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On-test: Kymco - the experienced new entrant in the ATV league tables

Relatively unknown, Kymco is having a concerted effort to climb the ATV league tables in the UK. Alex Heath had the opportunity to put the company’s newest quad bike to the test on a mixed farm.

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Founded in 1963, the Kwang Yang Motor Company also known as Kymco, initially manufactured parts for Honda, in what was called a technology transfer. A series of scooters and motorcycles were made under licence for the Japanese company, which had a significant interest in Kymco, but relinquished its share in 2003 when Kymco started to have global ambitions of its own.


The Taiwanese company has since grown to become one of the leading powersports brands, manufacturing everything from mobility scooters to UTVs. Still manufacturing parts for a variety of companies in several different industries, it supplies the range extender for BMW’s i3 car, the engine for some of BMW’s motorbikes and several products for Kawasaki, including its 300cc quad bike.


The company’s product portfolio is steadily growing, offering quadbikes in most engine size categories now, including brand new 700cc and 300cc quads unveiled at the recent EICMA bike show in Milan.


Kymco had been imported into the UK through a company called Masco, however, the importing company went bankrupt at the end of 2017. Kymco has since decided that the UK market has potential and has set up a subsidiary company selling its machines. It is actively looking to add to its 15 ATV dealerships across the country, which will be stocking its latest quad bike in the 500cc sector.


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Driving impression: MXU 550i

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As the manufacturer’s portfolio continues to grow, the company sees the agricultural market as a key one to target, with one of its latest offerings being the 501cc quad. We got hands on with it, to see if it would stand up to the rigours of farm work.


The first thing you notice with the quad is its physical size. Its big and imposing, featuring the longest wheel base for a bike of this size on the market. While its long chassis makes it slightly cumbersome, it makes up for it in stability. Going across steep banks is uneventful with the bike refusing to cock its leg. It is also notably wider than most, spreading its 350kg bulk over a wide area.


Adding to its stability kudos, the quad features dual A-arm suspension both front and rear, affording a comfortable ride. The seat is also sumptuous, providing good posterior support for a whole day in the saddle. Deep and wide foot wells provide plenty of purchase for even the chunkiest of wellies, again assuring the rider of its surefootedness.


The biggest disappointment with this bike though is its lack lustre performance. It would appear that ride comfort comes at the cost of power, with the 501cc engine only mustering 34hp, but feeling underwhelming at that. If used for pottering about, or where power becomes dangerous on slippery banks, it will be fine however it takes a lot of coaxing to accelerate at any rate.


The continuously variable transmission is smooth and for the most part responsive. As soon as the throttle is touched, you can feel the ‘box wanting to get on, however it does not have the same willingness being imparted from the engine. Stick it in ‘low box’ and the torque is impressive, and it is very capable at climbing up steep gradients, even on dewy grass, albeit the tyres occasionally gave slip. Unlike a lot of CVTs on quads, which whine at speed, the MXU is serene, not even acknowledging the strain it is being put under, which is comforting to the rider.

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Our model came with tyres specced for the European market, and not the Maxxis branded tyres UK farmers can expect. These we are told have a chunkier tread, which will be beneficial to the bike as the torque it puts out kept it going way past the capabilities of our tyres.


Engagement of four-wheel drive is done electrically via a button on the right hand cluster, and rear diff-lock is activated by turning a dial. Engagement of either is imperceptible, with no clunks or grinding, even when travelling.


Steering is accurate, if a little heavy. Our machine was not fitted with electric power steering, so swinging it into corners had to be done unaided. In two wheel drive it is fine, but in four wheel drive it forces you to disengage as soon as you are through the sticky patch, which is a handy feature from the manufacture, as it protects the front tires, diff and your biceps.

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The gear selector is situated on the left hand side of the bike, next to the fuel tank. Selection of gears is easy, and rarely requires rocking to free or engage the gear stick. The only hitch is when selecting reverse as there is no notch to acknowledge that the gear has been selected, so sometimes park was selected instead of reverse- not a big issue, however a bit annoying if a lot of shunting is needed during a days work.


The inclusion of the park function in the transmission means the hand brake is rarely used, which is no bad thing as the over centre lever on the left hand cluster didn’t have a particularly strong grip of the quads brakes, and the traditional ratchet type on the right hand brake lever is a faff when trying to grapple with the thumb throttle as well.


When braking the bike behaves impeccably even when the levers are yanked on at full tilt. There is no nose diving or snaking as some bikes do, the driver stays firmly planted in the seat and comes to a brisk yet controlled stop. This is thanks to the dual discs on the front and single disk on the rear.


Lights on the MXU were surprisingly good for a quad. When the bike is accelerating, dipped beam is only needed as the nose rises considerably, but high beam illuminates a decent area in front of the bike, ideal for checking stock late at night.



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The hardware on the quad feels solid. The chassis is built up of substantial tube and box section, giving the appearance of rugged durability. Likewise, the racks feel solid, albeit for a piece of plastic in the middle of the front rack which appears to have no practical use and will inevitable get snapped. The rest of the plastics around the quad are stiff and should not scuff too easily. They also cover the wheels protecting the rider from too much flying mud, and the section below the rider is cladded to stop water sloshing up from the engine bay.


The switch gear is of good quality and for the most part on the left-hand handle bar. Winch control is a bolt on retrofit affair, but offers easy operation. The centre console features a traditional dial for rpm, which is easy to read and offers a breath of fresh air from the wholly digitalised dashboards most have. However it also has a backlit screen showing speed, gear selection and an easy to see fuel level, among other snippets of information.

FG Verdict

Priced at £5,770 excluding VAT, the bike would appear to offer good value for money, from a manufacturer which has supplied ATV and UTV parts to several companies for many years. Providing brand snobbery is not a factor and timely dealership backup is achieved, the bike is well worth a look in the 500cc sector.

 

While it might not have the performance of other manufacturers, and if there is a need to combine work and play into one machine, this probably is not the one, it does offer supreme comfort and ride quality, unseen on farm quads to date.

Kymco MXU 550i

Engine 501cc, fuel injection, 4 stroke
Power 34hp
Dry weight 329kg
Wheelbase 1297mm
Fuel capacity 16.5 l
Suspension Dual A-arm front and rear
Brakes Disc front and rear
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