Story | Mark Hamerton
We had the chance to ride the Honda Pioneer 700-4 on the rugged trails of the Albert County Trail Blazers, and Sussex Valley All-Terrain Club in south eastern New Brunswick.
At first glance the stylish 4 seater appears quite large, as the roll cage envelopes the rear seats giving it a “boxy” look. The rear cargo area, with the seats folded down is large enough for just about any job, and capable of carrying 1000lbs. Honda has engineered the roll cage separately from the box, allowing the entire bed to be tilted for quick unloading. Our unit had a “Bed Extender” installed that allowed for extra storage on the tailgate while folding forward when not in use, an add-on that would certainly be handy when the rear seats are up as they eliminate most of the storage bed area. Once you find the somewhat hidden interior door handle you can access the flip up seats, a simple process that was obvious enough without instruction. The rear seats were spacious, even for a tall person, and moderately comfortable.
At 60 inches wide the unit allows for ample shoulder room between driver and passenger, and gives the machine a stable stance, reducing roll in corners. I was shocked at how comfortable the driver’s seat was for a bench, the subtly-molded tush areas provide just enough lateral support in the corners or on camber that you don’t feel as if you are about to slide around.
The dash and controls are simple and well laid out, with a three position shifter mounted centrally in dash. The glove box is large enough for your lunch, but not much else, and you will be searching the accessory catalog if you want any more storage. The full roof is a must, providing shade from the sun, and some protection from rain or snow, and our machine came with a 12 inch light bar mounted on the front bumper. A half window in front deflects much of the wind and dust, while staying out of your field of view.
What really caught my attention as I started the 675cc liquid- cooled OHV single-cylinder four-stroke engine was how quiet it was. Noise can be a real factor when hunting, but noise fatigue affects you no matter what you are doing. The gear shift has a solid feel, and as I shifted the three forward speed automatic transmission in to gear the best part of driving a Honda came in to play. The smooth clutch gives the driver total control over the 36 hp, with just a breath on the gas pedal. In a utility role the advantages of a geared transmission over a belt are many.
I wasn’t sure how enjoyable a lengthy trail ride was going to be in a utility Side by Side, for myself or for my passenger, but this is where the biggest surprise came. The combination of advanced suspension, lightweight tires and the curb weight of just less than 1,400lbs provided one of the smoothest rides I have had. Rocks, ruts, roots, and potholes are all soaked up while the drive doesn’t feel disconnected or soft. The driving experience was ideal, in fact relaxing, no matter how bumpy the trails got.
Given the ability to fit four passengers, and still achieve an extremely comfortable ride I feel that this is one of the best Side by Sides we have tested. As an all-around cross platform model the Pioneer 700 4 is a down and dirty workhorse with enough power to take you and your family for a fun ride when the chores are done. Perfect for hunting, fishing, camping and inland boating, Honda has once again hit the mark with this machine.
The entire driving experience was delightful, the lack of power steering was insignificant and I was allowed to focus less on driving and more on the scenery around us. On longer steep hills the engine was not quite powerful enough to maintain higher speeds, but considering this is not a sport model it was ample.
The area we were riding is well known for its sharp rocks, and it wasn’t long before we had a flat tire. The 4 ply stock tires made for a soft ride, but the thin sidewalls were no match for the rough New Brunswick trails. If you are going to play off the farm, I recommend upgraded rubber.
To reach our destination we had one extremely rough trail section to get through. On our way down the steep trail the Pioneer’s turning radius handled the sharp turns and close trees without any need for reversing. The roll cage rubbed a few times in off-camber situations between trees, but all in all I had no difficulty keeping up with the ATVs in front. On our way back the Pioneer impressed me further with its ability to apply torque without the need for high RPM, giving me a strong sense of control as it quietly climbed up the rough stuff without hesitation or even wheel spin.
Thanks to the local Honda/Harley Davidson Dealer “Toys for Big Boys” in Moncton for the use of their Pioneer demo. With their expansive inventory and beautiful showroom we got a good look at the entire line of Pioneer units, and some of the accessories available. •
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