Honda has ruled the ATV market ever since it launched its first quad. It has attracted many ATV enthusiasts of all ages and preferences using its wide array of models in its quad lineup. It’s among the most reliable names on the market, with many owners loyally using it for decades.
Since it has a wide array of versatile quads, you may wonder what the best Honda quads for trail riding are.
Why Is Honda Known To Be a Reliable ATV?
Honda is one of the top five names, frequently compared with Yamaha, Polaris, and Can-Am, when it comes to ATV reliability. The company has been producing quads for over 40 years, offering a wide range of rec/utility and sport models. They come with a wide array of trims, automatic/manual transmission, colors, and accessories.
When Honda introduced its first ATV in 1970 (the Honda ATC90), it became an instant hit and dominated the market of three-wheeled ATVs. It featured a four-speed, dual-range transmission, an automatic clutch, and a 90cc four-stroke engine with 78hp.
The company refined this model in the coming years by upgrading to 110cc, 250cc two-stroke, liquid-cooled engines, five-speed transmissions, and the kids’ versions to maintain its dominance in the market.
The powerful engines, low consumption, rugged yet simple build, and great power delivery are among the most important features that make Honda ATVs reliable.
Sport racers are particularly satisfied with how much abuse Honda quads can take due to their power transmission and metal gears.
The powerful engineering is one of the primary factors that make Honda quads reliable. Honda has great attention to detail. For example, its engines feature pushrods and a cap near the head to ensure their reliability.
They also make sure their vehicles work for many years without requiring much maintenance. They stick to their older designs that have proven reliable to keep their loyal customers.
Many customers believe that companies don’t care about reliability anymore because selling aftermarket parts is more lucrative. However, Honda keeps its loyal customers by offering the same quality but adding new and modern flavors and more amenities.
Honda has also offered automatic quads, like the Pioneer, which offer the same level of comfort, power, and reliability seen in manual, dual-clutch models.
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What Are the Downsides of Honda Quads?
Honda quads are wildly popular among ATV enthusiasts because they’re reliable, lightweight, water-proof, and low-maintenance. Many owners are happy with how their vehicles work flawlessly after many years. Even Honda’s warranty and repair services are much better than those offered by most rivals.
However, Honda quads come with specific drawbacks that vary from one model to another. Here are the main ones:
Although Honda quads never fail you in terms of power, some models with small engines can be low on power at times. For example, Honda Recon has a 229cc engine that may not be as powerful as 700cc quads.
However, this drawback is mostly found with older models that feature smaller engines, and the more recent ones have engines that are nothing short of a beast.
Honda quads may let you down when it comes to appearance and aesthetics. The engineers seem to be more focused on durability than looks, although aesthetics are subjective and maybe the last factor that comes to your mind for an amphibian vehicle.
Again, this drawback may be true for older models, such as the first Honda ATC with its parrot-green color and balloon wheels.
Honda ATVs can be on the more expensive spectrum when compared to rivals. Depending on the model, newer Honda quads can range between 5k and 10k.
However, Honda quads are built to last; they have so many high-quality and heavy-duty components that any ATV enthusiast is willing to pay a few hundred dollars more in exchange for low-maintenance, comfort, and a fun ride.
As mentioned, some drawbacks are specific to certain models, and many of them are solvable by upgrading aftermarket parts.
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Best Honda Quad for Trail Riding
The Rubicon series is one of the most popular models in Honda’s ATV lineup. This lineup has four trims featuring an electric start and a 5-speed automatic transmission.
You can choose between 2- and 4-wheel drives, and all of them come with a digital instrument display.
This model has succeeded in striking a balance with fun, easy riding, and performance. The comfort starts from the well-cushioned seats and spreads to other components like the handlebars and all aspects of trail riding.
Different model years come with different engine sizes, including 475cc and 518cc. The 2020 model has a single-cylinder, fuel-injected, liquid-cooled 518 engine that provides incredible power and a smooth ride.
The independent suspension comes with dual A-arms, providing a smooth ride and great balance between front and rear wheels. But perhaps its most significant advantage is the Dual Clutch Transmission that eliminates the drive belt.
It features cutting-edge technology that allows you to choose between automatic and manual. The computer picks up your driving habits and changes gears accordingly to give you better comfort.
It’s a versatile vehicle that you can use for hunting, farming, and fun trail riding. But the striking feature of the automatic transmission is that it shifts gears according to what you’re doing.
- Reliable and powerful automatic transmission.
- Spacious front and rear racks suitable for farming purposes.
- Powerful engine.
- Not suitable for jumping.
- The most expensive Honda quad.
The Fourtrax Rancher comes with a 420cc four-stroke, single-cylinder, liquid-cooled engine. However, it comes in different varieties with various features.
For example, the base models have a manual transmission with five forward speeds and a reverse gear, while the clutch is automatic, meaning you can change gears by clicking the clutch up and down with your foot.
Other models can have an automatic transmission, 4-wheel drive, independent rear suspension, and power steering. The ES trim comes with Honda’s digital instrument package, featuring indicators for gear position, fuel level, speed, among others.
The 4WD models come with Dual Clutch Transmission and are fully automatic. They feature a solid rear axle with a dual-arm independent rear suspension.
Regardless of the trim and model, all Honda Ranchers are unbeatable for trail riding with comfort and utility in mind. All of them have the same payload and towing capacities.
- Varied trims and features.
- Great ergonomics.
- Digital displays.
- Storage racks on front and back.
- Direct power delivery.
- Low payload and towing capacities compared to rivals.
- Single-rider only.
This model doesn’t have a modern version because it was made between 1999-2009. But many older Honda quad models are great for trail riding and check many boxes that later modern models don’t.
It’s among the most famous and popular Honda quads because it has excellent mountain and hill-climbing performance. And since it’s an older model, you can get it at a great price, making it the most affordable option on this list.
The 397cc air-cooled, single-cylinder, four-stroke engine may not be the most powerful one out there, but it performs exceptionally well in trail riding. It’s highly efficient thanks to its dual intake and dual exhaust motor ports and reaches a maximum speed of 72 mph and 28 horsepower.
What makes the Honda 400Ex particularly suitable for trail riding is it’s extremely lightweight.
Weighing only 386 pounds (175kg), it can easily handle rough trains and high land levels. However, its low weight doesn’t mean it’s flimsy; its engine can deliver incredible speed for its type.
- Not so powerful for advanced riders.
- Not as many features as modern models.
The Foreman 4×4 also comes in different varieties. The base model features a 518cc, four-stroke, liquid-cooled engine, and an electric start. The manual transmission has five forward speeds and reverse, but the clutch is automatic.
It also comes in EPS, and ES EPS trims but all come with swingarm rear suspension and a choice of 2WD and 4WD.
It features an engine with a semi-dry-sump that makes it lightweight, compact, and short enough to increase its ground clearance and lower its center of gravity. These features make the Foreman 4×4 an incredible choice for trail riding.
The EPS (Electric Power Steering) model provided even more comfort through lowering steering effort and can handle even the roughest train with improved strength and ruggedness.
- Longitudinal engine
- High road clearance
- Direct drive
- Low towing capacity
Final Thoughts and Best Pick
Honda is a big name in the realm of ATVs. Its lineup of quads is arguably the most extensive among the top contenders, offering something for every budget, taste, and purpose. Honda quads are built to last, with highly reliable components that need minimal maintenance during their lifetime.
Our best pick of Honda quads for trail riding is Honda Fourtax Foreman 4×4 because it has every feature that you may need in a quad. It’s lightweight yet powerful to handle steep and rough terrain and has an ergonomic design to offer superior comfort. The front and back cargo racks are detachable, and the engine is easily accessible to offer better maintenance.