— Testing a top utility machine —
When recreational UTVs first started infiltrating the ATV world, you had two great do-it-all machines in the Yamaha Rhino and the Polaris Ranger XP 700. The original UTV, the Kawasaki Mule, was all work and no play. Fast-forward a decade and Kawasaki has several UTVs for the sport and Rec/Ute markets, as well as a ton on the pure utility side of things. At the top of the Rec/Ute list is the Mule Pro-FXT. This vehicle starts at $13,099 and has a strong work ethic, but can also be used as a hunting or trail rig if the boss allows for that. We chose to test the EPS-equipped LE model that has a price tag of $16,199. The camo version sells for the same. The top-of-the-line Ranch Edition sells for $16,999.
HOW DOES COST COMPARE?
Its main competition includes the Yamaha Viking 6, Polaris Ranger Crew, Can-Am Defender Max and the Textron Prowler Pro. The Mule is quieter, has more cargo room, and is easier to get in and out of than the Viking. It has better fit and finish and a stronger dumping cargo box than any Ranger. Price-wise, the Kawasaki Mule Pro-FXT EPS sits between the Ranger XP1000 EPS ($16,299) and the Ranger 570 Crew at $11,799; however, the 570 is not even offered with power steering. Can-Am’s Defender 800 has some good cockpit cargo features, such as removable storage boxes, and is priced at $15,399 for the red model. We have yet to drive the 800cc Textron six-seater—although it appears to be a decent machine and uses the same engine as this Kawasaki. The Prowler sells for $15,068 if equipped the same as the Mule LE; however, none of the Mule’s competition has the convertible option.
HOW EASY IS IT TO OPERATE?
Kawasaki didn’t just design this Mule for work and play. Its engineers figured out a way to make it convertible in terms of storage and seat capacity. Simply put, you can use the Mule in one-seat (bench) mode and carry up to three people and a ton of cargo or carry six people and still haul a good amount of cargo. The dumping bed only works in the one-seat mode. The bed is made with a hard steel floor with rigid plastic sides and a strong tailgate. This machine is super simple to use, and everything works like it should with no confusion. The door handles are on the outside and work perfectly. The shifter is straightforward, and it is easy to select gears. The parking brake is on the dash and easy to deploy and release. Converting the seat and cargo box is easy, too, and can be done by one person in under a minute.
HOW IS THE POWER?
Smooth! In fact, this is one of the smoothest and quietest gas-powered UTVs you can buy. It’s powered by a compact three-cylinder car engine. It’s a four-stroke with liquid-cooling and fuel injection. The engine is rubber mounted and has a big muffler, helping quiet things down even more. As far as grunt, in low range this Mule is, well, “a mule.” It will drive around fully loaded without protest. It doesn’t have tractor-like power, but it doesn’t struggle either. We filled the large bed with firewood and feed on several trips, and it hauls great. The Mule still trucks along fine loaded in low range at 25 mph. In high range, the Mule will max out at just over 45 mph. In reverse, it is limited to 13 mph.
HOW DOES IT HANDLE?
Like the engine, it’s smooth. The Mule has over 8 inches of travel, so in small bumps and ditches it handles like it’s riding on clouds. It’s tuned for non-aggressive driving and is super plush at slow speeds. There are no sway bars, which adds to its plushness all around. It has body roll if it’s loaded down or has a few passengers on board. But, if you drive it the way Kawasaki intended, it’s nearly perfect. It climbs steep trails well, and the engine braking keeps it under control coming down. You do have to keep your foot on the throttle some or the clutch will freewheel at very low rpm. The hydraulic disc brakes work great, too. Going from forward to reverse is simple and quick. The shifter has good detents, so you don’t end up between gears like on other models.
IS IT ANY FUN?
Yes, just being able to talk to your passengers without having to yell over a loud engine makes the Mule fun. It can get down a trail quick, too, and take you somewhere fun. It’s no slouch on logging roads or maintained trails at your favorite ride park. Of course, high-speed riding and big bumps are out of the question, and any kind of major rock crawling is out, too. This Mule has 4WD but no locking front differential. It does have a rear locking and unlocking diff, which is good for keeping your rear tires from marking up your driveway at home or in a parking lot. The unlocked diff helps give it a tight turning radius, too. If you are out trail riding, the six-seat option is a little crowded if all the passengers are big guys, but smaller people or kids will fit just fine. On a trail ride, we would probably limit the passengers to four big guys if they were over 6 feet tall; however, as a people mover around a farm or job site, there is room for anyone, hard hats and all.
WHAT’S OUR FINAL ANSWER?
We like it. Since the first time we drove this redesigned Mule back in 2014, it has been our favorite Rec/Ute machine. It’s better at work chores than almost anything out there. It runs smoothly and is fun on trail rides. It has been perfectly reliable and holds up well. If we were to add anything to this machine, it would be an electric actuator for the dump bed. The bed is so big and useful that we take advantage of it a lot, so the electric option would come in handy.
2019 KAWASAKI MULE FXT PRO EPS
Engine type 4-stroke, 3-cylinder, DOHC, liquid-cooled
Maximum Torque .48.0 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm
Fuel System DFI with 34mm throttle body
Transmission CVT with H,L,N,R
Final Drive Selectable 2WD/4WD, shaft.
Dual mode rear differential with differential lock
Engine Braking Yes
Alternator Output (max) 75 amp
Front Dual A-arms w/8.7”
Rear Dual A-arms 8.7”
Ground clearance 10.2”
Fuel capacity 7.9 gal
Turning radius 16 ft
Cargo bed dimensions (LxWxH)
Load capacity 1000 lb. (3-person mode), 350 lb.
(6-person mode), 600 lb. (California models), 1616 lb
Seating capacity 6 persons
Towing capacity 2000 lb.
Lighting (2) Halogen (high/low beam) headlights.
Ranch Edition/LE/Camo models (2) additional
auxiliary LED headlights (high/low beam)
Overall length/width/height 133.3”/64”/77.6”
Curb weight 1,911.7lb
Instruments Multi-function display includes
digital speedometer, fuel gauge, odometer,
hour meter, clock, dual trip meters, 2WD/4WD
indicator, water temperature warning indicator,
oil pressure warning indicator, fuel injection warning
indicator, CVT and EPS warning indicators
(except Non EPS), neutral, reverse and parking
indicators, seatbelt reminder lamps
Color choices Timberline Green, Bright White,
Warranty Kawasaki Protection Plus (optional) for
12, 24 or 36 months
Price: Starting at $13,099, $16,199 (as tested)
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