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At a joint venture between Crimson Trace and Mossberg, Honda Powersports showed off a few of the company’s side-by-side UTVs. After a test ride in the open plains of Montana, I began to wonder how useful these machines could be for everyday activities and in the potentially critical moments of life. I began to realize that these vehicles could be truly valuable to the survivalists among us. Specifically, how would the new Honda Pioneer 1000-5 Limited Edition hold up?

Honda Pioneer 1000-5

All of us should know that Honda makes cars, motorcycles and ATVs (aka four-wheelers), but it also produces UTVs, more commonly known as side-by-sides (SXS). The current lineup of SXSs includes three difference engine sizes, and the Pioneer 1000-5 LE is the top of the line. The difference between an ATV and a UTV (utility terrain or utility task vehicles) is that the latter has a side-by-side seating arrangement for the driver and a passenger, a steering wheel in favor of handlebars, and the brakes and accelerator are operated with pedals instead of being mounted on the handlebars. The most notable feature is an SXS is larger than an ATV.

In the case of the Pioneer 1000-5 LE, the “1000” designates a 1000-cubic-centimeter-sized engine and the “5” indicates that it will carry five riders. In the world of ATVs and UTVs, that’s a large machine! But to be totally honest, the engine is really only 999 cubic centimeters (cc), but who wouldn’t allow a 1-cc fudge factor?

Specifications?

If you look at the specifications on this machine, you’d be hard-pressed to decide if it’s a car, a pickup truck or a tractor. No matter what you call it, it’s a beast. The overall length is 116.8 inches and it’s 63 inches wide. The height of the roll cage is 76 inches. This is a good spot to mention that Honda is obsessed with safety. A complete roll cage is mounted over the passenger section of the vehicle, and there’s a seat belt installed for up to five riders.

In fact, the Pioneer has a seat belt lock-out on the speed control. If the driver’s seat belt isn’t fastened, the speed is limited to 15 miles per hour. There are handholds for each passenger and safety nets mounted on the roll cage, which prevent the riders’ arms from extending out of the machine in case of a roll-over. They also suggest helmets, gloves and googles for each rider.

The front bench seat is styled to fit three, and there are two “jumper seats” in the cargo bed. The back seats can be used to increase the number of passengers to five or can be folded down to allow use of the bed to haul up to 1,000 pounds of cargo. One nice addition is the dump feature in the cargo bed that assists with unloading. Just to tout that this machine is made to be a horse, it’s equipped with a receiver hitch with a 2,000-pound trailer towing capacity.

Taking a Test Drive

Driving the Honda Pioneer 1000-5 for the first time was a mixture fun and education. My “yard” is right at 600 acres and has several miles of old logging roads as well as a 1-mile gravel driveway. The terrain has a 1,000-foot elevation change and there are several small streams. In other words, it’s the ideal spot to test-drive this type of vehicle.

After two decades of using Honda ATVs, I’m used to being able to go anywhere I want, and the Honda Pioneer 1000-5 came close to matching those capabilities. The center of gravity is a bit higher than the average ATV, and that’s something you need to get used to. Having a steering wheel and being able to brake and accelerate using foot pedals made the Pioneer almost car-like. The automatic transmission (six forward gears and reverse) made it perfect for my wife. Braking was smooth and even, while accelerating could be classified as quick and snappy. Honda claims a 60-plus-mph top speed, which is totally understandable with the 1,000-cc engine, but common sense kept my top speed to just over 40 mph.

After the initial drive, my use of the vehicle quickly changed to everyday activities. Just hopping in for a ride is one thing, but to really judge the value of the machine, you should see how much “need” there is. In the following weeks, it replaced my ATV and my truck anytime I needed transportation around the property.

Daily Use

Few days went by that I didn’t call on the Honda Pioneer 1000-5 for a typical chore around my home and in the woods. I did discover that its operation modes were changed often as I switched between 2-wheel drive, 4-wheel drive and the “Turf” mode. My wife really appreciated the Turf mode, and it saved the grass around the house more than once. The bed was put to constant use moving everything from sacks of corn heading to the deer feeders to topsoil for my wife’s garden. Once I hit the woods, the four-wheel independent front and rear suspension earned its keep. The most I could manage was one wheel off the ground while traversing ruts deeper than the 10 inches of travel on the suspension.

The Pioneer proved itself to be stable on even the worse landscape. Here, again, a little common sense should be applied anytime you’re using this machine. Even after a month of use, I could only account for getting in a bind twice. The first time was when I tried to take it on a trail where there was only 4.5 feet between two trees, and the Pioneer has a width of just over five feet. That just doesn’t work. The second experience was while I was going up a grade of over 30 percent, and the trail turned to where I would have to transverse around the side of the hill. It just seemed to be a good invitation to roll over, and I didn’t want to chance it.

Watch Your Speed

Other than those two cases, the 13.8-foot turning radius and 12.7 inches of ground clearance ensured I never had trouble getting where I wanted to go. The only real problem was that the machine is so smooth-riding that your speed can creep up on you. Honda has given you the choice of a complete automatic drive system, or if you wish, you can manually shift gears with the two paddles mounted on the steering wheel. Since this is done without the use of a clutch, I would call it more of a semi-manual system.

This manual drive system does come in handy when doing rock crawls at low speeds.

Emergency Transportation

When I first saw the Honda Pioneer 1000-5 in Montana, my thoughts were of its value as a BOV (bug-out vehicle), and only a week of my loan time had passed before those thoughts reemerged. We went through a period of local flooding due to this year’s hurricanes, yet the Pioneer handled the situation with ease. Caution should always be applied in these situations, and I ventured slowly to the areas with flowing waters. Again, it was common sense that limited my use, not the Pioneer’s ability.

In my own opinion, I would say if your 4-wheel drive truck or Jeep can get there, so can the Pioneer. Considering its smaller size and the 20- to 30-miles-per-gallon fuel usage (depending on terrain and speed), you may agree that the Pioneer could be a better choice. Before I relocated from Charlotte to our property in the foothills (my chosen bug-out location), I often thought about how I would get from Point A to Point B. The Pioneer would be an ideal answer, since its 7.9-gallon capacity could travel the 100-mile-plus trip on less than a tank of gas. Add a couple of 5-gallon cans to your gear stored in the bed and the range becomes well over 350 miles before having to hunt for gas.

Get Out of Town

Another tidbit of my thoughts from years ago: The Pioneer could travel the powerline rights-of-way a lot easier than most vehicles and would be easier to steer around any road obstructions you may encounter. Those rights-of-way are like golden paths through our rural countryside, and you should scout those near you now as another travel option. While I’ve had the Pioneer here, I also did some night driving with the use of helmet-mounted night vision. Anytime we are discussing bugging out, the importance of traveling without confrontation becomes apparent, and the combination of a UTV and night vision really improves your odds.

I still have another month to play, and Honda won’t get this machine back early. But it has already proven its value to me and my wife. In troubled times, it beats walking, and I really can’t think of a better way to ride. The downside is the cost of a top-of-the-line UTV. But it comes down to the same situation as most of your emergency supplies: You need to invest now, because the day may come when you can’t get what you need for any price. For more information, visit powersports.honda.com.

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