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With the introduction of the new Honda Pioneer 500, Honda continues to expand its side-by-side line-up. At first glance this vehicle will appeal to the consumer that is in the market for a light utility unit, but the Honda Pioneer 500 is equally adept at off-road recreation. To simply consider this vehicle as a “work unit” would be unjust.

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The key to the Honda Pioneer 500 is its flexibility; it’s a very versatile unit with a perfect balance between recreation and light utility. The trail ready size and paddle shifters give the unit a very recreational feel, however the unit still retains its utilitarian aspects.

POWERPLANT

The Honda Pioneer 500 is powered by a 475cc four-stroke engine, which has been derived from the Foreman 500. Power is transferred to the wheels through a five-speed gearbox with reverse that uses an electric shift system featuring steering column mounted paddle shifters. Simply pull the paddle on the right side to upshift or the paddle on the left to downshift, the layout and functionality of system is similar to what is found in Honda automobiles.

SUSPENSION

The unit features a double-wishbone front and rear suspension which yields a 5.9in./14.9-cm of travel.  The rear shocks offer spring preload adjustability to alter the ride for light or heavy loads. The rear suspension also features a stabilizer bar to assist the unit to reduce body roll when cornering. Although tuned and reshaped for this unit, the general construction of the suspension has been heavily influenced by the Pioneer 700.

Honda Pioneer 500
Honda Pioneer 500 features a double-wishbone front and rear suspension which yields a 5.9in./14.9-cm of travel.

TIRES, WHEELS AND BRAKES

The Honda Pioneer 500 sits on a set of 24×8-12 (front) and 24×8-10 (rear) tires that have been developed for this unit. The vehicle is brought to a stop by front/rear hydraulic disc brakes.

COCKPIT AND ERGONOMICS

Entering and exiting the vehicle is made easy with a set of doors that open to a full 180 degrees. What I really like about these doors is that the door and nets open together as one unit, no more net clamps to deal with. The unit features a bench seat for the driver and passenger, the seat is comfortable, however not adjustable.

Once seated, all the controls are very easy to access and the digital instrumentation is effortless to read. For added creature comforts you will also find dual headrests, two-cup holders and a 12-volt power outlet. For driver and passenger safety, you will find three-point seatbelts and a (ROPS) roll cage. A simple but well conceived design.

Honda Pioneer 500
Honda Pioneer 500 features a set of doors that open to a full 180 degrees, which makes ingress and egress easy!

The exterior features attractive body styling and a flat cargo area (ATV style rack) with numerous tie-downs for maximum load versatility. The rear rack is constructed of sturdy steel tubing and measures 30-in./76.2-cm by 46-in./116-8-cm and has a load capacity of 450-lbs./204.1-kg. Market research determined that Honda consumers prefer this concept to the traditional cargo box, and on this unit I tend to agree. However, it should be noted that a “Cargo Bed” is available as an add-on accessory.

While we are on the subject of accessories, there are many genuine Honda accessories available for this unit, please visit the Honda website to see all the accessories available for this unit.

Recreational riders that are faced with trail width restrictions will surely appreciate the unit’s trail friendly width of 50-in. /127-cm. The unit’s overall length is 102.5-in./ 260.35-cm and a wheelbase of 73-1-in./ 185.6-cm. With these dimensions this unit can be easily transported in the bed of a full size pickup.

THE RIDE

Honda had set up a course on privately owned land for us to test the unit at the press ride. The course offered various trail conditions and was challenging enough to allow us to form our first impressions of the unit. I had the opportunity to ride the unit various times throughout the day, and each time I did I tried to put myself in the position of the intended consumer of this vehicle.

Who is the intended consumer of this unit? The consumer who needs a light utility for around the cottage but also wants a vehicle that can be used for recreational trail rides.

Honda Pioneer 500
Honda Pioneer 500 paddle shifters really enhanced my overall enjoyment when driving this unit, they gave the unit a much more recreational feel and provide for a more interactive driving experience.

So how does it ride? The best way I can describe my overall experience is, simply put, fun to drive. The unit tackled steep hills, narrow trails, water traverses and maneuvered around trees with ease. The paddle shifters really enhanced my overall enjoyment when driving this unit, they gave the unit a much more recreational feel and provide for a more interactive driving experience.

As I mentioned before, I tried to drive this unit as it was intended. Really I did, but I was having way too much fun and found myself pushing the unit more and more. The more I mashed the accelerator the more the unit delivered.

It’s the first time I attended a press ride that I heard other journalist giggling and laughing as I crossed them on the trails, so it’s safe to assume they were having as much fun as I was!

Honda Pioneer 500
Honda Pioneer 500 is available in the following colors; Red, Olive, Yellow and Phantom Camo.

SO DID WE LIKE IT?

The Pioneer as a “trail” recreational unit is just plain fun to drive, so as first impressions go, yes I liked it very much. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a unit to for what I constantly make reference to the “go-fast” crowd. However, you can and will have fun with this unit out on the trails.

The only small complaint that I have with the unit is that the bench seat is not adjustable. This did not affect me personally, but I suspect that this may have an impact on the smaller rider.

We will try to get our hands on a unit when it becomes available sometime in late summer to do a more comprehensive test on the unit, especially to see its utilitarian capabilities.

The Honda Pioneer 500 is available in the following colors; Red, Olive, Yellow and Phantom Camo.

For vehicle options, specifications and pricing of the Honda Pioneer 500. Please visit the Honda Pioneer 500 website at sxs.honda.ca

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