ENTRY LEVEL TEST: 2009 POLARIS PHOENIX 200; A first quad for the wife, girlfriend, or daughter

Almost everyone who loves off-roading has a wife, girlfriend, or even daughter who enjoys riding ATVs as much as they do. A few manufacturers have noticed this as well, and offer “Ladies” versions on some of their machines, with colors more appropriately attuned for the feminine gender.
Polaris is one of the companies that have led this trend and have equipped their Phoenix 200 in a special “Ladies” edition, with bright pink plastic and special graphics. This month we take a look at one of these vehicles, designed to appeal to the women-folk.

Graphics-wise, the only difference between a standard Polaris Phoenix 200 and the “Womens” version are daisy style graphics on the plastic and a bright pink plastic color scheme.
The engine on the Phoenix 200 is a standard, air-cooled, 196cc four-stroke, with a 22mm Keihin carb attached. It uses an electric starter. The back-up kick starter is mounted towards the back of the enine, not on the kickstart shaft, and employs shaft drive to get power to the rear wheels.
A fully automatic CVT-style transmission, with forward, neutral, and reverse gear ranges, lets the operator concentrate on riding and not having to worry about shifting gears, or using a clutch.
There are no racks or hitches on the Phoenix, as it comes from the factory, but they are available as an accessory from your Polaris dealer. The fuel tank holds 2.5 gallons of gas, which is a bit on the small side for our tastes.
You do have the option of choosing either their Indy red/white plastic color scheme or their “Ladies” powder Pink version, which is what we ordered up for our test. The MSRP of the 2009 Polaris Phoenix 200 is $3299.

For suspension on the Phoenix, you get dual A-arms up front with seven inches of travel. On the back, there is a single-shock rear swingarm with 6.5 inches. There is no suspension tuning on the Phoenix, only spring preload adjustments on the front and back shocks.
To slow the machine down, a set of dual hydraulic disc brakes is attached to the front end. The rear has only one drum brake.
Steel wheels, with 21×7-10 front tires with 20×10-9 rear meats, get the Phoenix hooking up in a wide variety of terrain conditions.
A 45-inch wheelbase, and a length of 65 inches, width of 42 inches, and seat height of 32 inches, allow the Phoenix to fit a wide variety of growing riders and sizes. A dry weight of 395 pounds makes the Phoenix a bit on the portly side, especially for smaller riders, and the excess weight does tend to tax the already straining engine even more so.

Like country signer Martina McBrides’s hit song, “This one’s for the girls,” Polaris has made a “Ladies Edition” Phoenix 200 entry-level quad. Decorated with girlish graphics and a bright pink color scheme, this machine is for the wife, girlfriend, or sister who wants a feminine-looking four wheeler.

Here is what our female test riders liked and did not like about the Phoenix 200.
The ladies had mixed feelings about the bright pink color scheme and daisy graphics. Some liked the unique style, and some thought it looked “too” feminine. Surprisingly, it was about 50/50. The girls who liked it really liked it, and the ones that didn’t, really hated it. As it is with most things female, you had better let the particular lady in question decide this one for you.
Now, we will look at the performance of the machine. The air-cooled, 196cc four-stroke engine puts out a fair amount of power, but the way that power gets to the ground, via its CVT fully automatic transmission, hurts the overall performance. The CVT tranny, while easy to learn and ride on, is slow to respond to the throttle input.
This was especially true on steeper uphill climbs. The machine takes a while to build up power. As long as the terrain was fairly level, it was not a problem, but as soon as it got steep, performance suffered.
Once up to speed, the Phoenix powerplant feels relatively quick. There is not an abundance of torque, however. So performance-wise, we scored it below average for its overall size and displacement.

The suspension action on the Phoenix 200 is actually quite good. It compares favorably to some of its lesser suspended rivals, such as the Honda Recon, with 5.1 inches on the front and 4.9 inches on the back, or the sportier Honda 250EX, with 5.9 inches up front and 5.7 inches in back.
Only the manual-clutched  Yamaha Raptor 250, with 7.5 inches of front suspension travel and 7.9 inches of rear travel beats out the Polaris Phoenix 200’s high suspension travel numbers.

When it comes to overall handling, the Phoenix was stable, easy to ride, and very predictable. Steering is good, and it turns and slides easily. It jumps and flys through the air straight and true.
All the controls were comfortable, and the wide and plush seat adds to the overall smooth ride and feel of the machine. The full floorboards offer plenty of traction and help to keep the rider’s legs on the machine at all times.
Our biggest complaints with the Phoenix 200 had to do with the CVT transmission engagement, and how the powerplant responds, when forced to engage on a steep uphill climb.

The Polaris 2009 Phoenix 200 is priced at $3299 (for the pink or red versions). This is $100 more than last year’s retail price ($3199).
For comparison, the ’09 Honda TRX250X (formerly EX) has gone from $3999 in ’08 to $4099 for the new year, which is a $100 price increase. The Suz Z250 has a price tag of $3899 for ’09 and Yamaha’s ’09 Raptor 250 retails for $4199. The Honda 250X and Suzuki Z250 employ auto clutch, multi-speed transmissions, while the Yamaha Raptor 250 uses a manual clutch and five speed transmission.
What to do? There are a multitude of choices when it comes to picking the right entry level ATV. You need to make a basic decision between sport or utility. What do you do the most? Do you want more or less suspension travel? How important is ease-of-use? Do you want a fully automatic transmission? An auto clutch? Or do you want a manual clutched ATV?
All these decisions impact which entry level quad is best suited to you. However, if you want a “Ladies” pink version, the Polaris’ Phoenix 200 could be just what your wife, girlfriend, or daughter might desire. Go ahead and ask.

(Ladies Edition)
Engine type: Air-cooled, 4-stroke
Displacement: 196cc
Carburetion: Keihin 22mm
Starting: Electric w/kick back up
Transmission: CVT auto 2WD
Final drive: Shaft
Suspension/wheel travel:
Front: Double A-arm w/7 inches
Rear: Single shock swing arm w/6.5″
Front: Dual hydraulic disc
Rear: Single drum
Front: 21×7-10
Rear: 20×10-9
Length/width/height: 65″/42″/42″
Wheelbase: 45″
Dry weight: 395 lb.
Fuel capacity: 2.5 gal.
Color: Red/white or pink
Price: $3299

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