KAWASAKI Mule 4010 Trans 4×4 – best all-rounder

First impressions:

A Unimog-esque, almost military, look with good ground clearance and a sturdy brushed-steel roll cage.

The whole vehicle is well thought out, with the Trans option giving the choice of seating for four or a longer load bay.

Chassis and suspension

The engine bay is a more compact, boxed-in affair than on the other machines, which helps to deaden noise and limit the amount of mud that gets thrown up around the engine and gearbox.

It has single wishbones, coil springs and dampers up front and a rigid rear beam (like the Kubota) supported by a combination of leaf springs, coil springs and dampers.

Engine and transmission

The engine was the smoothest, quietest and most refined on test – its 953cc and 3-cylinders pumping out 24hp. The twin-range, belt-driven CVT is smooth and the range of ratios in “Hi” means there’s never the need to drop into “Lo”, even on the steepest of slopes.

Watch the Kawasaki Mule being put through its paces

 

Driveability

Drives more like a 4×4 than a buggy – straightforward and responsive. The gear change located up on the dash is easy to fathom and undemanding.

Diff-lock and 4wd are engaged via simple lift-and-shift mechanical levers that are unlikely to ever give grief. The power steering is exceptionally light.

Braking

Not so good here. The combine-style belt-drive variator transmission offers no engine braking on downhill slopes. So the Mule has the greatest tendency to do the “runaway train, never coming back” trick if you’re not adept with your left-foot braking.

The drum brakes on each corner proved disappointing in comparison to other machines’ discs and a heavy stamp inevitably resulted in all four wheels locking up.

Practicality and servicing

Air intakes for transmission cooling and engine are high up on the roll-frame, so there’s no danger of sucking in dust, debris or water. However the load bay is heavy to tip – it needs a gas strut.

Although there’s lots of space around the engine, maintenance access isn’t great. However storage is the best on test, with a huge front compartment that could hold medicine, foot shears and probably a whole lamb

Cab

Simple and utilitarian, with bench seats a bonus – but note that these aren’t road legal. Although there’s a speedo, there are only warning lights for temperature, oil and preheat.

The floor is clear of complications and easily power-washable.

Pros

Four-person (although this is an option) and very easy to change

Driveability (like a 4×4) and electric power steering

Best build quality

Cons

Free wheeling

Ineffective drum brakes

Maintenance access tricky 

To see results from the other buggies click on the link below:

Massey Ferguson 20 MD – best handling at speed

John Deere Gator XUV 850 D

JCB Groundhog 4×4 – best load independentsuspension

Kubota RTV 900 – best at braking

And for more pictures from the tests click here.