Ride Tested – The Utility Player

Ride Tested – The Utility Player

2012.kymco.mxu500i-irs4x4.red.front.riding.on-dirt.jpgRegardless of the product it’s all about the value these days.  Customers are better educated, more adept at comparison shopping, and expect more for their dollar.  In the powersports world KYMCO has been building components and even entire machines for some of the other manufacturers and by doing so they’ve learned what customers are looking for, how to maintain world class quality standards, and how to build efficiently; all keystones of value.  In their own product line they may not offer nearly as many models as some manufacturers, but they do offer exceptional value with every model they make.  

The KYMCO ATVs and Side x Side models are more than capable of meeting the needs of most owners.  Their top of the line ATV, the MXU 500i IRS 4×4 would be considered a mid-sized model by most manufacturers, yet it comes equipped with the features they most often look for and at a price that won’t break the bank.  We needed to take a closer look.

MXU 500i IRS 4×4 Comfort

The MXU 500i IRS 4×4 represents all KYMCO has learned from years of partnering with other major OEMs, and through their own research and development.  The latest generation of the MXU 500 is a huge upgrade over past models and it all starts with a new, better handling chassis designed as much for recreational riding as it is for work duties.  Independent Rear Suspension allows for a smooth ride over rough terrain but a sway bar helps keep chassis roll to a minimum in aggressive cornering.  An extremely reliable, four stroke engine gets everything rolling, but the most important new feature KYMCO has ever introduced on any model is Electronic Fuel Injection.  The first thing everybody notices though is how it looks.2012.kymco.mxu500i-irs4x4.black.rear.studio.jpg

Visually the KYMCO MXU 500i looks great!  KYMCO always does an excellent job with their bodywork, and just like all KYMCO models the plastic is durable, pliable, and scratch resistant.  More importantly it also fits very well with tight seams between panels and it does a good job of protecting the rider from mud and splashing water.  With its large, recessed headlights, and smooth, sleek lines that flow nicely from one panel to the next it actually looks sporty, especially in red.  Nice job!  Since the KYMCO can be made road legal in some European countries there are a pair of large, rear tail lights formed into the rear plastic.   

In the saddle the MXU feels comfortable.  The seat is soft enough for all day rides but still firm enough to move your body, and it feels spacious yet not bulky or overwhelming. In the center of the steering column is the key and a nice LCD digital display that shows fuel, mph, a clock, a trip meter, an odometer, gear selection, and even high or low beams.  We’re happy to have it and it’s got all the information you need for long days on the trail or around the farm, but a larger LCD would be a nice upgrade on future models.  A 12v accessory outlet is included as well.  We really like that the MXU 500i has dual brake levers on each end of the handlebars, and there is still a foot brake as well.  All other controls are at your fingertips and the gear shift lever is just ahead of your left knee, although we wish the bodywork surrounding it was sculpted differently.  Sometimes during aggressive riding we would ram our knee into it.  We do like the comfortable, rubber coated shift lever however.   2012.kymco.mxu500i-irs4x4.red.right.parked.on-dirt.jpg

On the right fender is small storage compartment that is excellent for your phone, a couple snacks, etc.  We need all the storage we can get and KYMCO even has an option package with a huge storage box that rides on the rear rack.  For serious hauling, the MXU 500i IRS 4×4 comes with both front and rear steel racks and the front is rated for 100 pounds while the rear can carry 200 easily.


Kymco made a major step forward this year by adding Electronic Fuel Injection to some models.  It makes a huge difference when starting in cold weather or when riding at widely varying elevation.  By spritzing in just the right amount of fuel the engine runs smoother and cleaner, and emissions are improved as well.  They will continue to offer carbureted versions of their engines on some models though to help keep costs under control.2012.kymco.mxu500i-irs4x4.green.front-left.riding.over-rocks.jpg

The engine on the MXU 500i is a 499cc, liquid cooled, single cylinder, DOHC 4-stroke.  The engine is fed by a Synerject fuel injection system and Kymco claims it cranks out 36 horsepower.  A wet sump oil system holds 3.8-quarts of oil, and thankfully KYMCO engineers considered maintenance tasks as well.  A spin on oil filter is easily accessed on the right side of the engine and the air filer is located under the seat.  Change the oil and keep the air filter clean and we doubt you’ll ever wear one out since the KYMCO engine testing and reliability standards are off the charts. 

Mated to the engine is a CVT transmission that features Hi, Low, Neutral, Reverse, and Park.  All you need to do is select a forward gear and the transmission will take care of everything else.  Shaft drive gets the power to both ends, and when the going gets sticky 4wd is engaged with a thumb button on the right handlebar.  When things really get deep a front differential lock is there to help pull you along.  

The MXU 500i engine always fired up easily then settled into a nice purr at idle.  On the trail it delivered a throaty exhaust note but was not offensive, and any blip of the throttle was rewarded with an instant yet controlled response from the engine thanks to EFI.  The MXU 500i isn’t going to pull your arms out of their sockets, but it offers more than enough torque to keep trail rides exciting or to do any work around the yard.  It’s got plenty of power for pulling a load or climbing hills, yet it still can slip through tight trees easily.  2012.kymco.mxu500i-irs4x4.right.without-plastics.studio.jpg


KYMCO really improved the suspension on the MXU 500i and at the front dual A-arms with five way preload adjustable shocks get the job done, while Independent Rear Suspension is found at the back.  Suspension travel at both the front and rear is 7.5 inches, and with no axle dragging in the dirt ground clearance is a very respectable 9.5 inches.  Duel disc brakes are used at the front while at the rear a single rear disc is mounted on the drive shaft just before it enters the differential.  To help control body roll a sway bar is connected to the rear suspension arms.  Between the lower frame rails is a 2 inch receiver hitch for towing any load and we were happy to see it is welded into the frame rather than bolted in place.

On the trail the suspension does a very good job of soaking up bumps and controlling the ride under most normal conditions.  It was easy to crawl over downed logs, rocks, and through mud holes, and the tires and wheels held up well.  When we really pushed it through choppy, square edged bumps though it would begin to get a little bouncy as the shocks began to fade from heat buildup, but for most people that will never happen. It was easy to slide around on the MXU 500i during aggressive riding but one thing we would appreciate is a slightly taller foot peg to anchor our feet a little better.  This would especially be true if the pegs were to load up with mud, snow, or ice.  Steering is also very predictable, and firm enough that you feel connected to the ground, yet still easy enough for long trail rides.  2012.kymco.mxu500i-irs4x4.silver.front-right.parked.on-grass.jpg

A New MXU 500i for You

The new MXU 500i IRS 4×4 offers a better ride, more power, and more features than ever before.  Thanks to the new chassis, IRS, great looking bodywork, and most importantly a strong, reliable motor fed by EFI it also offers more value, especially when you consider the very attractive price.  If the red, green, or black base unit doesn’t work for you there is even a silver Limited Edition model that features cast aluminum wheels, a 2500lb winch, hand guards, and a handy cargo box for $7,799 which is less than many competitors base models.  Finally, to add even more value Kymco gives both versions of the MXU 500i IRS a one year warranty.  Regardless of the model though, you’re not going to get these features, quality, or performance anywhere else for the same money.   

Kymco continues to impress us as they improve their lineup each year.  They’ve quietly built the company into an off-road powerhouse and both their products and the company are going to be on the trail for a very long time.


May 4, 2012

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