Honda has added an auto-transmission model to its Fourtrax 420 range of ATVs.

The 420FA can operate in one of two transmission modes. The auto five-speed transmission provides either a fully automatic gear change or, at a flick of a switch, standard push-button manual shifting on demand.

Honda claims the twin-clutch gearbox is the fastest-shifting transmission in its class and power transfer is certainly uninterrupted on the 420cc bike. A head-to-head contest with the electric-shift 420FE saw the new model pulling away from its sibling easily, dispelling the notion that auto bikes can be sluggish.

To start with, the transmission took a bit of getting used to. It’s slightly jumpy at the bottom end, but is responsive overall and the more time you spend riding, the more prepared you are for it.

The 420FA, despite having the same fuel-injected longitudinally mounted engine as the 420FE, has slightly more hp than its sibling, which itself is no stranger to hard work. But the extra poke should prove useful when towing or carrying a slug-pelleter. Independent double-wishbone rear suspension takes over from the previous model’s rigid-beam axle system, improving traction and increasing ground clearance. But under load this could be a disadvantage.

Honda-head-to-head

Ride quality, thanks to the new set-up, is a lot smoother than on the ES and stability on side slopes was improved. The same simple panel arrangement as the rest of the 420 range is continued, and overall style remains unaltered.

Brakes have also been upgraded on the new model to give hydraulic discs all round instead of the rear drum/front disc set-up on the old one.

The age-old Honda faff of selecting reverse seemed simpler, too. Simply hold down the down shift button and depress the little red knob.

On hilly terrain, the auto transmission was a little unpredictable, so the option to switch to gear selection was a welcome one. But engine braking felt safe and reliable with limited slip, thanks to the CVT hydrostatic transmission.

HONDA FA v FE: differences

  • Automatic 5-speed transmission
  • Independent double wishbone rear suspension
  • Hydraulic rear disc braking