Reviews

Review Kawasaki Mule Pro-FX

Farm Trader NZ looks at the popular Kawasaki Mule Pro-FX to suss out why it deserves a spot in your farm vehicle line-up

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Showing battle scars after a few thousand hours but still running like clockwork

Although the Kawasaki Mule Pro-FX is an older model, it still more than holds its own against newer and more modern contenders. This specific machine I spent some time with isn’t even brand new — or anywhere near it.

Manufactured in 2020 and with around 3000 hours on the clock, the unit is well used but continues to prove itself reliable (which rates highly on the wish list for farmers) as a consistent performer and the ultimate workhorse for a variety of tasks on a cattle property in Queensland, around three hours inland from the Brisbane coast.

Test time

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On a rare wet Australian day; ideal for a Farm Trader bike test

As this is neither a new machine nor a model, we’re potentially able to give a more accurate analysis of how this unit has gone over time and in terms of running costs. It turns out that running costs have basically been limited to petrol, oil, and filters, so you really can’t complain or get any more economic than that. We used the Kawasaki Mule for checking and shifting cattle and discovered it’s also a comfortable form of transport. As a midsize side by side, there’s a bench seat across the width of the interior of the machine, with room for a small child at a squeeze.

Our test machine had a canvas seat cover to protect the seat so underneath was still like new. To suit the needs of this property, a spray tank and hose reel had been fitted to the deck along with a small toolbox for water fittings and fencing gear.

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The Mule PRO-FX is just at home in the Ozzy outback as it is in the NZ farm environment

One area the Mule could improve is around making the use of more possible storage options, as many new models do (but perhaps also that reflects how we never leave home without a pocket full of technology these days, as well as other daily accessories).

To make greater use of the deck area, this machine had a bed extender, allowing more room for storing electric fence gear. It also had the mounting point of an attachment frame for a small broadcast spreader. The rear tow hitch is rated to 680kg, which should be enough for most tasks, and by selecting Low range, the single-cylinder 695cc engine had plenty of grunt for pulling and towing work.

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The 695cc petrol engine has enough get-up-and-go to fly through the day’s work

Transmission/4WD

Like many other manufacturers, Kawasaki has for some time used a CVT belt-driven transmission on its side by side utility vehicles, including the Mule PRO-FX. There’s good reason for sticking with this, as they are easy to operate, efficient, and reliable. And by reliable, I mean our test machine is still on its original belt — the main wear item in the belt-driven transmission.

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Simple for all staff to operate with dual range CVT transmission and 4WD/difflock at the flick of a button

This is not surprising given the rest of the machine has needed little more than basic servicing to keep it performing day after day.

Operation of the transmission is straightforward: tap through from either low to high or back down to neutral and reverse. If not in neutral, putting your foot on the brake pedal will allow you to start in any gear. Two-wheel/four-wheel drive is engaged from stopped with a rocker switch on the dashboard. Rear difflock uses the same system when you need extra traction. While we did have rain when we were testing, the ground was only slippery on top and never challenged the Mule’s 4×4 off-road ability.

Construction

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4-wheel independent, adjustable suspension

A strong steel ladder frame is the base from which the Mule PRO-FX is built. Steel belly plates are also standard to protect the underside of the machine from damage. From each corner, wheels are mounted on A-arm independent suspension, to allow smooth travel over rough ground. While I wouldn’t rate it as the smoothest I’ve experienced, it’s tricky finding the right balance between comfort and load-carrying capacity of a utility machine.

Where Kawasaki has taken operator comfort into consideration is in the delivery of its easy tilt adjustable steering column catering for different driving positions (both for comfort and safety), and the electric power steering so you don’t feel like the steering wheel is constantly being ripped out of your hands, as experienced on some other brands. Like most utility side by sides, a tilting rear deck allows access to the engine for servicing.

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The versatility of a side by side is hard to dispute, with that rear deck useful for a range of tasks

Comfort and safety

As a utility machine, the Mule PRO-FX is designed for functionality and useability over style. Over time, the model has had a bit of a cosmetic upgrade in terms of lighting, etc. The incorporation of solid half doors as standard is also a great addition, ensuring bodies stay within the machine. It’s more effective than mesh used on some others, which just ends up getting removed, as they’re fiddly to deal with.

In addition to the obvious ROPS structure to protect occupants, they also need to be seat belted in. If you don’t have your seat belt on, the speed is restricted, which works as a good reminder.

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Standard steel front bar to protect the machine panels

Engine

A single-cylinder four-stroke petrol engine provides the get-up-and-go for this model of the Mule range. At 695cc, it has enough power to do most jobs around the farm, without needing shares in the oil refinery, and with a 36-litre tank, you should have plenty to get through a full day’s work.

Summary

Given its pedigree, coming from the Kawaski stable of Mule side by sides, you really don’t expect anything less than a bullet-proof workhorse. At its price point, I believe the MX- PRO is well worth a place in your machinery line-up for those looking at a mid-size side by side that’s comfortable and capable of getting the job done.

Kawasaki Mule Pro-FX Specifications

Engine

4-stroke, single-cylinder, liquid-cooled, SOHC 4 valve
Power 695cc
Fuel Petrol
Transmission

Dual range (high/low) CVT with reverse

Power steering  Electric power steering
4WD system 2×2/4×4, shaft drive, dual-mode
differential
Suspension 4-wheel independent, adjustable spring load
Tyres Front, 4 ply  25 x 8 x 12 inch, Rear, 4 ply 25 x 10 x 12 inch
Wheels 12-inch steel
Dimensions 2794mm x 1524mm x 19mm (LxWxH)
Wheelbase  2005mm
Turning circle  4.2m (minimum)
Towing capacity  680kg
Bed capacity  317kg

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Photography: Mark Fouhy

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