Test: Kawasaki Mule Pro-MX

By: Brent Lilley, Photography by: Brent Lilley


Farm Trader's Brent Lilley puts the Kawasaki Mule Pro-MX – a scaled down version of the larger Pro FX, through its paces on his Coromandel beef farm

With new brands and models regularly launched, the UTV side by side market must be one of the fastest-growing in the New Zealand. While it’s great to see plenty of competition, there’s something reassuring about a well-established brand that has been popular with New Zealand farmers for decades.

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The Kawasaki Mule Pro-MX is a robust reliable side by side ideally suited to NZ farms  

Kawasaki has been producing its legendary Mules since the late 1980s, so has plenty of experience in the New Zealand market. These machines have proved that they are built to stand the test of time in the sometimes-tough conditions here.

A recent addition to its expanding range is the Kawasaki Mule Pro-MX – a scaled down version of the larger Pro FX. Nimble and manoeuvrable, it still packs plenty of punch for jobs around the farm as I discovered when I recently one through its paces on my Coromandel beef farm.   

Engine

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The responsive 695cc single cylinder engine is mounted under the rear tray

Mounted low over the rear wheels is a powerful liquid-cooled, 695cc SOHC, four-valve, four-stroke Kawasaki engine. With plenty of acceleration and torque, the electronic fuel injection system delivers fuel on demand to ensure smooth responsive power.

This engine is proven to develop the torque required for climbing the steepest gradients or for towing trailers and is rated to tow almost 700kg. Well balanced, the engine is mounted to the frame on rubber blocks to minimise any vibration through the frame. Fuel tank capacity sits at impressive 36 litres, allowing plenty of work time before refuelling is needed.

Often everything is squeezed in pretty tightly on a side by side, which can make servicing difficult. Fortunately, Kawasaki has thought about this. The oil filter is easily reached and changed on the driver’s side, and the seat lifts up for access to the battery, dipstick, and the air filter. 

The air intake for the engine and CVT is located nice and high under the dash to avoid sucking in mud, dust, and water. Opening the front bonnet gives access to the brake master cylinder and the radiator reservoir.

Transmission

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The sculpted bench seat and adjustable steering wheel create a comfortable driving position 

Like the other Kawasaki Mules in the range, the Pro-MX uses the Kawasaki automatic transmission – a belt-driven continuously variable transmission (CVT) coupled with a high–low dual range transfer case. High gives plenty of speed and acceleration while low gives great pulling power and control when climbing hills or pulling a heavy load.

This transmission has been well developed and refined by Kawasaki for long trouble-free operation. In practicality, it’s smooth and easy to change between high and low. Four-wheel-drive is selected with a switch on the dash and electronically engaged on demand. A limited slip differential is used on the front while the rear diff can be locked electronically with a dash button to get the machine out of any sticky situations. 

Brakes

It’s great to see hydraulic discs brakes on all four corners, with a responsive pedal on the floor to haul the machine to a quick stop if required. I also like the mechanical park brake lever being positioned under the dash, which I find a lot quicker and easier to use than a transmission brake when you’re regularly jumping out to open a gate. Smooth, reliable engine braking is a plus and a key feature on a side by side for me. It all works extremely well together and holds the machine back when descending slopes.

Chassis and suspension

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Dual ‘A’ arm suspension and robust shocks on all four corners for a smooth ride  

A ladder frame chassis built from square tube offers rigidity with a limited amount of flex to soak up the bumps. Reinforced with high tensile steel in high load points, it positions the wheels as close to the corners of the machine as possible, creating a stable platform.

The suspension setup uses dual A arms at all corners with double tube shocks. Designed for a smooth ride while handling heavy loads, 218mm of travel in the front and 231mm travel in the rear wheels handle challenging terrain.

While the suspension and chassis set-up gives a smooth and stable ride, ground clearance can be a little low in some situations, as the longer wheelbase can cause the machine to bottom out occasionally. 

Storage

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Rear towing capacity sits at adequate 680kg

A spacious cargo tray measures 850mm by 1120mm and provides plenty of carrying capacity. The steel checker plate floors withstand bumps and scrapes, and loading is easy, thanks to a rear tailgate. A convenient box section tie rail along the top of the sides also gives added protection.

The tray can be tilted for unloading, with an easily operated latch at the front to unlock it. Well balanced, twin gas struts on either side make tipping easy. With the tray up, there’s also good access to the engine.

Storage has been well thought out with a large compartment under the bonnet and another decent-sized space under the seat. A small glovebox and cup holders on the dash prove useful, along with small pockets for important items.  

Operation

It’s nice to see a bench seat on this typed of machine, which makes getting in and out super easy. Cleverly, the seat is slightly sculpted where the driver and passenger sit, helping hold you in place. The driving position is fairly upright but still comfortable. With an adjustable steering wheel, the pedals are well positioned to allow you to sit naturally without feeling hunched up.

The clear multi-function display includes a digital speedometer, fuel gauge, odometer, hour meter, clock, dual trip meters, 2WD/4WD indicator, water temperature warning indicator, EPS warning indicators, neutral, reverse, and parking indicators. All switches and controls are centrally placed on the dash board within easy reach of the driver.

Verdict

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The Kawasaki Mule offers a safe environment for operator and passenger  

While some might call the Kawasaki Mule Pro-Mx predictable, I personally think this oversimplifies it. Kawasaki has been in this market for a long time and knows what works.

They have combined their reliable and well-proven components in a sturdy stable frame with a powerful responsive engine.

The combination of features and performance suits many farming situations in New Zealand, as its powerful enough to carry and tow a decent load while still being economical, nimble and responsive. As you’d expect, build quality as exceptional.   

Engine 695cc, SOHC, Liquid-cooled, Single cylinder 4-stroke
Transmission CVT belt-drive transmission with high/low range, plus reverse
Final drive Selectable 2wd/4wd with Dual Mode rear differential
Fuel capacity 36L
Front suspension Dual A-arms, 218mm travel
Rear suspension Dual A-arms, 231mm travel
Tyres 25x8-12 front, 25x10-12 rear
Brakes Dual hydraulic discs with twin piston calipers
Ground clearance 269mm
L x W x H 2794mm  x 1524mm  x  1890mm
Cargo bed capacity 320kg
Towing capacity 680kg
Turning radius 4.20 m
Curb weight 720kg

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