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Long-Term Review: As the miles add up, Honda’s newest side-by-side proves its worth at work and play
It’s been three months since I picked up a Honda Pioneer 500 side-by-side from Ramsey Waite, the local dealer near our West Coast editorial office in Eugene, Oregon.
During that time we’ve only put about a 100 miles on it, limited mostly by the winter weather. Those miles have been short-distance jaunts during hunting season and handling work-related tasks. The odometer reading is sure to increase as the weather warms.
But what seat time we have had in the new machine has revealed a lot about Honda’s newest entry into this entry-level segment of utility/recreational machines.
The model we have is the base version that retails for $8,499. It comes without a bed, roof or windshield, all of which are options. And all of which move the price up into the range the competitors such as Polaris and Yamaha reside with their tilt-beds.
We need a some way to keep chainsaws, tools, fuel and gear stored.
So instead of ordering the $500 Honda bed or $300 cargo tray, a friend whipped together a cargo box made out of scrap plywood and 2x6s that bolts to the Pioneer’s tubular rear rack. Works fine and cost all of $10.
We did get the hard roof ($360) and windshield ($400) to keep the winter rain off our heads and wind out of our faces.
Those accessories clamp into place in just a few minutes without hand tools. That’s a nice touch as they can be added/removed almost on an as-needed basis.
The 50-inch-wide 500 is comfortable on smoother dirt roads and farm fields. Wished it had a little more suspension travel for running over the rougher terrain.
Lack of traction has never been an issue during our uses, and power has been adequate for the utility and hunting tasks it’s been used for up until this point in our long-term test.
And its agility in tight places is nice; the steering is quick, the seats comfortable.
I am a little perplexed by the ultra-low first gear, which has no real use unless you might be towing a heavy trailer or inching up/down some really steep incline.
What I find myself doing is starting off in either 2nd or 3rd gear, which is much smoother on the occupants and transmission than starting in 1st.
Honda needs to rethink that transmission gearing part.
Love the paddle-shifters. Hate having to pull the lever under the dash and shift the paddles to get into reverse. It’s cumbersome and not the least bit intuitive.
Future plans are to take the Pioneer 500 to the Oregon Dunes for a day or two of beach/dune recreational riding and exploring.
The 475cc four-stroke, which we talked about in our first Pioneer 500 article, doesn’t have the horsepower to compete against the bigger, more refined sporty side-by-sides on the steeper dunes. Still, it’s more than adequate to run the beach and motor around the lakes and lower elevations.
So far this basic entry-level recreational side-by-side has shown it’s Honda blood: conservative and well built for utility and lighter recreational uses.