TEST: HONDA 250X

To pick the best sport quad for a learning rider, you have to find a machine that’s easy to ride, but with enough performance to be exciting once the learner is no longer a learner. Honda’s 250X has a unique manual transmission with an automatic clutch that can also be used like a manual clutch. It’s a clever feature that lets the Honda offer riders much more control than ATVs with automatic transmissions and it’s far easier to ride than machines with manual clutch manual transmissions. A quad is much more than a transmission, so we got the newest version of the 250X to see how the whole package works.

HOW DOES THE COST COMPARE?

At $4399, the Honda is on the expensive side as 250s go. Only the $4599 Yamaha Raptor 250 is more expensive. You can get a Can-Am DS250 for $3799. Arctic Cat’s 300 DVX is only $4099 and Kymco’s Mongoose 300 is just $3749.

WHAT’S NEW?

Honda switched from Dunlop to Maxxis tires on the 250X for 2012. One of our few complaints about previous 250X models was that the flexy front tires and old style balloon rears detracted from the machine’s cornering performance. The new Maxxis meats show the same size numbers as the Dunlops used previously, but they are slightly more sturdy and the rears have a flatter, sportier semi low profile shape. The change did good things for the Honda’s handling.

WHAT MAKES THE POWER?

An air cooled, 229cc, two valve, pushrod engine with a 22mm carburetor. On paper, the Honda sounds like it would get smoked by machines in its class with liquid cooled, four valve, overhead cam motors. On the trail, that’s not the case. The one small sport quad that’s considerably quicker is Yamaha’s air cooled, two valve, overhead cam Raptor 250.

WHAT’S SO GREAT ABOUT THE HONDA’S TRANSMISSION?

It works for well for riders of any skill level. Unlike a conventional manual clutch manual transmission, a learner can get familiar with pulling out, shifting and stopping without stalling. First timers can even motor around in one gear if they like. Unlike machines with automatic transmissions, the Honda’s SportClutch lets the rider pop or slip the clutch for faster starts, more control, and more fun. The Honda also has reverse, which is handy in tight spots on the trail.

HOW FAST IS IT?

It moves for a 250. The Honda easily gets away from automatic transmission 250 sport quads like Can Am’s DS250 in drag races, and it can hang with bigger machines like Arctic Cat’s 300 DVX and Kymco’s Mongoose 300. The Yamaha Raptor 250 is the only machine in the Honda’s class that’s significantly quicker.

HOW IS THE POWER ON THE TRAIL?

It’s fun and easy to control. The 250X has very crisp throttle response and strong low and midrange power for a machine of its size, so it feels fast. Normal trail speeds put the Honda in the meat of its power curve, so there’s enough snap to lift the front end or break the rear wheels loose to slide around tight turns. The five speed transmission gives the rider more control over the power than an automatic and the option to use the clutch manually adds all sorts of fun possibilities for skilled, sport minded riders.

Wide open spaces find the Honda’s power flattens out at high revs, but the 250X is strong enough on top to go more than 45 mph on level ground.

WHAT’S THE SUSPENSION PACKAGE LIKE?

Like what you find on most bigger sport quads, just simpler. The 250X has a double A-arm front end and single shock, solid axle swingarm rear suspension. Bigger sport quads have all sorts of suspension adjustments but there are none on the 250X, not even spring preload adjusters on the shocks. Fortunately, the Honda’s suspension tuning is more correct than on most small sport quads, so there’s less need to adjust it.

HOW DOES THE SUSPENSION WORK ON THE TRAIL?

The 250X has a smoother, better controlled ride than most sport quads its size. The Honda’s suspension is slightly firm, which is just what you want on a sport quad for crisp handling and good bottoming resistance, but it’s also compliant. We were impressed at well the Honda soaked up rocks, ruts and roots. Most 250 and 300cc sport quads have a harsher ride.

Fast, aggressive riders can bottom the Honda’s suspension on big jumps or when hitting big bumps at speed, but it doesn’t bottom excessively.

HOW IS IT FOR JUMPS?

Snappy power, good balance and good suspension make the Honda a great machine to learn the basics of jumping on. The suspension’s limited travel and soft settings can teach riders how to choose jumps and finesse landings to avoid bottoming the suspension. Flat landings will bottom it pretty easily.

WILL IT WHEELIE?

With ease. The Honda’s sharp throttle response and the extra control the SportClutch and five speed transmission provides makes getting the front end up easy and fun. It can be a chore on machines with automatic transmissions.

HOW DOES IT HANDLE?

Better than ever. The 250X has always been a nimble, willing handling machine, but we’ve recommended performance tires for previous models to sharpen up its cornering. The Maxxis tires on the latest 250X make its cornering more crisp and direct than in the past. There’s still some room for improvement with even sturdier six ply tires, and shocks with spring preload adjustment could help tune out some unwanted body roll, but most riders will like the way the Honda feels on the trail.

HOW DOES IT SLIDE?

Better than some small sport quads. The 250X doesn’t steer with the throttle like a Raptor 250, but it’s easier to slide than most small automatic transmission sport quads. The Honda’s manual transmission makes the throttle response more solid than on automatics, so it’s easier to break the rear wheels loose. The new semi low profile rear tires flex less and slide more predictably than tires on previous models.

HOW ARE THE DETAILS?

Mostly good. The 250X’s ergonomics are very good and the controls have a smooth, high quality feel. Why the little 250 is wider than Honda’s larger sport quads is a mystery. We like the 250’s throaty but quiet exhaust tone . We wish it didn’t take so long to warm up. The Honda’s shaft drive is a little heavier and less efficient than chain drive but it adds valuable ground clearance and eliminates the chores of lubing and adjusting a chain. The five speed transmission and SportClutch are big plusses for sport riders but the Honda’s inability to start in gear is a drag.

WHAT IS OUR FINAL ANSWER?

Thanks to the SportClutch, the Honda 250X is a great choice for more kinds of riders than any other small sport machine. It’s fun for first time riders and it keeps on being entertaining long after basic riding skills are mastered. There are small sport quads that are simpler to ride for beginners and some that offer more performance for serious sport riders, but none bridge the gap like the Honda.

HIGHS

-Unique SportClutch provides manual clutch performance and automatic clutch simplicity

-Snappy low end power

-Proven durability

-Low maintenance

LOWS

-Doesn’t start in gear

HONDA SPECIAL OFFERS IN EFFECT AT PRESS TIME

-2.99% financing on 2011 250X

-$200 in Bonus Bucks on 2011 250X

HONDA 250X ENGINE/TRANSMISSION

Engine type…Air-cooled, OHV, 2-valve, 4-stroke

Displacement…229cc

Bore x stroke…68.5mm x 62.2mm

Compression ratio…9.2:1

Lubrication system…Wet sump

Carburetion…22mm Keihin

Additional cooling…Oil cooler

Starting/back-up…Electric/none

Starting procedure…In neutral only

Choke location…Center pod

Idle adjustment..Screw on left side of carb

Air filter…Washable oiled foam

Access…Unlatch seat, unlatch 4 thumb clips, remove lid and filter (no tools)

Transmission…Manual shift, five speed with automatic clutch and reverse

Reverse procedure…In neutral, move fender-mounted selector to “R”, press shift lever down

Drive system…2WD

Final drive…Shaft

DIMENSIONS/CAPACITIES/WEIGHTS

Fuel capacity…2.5 gal.

Wheelbase…44.3″

Overall length/width/height…68.5″/41.8″/42.4″

Seat height…31.4″

Ground clearance…5.9”

Wet weight…379 lb.

ROLLING CHASSIS

Frame…Round mild-steel tubing

Suspension/wheel travel:

Front…Double A-arms with non-adjustable shocks, 5.9″

Rear…Swingarm with non-adjustable shock, 5.7″

Brakes/actuation:

Front…Hydraulic discs/right hand lever

Rear…Drum left hand lever, right foot

Parking brake…Rear brake lever lock

Tires:

Front ..22×7-10

Dunlop Rear…20×10-9

ELECTRICAL

DC outlet…None

Lighting… Single 30W headlight

Rear…Taillight/brakelight

DETAILS…Neutral and reverse indicators

Colors…Red, black

Suggested retail price…$4299

Contact…Honda, (310) 532-9811

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