A workhorse from China

by Andy Bryenton

With the rise of side-by-side off-road vehicles as the all-purpose workhorse for farmers in New Zealand, you could be forgiven for thinking that the ‘U’ in UTV stands for ubiquitous. Everywhere you go, you’ll see these tough little vehicles spraying weeds, carrying fencing tools or herding livestock. Now a new contender in the market looks to open up the UTV option for even more farmers, with advantages over the traditional quad bike.

CFMoto may be a new name in the field, but they come with a powerful entry into the market in the form of their UForce 550. The product of over 20 years of liquid cooled engine technology from one of the biggest manufacturing companies in China, the UForce range is a distillation of what farmers want from a side-by-side, concentrated into a product, which ticks all the boxes. Ground clearance, the ability to handle deep mud and tough terrain, a reliable, easy to service engine — it’s all here, in a package, which comes with a surprisingly economical price tag.

The heart of the UForce 550 is a 498cc four valve, four-stroke liquid cooled engine developing 38 horsepower and 43 newton metres of torque. That’s plenty for most farming tasks, and combined with the low centre of gravity afforded by the placement of the compact engine block it means that the UForce 550 is a stable platform for all kinds of rural chores. Seating for two with a wide and capacious tray in the rear means lots of options — 360 kilos of load capacity with two up. Add in a CVT transmission for smooth power delivery and the ability to switch from two to four wheel drive in the field, and you have a competent working machine ready to handle the hard knocks.

What sets it apart from many contenders is the fact that this machine has not been engineered for hunting in the American wilderness or for recreational use on the trails — though it could accomplish either. Built in one of the world’s largest engineering and manufacturing centres, it’s been tested on the ground in some of the most demanding, isolated conditions of south Asia. Farms there have also seen the benefit of a tough little roll caged working machine with the economy and power balance of a 500cc mill — but of course, they lack the infrastructure of a First World economy like New Zealand and often boast higher temperatures, deeper mud, worse roads and trails — the list goes on. If CFMoto can thrive in these conditions, they can excel on the farms of Northland.