While most Side-by-Sides on the market today fit explicitly into either the Sport or Utility category, there are a growing number of middle of the road UTVs offering characteristics that will appeal to both audiences. One such example is the 2017 Honda Pioneer 700-4.

Fast Facts

Engine: 675cc Single

Ground Clearance: 10.7 in.

Wheelbase: 76.8 in.

Curb Weight: 1,411 lbs

MSRP: $12,099

Upon initial inspection, the Pioneer might appear primarily utilitarian in design. However, its ability to transform from a full on workhorse into a multi passenger recreational vehicle carries a hint of a sporty vibe.

For that reason, we skipped the farm and headed straight for the trails of Carolina Adventure World (CAW) to give our newly acquired Honda Pioneer 700-4 a workout. Team Charlotte Motorsports in Charlotte, NC had the machine prepped and ready for us and CAW was just a quick hour’s drive beyond.

Thanks to its tight turning radius and electronic power steering, the Pioneer 700-4 is right at home on the trails.

Though the Pioneer 700-4 is largely a Utility machine, with its bench seat, 1000-pound capacity dump bed and 675cc engine, it offers features that are undeniably sporty and virtually unnecessary if your only intention is getting a job done. For starters, the rear passenger seats that fold up out of the bed are very SUV-like and one of the coolest “outside the box” features on any current model UTV. This design is unique to Honda and it affords the experience of driving a two-person UTV while being able to carry two extra passengers.

Honda’s QuickFlip rear seats are the picture of versatility, providing room for two extra passengers or a single passenger, leaving enough room for a large cooler.

The other sport-centric feature that leads us to believe Honda also had recreation in mind when designing the 2017 Honda Pioneer 700-4 is the selectable automatic/manual transmission complete with steering column-mounted paddle shifters. Where the engine is not as prone to quick acceleration and lots of power, having the ability to hold the throttle at higher RPMs and control when the transmission shifts certainly provides an experience that is synonymous with sport UTVs and is a lot of fun to drive.

As we took to the trails, the first thing we noticed was the power.  The 2017 Honda Pioneer 700-4 accelerates about like you would expect from Utility machine. It has plenty of low end grunt, but is slower to get up to speed. On tighter trails, this is not nearly as noticeable because speeds are typically lower and we were more focused on navigating the terrain. On wide open power line trails and connector roads where some might have the itch to travel at speed, the 2017 Honda Pioneer 700-4 can get there, it just won’t set a land speed record along the way.

As mentioned, on most trails and in tighter sections in particular the Pioneer performs well.  Kick the transmission over to Manual Mode and the paddle shifters will give you a slight boost in performance by allowing you to dictate when and if you need another gear. In fact, once we switched the transmission into manual mode, we didn’t go back to full automatic the rest of the day.

Engine braking helps control the descent and we found that we hardly needed to use the brakes at all when going downhill.

Ergonomically speaking, the Pioneer 700-4 is incredibly tight. There are no clunks or vibrations present, which instills confidence in the machine’s durability. It is rock solid and it feels that way from the driver’s seat. However, in tight spaces you may become acutely aware of how large the roll cage is. From the cab, it almost feels like the roll cage is the widest point on the vehicle. You certainly won’t feel claustrophobic in the slightest, but know that in particularly tight areas, you may rub the roll cage against a tree or two.

When it comes to a true dual purpose Side-by-Side, the Honda Pioneer 700-4 delivers on both fronts in a big way.

Steering is incredibly comfortable thanks to the electronic power steering and it turns on a dime. In a few areas where the trail had become impassable due to flooding and deep ruts, we bushwhacked our way through the thick trees without issue. If we had been riding with another party we might have been inclined to just aim for the mud, but walking back to the truck and paying a recovery fee in the event we didn’t make it wasn’t overly appealing.

Carolina Adventure World provides a fairly diverse amount of terrain and the trails range in difficulty from easiest to most difficult. There are plenty of elevation changes and because many of the trails are on hills, they tend to wash out and create ruts when it rains. That didn’t bother us as it simply made the trail a little more challenging to navigate and the Pioneer 700-4 didn’t miss a beat. The 4-ply rated HP-007 tires from OTR gripped exceptionally well, particularly in wetter portions of the trail, though due to the more aggressive tread pattern, we wouldn’t recommend driving on your lawn.

You probably won’t find yourself needing to stop in a hurry, but in the event you do, the triple disc brake system works exceptionally well. Something you might not be aware of is that the 2017 Honda Pioneer 700-4 features a patented “scraper” feature designed to eliminate mud buildup between the caliper and the wheel. And it works. Despite splashing through mud and water all afternoon, the brakes never faltered.

Though it pales in comparison to what you might find in a place like Moab, Utah, we did find a rocky section of the trail that was technical enough that we felt the need to utilize the differential lock. A couple of large boulders were enough to put us on three wheels and the Pioneer’s suspension articulated perfectly up and over the obstacle. In several passes only once did we get hung up and that seemed to be due to the tire losing traction on a rock. 

If we had to pick one area where the 2017 Honda Pioneer 700-4 could be improved upon as a recreational vehicle it would have to be the suspension. The factory shocks are preload adjustable only, which helps you when you’re hauling a load but doesn’t do much for the ride quality. While we wouldn’t expect to jump this machine, stiffer springs or the ability to add some compression would soften the blow on square edges or in a “g-out” situation.

The Pioneer 700-4 offers 7.9 inches of suspension travel in the front, 9.1 inches of travel in the rear and 10.7 inches of ground clearance.

2017 Honda Pioneer 700-4 Final Observations

The cab is roomy and not having a center console really helped when it came time to clean up. Because the transmission offers only forward, neutral and reverse, we did find ourselves skipping neutral and leaving it in gear a time or two, simply because we’re accustomed to shifting the gear shifter all the way forward and into park. We’re undecided about the side nets at this point. They work great for keeping brush off you if find yourself in a slightly overgrown area; however, if you’re getting in and out of the vehicle or changing drivers much, they can become a bit of a nuisance.

Overall, for a machine that is predominantly Utility oriented, we have zero complaints in the Pioneer’s ability to “transform” into a trail-worthy recreational vehicle. Users seeking a Utility Side-by-Side that affords them the option of occasional trail riding will be very satisfied. It’s comfortable and easy to drive while remaining capable of getting you (and up to three passengers) anywhere you need to go. With an MSRP of $12,099, the 2017 Honda Pioneer 700-4 is on the low end of of the price spectrum, especially for UTVs capable of carrying up to four people. For a trusted name like Honda, that’s a win in our book.

We’ve got big plans to put this Pioneer 700-4 to work in the coming weeks, but after this trip, we’ll definitely be hitting the trails again soon.

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