Kid Tested!

Test Ridden by Liam Maritz; Story and Photos by Jeff Henson

Kawasaki’s KFX50 is a perfect machine for young new riders. It’s easy to ride, unintimidating and has minimal controls, so focus remains on the trail ahead.

Kawasaki’s KFX50 has been around for just over 20 years, dating back to the 2003 model year. It was the first time Kawasaki introduced a youth model quad intended for kids as young as 6 years old. The small, 49cc, single-speed automatic was an instant hit with kids and parents alike. 

Surprisingly, the KFX50 only saw one significant upgrade in its first 20 years. In 2007, it got an updated appearance that resembled the newly announced 2008 KFX450R sport quad. It even had a front number plate and faux headlights to match the profile of the bigger motocross quad. From there, it essentially remained the same for the next 15 years.

The KFX50 was long overdue for a change, and it finally got one for 2023. The plastic bodywork has been completely redesigned with a modern look. The new hood gives it a muscular appearance and has openings that provide more gust over the air-cooled engine. The footwells are longer and wider for freer leg movement, and the old headlight decals have been replaced by real LED running lights. The lights are not intended for riding at night, but rather to make the small quad and rider more visible to other trail users during the day. And, they just look cool!


The beauty of the KFX50 is its ability to make an ATV introduction to young riders easy and unintimidating. Controls are minimal, consisting of a thumb throttle and brake levers. The automatic transmission has just one speed—forward—with no gear selector lever to fumble with, allowing riders to keep focused on the trail ahead of them.

The strong steel chassis includes additional protection underneath the footwells to protect small feet from rocks, ruts and bumps in the trail.


Mom and Dad will also love the parental controls that will help them train their kids on proper riding etiquette. There is a throttle-limiting screw on the thumb throttle that can be turned in to slow acceleration and lower the 15-mph top speed. A locknut keeps the throttle screw firmly in place. A 4-foot lanyard is also attached to an engine shut-off switch at the rear grab bar so parents can follow behind their child on foot. A quick tug shuts off the engine should the child lose control or try to run off. There’s also a whip/flag mount on the rear grab bar to further increase rider visibility.

Partial engine covers keep heat away from the legs, and full fenders provide excellent splash coverage should small riders wander into mud puddles.


If we must complain, and we must, the electric choke on the KFX50 needs help, and this has been the case for some time. When the engine is cold, it might fire immediately with slightly high idle, and then it dies. Push the e-start button again and it won’t start at all. We suspect the culprit is the ethanol from big city gas pumps holding up the idle jet flow on the small carburetor. In the past, it took a battery charge or two before we figured out the simple remedy: Lean the quad over so the tires on one side are about 10 inches off the ground and it will start immediately. You then must feather the throttle until it completely warms up. Repeat the process if it stalls. You’ll be tempted to play with the carburetor idle screw—don’t! Keep in mind the KFX50 has a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and no park or neutral gear. If you set the idle too high, the quad will try to take off on you.

The most visible update on the 2023 Kawasaki KFX50 is the all-new body styling. The new hood still doubles as a number plate, but also has openings to flow more air over the engine.


With the engine warmed up, the KFX50 is a great runner. It makes enough power to climb a moderate incline and will even break rear-wheel traction when tighter cornering is desired. Power is linear and very friendly, which is perfect for new ATV riders. The CVT won’t engage the chain drive and wheels until the calibrated rpm is reached, but throttle control isn’t jerky or intimidating. That said, even our experienced 6-year-old test rider found the KFX50 to be a peppy ride that produced a toothy grin.

The Kawasaki has always been a hard starter on cold days. Fortunately, there’s a backup kick-starter should you wear out the battery trying to get it to fire.


It doesn’t take much to create a comfortable ride for a 50-pound 6-year-old, but Kawasaki does go the extra mile to provide a suspension setup that will accommodate kids of differing size, age and ability level. The KFX50 was built with a typical sport quad setup with a single A-arm suspension up front with 2.8 inches of wheel travel, and a swingarm at the rear makes 2.9 inches. Front and rear shocks are five-way preload adjustable, so shock-spring stiffness can be increased as a child grows and skills increase. 

The 3.3 inches of ground clearance might not seem like much, but hanging up on rocks and ruts was never an issue. The lack of a reverse gear and an 8.7-foot turning radius can make turning around in a tight spot difficult. So, parents should always be present, especially for stuck situations that require some extra muscle.

LED running lights are new for 2023. The lights are not intended for riding at night, but rather to make the small quad and rider more visible to other trail users during the day.


Dual drum brakes and a single rear hydraulic disc brake are more than adequate to slow and stop the 249-pound mini quad. A rear foot brake is difficult to find in small motocross boots and could even lead to riding the rear brake, so Kawasaki installed dual hand levers for braking. The right lever handles the front drums, and the left engages the rear disc. Even on adult-sized automatic ATVs we find the dual hand-brake setup much easier to use, especially in more technical terrain.

Electric start is standard on the small Kawasaki, and dual hand-brake controls are much more friendly for slowing and stopping, especially when navigating more technical terrain.


After several hours of testing, our young pilot had no complaints about comfort, or anything else for that matter. The 25-inch seat height makes the KFX50 an easy mount for small legs. Handlebars are within short reach, allowing for easy cornering and moving into an elbows-up attack position. The KFX50 includes electric push-button starting and a back-up kick-starter, far more kid-friendly than the recoil starter the first-generation KFX50 came with.

The seat is flat, wide at the rear and narrows towards the front for easy body movement and balance changes. The engine compartment is narrow between the knees. It’s easy to ride whether sitting or standing. The new body design is as functional as it is sporty. Partial engine covers keep heat away from the legs, and full fenders provide excellent splash coverage should the rider wander into mud puddles. For most kids, that’s a given.

Parental controls like this rear grab-bar-mounted engine kill switch with 4-foot lanyard keep parents in control. A throttle-limiter screw can also be used to control top speed.


Dad will love how simple general maintenance is. The engine is air-cooled, and the oil-inlet tube and drain bolt are accessible without removing the side engine covers. A single-seat latch removes the seat for access to the battery, fuses, a toolkit and the air-filter box. The air-filter lid requires removal of four Phillips screws and two 10mm bolts for cleaning. The final chain drive and sprockets will require periodic inspection, cleaning and occasional adjustment.

All shocks are five-way preload adjustable to accommodate kids of different sizes and skill. The ball joints on the A-arms get grease Zerks for quick lubrication during general maintenance.


Once it’s warmed up, Kawasaki’s KFX50 keeps the kids smiling all day, especially with the more modern look. It’s a great choice for first-time riders to get their feet wet on four wheels and presents plenty of room to grow with before moving up to a bigger ATV.

The width and height of the KFX50 provide excellent balance and stability when the trail turns slightly off-camber. Our test rider couldn’t find enough banked corners to hammer through.


Engine 4-stroke, air-cooled, single-cylinder

Displacement 49.5cc

Bore x stroke 39 x 41.4mm

Compression ratio 10.8:1

Fuel System Keihin PTE 16

Ignition Solid-state CDI

Transmission Automatic CVT

Final drive 2WD, chain


Front Single A-arm/2.8” 

Rear Swingarm/2.9”


Front AT 16×8-7 tubeless

Rear AT 16×8-7 tubeless


Front Dual mechanical drums

Rear Hydraulic disc

Ground clearance 3.3” at rear axle

Starting system Electric with back-up kick-starter

Fuel capacity 1.5 gal. 

Turning radius 8.7’

Lighting LED running/tail/brake light

Frame type Double cradle, steel

Track: f/r 27.2/27.6 in

Length/width/height 55.1”/34.1”/34.8”

Seat Height 25.0”

Wet Weight 249.2 lb.

Wheelbase 38.0”

Color choices Lime Green, Vibrant Blue

Price $2299


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