As much as I appreciate riding solo in a side-x-side, I’ve come to realize how much fun it is to pack more than just myself and a passenger inside the cab and head out for a full days riding.
Whether it’s loading my two daughters and their friends up and taking the trail to town for ice cream or it’s loading up my pals and going for a good rip, it’s tough to do this comfortably or legally with a standard sized SxS. This is exactly the appeal of Honda’s 5-passenger Pioneer 1000-5.
At its introduction at Paws Up Resort in Montana a few seasons back, we discovered Honda had brought a SxS platform to market that not just suited the need for rear seat passenger capacity, but had developed a new and powerful 999cc twin to level the playing field against competitive brands.
For 2017, Honda’s Limited Edition Pioneer 1000-5 features a long list of aesthetic upgrades from the standard Pioneer. Some of these upgrades are: Maxxis Big Horn 2.0 tires wrapped around cast aluminum wheels, beautiful painted body plastic to compliment the red accents on the A-arms and the springs on the 3-position Fox QS3 shocks; an oversized front brush guard and aluminum front and rear A-arm guards and skid plate.
However, absent on the Limited Edition model is a full roof, something we feel should be included at this trim level. Further to its aesthetic upgrades, the 1000-5 Limited Edition also boasts a list of technical features, not the least of which is Hondas new I-4WD system.
Honda collaborated closely with its automotive division to bring I-4WD to off-road. I-4WD is a single selectable differential system that combines 4-wheel-drive and diff-lock to electronically manage the amount of slip between the two front wheels. When slip is detected, brake pressure is applied to the slipping wheel and more torque is applied to the wheel with better grip.
This Pioneer also boasts Electronic Breakforce Distribution, which delivers smoother braking force at all four corners. We can endorse this feature as the brakes on the Pioneer are stop-on-a-dime fantastic.
We’re pretty sure, comfort features aside, what you really want to know about is the ride and how this EFI 999cc engine performs. Let’s get this straight: Honda needs to immediately get this engine tucked under the seat of a redesigned Rincon and into a pure sport SxS to compete against the YXZ.
The Pioneer is also equipped with Honda’s 6-speed, fully automatic Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT). This is Honda’s mechanical clutch system we feel is a response to the industry-standard CVT. DCT allows for two shifting modes. The first is fully automatic and the second is a Sport mode that allows for higher automatic shift points while the tranny shifts automatically.
How does DCT perform compared to a CVT? Our original feelings still hold true. DCT works really well at shifting gears however it does not provide the smoothness a CVT does.
Furthermore, the transmission seems to always be searching for the best gear, upshifting and backshifting constantly and it can become frustrating when transitioning in and out of a corner or when ascending steep slopes.
In these instances we found ourselves switching over to full manual mode and operating the paddle shifters instead – probably what you’re supposed to do anyway.
There are usability features on the Pioneer 1000-5 that make this vehicle unique in the industry. Two single seats fold up from the bed’s floor to provide carrying capacity for two more passengers.
Access is permitted via rear doors that latch firmly in place and, like the front doors, have a very automotive feel to them. These seats are functional for smaller riders and can accommodate a full-sized adult, though we did start to hear some complaints of cramped quarters as the test ride drew on through the day.
Our biggest gripe about the Pioneer’s rear seats is how once operational, there’s no more bed capacity for carrying cargo as the seats occupy all available bed space.
This is one glaring weakness in the Pioneer’s design and one we think might be a turn-off when buyers are faced off against it and an equally equipped 4-passenger General or Commander.
We take our hats off to Honda on the ride quality of the Pioneer 1000-5. All these minor complaints aside, the vehicle rides and handles superbly thanks to a finely tuned EPS system and excellent suspension highlighted by the addition of Fox’s 3-position QS3 shocks.
These feature a selectable knob offering soft, medium and firm compression damping and can be adjusted quickly when the back seats are occupied or for occasions when the bed is being used for hauling loads. EPS makes steering light and easy and like most Hondas, its handling inspired confidence in all our test pilots.
Do we think the Pioneer 1000-5 Limited Edition has enough sizzle to convert a Polaris or Can-Am owner? Maybe not in huge quantities, but if you’re at a point in your life where you can appreciate the ability to drive your kids or grandkids around and still feel like you’re at the helm of a performance vehicle, Honda’s Pioneer 1000-5 Limited Edition might be worth shortlisting when youre making a final purchase decision.