2012 Kymco MXU 500i 4X4 IRS Review

Rick Sosebee
by Rick Sosebee
2012 Kymco MXU 500i
Kymco adds fuel injection options to its off-road lineup

Kymco continues its progression in model year 2012 with the addition of fuel injection to its lineup of off-road vehicles.

For years Kymco engineers have provided consumers with carbureted versions of its value-priced dirt tamers. Though fuel-injected engines are making their way into Kymco’s ATVs and UTVs, carburetors will still be offered on most of Kymco models.

Kymco has come a long way over the last few years and has been able to grow its presence in the ATV and UTV marketplace. Creating a value minded product that helps everyone afford to ride on the weekends will surely keep the growth going.

We can appreciate Kymco keeping these value-priced machines going, but we were eager to see how its new fuel-injected ATVs performed so we set our sights on the new 2012 Kymco MXU 500i.

Engine Dynamics

2012 Kymco MXU 500i

The addition of fuel injection gives the MXU snappier throttle response.

The MXU 500i is a Utility ATV powered by a liquid cooled, fuel-injected, 498cc engine. Looking into the engine of the MXU 500i a little deeper we find its dual overhead cams are accompanied by four valves as well. This engine is fed by the new Synerject fuel injection throttle body and when delivering fuel combined with plenty of air and fire it boasts 36 horsepower. Being liquid cooled helps keep the engine performing well and with a wet sump oiling system holding a 3.8-quart capacity we are sure everything is getting well lubricated.


Getting the power to the ground can be a complex subject but the automatic belt driven transmissions of the 21st century make it seem easy. Our 2012 Kymco MXU 500i has an automatic transmission that is belt driven. The gear selector has high for the wide-open riders and low for those creepy rock crawlers or the muddin types. There is also a park, neutral and reverse.

When out in the wild woods there may be a few places you dare not go, but have no fear. With the on-demand 2WD/4WD and differential lock abilities, Kymco hopes you’ll be able to get there without a hitch. The final delivery from the transmission to the wheel is shaft drive.

Suspension and Braking

The ride quality of any machine is very important. The dual A-arm front and rear independent suspension on the 2012 MXU 500i utilizes five-position oil-charged shocks to help smooth out the trails. The preload is simply twisted into different levels and most anyone with a little mechanical background can easily set this up to their liking. The lowest setting will offer a smoother ride while the heaviest setting is geared more for carrying loads on the jobsite.

2012 Kymco MXU 500i

A rear sway bar did a fine job of keeping the MXU level when we were whipping around corners.

This MXU also comes with a rear sway bar that helps reduce the amount of body roll in the ATV, which should help stabilize the MXU during fast trail riding. Suspension travel both front and rear is 7.5 inches.

As for stopping power, the MXU has dual disc brakes on the front of the machine and one lonely disc on the rear centrally mounted on the pinion shaft right before the rear differential.

First Impressions

2012 Kymco MXU 500i

Taking a first look around the MXU we think it’s a sporty looking machine with a hidden working agenda that has potential. We are impressed by the sleek lines and overall look of this ATV. From the large reflector beam headlights to the rugged-looking outside edge plastics, it is obvious Kymco put some considerable thought into the design of this machine. Getting an ATV that is visually appealing is a major purchase point for the new rider and if we were that person we could see ourselves looking at this MXU.

Upon starting up the MXU 500i the rider is greeted by a digital LCD screen that keeps you up to date on what is going with the unit, including important things like fuel level, gear position, and speed. Additionally, a 12V outlet has been outfitted on each machine.


We had a chance to test out theMXU 500i at Carolina Adventure World, a popular ATV and dirt bike destination in Winnsboro, SC. This rugged strip of off-road fun has just about everything we needed to properly get the truth out of this machine.

The MXU has absolutely zero trouble firing off and after the machine was able to warm up just a little it was time to get rolling. Aside from wanting to adjust the handlebars we found the riding position was comfortable. The seat was soft and seemed to be comfortable enough for the day ahead. If we could add anything to this machine initially it would be larger footpegs as well as taller pegs to give a bit more grip once the mud starts flying.

2012 Kymco MXU 500i

The ergos of the MXU 500i offer the rider a reasonably comfortable ride.

The power of the MXU seemed to be tame compared to what we would normally expect from a 498cc engine. However, the potential for more power through modification is there. At 36 horsepower the MXU is about four horsepower less than most comparable 500-class Utility ATVs. This may not seem like much, but it can be felt.

Working the MXU 500i through the tight, wooded trails the suspension held on with all it had and for a stock suspension it did very well. The faster we moved and the more rugged the terrain got we noticed the shocks starting to fade and bounce more, but this machine isn’t intended to be ridden with hyper aggression.

Getting over obstacles in the trails was a cinch with the 9.5 inches of center ground clearance and on the sweeping tight corners we noticed the sway bar did a great job keeping the load level.

After locking the differential into 4WD a few times we think the system works well. The MXU pulls strongly, but in the deeper mud we did feel it begin to struggle somewhat. There is a good torque range for this motor, but it needs to be dialed in a bit more.

2012 Kymco MXU 500i

After spending some time on the MXU 500i, we think that this is an ATV worthy of your attention – especially for newer riders.

Final Thoughts

With a suggested retail price of $6,999, the 2012 MXU is geared towards the first-time buyer or anybody who wants a great value and demands an ATV with a strong warranty. With all the options available with the initial purchase of a Kymco ATV it’s defiantly worth looking into. Even the loaded version of this machine is under the pricing of some other base model units in our industry. An extra $800 will get you the SE model, which comes with a 2,500-pound winch, alloy wheels, cargo box, handguards, and utility grips.

We hope to get a longer test on the MXU in the future so stay tuned and we’ll fill you in when we get the results.

Related Reading

2010 Kymco MXU 500 IRS 4×4 LE Review

2010 Kymco Maxxer 375 IRS 4×4 Review

2010 Kymco UXV 500 4×4 Review

2009 Kymco Mongoose 300 Review

Rick Sosebee
Rick Sosebee

Whether he is in Mexico covering the Baja 1000, building ATVs for local racers, or out enjoying the trails, Rick’s passion shows in his stories. Learning to wrench his own machines from his grandfather, Rick also has an undying appreciation for the mechanics of off-road vehicles. Do not let the dirt and mud fool you, though, as Rick also has a deep love for street cars.

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