You don’t have to choose between performance and affordability any more
There are plenty of affordable 4x4s on the market, but not many have really exciting engine performance. Kymco’s new MXU450i may sound similar to other smaller 4x4s, but it’s got two good things going for it; its engine is stronger and smoother than many machines in its class and it’s among the most affordable machines its size.
HOW AFFORDABLE IS IT?
At $5899, Kymco’s MXU 450i is one of the least expensive fuel injected, liquid cooled, automatic transmission 4×4 sport utility ATVs out there. Here’s a look at the prices of similar models.
-Honda Rancher AT, $6999
-Polaris Sportsman 450 (not available with EFI), $5699
-Suzuki KingQuad 450, $6999
-Yamaha Grizzly 450 (not available with EFI), $6899
WHAT POWERS IT?
An all new, 443cc, fuel injected, four valve, single overhead cam engine. This is an entirely new powerplant for Kymco, not a small bore version of the Kymco MXU 500 motor.
WHAT’S THE TRANSMISSION LIKE?
It’s a belt type, fully automatic continuously variable transmission, the most common kind on sport utility ATVs. It’s the easiest type of ATV transmission to use; you simply select the range you want and move out. The MXU 450i has high and low forward ranges, plus neutral and reverse. The range selector works smoothly and has no confusing safety locks.
WHAT KIND OF 4WD SYSTEM DOES IT HAVE?
A basic but effective one. The Kymco has convenient, button selectable 2WD/4WD like most 4x4s, but there’s no front differential lock feature. A lockable front differential can mean the difference between riding out of a really tough spot on the trail and pushing or getting help, but conventional 4WD is more than enough to handle all but the most challenging terrain. Most of the time, two wheel drive does the job just fine.
HOW FAST IS IT?
It’s pretty quick. No 450cc 4×4 is what we’d call rocket fast, but the Kymco is one of the quicker feeling machines in its class. The engine is just part of why the Kymco gets up and goes as well as it does. It weighs just over 600 pounds. Some 450s, like the Polaris Sportsman 450 are over 700 with a full tank of gas.
HOW IS THE POWER ON THE TRAIL?
It makes you want to ride. Like most 450 4x4s, the MXU 450i makes more than adequate power to tackle hard trails and move at an entertaining pace where the going is easier. The Kymco’s engine has an edge over some because it revs more freely and doesn’t vibrate much, so it always seems eager to go.
The Kymco’s clutching is well matched to the machine’s power delivery, which helps its throttle response when you’re playing and having fun or trying to pick your way through a tough spot on the trail.
WHAT KIND OF SUSPENSION DOES IT HAVE?
It’s fully independent with double A-arms and spring preload adjustable shocks front and rear. Unlike most ATVs with independent rear suspension, there’s no rear swaybar. This helps the rear suspension articulate more freely, which makes for a plush ride, but it lets the Kymco lean on its suspension more than most quads in turns. If comfort is your top priority, you’ll be glad there’s no swaybar. Aggressive riders may want to look into adapting the swaybar from Kymco’s Maxxer 450i sport 4×4.
HOW DOES THE SUSPENSION WORK ON THE TRAIL?
It’s smooth. At reasonable speeds, the Kymco’s suspension digests all but the biggest typical trail impacts very well. Push the machine too hard or nail a big rut at speed and the suspension will bottom. The suspension is tuned for trail riding, not trail racing. Within its limits, it does a very good job.
HOW DOES IT HANDLE?
The 450i is easy to control, but because it has more body roll in hard turns than some sport utility quads in its class, it doesn’t corner as crisply as the best handling small 4x4s, like the Honda Rancher AT and the Grizzly 450. Like other smaller sport utility ATVs, the 450i requires less effort to handle than big machines in all sorts of situations, so it’s less tiring to ride.
HOW IS IT IN MUD AND WATER?
It’s ready to take the plunge. Kymco’s US headquarters is in South Carolina, so the company is well aware of the kind of carnage its machines are used in. Because of its healthy engine and 10.5 inches of ground clearance, the 450i slogs through deep, wet, rutted crossings with no worries. We’d welcome a locking front differential, but we had plenty of fun in the mud without it. The airbox looks vulnerable down by the right front wheel, but it breathes through a snorkel that draws air up near the top of the steering stem.
HOW DOES IT HANDLE HILLS?
It climbs like a spider. The 450i’s strong motor and compliant suspension let us charge up bumpy, technical hills or claw our way up slowly with equal success. Steering in 4WD was easy.
Because of the 450i’s body roll, we took it easy down twisty downhills, but the strong disc front and rear brakes and the transmission’s engine braking system make keeping downhill speeds in check simple.
HOW DOES IT LIKE ROCKS?
It’s a skilled crawler. Without a swaybar, the rear suspension is well set up for rock riding. Both ends drink up the serious pounding rocks deliver, and the Kymco has plenty of ground clearance to keep itself from getting hung up.
HOW ARE THE DETAILS?
Surprisingly deluxe. Most manufacturers’ smaller 4x4s are pretty basic, but Kymco outfits all its 4×4’s with full instrumentation. The finish quality on this machine is very good. There are no rough edges or crude engineering. The 450i’s storage compartment is pretty small, but the racks have a lot of carrying space, and there’s a two inch receiver hitch for towing. The 450’s seat has a comfortable shape, but it’s not as well padded as most other 4x4s in it class.
WHAT IS OUR FINAL ANSWER?
Picking a 450 4×4 just got a lot more complicated. Kymco’s MXU 450i doesn’t corner as athletically as some small 4x4s, but it has one of the more exciting engines in its class and a price that can let you enjoy fuel injection, a fully automatic transmission and IRS for not much more than some bare bones machines.
SPECIFICATIONS: 2012 KYMCO MXU 450i
Engine type…Liquid-cooled, SOHC 4-stroke, 4 valve single
Bore x stroke…89 x 71.2mm
Lubrication system…Wet sump
Carburetion…38mm Synerject EFI
Starting procedure…Apply brake, push button
Access…Remove airbox lid (3 clips)
Transmission…Fully automatic dual range CVT with reverse and engine braking
Reverse procedure…Move range selector to “R”
Drive system…Selectable 2WD/4WD
Fuel capacity…4.7 gals
Frame…Round steel tube
Front…Dual A-arms w/5-way preload adjustable shocks/7”
Rear…Double A-arms w/5-way adjustable shocks/7”
Front…Hydraulic discs/right-hand lever
Rear…Hydraulic disc, right hand lever/right-foot pedal
Parking…Lever lock on right-hand lever
Front…24×8-12 Maxxis AT
Rear…24×10-12 Maxxis AT
Instruments…Neutral, reverse, fuel gauge, speedometer odometer, tachometer, odometer, trip meter
Front…Two 35W headlights
Colors…Red, green, black
Minimum recommended operator age…16
Suggested retail price…$5899
Contact…Kymco USA, www.kymcousa.com, (864) 327-4744
-Smooth, strong quick revving engine
-Loaded with features but similar in price to basic 4x4s
-Body roll inhibits hard cornering
-Seat padding could be better
KYMCO SPECIAL OFFERS AVAILABLE AT PRESS TIME
-No downpayment/no payments/no interest for six months for qualified buyers
-5.99% financing for 36 months or No Down payment, No monthy payments and No interest for six months.
HANDLING AND CHASSIS
RIDER COMFORT AND CONVENIENCE
Overall ease of use…5
Low-speed ride plushness…4
Handlebar control ease…4
Fit and finish…4