HONDA PIONEER 500
Smaller! Sportier! Better?
By the staff of Dirt Wheels
❏ It’s no secret how well the UTV
business is doing lately. Polaris, Can-Am and Arctic Cat are all in an arms
race to build the fastest machine out
there. The Japanese companies are
taking a more conservative approach
with machines like the Kawasaki
Teryx, Yamaha Viking and the Honda
Pioneer. However, Honda’s latest
release might light a fire under these
longtime rivals that could have them
all in the sport UTV business before
we know it. To Kawasaki’s credit, their
800cc Teryx and T4 are much sportier
than the others.
This new unit might seem like a
step back for Honda from the 700cc
Pioneer, but it is in the right direction if
they want to get trail riders and eventually racers interested in steering-wheel-equipped products. Notably,
the 500 has no heavy dump bed, it’s
legal for 50-inch-wide restricted trails,
Apart from two cup holders, storage
can be found under the seats of the
Pioneer 500, and more storage can be
purchased as well.
The cabin is a bit sparse, but we like the
paddle-style shifters. We have always
liked Honda’s push-button shifting, and
this is a good use of that system.
and it has a manual transmission.
This is the first UTV with a manual
transmission, and as an added bonus,
you click through the gears using
a steering-column-mounted paddle
shifter. Looking for comparison models that can fit on those tighter 50-inch-
wide trails legally, the Pioneer fits
right between the $9999 Polaris RZR
570 and the $7499 Ace single-seater.
CFMoto does have a $8549 ZForce 600
two-seater that measures 52 inches
This is the very same powerplant
found in Honda’s Foreman 500 utility
ATV we tested in the May issue. On
the top end sits a liquid-cooled, 475cc,
OHV, single-cylinder four-stroke.
Power-wise, it feels fun. Any time
you sit with your feet in front of you
instead of underneath you, accelera-
tion and excitement increase. No, the
Pioneer 500 doesn’t feel as fast as a
RZR 570, but it is in the same ballpark.
It is a lot quicker than the Polaris Ace,
and the power-to-weight ratio is as
good as the small RZR. And with its
narrower footprint, it feels as fast as
the 700cc Pioneer.
First gear was designed as a super-low gear to get the machine up or
through any obstacle, and it does
a good job moving the 1010-pound
machine. Once you click up to second, the tamed-down fun experience
begins. Throttle response is instant,
and the motor is geared well. You
can easily feel—and hear—when the
motor runs out of torque and it’s time
to shift. If you don’t, the rev limiter
kicks in to warn you.