Kawasaki’s long-awaited Mule upgrade finally comes to market. To find out if it is worth the wait, Jane Carley takes it for a test drive.
The Kawasaki Mule has been updated to meet modern customer expectations.
Sporting a number of improvements to bring its classic design more in line with modern customer requirements, Kawasaki has been busy updating its venerable UTV, the Mule.
Styling has changed little, however, and the Mule Pro DX remains a really workmanlike lump of a machine; the longer chassis previously used on four-seater ‘Trans’ versions is now the basis for the two-seater.
All-round suspension gives a smoother ride and increased stability on side slopes.
Coupled with its taller stance from 265mm (10in) ground clearance, this makes for a big vehicle, but it also means the cargo bay is now a whopping 1.38 metres (4ft 6in) long.
You can pile in those fencing stakes, feed bags and bales with ease, although with changes to the suspension, carrying capacity has actually reduced a bit, to 453kg.
However, towing capacity has been boosted by 40 per cent to 907kg, so if there is a lot of material to move, you can always hitch up a trailer.
The feeling of size persists in the driving seat too, with a bench which would easily accommodate three, although it is intended for two and only has two seatbelts.
Perspex and glass full doors improve visibility and hinge at the rear for easy access.
Our test vehicle was fitted with the Deluxe cab, which adds Perspex and glass doors, hinged at the rear and with sliding windows, rear screen again with a sliding window and a tilting windscreen with wash/wipe.
There is also a heater for those chilly mornings. Standard spec is a ROPS frame.
Protection from the elements does not extend to insulation from the noise of the 24hp Yanmar diesel engine. In fact there is a feeling it is trapped in there with you. It is something you would probably get used to, but you will need to switch the engine off to use your phone or chat to anyone outside the vehicle.
This aside, the Mule is a comfortable and convenient place to work.
The upgraded continuously variable transmission has two ranges selected via a dash-mounted lever with separate park brake, while electrically engaged four-wheel drive and diff lock are selected via rocker switches.
The 24hp Yanmar engine is under the bed; regular service points can be accessed from the side of the vehicle without tipping the load.
A new digital display shows forward speed, fuel level, selection of neutral and reverse, plus alerts for handbrake and seat belts.
There are two 12V sockets on the dash, plus some smallish cubby holes, cup holders and a glove locker. An underseat storage box can be added as an option.
Shifting between ranges can be achieved on the move, but the Mule tackled much of the hilly parkland in our test in high two-wheel drive, while four-wheel drive eliminated slipping on steeper climbs.
The increased ground clearance showed its mettle crossing rutty tracks and climbing in and out of ‘bomb holes’ left by fallen trees with ease, while electronic hill descent control kept us out of the lake at the bottom of a bank and is aided by vented disc brakes all round.
All-round adjustable suspension gives increased stability on side slopes.
There is a reassuring feeling of stability on side slopes, despite the increase in height, and the new all-round independent suspension is a major factor in this. Suspension is adjustable, so can be stiffened if heavy loads are to be carried.
Top speed is 50kph (31mph) and, although it is initially sluggish to get into its stride, the Mule can certainly kick on when let fly along farm tracks.
Speed sensitive power steering is a new addition, keeping the turns under control at higher speeds. It is fairly nimble in two-wheel drive, although the greater total length of the Pro DX takes the turning radius up by almost a metre – worth remembering in tight yards.
A longer chassis boosts load bay length to an impressive 1375mm. Tipping is assisted via gas struts.
Utility vehicles have gained much of their on-farm popularity for the ability to load all manner of stuff in the cargo bed.
The Mule’s huge chequerplate lined bed has a convenient loading height and a plethora of lashing points with guard rails atop the solid sides.
One niggle is the fiddly tailgate catches; make sure the sides stay lined up as you unlatch.
Halogen and LED lamps will light dark mornings effectively and the Pro DX can be specified with limited use or homologated road lighting kits.
Refined it is not, but if you need to be outside in all-weathers and carry feed and supplies to far-flung parts of the farm, you will appreciate the sturdy, reliable ride offered by the Mule.