Honda TRX420FPA quad bike

By: Shane Solomon, Photography by: Cherri-Lynn Lomax-Morris


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There’s a reason more farmers than ever before are choosing Honda ATVs over the rest. Apart from the good resale values of the brand, they are a simple, reliable and consistently performing farming platform.

Honda TRX420FPA quad bike
Honda TRX420FPA quad bike
  • Slim profile allows it to negotiate through tight spaces
  • Comfortable and fun ride
  • Runs all day on a tank of fuel
  • Power steering makes handling light and easy
  • Five-speed Twin Clutch transmission with ESP

Here in New Zealand Honda has a fairly large collection of utility ATVs for farmers. The line-up ranges from light duty to serious stump pullers. The 2010 Honda TRX420FPA is in the middle of the spectrum, but it’s one of the most advanced in the Honda stable, with plenty of gadgets and doohickeys.

Performance and handling

The 420FPA makes use of the Honda automatic five-speed Twin Clutch transmission, feeding oomph to the rear wheels via a driveshaft and independent suspension. Riders have the option of switching between full auto and the Electric Shift Programme (ESP), which uses an automatic clutch while allowing for manual gear selection using buttons on the left handlebar. Regardless of Auto or ESP settings, the rider selects Drive or Reverse via the toggle switches.

Using the same controls as the ESP is cleaner and more sophisticated, but in practice the electronics are slower, requiring a distinct pause and occasionally not recognising input. Getting into reverse is a process. Depress the red button above the brake lever, pull the lever and then push the down-arrow on the electronic shift controller. Reaching all the controls with a single hand is a pain in the arse.

Once in Drive, the gear shifting is satisfactory. It’s a little clunky when cold, and smoothes out with harder throttle. Once it’s up to temp, no worries. When in ESP mode the quad is smart enough to prohibit the rider from completely smoking the clutches. The transmission will drop down into third if you attempt to stop and get moving again in fourth or fifth gear. Now that’s pretty cool. Normal use, even out riding on the trails, rarely exceeded third gear. Cruising logging roads will beg for an upshift, but fifth is like an overdrive.

I have to say, I loved the peace of mind provided by leaving it in the Auto setting. For 90 percent of most farm-related tasks, Auto will be pretty sufficient. But when it required heavy pulls or steep grades, controlling the gear selection is definitely more preferable.

Engine and power

The 420cc motor proved capable for most everyday tasks I threw at it. Only the heaviest of pulls will stretch the longitudinally mounted engine. It didn’t break a sweat carrying hay bales, tool kits and such. The TRX420FPA comes with a handy drop-in tow mount, which on our test beastie came fitted with a ball hitch, making it simple to get hooked up to a load. Rack design offers better attachments for lashing cargo than previous models and can support 30 kilos on the front and 60 kilos out back.

Dimensions

At 291kg, the small TRX420FPA is deceivingly heavy, but that’s what direct drivelines front and rear, independent suspension and adding gadgets like power steering will get you. Weight bias puts 159kg up front and 132kg in the rear. The physical dimensions are compact and very manageable. The riding position is comfortable.

Honda says the turning radius is 10.5 feet, but quick turns make it feel a little tippy, especially if the 24x8-12 and 24x10-11 tyres aren’t inflated properly. But the Honda has excellent ability to crawl across obstacles thanks to the tight 1255mm wheelbase. The bumper and chassis design provide great approach angles, even in the tightest ravines. An overall width of 1170mm makes it easy to slip between tight spaces.

Double-wishbone independent shock absorbers handle the rear end, allowing the machine to articulate and improve stability in slow-speed situations. The Maxxis M977/978 knobbies mounted on steel wheels help give the TRX 231mm of clearance, but the majority of that extra room comes from the lack of a traditional swingarm. IRS is known for resisting slides and the 420 is no different. The benefits of separate wheel action wear off when it comes to pitching the rear end. Both ends feature suspension components from Showa with 160mm of travel.

Electric Power Steering (EPS) makes the handling extra light. Speed and torque sensitivity eliminates kickback, and I can’t recall ever having the bars jerked violently in my hands. Honda’s 2WD/4WD is selectable via a hand shifter located under the left handlebar. It operates seamlessly and the extra traction comes in handy. The EPS helps minimise the slowing effects of 4WD by keeping rider input to the bars light so I found myself leaving it in 4WD most of the time.

There’s a healthy 13.3 litres of fuel capacity, and the fuel-injected mill with 34mm throttle body and 12-hole Denso injector is definitely smart with the petrol.

One of the TRX420’s downsides is the lack of storage. There’s nowhere up front and the rear box is anemically small. Storage underneath the taillight is restricted and the tool kit takes up about everything available.

Summary

Overall I’d have to say I came away impressed with Honda’s latest offerings, and I can already see where these models have a leg up on the competition when it comes to a good performing, solid quad for the farm that is just as fun burning up the paddocks as it is carrying strainer posts up the back blocks to repair a fence.

See the Honda TRX420 for sale.

Specifications

Engine 420cc liquid-cooled OHV semi-dry-sump longitudinally mounted single-cylinder four-stroke
Bore x stroke 86.5 x 71.5mm
Fueling Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI), 34mm throttle bodies
Ignition Full-transistorised type with electronic advance
Starter Electric with optional auxiliary recoil
Clutch Automatic
Transmission Automatic
Driveline Direct front and rear driveshafts
Front suspension Independent double-wishbone; 160mm travel
Rear suspension Independent double wishbone; 160mm travel
Front brakes Dual hydraulic disc
Rear brakes Single hydraulic disc
Front tyres 24 x 8-12
Rear tyres 24 x 10-11
Length 2054mm
Width 1170mm
Height 1163mm
Wheelbase 1255mm
Seat height 822mm
Ground clearance 231mm
Turning radius 10.5 feet
Curb weight 291kg
Fuel capacity 13.3 litres (including 2.6-litre reserve)

 

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