The 2021 Pioneer 520 is built tougher than ever

The new Pioneer 520 will be making it’s way to Australia in 2021. An evolution of the Pioneer 500, the new multipurpose side-by-side boasts updates highlighted by a more powerful engine, upgraded suspension and a handy dump bed.

Measuring 658mm x 983mm x 249mm, the new dump bed has D-ring anchors and cut-outs to accept multiple objects, such as buckets, milk crates, wood dividers, etc. It’s also compatible with Honda’s recently released line of Pro-Connect accessories, including racks, cargo boxes and more, all of which are simple to install and remove.

Compared to the popular Pioneer 500 that preceded it, the new Pioneer 520 features a 43cc larger displacement engine – the largest in its class at 518cc – making it more capable for hauling loads or navigating steep terrain.

Adjustments were also made to the suspension, improving comfort.

Few tools feel as “right” as a versatile side-by-side with the ideal mix of manoeuvrability and power. That perfectly describes the Pioneer 520, which elevates the multipurpose side-by-side’s utility and practicality. The result is the same excellent ergonomics and reliability, along with increased overall performance for even greater satisfaction for all.

“Since its 2015 introduction, Honda’s smallest multipurpose side-by-side has proven that impressive performance is possible even in a compact and nimble package,” said Tony Hinton, General Manager of Motorcycles, Honda Australia. “For 2021, the Pioneer 520 features a larger engine and tray, but it retains the 1270mm width and 1855mm wheelbase that have made it so popular. Whether customers are looking for an entry-level side-by-side, moving from an ATV, or just seeking a vehicle that can work hard without taking up a lot of room, the Pioneer 520 should be at the top of their list.”

CHASSIS / SUSPENSION

The most obvious change to the Pioneer 520 is the addition of a 204kg capacity dump bed, which provides users with greater utility. Interior bed dimensions are 658mm long x 983mm wide x 249mm high, and Honda has packed in a lot of functionality, incorporating recess rings for large buckets, ridges to help position milk crates, slots to hold a wood divider and five D-rings for tie-downs. There are even cup-holder rings in the gate.

In addition, the Pioneer 520 is Pro-Connect compatible, with 10 latches located around the bed’s perimeter, to easily accept nine Pro-Connect accessories — including cargo boxes and bed rails — without the need for tools, improving flexibility and convenience. A comprehensive list of accessories is offered, some of which are interchangeable with other Pro-Connect compatible Honda models.

Towing capacity is 454kg.

One popular feature that the Pioneer 520 carries over from the Pioneer 500 — and which is still exclusive to Honda in this class — is its compact 1270mm vehicle width, a signature design element that has proven popular with customers. The compact size means the Pioneer 520 can be ridden on narrow spaces, like vineyards, maximising the vehicle’s versatility. It can even be loaded into the bed of some utes for transport.

Most of the Pioneer 520’s other physical dimensions are also similar to those of the Pioneer 500. Overall length is 63mm longer at 2668mm, overall height is 1809mm, and wheelbase is unchanged at 1855mm. Front and rear suspension travel are 147mm and 150mm, respectively, and ground clearance is 217mm, great for tackling uneven or challenging terrain.

Honda’s engineers also made improvements to the shock damping for increased comfort and control. Front and rear suspension are modern independent double-wishbone designs, with adjustable preload to tailor the ride height to match loads.

All four wheels have 12” diameter, and are shod with new, longer-wearing 24” all-terrain tyres —24x8-12 up front and 24x10-12 in the back. This setup makes for a good balance between traction, easy steering and good manoeuvrability in tight quarters. The front brakes comprise dual hydraulic callipers with 200mm discs, while the rear brake is a single hydraulic calliper with a 170mm disc — a combination that provides substantial braking power.

ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN

The Pioneer 520 is powered by the proven, fuel-injected four-stroke 518cc engine found in the TRX520 series, but tuned specifically for a side-by-side application. Bore is 96mm, 4mm greater than the Pioneer 500’s 475cc engine, while stroke is 71.5mm. As a result, it offers increased low-to-midrange power and torque, making it ideal for all purposes.

Power is fed directly to front and rear driveshafts, with no belt drive to maintain. Once again, it is mounted longitudinally in the chassis, an arrangement that allows direct driveshaft alignment to front and rear wheels for maximum drivetrain efficiency.

Ease of use is prioritized with the new model. The new air cleaner is more readily accessed, as is the battery box, by lifting the bed.

Two drive modes — two and four wheel drive — are selectable on-the-fly via an easy-to-reach, dash-mounted knob. The five-speed transmission with reverse allows both automatic and manual modes. The manual mode, operated with paddle shifters on the steering column, gives the user shifting control, while automatic mode lets the user focus on the task at hand without worrying about changing gears. Manually overriding automatic mode is now possible through a wider rpm range and calibration has been adjusted to optimize shift shock. Compared to its predecessor, the Pioneer 520’s shift mapping has been tuned to upshift at lower engine speeds, improving shift rhythm.