It's that time of year again — planning for maize.
Since then it has released the capable Pioneer 700 and more recently the Pioneer 500, a side-by-side that sits closer to the large quad market in terms of size and price. With the heat coming down on quads from the nanny state, Honda’s timing couldn’t be better.
The Pioneer 500 shares the mechanical heart of its stable-mate, the TRX500. The bulletproof 475cc, liquid-cooled, fuel injected single-cylinder puts a useful amount of grunt through the manual gearbox – also from the quad. It’s a willing unit, if a little noisy when pushed.
This is a well-proven drivetrain suited to farm use, especially with the vehicle control and engine braking afforded by the manual transmission. Safety down hills is a weakness with some side-by-sides due to the lack of engine braking.
The low range first gear in the Pioneer is the perfect ‘crawl’ ratio for off-road driving – it’ll go most places you point it – and for bringing the cows in at a calm, leisurely rate.
Performance up through the gears is good rather than startling, but this is not a racing vehicle despite the aggressive styling. In typical Honda fashion, it feels like it’ll take its punishment on the farm without fanfare and without complaint.
While sharing its drivetrain with the TRX500 quad, the Pioneer has a full chassis in which all the heavy bits are set low for stability, and the wheel track is wider.
Because it is not a huge vehicle, the full roll cage can give the impression that it is tall and narrow, an optical illusion dispelled once you’re underway. You can chuck the small Pioneer around and feel secure. Similarly on inclines it felt stable. As with all vehicles there’s a limit but we didn’t find it.
Would you buy one of these instead of a quad? Depends what you need it for, but with the current special price of $15,995 the Pioneer 500 is slightly cheaper than many +500cc quads, offers two seats, the safety of seatbelts and full roll-over protection plus doors and door nets to keep body parts inside the vehicle if you do roll it.
A big plus in our minds though is comfort. Easy to get in and out of, and with a cushy ride from the fully independent suspension with 150mm travel shocks, the Pioneer 500 makes farm transport easy. Our tester was fitted with some of the many factory accessories available for this model; in particular, a roof and a windscreen with a single wiper, added to the comfort.
It also had an optional cargo tray fitted. Not the biggest tray in the world but still useable and far more practical than the standard carrier.