, the approximately 6-foot-long leash is mounted on the rear grab bar, and it lets Mom or Dad hold on while they walk behind their young tyro. Should he or she get in trouble, a quick tug on the leash silences the motor, allowing a parent to hop in to fix the problem.
But the parent need not be the only force halting the ATV-it has cable-activated two-drum brakes up front and a hydraulic disc in back. Much like a bicycle, the three brakes are activated by the handlebar-mounted brake levers. Boosting the stopping power is a centrifugal clutch on the transmission that provides some engine-braking into the mix. And the C.A.R.B.-certified engine with a USFS-approved spark arrestor translates into green sticker-legal here in California, and more important, fun need not be limited to a moto track. The 5.3-inch ground clearance probably outdoes some full-sized sports, but the 2.8 to 2.9 inches of wheel travel means the young rider will be restricted to terrain that's suitable for a beginner-not a bad thing.
In spite of these limitations, the KFX50 is no slouch-when you're 6 and riding for the first time. Our tester was impressed with the stability and how well the Maxxis tires hooked up-the track was a variety of hardpack and moist loam. Naturally, the little Kawi was a bit slow, especially after we'd just hopped off the 90, but it does the intended job well. We're sure there will be hundreds of youngsters out there looking for something besides their two front teeth under the Christmas tree. Hint to you 6-11-year-olds: The KFX50 is only $1749 while being full of safety features that Mom and Dad will love-and you get to pick white or green.
Opinion Sean FoosAge: 14Height: 5'4"Weight: 80 lbAbility: NoviceQuad: KFX50The KFX50 was really slow for me, but for a 6-year-old just starting to ride, it would be a great ATV. It handled well around the track; the tires felt like they were really hooking up to the dirt. Never did it tip and I felt very safe and secure on the Kawasaki. The safety harness in the back is a great idea for kids just starting to ride.