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ATV development in focus at Carolina

Honda is to introduce four new bikes to its ATV line-up next year. To find out more about the firm’s latest developments, and to see what else is up its sleeve, Emily Padfield travelled to its South Carolina factory.
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Just witnessing the relentless rate of machines rolling off the production line at Honda’s South Carolina factory really does give some idea of the manufacturer’s ambitions and scale.


Now producing more than 266,000 ATVs and 310,000 engines per year, this really is Honda territory.


Featuring its familiar logo emblazoned across a quintessentially American water tower, the site spans 250 hectares (620 acres) and is dedicated to researching, designing and manufacturing ATVs and, more recently, UTVs.


Established in 1998, production started at the site the following year. The turn of the century saw the beginning of engine production and machining at the plant and, by 2001, Honda South Carolina had built 500,000 ATVs.


What strikes you first about the facility is it is completely dedicated to ATV and UTV production. There are no sports bikes or tertiary add-ons made here, just quads and side-by-sides.


A number of the 650 employees at the factory own Honda quad bikes themselves, whether it be for hunting - a popular pastime in this part of the world - or ranching, as many of the factory’s staff also farm.


They are asked to feed ideas back and make suggestions on how to improve each model and there are incentives for doing so.


Nearly 80 per cent of the components of each bike are made at the facility. From moulding plastic fuel tanks to casting engine casings and machining the pistons, it is only complicated electrical parts, such as power steering units, which come from the manufacturer’s other factories.


New bikes

New bikes

This month sees the introduction of four new ATVs to the Honda line-up in the UK.


First up is the 420cc Fourtrax TRX420 FA5, which features the same chassis and framework of the restyled bikes launched earlier in the year but now gets independent rear suspension (IRS) and dual-clutch transmission (DCT).


The TRX420 FA5 also gets Honda’s dual-range automatic gearbox, which gives the rider the choice of operating in automatic or manual modes with Electric Shift Program.


In automatic, DCT allows a new dual shift mapping program which automatically selects between cruise and sport transmission, depending on the operator’s throttle use.


The three other models are all Foreman TRX500s. Each gets a new chassis and 475cc engine, as well as IRS.


Its double-cradle steel frame features increased stiffness and better torsional rigidity for better handling and a smoother ride, says Honda.


Towing capacity

Front suspension travel is 185mm (7in), while the new rear dual arm design gives 216mm (8.5in) of travel, which can be adjusted to suit.


Importantly, IRS delivers better carrying and towing capability, allowing for 45kg up front and 85kg on the rear racks, plus a towing capacity of 600kg. This is also the case on the smaller TRX420 with IRS.


To make things simpler, Honda has finally ditched the fiddly button reverse format and opted for a dual-purpose lever which makes it easier to engage reverse. To engage the park brake, simply push the lever away.


The three TRX500 models are the manual transmission FM5, the DCT automatic FA5 and the FA6, which has both DCT transmission and electric power steering.


Side-by-side (UTV) – could it come to the UK?

Side-by-side (UTV) – could it come to the UK?

Honda abstained from the utility vehicle market for many years, only entering it seriously last year. Although it offers the Pioneer 500 (pictured) and 700 in the US and Australia, there is still a question mark over whether the manufacturer will offer them here.


Having launched the 680cc Pioneer 700 in the US in 2013, demand was about double Honda’s manufacturing capacity for the year. Two models are available: the standard 700, which has two seats up front; and the 700-4, which has two foldable seats in the load bed with doors in the bed sides. When stowed, the cargo bed is flat and able to tilt.


The 700 has a generous towing capacity of 670kg and a payload of nearly half a tonne. Transmission comprises a hydraulic torque converter with three forward gears and reverse.


Cargo Bed

A smaller option comes in the form of the 475cc Pioneer 500 which is a narrower, more compact side-by-side, again with two seats up front but with a rack at the back instead of a cargo bed.


It gets an electric shift, five-speed gearbox with reverse and changes are made with a neat paddle-shift arrangement behind the steering wheel.


Towing capacity is 450kg and payload is just more than 200kg.


It gets an electric shift, five-speed gearbox with reverse, while changes are made with a neat paddle-shift arrangement behind the steering wheel. Towing capacity is 450kg and payload is just more than 200kg.



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