If you talk to the brass at Honda they’ll undoubtedly take the company line and state firmly that Honda ATVs meet all customers’ expectations. Some hardcore riders would disagree.
The truth is, Hondas have a very dear place in the hearts of those who own them. There are some undeniable benefits to Honda’s Sport-Ute ATV strategy and the engineers have worked hard to design wheelers with extreme lightness, faithful durability and impeccable handling.
All this is done by keeping the blueprint as simple and uncomplicated as possible. Like Henry Ford’s early Model T, lightness and simplicity of design made those Fords the most durable and successful cars in history.
Honda has stuck with some of its foundational technology over the years. One thing is the use of the simple and very torquey overhead valve pushrod engine.
Certainly this engine layout pales compared to the power potential of DOHC and SOHC 4-valve engines but the low RPM torque output from a pushrod engine, particularly in the sub-500cc category, is tough to deny.
Engine placement is transverse, adding to more efficient power transfer – a concept just getting started with some of the competition.
Where Honda is falling short, at least in the minds of some potential buyers we’ve polled, is in comparative equipment.
Independent rear suspension across the board (some Honda models do offer IRS and its a very good setup), a functional, lower cost CVT transmission and a full-featured locking, selectable 4WD or AWD system are areas consumers are eyeing.
Honda’s focus the last few years has been on capturing new people who haven’t owned a Honda before and are, perhaps, relatively unseasoned in the sport.
This strategy seems to work well in a good economy, but when things are tight and new folks aren’t coming into ATVing at the same rate, the hardcore market is the one that keeps sales humming.
To win here, you need to have the latest and greatest equipment.