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YOUTH ATV SHOOTOUT: POLARIS 50 VS KAWASAKI 50

 
(3/5/2014)
 
If you weren't able to get the smallest riders in your family their first quad this Christmas, that's okay. Reading this article may help you make the right purchase. This month we are taking a look at two of the best minis you can buy for the elementary school crowd. In fact, the Polaris Outlaw 50 and Kawasaki KFX50 are the only two 50cc quads you can buy from a major manufacturer. Why is that important? Even with a small quad, having a dealer network that can supply parts and perform service if needed is not only helpful during ownership, it makes the machine more valuable when it comes time to sell. So please, take our advice and steer clear of the off-brand quads that are sold on the street corner or at swap meets, no matter how cheap they are. In most cases you will get exactly what you pay for. Speaking of cost, Kawasaki sells the KFX50 for a suggested retail price of  $1999, while the Polaris Outlaw 50 is a bit more at $2099.
In the power department, things are nearly identical. Both machines feature single-cylinder, air-cooled, four-stroke engines mated to fully automatic transmissions. Thankfully, these machines are both equipped with electric starters, so if a kid stalls out, they can restart the machine on their own. Only the Kawasaki comes with a back-up kickstarter, but it is too hard for smaller kids to use themselves. A kickstart lever can be added to the Outlaw.

One thing that is standard equipment on the Outlaw and not on the Kawasaki is daytime-running headlights. We think this is a good safety feature. Polaris also includes a horn and throws in a safety flag with every kid's ATV purchase.

Both machines include a safety tether. The one on the Outlaw is intended to be attached to the rider and will shut off the engine if the kid falls off the machine. The tether on the Kawasaki is intended for the parents to use to follow behind the kid and utilize if they get out of control. Or, the tether can be clipped to the kid's pants and will also activate if the kid separates from the machine. Both are good. Screw-type throttle limiters are found on each machine to limit thumb-throttle movement and keep speeds down.

BIG-KID TOYS
The Kawasaki quad is slightly bigger and weighs about 40 pounds more at 240 pounds full of fuel. Overall, the KFX50 measures 55 inches long and 35 inches wide, while the Outlaw is 48 inches long and 31 inches wide. The seat height on the Outlaw is also 2 inches lower at 23 inches off the ground. In the suspension department, measurements are back to being closer to the same. Up front, single-suspension arms are used on each tire, and a solid-axle, single-shock-controlled swingarm is found in the back of both machines. Wheel travel is right at 3 inches at both ends on each machine. The Kawasaki's three shocks do have preload adjusters, while the Polaris shocks do not. The tires, too, are all the same size at 16 inches tall.
For stopping power, small drum brakes are installed up front on both contestants. Out back, Kawasaki uses a hydraulic-disc setup while Polaris uses another drum. All the braking controls are on the handlebars, and there is no foot-brake lever.


SANDBOX
The actual size of the machines is the only major difference that stands out to our test riders. The Kawasaki looks and feels bigger. To accommodate smaller riders even better, Polaris equips the Outlaw with removable floorboards that add about 2 inches. The handlebars and levers are kid-friendly; however, we do think the grips on the KFX could be a little skinnier. We did measure turning distance, and the Polaris can navigate in slightly tighter places. It takes the Kawasaki a full 20 feet or more to turn around. The Outlaw can do it in a space about 30 inches narrower.
On hills or in the sand, both machines have the torque to pull kids through but do struggle a bit. In one section of our ride area, the quads slowed to 5 mph each on a steep grade. On the top end, speeds were again identical, and both topped out at 14 mph. Neither are twitchy or wander at that speed.
Our pint-sized testers did all comment on how the Outlaw turned better around the tight corners and the Kawasaki was easier to slide and felt more stable. Of course, the kids liked honking the horn on the Outlaw, and it was tough to get them to stop. At this age, the kids are not going to be wheeling and jumping and should be kept to a minimum if they are. Both quads landed soft off little drop-offs.
 

REPORT CARD
Both machines received an A grade from us. They ran flawless and didn't disappoint any of our testers. It's easy to choose which one we would buy for our kids. If we had a smaller child that's not expected to grow too quickly, we would choose the Polaris Outlaw 50. Plus, they do come in pink if you are considering one of these machines for a girl. If our child was a bit larger but not yet ready for the size and speed of a 90cc machine, then we would have to go with the Kawasaki KFX50.

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Topic: Tests

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WARNING: Much of the action de­pict­­ed in this magazine is potentially dan­gerous. Virtually all of the riders seen in our photos are experienced ex­­perts or professionals. Do not at­tempt to duplicate any stunts that are be­­yond your own capabilities. Always wear the appropriate safety gear.
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