STARTING to recapture the majority of the ATV and UTV markets, Honda now makes up 51.3 per cent of UK sales, its side-by-side Pioneer enjoying increasing success. Alternative makes from Korea and China have come onto the market and attracted customers, mainly due to their rock-bottom prices.

But while Honda has never been an economy brand, its durability, longevity and reliability have persuaded buyers to return to it and invest the extra.

Forestry Journal: Maxxis tyres still provide the grip.Maxxis tyres still provide the grip.

Undergoing significant and useful upgrades across the entire TRX range of nine variants, all models from the 420 FM1 to the 520 FA6 get vastly improved cargo racks front and rear with integrated accessory slots, the 520 FE6 now capable of carrying 45 kg on the front rack, 85 kg on the rear and a 600 kg towing maximum.

All models also acquired a 1.9-litre utility box mounted on the front that’s easily accessed while still sat on the quad, along with much-improved front CV joint protection. Bodywork has also been redesigned to provide the rider with enhanced protection from splashes, spraying mud and low-lying branch and undergrowth intrusion.

Forestry Journal: A 1.9-litre utility box has been added to all new Honda quads.A 1.9-litre utility box has been added to all new Honda quads.

As the new model names suggest, there’s been a functional increase in power. Both the fuel-injected single-cylinder 420 and the 520 are now 18 cc larger than their predecessors, the 420 retaining its ersatz manual transmission of clutchless foot-operated shift while the FE6-spec TRX520 now benefits from Honda’s interpretation of the modern DSG automatic transmission. Basically, one clutch takes care of the odd-numbered gears and the other the even-numbered gears. The end result, in its basic form, is a quicker, smoother, seamless shift when in full automatic mode.

Forestry Journal: Flatter, more user-friendly racks have been added front and rear.Flatter, more user-friendly racks have been added front and rear.

Where the new automatic transmission differs is that besides the conventional option of setting the sequential mode whereby the rider changed up or down on the thumb-operated rocker switches, flicking the up or down shift whilst in full automatic activates an instant override especially useful on steep ascents, descents or when towing. Hit the shift and even in automatic the TRX520 will immediately shift up or down, bringing engine braking into effect on downhills. If the shift buttons are then untouched for over 30 seconds, the quad will revert to full automatic.

Forestry Journal: High and low drive can now be selected while the wheels are still moving.High and low drive can now be selected while the wheels are still moving.

Two other transmission improvements are that the high/low ratio lever situated to the left of the conventional-layout handlebars can be shifted with the wheels still slowly moving. The other step up – and something that should gain universal acclaim – is the simplified selection of reverse gear. Gone is the small, fiddly lever, the need to bring the quad to a halt and engage neutral. Instead, by depressing a bright red switch located between the front brake lever and left-hand grip, the rider engages reverse even if the wheels are still slowly rotating. This is only to be found on the FA and FE models, but is a revision both welcome and long overdue.

Forestry Journal: Hand grip controls are the conventional layout but with an improved reverse-engagement system.Hand grip controls are the conventional layout but with an improved reverse-engagement system.

The model on test was the TRX520 FE6, complete with independent rear suspension that embodied all of Honda’s improvements. From the moment you climb on board, the changes for the better can be felt. There’s no physical sensation of engaging ‘D’, throttle response is smoother, the TRX520 gathering speed with far less effort. As with all Honda quads, the seat, riding position, control placement and handlebar angle will suit most riders, the wider bodywork giving a more contained feel.

Acceleration is even and easily controlled, the suspension offering a ride that is able to eliminate a high percentage of surface bumps and undulations to a degree where the amount of riding while seated is increased. However, as with all quads on uneven surfaces, the knees-bent stance is still the one to be adopted. Riding on the usual 25 x 8-12 front and 25 x 10-12 Maxxis tyres on steel rims, the 520 has a 3.5 m turning radius, a 24 cm ground clearance, dual hydraulic caliper brakes with 18.5 cm and 21.5 cm suspension travel fore and aft. And for those who venture far afield, the 14.7-litre fuel tank should be more than sufficient for most long-range users.

Forestry Journal: Brighter headlights and a new grille single out the 520 models.Brighter headlights and a new grille single out the 520 models.

Overall, while the new 420 models have been improved, it’s the 520 versions – especially the FA6 – that have taken the Honda ATV brand forward. Usable, practical and of increasing importance, comfortable to operate and ride over extended periods over demanding terrain, if the budget will stand the cost, the FA6 is without doubt the model to place at the top of your list.

The final addition is what Honda refers to as its 3-3-3 system. This equates to a three-year warranty, a three-year subscription to the Datatool Tracker programme and, if you purchase your new Honda quad before 31 December, 2019, you’ll get three years’ zero per cent finance. Whether you opt for all the 3’s or not, the new Honda quads are a considerable improvement on the models they replace. They are now easier to ride and easier to operate, something all quad users will appreciate when hard at work.

Price-wise, the entry-level TRX420 FM1 is £6,425 rising to £8,300 for the TRX520 FA6, all prices requiring 20 per cent VAT to be added.

For more information on specifications and the 3-3-3 deals, head off to your nearest Honda quad dealer or visit