Test Riders: Johnny Jovanovic, Dale Batson, Brad Skelton, Mark Batson, Jorge Cuartas
With penny pinching on just about everyone's mind, we set out to evaluate seven comparable machines that cost less than six grand. While the small-bore utility 4x4 market may not be the most exciting, it's certainly one of the most viable. Weeks of testing yielded surprising results, a newfound respect for the small-bore 4x4 segment and, most importantly, an understanding of the vast differences between these seven units and how they like to be ridden.
The machines we selected all had three things in common: a price under $6K, a cc range between 350 and 455, and 4WD. The seven finalists were (alphabetically) the Arctic Cat 366, Honda Rancher 4x4 (TRX420FPM), Kawasaki Prairie 360 4x4, Kymco MXU 375 IRS 4x4, Polaris Sportsman 400 H.O., Suzuki KingQuad 400AS and Yamaha Grizzly 350 Auto 4x4 IRS. We summoned our expert test rider team, and outfitted them with the latest over-the-boot-style riding gear by Answer, Fly, Four, Moose, MSR, Shift and Thor, which not only functioned well, but looked amazing.
With machines, gear and riders lined up the only logistical hurdle would be finding a proving ground on which to conduct our testing. Luckily for us, the Broad River Adventure Park (BRAP) in Carlton, Georgia, volunteered to host us. BRAP's new owners put the entire 2000 acres (which includes 85-plus miles of trails and four MX courses) at our disposal and threw in a couple of its plush cabins to boot (www.broadriveradventurepark.com). We set up two "official" test loops with varying conditions; the first was comprised of high-speed trails, off-camber turns, a strip of power line roads and fairly untechnical obstacles. The second loop was low speed and highly technical, through tight woods, water crossings, two steep and muddy hillclimbs, log crossings, steep off-cambered descents into tight creek beds and in and out of various mudholes. We also included a third "unofficial" utility course (parking lot) where we towed, stacked, pushed and pulled just about anything we could get our hands on. Every machine spent countless time in our test loops and on the trails leading to and from them.
If The Shoe Fits...
While all of our machines shared common DNA, it was quickly apparent that they were vastly different animals. Some excelled at work, others yearned to play. We'll give you our assessment (compiled from the opinions of six test riders and various rec riders we encountered along the way) of where each shines and brief evaluations of the basics (ergonomics, brakes, steering and stability, suspension and power), but it's ultimately up to you to decide which shoe best fits your needs.
|+ ||Instrument cluster |
|Handlebar, steering geometry ||- |
|= ||Low-speed fun, high-speed scary || |
Arctic Cat 366
At first glance, the Arctic Cat 366 is probably the oddest looking of the bunch. With an ape-hanger bar and buglike round headlights, the 366 looks like a moon rover and certainly stands out (in a good way).