By the staff of Dirt Wheels
It’s time. CF Moto is a Chinese quad maker that has arrived on the big stage and is worthy of being compared with the giants of the industry. You can dismiss the company if you’d like, but it’s clear to us that CF Moto has become a serious player.
The CF Moto Z6 is a sport-oriented side-by-side made to cut into the market created by the Polaris RZR. In fact, the Z6 is similar to the RZR in appearance, but it’s not fair to call it a clone. The Z6 has a distinctly different approach with a little more utility mixed into the sport recipe. It’s a different kind of machine, which is available with standard features like a winch and a towing capacity of 1500 pounds.
THE ASIA FACTOR
Suspension is surprisingly good. The 51-inch width allows the machine to fit on narrow trails but limits cornering to a conservative pace compared to a much wider RZR S.
Once upon a time, the words “made in Japan” were used to belittle, dismiss and insult. That changed. Next, products from Taiwan and Korea climbed up the quality ladder as Asian manufacturing became more sophisticated. Now, mainland China is going through the same process. In fact, China’s manufacturing capability has already come of age, and companies like Yamaha have full-time factories there, pumping out products and parts for the U.S. market.
What has held China back falls into the category of poor business practices. If you purchased from a little-known Chinese brand, you couldn’t be sure there would be any consumer support after the fact. At the wholesale level, dealers often found they had no protected territory and the same product was often sold under many different names.
CF Moto has been fighting that stigma for years. The company’s presence in the U.S. is relatively short, but it has a 30-year history of building motors for other companies—many in the marine industry. Now the U.S. arm of the company is headquartered near Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is working on building its reputation and its dealer network. We can say this much: there are no other companies selling the Z6 or any other CF Moto products under a different name. The company has worked with the EPA and California Air Resources Board to be fully compliant with U.S. law—that’s a big investment and shows that CF Moto plans on being around tomorrow.
SIDE-BY-SIDE, ZHEJIANG STYLE
The X6’s main attraction is value. For $8500, standard equipment includes a winch and alloy wheels. A roof and windshield also come stock but aren’t pictured.
The Z6 is a new product, but it’s not the first UTV made by CF Moto. The CF500 is a 493cc machine that is targeted somewhere between a Kawasaki Mule and a Yamaha Rhino in terms of utility. The Z6 is an all-new sport version, starting with the motor. It has a 594cc, OHC, liquid-cooled engine with electronic fuel injection that was developed by the same company that supplies Ducati motorcycles. Horsepower is said to be 38 hp and is pumped through a CV transmission. The driver can shift through high, low and reverse with a stick shift and choose 2WD, 4WD or diff-lock through a Yamaha-like dash button.
The chassis has a striking resemblance to a RZR, right down to the slanted headlights and taillights. We’re sure the guys at Polaris aren’t thrilled with that, but a few years earlier, Yamaha wasn’t thrilled with Polaris either. So it goes.
The seats are well made and comfortable, but the backs have a little too much flex.On a hot day, the CF Moto steering wheel is sort of rubbery.
The CF Moto is a touch narrower than most UTVs, designed to fit easily in the back of a standard-bed pickup truck.
What really sets the Z6 apart is its list of standard features. It comes with a winch, 12-inch alloy wheels, premium CST tires, a mirror, a tilt steering wheel, four-point harnesses and full-height bucket seats. The price? $8500. That’s about $2500 less than a base-model RZR.
The winch has enough power to pull the X6 out of most ugly situations. A remote switch allows you to stand clear of danger while you control things.
What drew us to the Z6 first of all was its fit and finish. It has automotive-style paint that’s as good as anything on the market. The bodywork fits perfectly without gaps or uneven seams. Frankly, it looks like a premium product—not some price-point clone.
The cockpit is excellent too, with comfortable seats and controls. There are no doors, just medium-high walls to climb over. Instrumentation is good too. The multifunction central console gives you a wealth of information beyond speed and rpm and is moderately visible in bright sunlight.
The impression of quality is further driven home when you start the motor. It comes to life effortlessly and revs willingly. The fuel injection meters perfectly, even at altitude. In performance, the motor is about what it should be: a 600cc single. It compares well to a Yamaha 450 Rhino or even a Honda Big Red, and will out-accelerate either of those two. Top speed after a long stretch is just over 50 mph, regardless of wind direction. The motor’s output suffers by comparison to bigger machines like the 700cc Rhino or the 800cc RZR, as you might expect.
We can’t even fault the ride quality of the Z6. The suspension is surprisingly good on small impacts and bumps. You have to start slamming obstacles hard and fast before you start bottoming. When you need to back it down a notch, the brakes are excellent.
The standard alloy wheels look great, but there’s room for more rubber in those wheel wells.
Our biggest complaint is the Z6’s drivetrain. Gear selection is clunky and stiff, and you can find false neutrals by accident. The CV transmission itself is rather loose feeling. The motor has to gain revs to a fairly high level before the clutch engages and the vehicle starts moving. After that, the transmission operates normally.
It’s hard to call the Z6’s steering a true weak point because the machine turns well, but steering itself is sloppy. It takes a lot of steering-wheel rotation to make things happen, then you need to anticipate some correction if the Z6 starts to catch up to your input too quickly.
And finally, there are a few small faults that might require owner attention. The steering wheel has so much flex it feels as though it might break. And likewise, the seat backs are a little floppy and could use another attachment point.
THE BIG PICTURE
Never heard of CF Moto? That’s OK, you will.
We consider all of the Z6’s shortcomings minor. When you consider how much value the package offers for the initial price, we would be amazed if there was nothing to criticize. There’s certainly a lot to praise.With a two-year warranty, the people at CF Moto seem to understand what their biggest challenge will be in the U.S. market, and it isn’t the product itself. They will have to overcome an apprehensive American buyer and prove themselves. They will have to distance themselves from the misdeeds of other Asian makers and show that what starts off as a bargain now will still be a bargain years after the initial purchase.
So far, we think they are doing everything right.
2011 CF MOTO Z6
Engine SOHC 4-valve,
Bore x stroke 96mm x 82mm
Final drive Shaft
Front Twin A-arm/9.5" travel
Rear Twin A-arm/9.1" travel
Brakes Four discs
Ground clearance 9.5"
Fuel capacity 7.1 gal.
Weight 992 lb.
Colors Red, Metallic Blue, yellow,
Metallic Gray, Pearl White,