BRUTE FORCE 300
Kawasaki has some utility quads that more than deserve the Brute Force name, but the 300 isn’t one of them. Some would say that “fun,” “willing” and “efficient” never won the hearts of fair ladies or pried open the wallets of serious riders, so we understand “Brute Force” as the name, but honestly, who really wants or needs brute force? Mud bogging? Sure, never too much. Same with big dunes. However, the “Kawasaki 300” may hit the mud, or even the dunes for that matter, but that is wasting it. The 300 may not actually be a brute, but it is a whole lot of fun and a competent trail machine that is more than willing to work when you get home.
Kawasaki knows the value of a full product line, and it insists on quality products, but it doesn’t insist that those products be built in Japan. The company’s popular KLR650 is made in Taiwan, and its pit-bike king, the KLX110, is made in Indonesia. When Kawasaki was looking for a 300cc- class utility quad, it actually went looking to Kymco. What Kawasaki did not do was just put new stickers on a Kymco. It insisted on upgrades for performance and reliability that fully adopted the Brute Force into the Kawasaki family.
The Kawasaki Brute Force 300 SOHC engine uses a very upright configuration, and the engine is tuned with an emphasis on low-end and mid-range power. That is typical of CVT-equipped machines. For much of the operating time, the CVT will hold the engine in a specific rpm range. The engine doesn’t really rev until the CVT is maxed out at its high- est ratio. This CVT is a hybrid since it uses both a CVT with the variable belt ratios, but also incorporates a centrifugal clutch to help the small engine accelerate quickly with a clean, smoothtake-off. Shifting is also easy and efficient. The gated shifter does not require buttons to push or other hassles. Simply pull the lever to the side and shift. The air cleaner is easy to reach, there is a sight-glass to check the oil level on the right, and an exposed, easy-to-reach oil filler on the same side.
Both the air cleaner and the CVT vent have high intakes. The engine draws air from up near the handle-bar and the CVT from under the rear of the machine. The transmission and belt converter ratios are well-selected for the power delivery and speed range for a smaller-dis- placement ATV. In low range the performance is strong, with great throttle response and firm acceleration. Even steep hills are handled as well as expected of a 2WD machine. Top speed in low is around 30 mph. The Hatfield-McCoy Trail has sections of road where ATVs are legal, and we encountered a short section of a two-lane highway in one ride. A top speed of a little over 50 mph kept the cars from breathing down our necks.
While we had some small instances where the engine braking was a little too sudden—like when you chop the throttle suddenly at rpm while entering a slippery turn—for the most part, we appreciated the engine braking. We learned to back off smoothly or apply a little throttle once the rear started to break loose. The triple disc brakes are smooth and controllable with plenty of power for the 300. We never experienced any fading. We like how protected the rear disc is.
The rest of the controls work well too. The shifter uses gates that require you to pull the handle to the side to engage a different gear so you don’t have to hold the brake to shift. The rear brake has a lever and a foot pedal. We tended to use the hand lever, since the CVT brake leaves little need for hard braking with the rear. The parking brake is a simple flip-lever behind the bar, and it is easy to use and is convenient.
LIKE BIG BROTHER
The Brute Force 300 has much in common with the looks of the larger Brute Force models, and we rate that as a good thing. Part of that look is a beefy front bumper, a worthy rack, wide-spaced lights and one of the widest tracks in the class. That large frontal area isn’t all looks. It provides ample air to the radiator, as well as a nice spot for a winch. Should you choose to mount one, the front has mounts in place for a Warn winch. Also, those large fenders do a great job of keeping trail slop off the rider. We thought we might catch mud or water coming out the sides where the engine was exposed, but that never happened. The bar sits a little tall, but feels good when standing.
For a budget quad, the floor- board/foot peg area is roomy and nicely appointed. The boards have a solid feel that we like, and actually found them more usable than some expensive big-bore quads. Likewise, the seat is a great place to spend quality trail time. There isn’t a lot of storage, but there is a front compartment that will hold a few water bottles.
TRAILS AND WORK
We did most of the testing on the Hatfield-McCoy trail system, so we experienced a wide range of fun. Rocks were abundant, mud was handy and everything in West Virginia is steep! We were in the company of much-larger displacement quads, and the 300 had no trouble staying with the group—in fact, the larger machines were sort of in the way on the tighter switchbacks. HMT uses engineered trails, so there is little of the cutting-through-trees tight trail riding, but if there had been, the little Kawasaki would have shined even brighter.
We never faulted the power or the maneuverability of the 300. It was always willing and quick to go wherever we pointed it. Our sole com- plaint would be the suspension compliance. We realize that we should expect that with modest travel and non-adjustable shocks, but it felt like Kawasaki set the suspension to work well fully loaded. With just a rider, a drink system and a camera, the initial action felt firm. On the other hand, we weren’t slamming bottom all the time, either.
By any standard, the Brute Force 300 is a lot of fun and a lot of machine to play and adventure on. It offers more than competent performance. In fact, you will hit the need for 4WD before you run out of capability. This machine is fun to get busy in the tight sections, yet remained composed flat out on pavement. Add in the modest price, give it bonus points for being able to fetch and carry at work, and you have a real bargain.