REVIEW: We put KYMCO's fuel-injected MXU 450i, sport Maxxer 450i through their paces

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Take one motojournalist who hasn’t ridden in the dirt since grade school and whose only experience on quads was ranch-work-related, and then throw him into a giant dirt-riding paradise in South Carolina with a fleet on new rip-snortin’ 450 sport-utility quads.

It’s a recipe for disaster, but in this case, disaster does not ensue.

Chalk this up as a win for KYMCO’s new pair of fuel-injected ATVs, the sport-utility MXU 450i (MSRP $5,899) and the sport Maxxer 450i (MSRP $6,599).

Both machines feature a liquid-cooled 443cc four-valve single that produces good power throughout the rev range, if a little flat up top. Still, this was a rev-happy motor that was a blast to wring out.

Both 450s feature switch-on-the-fly 2WD/4WD and utilize independent rear suspension systems, with the sportier Maxxer incorporating a rear sway bar to minimize body roll. Between that sway bar, revised steering geometry and lightweight aluminum wheels, the Maxxer was an absolute joy to push around both slow, tight trails and wide-open curves.

If things did get a bit hairy, you could always engage the front wheels to increase traction and add stability under power. I was amazed how hard I could push the Maxxer before it would begin to complain, and even at that point, I still felt I had plenty of control left in reserve. All of this fun came in a vehicle that hid a trailer hitch for towing duties under the curvy sportscar-like bodywork.

The sore spot of the 450 that I noticed was an odd setup linking the brakes front and rear, making it hard to pitch determine exactly how the chassis would pitch under braking.

If customers need a bit more utility than a single hitch, consider stocking the MXU 450i. The base MXU includes the usual front and back racks to strap down cargo and still keeps much of the sporting attitude of the Maxxer.

But riders do need to keep in mind the extra 18 lbs., much of which is over the front wheels, and the softer suspension sans sway bar. The MXU will get off hand in gnarly terrain at speed, so some restraint is required. Jumps, no. Hunting and similar applications, yes.

A special metallic silver LE version is also available for $6,699 that includes alloy wheels, a winch, handguards and a rear cargo box.

Finally, we also had the chance to play with KYMCO’s UXV 500i and 500 side-by-sides. Notice the ‘i’ differentiation. UXV buyers can opt for the fuel-injected version for $8,799 or the carbed version for only $7,699. Both claim the same peak power, so it’s a tempting option for budget-minded buyers.

We primarily used the big UXVs as camera rigs but also made sure to stress test them thoroughly. One trail in particular tight enough to tie the ATVs up in knots was handled by the side-by-side with the proper use of aggression and grace (i.e. trees can be useful for leverage in certain situations).

At the end of two days of riding, it was clear that KYMCO has created some good four-wheelers that are both capable and fun. And while they were the stars of the show, make sure to check out Carolina Adventure World (www.carolinaadvnetureworld.net). With a variety of different tracks, over 100 miles of trails and excellent facilities, this park was one of the best riding venues I’ve had the pleasure to blast around in.

For our review of KYMCO's 2012 scooter lineup, click here.

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