When Kawasaki introduced the original Prairie 650 back in 2002, it destroyed the competition. The Prairie was the first production machine with a V-twin engine stuffed into an ATV chassis. A few years later, that popular machine received a facelift and was renamed the Brute Force. The Brute Force line is now headed up with a 750cc, V-twin-powered machine with independent rear suspension, fuel injection and EPS. It’s a rocket ship, can go nearly anywhere, and sells for $10,000. There is also an entry-level Brute Force with not as much power yet still has loads of features at an affordable price.
BRUTE FORCE 300
With a retail price of $4299, the two-wheel-drive Brute Force 300 is a back-to-the-basics machine that doesn’t skimp on quality or amenities. You will find common features such as a fully automatic CVT transmission, full-coverage floorboards and electric starting, along with front and rear racks. Not-so-common features include a front storage box and fender-mounted storage area; both are items you rarely see on a low-cost machine. There is no under-seat storage. However, you will find the battery and tool-less access to the air filter there.
The closest competition to the Brute Force 300 is Yamaha’s Grizzly 300. Both machines were developed right when the economy took a big hit, just so each manufacturer would offer a super low-cost offering. The Grizzly 300 had a retail price of $4199 in 2013 but has mysteriously disappeared from Yamaha’s lineup this year. Yamaha claims vendor issues as the reason.
To power the small Brute, Kawasaki uses a 271cc, SOHC, liquid-cooled, four-stroke engine produced by Kymco. In fact, Kymco actually built the entire machine for Kawasaki. However, Kawasaki designed it completely and had very strict plans for Kymco to follow. Kawasaki wanted to make sure the performance, as well as the quality, was up to their standards. We think it is.
Fuel is fed to the engine through a Keihin carburetor, and it fires up instantly with the use of the choke. It warms up quick and runs smooth and quiet. Power is surprisingly peppy and adequate for a 300-class machine. You will see top speeds of 40 mph if you have a smooth path to open it up on. That power will give you towing abilities well beyond the 500 pounds Kawasaki says it can pull. For cargo situated on the front or rear racks, you want to keep that around 100 pounds to avoid hurting the handling.
Under the Brute Force’s aggressive bodywork, dual A-arms up front provide just over 5 inches of movement. The shocks are preload adjustable. Out back, a solid-axle swingarm suspension setup is found, with a single preload-adjustable shock providing 5.6 inches of movement. At both ends, bumps are kept at bay as long as you keep speeds down and keep it off the jumps. Curb-sized drop-offs and other small trail obstacles can be tackled fine, though. There is very little body roll or even tire flex thanks to the low-profile, 22-inch-tall Maxxis tires mounted on steel wheels. Ground clearance is still a respectable 6.1 inches, and the seat height is low at 33.3 inches. Loading or storing this little quad is a piece of cake thanks to its small dimensions and a light curb weight of 536 pounds. Overall, the machine measures 75 inches long, 46 inches tall and only 42.5 inches wide, so all you need is a small shed or spot in the garage to keep it out of the elements.
Braking is provided by strong hydraulic disc brakes both front and rear. The parking brake is an easy-to-use, handlebar-mounted flip lever. The other controls are simple to use as well. From the gate-style shifter to the separate front and rear brakes, the controls are easy to use or to teach to new riders. The levers are sized for smaller hands, comfortable and not hard to pull.
The 300 is a brute in namesake only. But that doesn’t mean it’s not good. It’s not fast, and it doesn’t have super-plush suspension, but it does work. It can get tons of work chores done on a day-to-day basis without causing problems or costing you a fortune. You wouldn’t want to buy it for trail riding, but it would work perfectly for an extra machine, especially if lending it to a first-time rider. It’s easy to operate, runs at a safe speed and handles very predictably. Kawasaki’s Brute Force 300 is worth every penny of its low price tag.
2014 KAWASAKI BRUTE FORCE 300
Engine SOHC, liquid-cooled 4-stroke
Bore and stroke 72.7mm x 65.2mm
Fuel system 32mm Keihin carb
Fuel capacity 3.2 gal.
Transmission Fully auto CVT
Final drive Shaft
Front Dual A-arms/5.2″
Front Dual hydraulic disc brakes
Rear Single hydraulic disc
Ground clearance 6.1″
Seat height 33.3″
Curb weight 535.8 lb.
Front 44 lb.
Rear 66 lb.
Towing capacity 500 lb.
Colors Red, blue