Review: Kawasaki KVF300 ATV

By: Brent Lilley, Photography by: Brent Lilley

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Although not the biggest quad we’ve tested, the Kawasaki KVF300 proves you can’t judge a book by its cover, or a quad by its chassis.


The engine

The KVF300 uses a 271cc, liquid-cooled, single-cylinder, four-stroke engine, squeezed in under the seat and tuned for low-end and mid-range power. While this engine doesn't compare to the massive outputs offered by a lot of quads these days, that's not what this quad is about. In a bike of this size, with a very low weight, it provides plenty of power to get around in most situations. We tested the bike up and down some of the steeper jumps on the motocross track and it had no problems at all getting to the top. As to be expected, the bike is not lightning-quick off the mark, but there is still plenty of acceleration and top-end speed. The engine features a reliable electric starter, plus a back-up recoil starter for peace of mind, and a balancer for smoothness. I was very impressed to see that a bike with an engine this size was also liquid cooled. The Kawasaki sticks with a tried, tested and reliable carburettor, which is fine on a bike this size, and the air intake for it is located up under the handlebars out of the mud and dirt.

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Transmission

The transmission on this bike is the biggest selling point for me. Most bikes of this size and price range tend to stick to a manual five-speed transmission, but not the Kawasaki. They have used a continuously-variable transmission, similar to that found in many larger quad bikes on the market. The transmission features hi, lo, neutral and reverse, and can be selected with a gate-style shift lever located under the handlebars on the right-hand side.

This transmission setup works very well and is impressive to see it included on this bike. In hi, the bike has a good speed range for getting around the farm quickly or following cows down the race, and fairly good top speed to get down the road. When on the steeper hills, lo definitely gave a lot more control when going down. It was at this point I discovered one of the few things I disliked about this ATV. While the engine braking on the bike works well when going downhill, unfortunately I found the centrifugal clutch doesn't engage unless the throttle is pressed. So if you stop on a hill and then take off again, the quad starts to freewheel until you accelerate and then engage the clutch — then the engine braking will slow the bike down. This takes some getting used to, as human nature is to take your thumb off the throttle when a bike starts going faster.

Chassis

The bike sits in a sturdy, well-balanced chassis built out of high tensile tube steel. At the front, the chassis double wishbone suspension is used to mount the front wheels and adjustable independent struts give a smooth ride and good control of the bike. The bike feels like a decent-sized quad when you're riding it, but smoothness of the ride was not as comfortable as what you come to be accustomed to with bigger quads. But then once again, that's not what this bike is about. Dual single-piston disc brakes are fitted out near the wheels in each of the front wheels. At the rear of the bike there is a solid bar axel mounted to the frame by a tube steel swingarm that uses a single adjustable shock for the rear suspension. A single disc brake is used on the driveshaft to the rear axle.

Layout and controls

As mentioned, it's great to see a liquid-cooled engine on a quad bike this size. The radiator is mounted up the front, but the filler and level is cleverly mounted towards the rear under the seat, which is great. The level can be checked with a sight that can be seen from looking under the mudguard, or topped up by simply removing the seat. This is something I have always liked about Kawasaki quads, as on other bikes which have the radiator level and filler under the front carrier, it can be very hard to access once anything is mounted on there. A 12-litre fuel tank with a reserve is up in front of the seat. Under the front carrier there is a decent-sized sealed storage compartment, which is good to see. Although if anything is fixed to the front carrier, this compartment will become inaccessible.

The layout of the controls on the bike is pretty much standard. On the right-hand side the throttle and a brake lever are up on the handlebars, the gear shift and a handy cup/bottle holder are moulded in the plastic body work under the handlebars. In the centre is the key and a digital display with a speedometer, trip meter, fuel and temperature gauges, a clock, and neutral, reverse and high beam indicators. There is also a handy 12-volt power socket included here on the bike. On the left-hand-side handlebars are the lights, starter, engine kill switch, choke, a reverse override switch and a brake lever. The park lock is on this side as well, but unlike many other bikes that use a little clip or such to lock the brake lever, the Kawasaki uses a completely separate lever that mechanically locks the rear brake separate of the hydraulic brake system. This is an excellent idea and the lever can be operated with one hand.

Verdict

Don't be fooled by the fact the KVF300 is only powered by a 271cc engine. Being matched with such a light bike, it has more than enough power to get you, and a bit of gear, around the farm. Whilst I'm sure the lack of four-wheel drive may not suit many situations, this is a very economical solution for flatter farms or those that don't require a bike to do a lot of towing. Having an automatic transmission is really the biggest selling point for this bike. Although it's a little unnerving when the KVF300 freewheels when the throttle is not pressed to engage the centrifugal clutch, it is in fact a problem shared with many ATVs and UTVs on the market. This quad also features a liquid-cooled engine and all-round disc brakes, which are not found on other quads in this class and certainly not found on bikes in this price bracket.

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