Honda has updated both its top-end TRX420 and TRX500 ATV models, improving the ride, easing the steering and making maintenance easier. David Cousins tries them out

It doesn’t seem very long since Honda last updated its 420cc and 500cc heavy-duty ATVs . One reason for the change, we’re told, is that after many years of leaving ATVs to the recreation sector, US farmers are now buying them in large numbers.

That, in turn, has prompted the company to make these popular machines more comfortable to use and easier to look after.

You might reasonably think that there’s not much scope to update what is a relatively simple and well sorted machine. However, Honda has made changes to most components.

Comfort

One way to improve ride quality is to lengthen the suspension travel, so the TRX420 gets 10mm more travel both at the front and rear and the TRX500 gets 15mm. The seat is deeper and softer, too, and a new swingarm at the back is said to make things more comfortable.

Steering has been improved, too and full power steering is now available as standard on the TRX420FPM and the TRX500FPE. On the TRX500 there’s also a new option of full diff-lock, with a symbol that pops up on the dash to remind you it’s on.

Weights and measures

With more and more farmers putting heavier equipment (mostly slug-pelleters) on to the back of their ATVs, overloading is an increasing danger, says Honda. To ease things it has boosted weight capacity of the TRX500 from 30 to 40kg at the front and from 60 to 80kg at the back. At the same time, alternator output has been boosted by 20% to help power those bigger slug pelleters.

Running out of fuel is a frequent worry for many users, so the display on the dash now warns you twice that you’re in danger of running out. That’s particularly important on the TRX500, which no longer has a reserve tank. It also warns you that a service is imminent.

Maintenance

One of the drawbacks of ATVs is that their reliability tends to mean they don’t get much maintenance from owners and riders. To reduce that, Honda has produced a one-piece centre engine cover that, when pulled upwards, exposes the whole engine area.

The coolant rad on both the TRX420 and TRX500 is easier to get to, too.

What are they like to drive?

We had a soggy blast up and down some fairly steep slopes on a selection of different TRX models around Lake Vrynwy in north Wales. First impressions are that the new power steering set-up does make life easier for those who spend a fair time in the saddle and is worth going for.

The bigger, wider seat and more compliant suspension also seem to be an improvement on the previous models .

Which would you choose? It depends on what you’re using it for, of course, but the bigger 500cc model stays more planted to the ground, while the smaller 420cc seems to have a nicer engine.

And while the auto-shift model works perfectly well, the traditional foot-operated gearbox version is still perfectly suited to the modern age.

Availability

The 420 is available now, with 500cc models arriving March/April.