If you drive a CFMoto Z6 EX, be prepared for a lot of odd comments. They range from one extreme to another:
“That’s the best-looking Polaris I’ve ever seen!”
“I like it. What is it?”
“Get that Shanghai firecracker out of my way!”
“I could never own one of those because of China’s record on human rights.”
In case you don’t know about CFMoto, it’s no big deal. The company is just getting started in the U.S. In Europe and Russia, however, the make is well established and is number one, outselling Polaris, Honda and all of the other ATV/UTV makers. The company’s factory is in Hangzhou, China, which brands it with the unfortunate stigma associated with Asian quads. Several things set it apart from the myriad of products that have drifted ashore in recent years. The biggest is that CFMoto operates its own U.S distributor. They aren’t going away, and the products aren’t sold under any other name. There are almost 100 dealers in the U.S., almost all of which are mainstream powersports dealers, not lawnmower or gun stores.
Last year, CFMoto got on the map with the Z6; a 600cc RZR look-alike that sold for about $8400 fully loaded with accessories. For 2013, the company is building on that success with a sportier version called the Z6 EX.
First things first: the EX looks awesome. If there’s one thing that CFMoto does right, it’s fit and finish. The bodywork has cool red-and-white graphics that are a notch higher than anything from Kawasaki or Yamaha. The styling itself has a very strong Polaris RZR flavor, and the way it all fits together is as good as anything on the market. But there’s no Polaris model that’s directly comparable. The Z6 has a liquid-cooled, single-cylinder motor, with a single overhead cam and a Ducati-made fuel-injection system. That’s basically the same as last year’s Z6. Where the new EX departs is the track width and the suspension. It’s 61 inches wide and has piggyback shocks that deliver about 10 inches of travel. The suspension configuration is dual A-arm on all four corners with a sway bar. Like all of the company’s side-by-sides, this model has a long list of features that come standard. It has 14-inch alloy wheels with CST Abuzz tires. It has a roof, a winch and fairly nice touches like a digital gauge and an adjustable steering wheel. If you were looking for a comparison, the Z6 EX would be a RZR 570 in a RZR S chassis with elements of a Ranger Limited Edition.
GET IN AND GO
The interior of the EX is nice. The seats are comfortable, and all the controls are where they should be. The fuel filler is under the passenger seat, and the 4WD button is right on the dashboard. It uses the same type of switch as a Rhino, with a flap that lets you access diff-lock once 4WD is already engaged. It has four-point harnesses, a padded grab bar for the passenger, and the roll bar is actually a little beefier than that of a RZR with six attachment points. There are no doors, but nets keep your feet inside. The EX also has mirrors, so Arizona owners take note; you can probably get it licensed without much problem. In the back there’s a tiny bed, just like a RZR. The Lianda winch has a remote control that works perfectly. A few notes about our test unit: it was delivered without the roof, the side nets and the mirrors, and we shot most of the photos before they arrived—but they did arrive, and they all fit.
So what’s it like to drive the EX? It’s a blast! It fires up easily, it’s responsive and runs cleanly. But before we go any farther, we have to point out that it’s not especially powerful. The EX won’t push you back into the seat with face-distorting acceleration. Its output is somewhere between that of the initial Rhino 660 and the Rhino 450. That’s not bad, and it served us well in the early days of UTVs, but we were hoping for something to go toe to toe with a RZR 570. The Z6 can’t do that, at least not as it sits. We have a feeling that more performance can be attained easily, and we’re working on it. But for now, we had to be happy with a top speed just under 40 mph.
The good news is that the chassis and handling are far more capable than the motor. That’s the recipe for fun. You almost can’t do anything wrong, and anyone of any skill level feels like Robby Gordon in it. The weight is carried low in the chassis, and with the wide track, the EX rarely gets tippy. We won’t go so far as to say you can’t tip it over with really aggressive driving; we know people who can flip anything. But between the width and the modest power, you would have to try pretty hard to put the EX on its side.
In rough terrain, the EX is a little on the stiff side, but not bad. The suspension is night and day better than the standard Z6, and it’s more comfortable in rough terrain than most Japanese UTVs. It’s still not in the same league as the new breed of ultra-high-performance UTVs, like the XP 900 or Maverick, but it wasn’t ever designed to swim in that end of the pool. The shocks and A-arms are all very lightweight compared to full-blooded race cars. Oddly, the shocks are mounted upside down. We tried to turn them over, but the pipe is in the way back. So it goes.
At the other end of the speed spectrum, the CFMoto does fairly well. Its rock-crawling capabilities are decent, as long as you keep in mind that it’s wider than a Rhino or a standard RZR. There are some gaps where it won’t fit. On the other hand, it can keep all four wheels planted on a very steep camber. In diff-lock and low range, it will continue to creep forward as long as one wheel finds traction. The belly of the beast has good protection, but the front A-arms might need some more armor before you dive into a serious rock pile.
APPLES TO APPLES
This is no racer. What the CFMoto offers is recreation-level performance at an incredible value. The MSRP is $9549, even with all the extra features like the roof and the winch. The 50-inch Z6 is $8549. That’s a bargain. By comparison, the 50-inch, stripped-down RZR 570 sells for $9999.
Of course, the elephant in the room is the Z6’s country of origin. Chinese ATVs are under suspicion at all times for good reason. The companies that imported them in the past were gone overnight. They promised warranties and service that they never delivered. We feel confident that this company is different. We know some of the people involved, and many are veterans from Polaris, Arctic Cat, Suzuki and even Harley-Davidson. CFMoto might not become the next Polaris or Can-Am, but it will probably find its own place in the UTV world. And, it will happen sooner than you might think.
CFMOTO Z6 EX
Engine Single-cylinder, liquid-cooled,
SOHC, 4-valve 4-stroke
Transmission Automatic CVT w/
Final drive 4-wheel shafts
Fuel system Ducati EFI
Fuel capacity 7.1 gal.
Ground clearance 9.5"
Front Dual A-arms/10.0"
Rear Dual A-arms/10.0”
Front Dual hydraulic disc
Rear Dual hydraulic disc