Rise of the red contender

by Andy Bryenton

Kymco is one of the biggest names in global scooter, ATV and motorbike manufacturing — but many of us here in New Zealand have only just heard the name of this massive industrial powerhouse. With customers all throughout the challenging Asian market Kymco actually produce more units than several other big names combined.

It all began back in 1963, when even the Japanese auto industry was in its infancy. The whole nation of Taiwan was only founded a decade or so earlier, and helping build a transport infrastructure for a brand new state gave Kymco a steep learning curve. They’ve relished a challenge ever since, taking on the Thai jungles, Cambodian hill country, Burmese river lowlands and even more.

After that gruelling testing ground, Kiwi farms should be a walk in the park, right?

Well, the engineers at Kymco know that the answer is both yes and no.

Harsh terrain comes in different varieties, and the rocky, muddy conditions in our back country may not contain so many poisonous spiders and snakes, but they are a rugged test for a quad. Hence the hours of research and development poured into their MXU 500 ATV — a workhorse designed to keep going and going on the farm, season after season.

It begins with a high-torque 36 horsepower engine mounted low and central for intuitive balance and control.

A tried and tested double overhead cam, four-stroke, liquid cooled 499cc mill provides the get up and go, sitting in that sweet spot between raw power and fuel efficiency. Everything here is designed with ease of use in mind, and some old-fashioned rugged sensibilities are still present for emergencies. Here’s one feature which says it all — there is a modern electric starter, as one would expect. But if you’re out in the field and suffer damage there’s a backup pull starter just in case. This might be a convenience here, but overseas where being stuck in the hinterland is far more dangerous, it’s a life saver. This emphasis on simple and multiplebacked-up systems goes on throughout. The four disc brakes are designed not to pick up muck and stones. The chassis is made to be easy to water blast clean. 

The CVT auto gearbox adjusts itself to the towed load and onboard weight so there’s no need to wrangle a gear stick. And when it comes to servicing and basic maintenance, everything is right there.

Kymco have made a reputation out of building easy-to-use, hard to break machines for people who don’t have the benefit of a first world infrastructure. It’s the right kind of thinking for the Kiwi farm, another place where self-reliance and clever thinking have triumphed over the adversity of nature.