2012 Polaris Trail Blazer 330
A mild-powered ATV with a fully automatic transmission is a great tool for bringing a new off-road rider out on the trails. One of the most popular choices of quads in this category is the Polaris Trail Blazer 330, which has a price of $4399. Its competition includes Arctic Cat’s DVX 300 ($3999) and the Can-Am DS250 ($3799). If price is a major issue for you, Polaris does offer the lower-cost Phoenix 200, which sells for a low $3599. Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha’s entry-level sport machines all have manual transmissions.
The transmission, as well as the rest of the components on the Trail Blazer 330, is simple. Aside from a couple of warning lights and a mechanical fuel gauge, instrumentation is minimal; there is no speedo, tach or fancy dash panel. However, there is a fully automatic CVT system that brings power from the air-cooled, single-cylinder, four-stroke engine to the rear wheels only. This chassis is very similar to the 4WD Polaris Scrambler, one of the first sport 4x4s and one of our all-time favorites.
For the two-wheel-drive Trail Blazer, things get going quite easily. There is a keyed ignition, single-lever brakes and a light thumb throttle. The saddle is a bit wide yet comfortable, utilizing full-coverage fenders and floorboards. To get the rear wheels turning, the rider can only select high-range forward or reverse. There is no low-range-transmission option.
What is impressive about this chassis is it has ample wheel travel. Up front, MacPherson struts help keep things stable while allowing just over 8 inches of movement. Out back, a single-shock swingarm moves an impressive 10.5 inches. Hydraulic disc brakes are found at both ends. While we are not a fan of any single-lever brake action to operate front and rear calipers at the same time, for an entry-level rider, it’s not a bad feature.
More features on the Trail Blazer include its huge 4-gallon gas tank. The small, 329cc engine can travel nearly 100 miles between fill-ups. Keeping things simple and cost-effective, the engine is still carbureted, and over the years has proven to be very reliable. Using the manual choke, the Trail Blazer fires up easily, and warmup time is quick. Vibration through the handlebars is noticeable but not bad.
Power output is very linear and mellow. There’s enough juice to spin the rear tires on hard packed dirt. However, you are not going to throw any big roosts in the dunes or pop a wheelie on flat ground. You may even have trouble climbing steep inclines with the Trail Blazer since the transmission doesn’t have a low range. On most hills, there’s still enough power to stop and start again without burning up the belt. In fact, on our 2012 test machine, we never even heard the belt slipping or smelled it getting hot.
For the 50 mph top speeds we reached, the brakes on the Trail Blazer did a good job of slowing it down. When you grab the handlebar-mounted lever, both front and rear brake discs are squeezed, and the machine slows down quickly and predictably. If you only use the foot pedal, the rear brakes only lock up if you stand on the pedal, and brake control is hard to manipulate. Plus, the lever is located higher than the integrated foot pegs, so finding it while you are riding is awkward. On this machine we tend to only use the single-handlebar-mounted lever to slow it down.
You sit a littler taller on this machine than you do on other entry-level quads. It has a 35-inch seat height when the average is around 32. However, there is no noticeable body roll, and the machine corners very flat. The cockpit gives you plenty of room to jockey around on, and the floorboards provide a solid platform for your feet to stay planted. About the only complaint we have about the comfort of the machine is that the plastic thumb-throttle housing has sharp edges that you feel on occasion when riding, and the handlebars are about an inch too tall.
Suspension action is actually stiff on the front end for such a mild-mannered machine. There is a plush seat that helps cushion the ride somewhat; however, we wish the shocks were a bit softer. In fact, Polaris uses the exact same shocks and springs on this machine as they do on the 40-pound-heavier, rack-equipped Trail Boss utility machine. The Trail Blazer’s shocks are non-adjustable up front and only preload adjustable in the rear, so tuning them easily is out of the question.
Over the rough bumps, the Trail Blazer does an excellent job soaking up the hits. We couldn’t even bottom out the machine if we tried during normal trail rides. The steering is light, and the ergonomics are liveable. We were disappointed that there is no under-seat storage, or storage of any kind. Polaris did revise the bodywork a few years back to our liking.
For its intended user, the Trail Blazer fits the bill. A complete newbie can hop on this machine and tackle the trails in total confidence. It’s easy to operate and fun to ride for any beginner or novice thrill-seeker. An advanced rider will be looking for more power, for sure, but could still enjoy a day on the trails—as long as his friends are not riding anything faster.