Suzuki is back! After a four-year hiatus, the Quadsport Z90 is back to teach kids how to ride.
Undeniable truth number one: Youth-sized ATVs are the safest, most responsible way to introduce a child to motorsports. They are sized properly, the performance is appropriate, and they have controls that let a child advance at his or her own pace.
Undeniable truth number two: Kids’ quads are becoming more and more rare, thanks partly to legislative buffoonery at the federal level.
Undeniable truth number three: If youth quads become extinct, kids will end up riding quads built for adults. And they will get hurt.
Thankfully, it’s been a few years since the most recent fit of governmental meddling, and companies like Suzuki are returning to the field. Suzuki now has the Quadsport Z90 as its single youth model for 2014. The machine was last seen in 2009, but was driven into hiding after the great lead scare of 2008, which took many youth quads away. That legislation was designed to eliminate the danger of lead ingestion from children’s toys, and even though the Z90 was aimed at older kids, the wording of the law was so poor that it was safer for companies to simply leave the youth market. The law was reformed in 2010, but it’s taken this long for the industry to start to heal.
BACK AND READY TO RIDE
Of all the kids’ quads, the Z90 is one of the best looking, with styling straight from the big league.
That was then and this is now. The Z90 is back and ready to teach a new generation of kids to ride. Suzuki is sticking with the Y12 designation, which means that the machine is recommended for 12-year-olds, but that’s probably a streak of corporate conservatism. Kymco, Can-Am, Polaris and Arctic Cat all have 90s of similar size that are rated Y10.
Suzuki came out with the 90 in 2007 to replace the LT80 two-stroke. Like the 80, it had an electric starter and an automatic CV transmission. Right up front, you have to know that the 80 was loved by the previous generation of kids. It was faster and lighter than the current 90, but that doesn’t mean it was better. The 80 was smoky, moody and somewhat old-school. The Z90 is so solid, it could easily be passed around within an extended family through four or five sets of kids. It is one of the very few youth models still made in Japan. Most others are made in Taiwan or mainland China.
Like most of the 90 crop, the Suzuki has single A-arm suspension with very simple shocks. Only the Can-Am 90X and the now-discontinued Yamaha Raptor 90 have double A-arms in front.
Like the old 80, the Suzuki has single A-arms in front and swingarm suspension in the rear. All the parts are beefier than those of the older machine, but there still aren’t any provisions for preload or damping adjustment. The power is transmitted to the rear wheel via a surprisingly large 530 chain. The brakes are drums—one in the rear and two in front. You couldn’t have a simpler control layout. There are two hand brakes for independent operation of the front and rear brakes and a thumb throttle. It takes a kid about 15 seconds to understand it all. There are no foot controls, but large floorboards keep a kid’s dangling legs well contained.
To start the Z90, the procedure is simple. The fuel petcock is a vacuum-style, so you don’t need to turn it on manually. There’s a key and a locking rear brake, both of which have to be on before the Suzuki will turn over. Then you press the electric start and you’re in business. If it’s cold, you might need the choke. One lesson that was learned in the distant past was that even little quads need big batteries. The tiny cells on some other quads go dead quickly, but the Suzuki’s battery is just as large as something you would find on a 450. If you don’t use the quad regularly, as is often the case with youth ATVs, be sure the battery is well charged before going into storage. That will delay the sulfating process as long as possible if you have no battery tender. The Suzuki does have a rope starter as a back-up, but it’s difficult for kid operation.
ON THE GAS
The Suzuki’s motor is an air-cooled, two-valve four-stroke that is still made in Japan. It couldn’t be any more reliable.
Suzuki gave the 90 enough power to get the job done and not much more. The job, of course, is basic entry-level quad riding. A kid will be able to ride along with the rest of the family on trail rides, climb modest hills, and go fast enough to scare mom and dad—all the things that kids love. For the very first rides, there’s a throttle limiter that can be adjusted to restrict the travel of the thumb throttle. A 12-year-old, however, will probably have no problems without such measures, even on the first ride.
With auto shifting, auto clutch and electric starting, the Suzuki is easy-peasy to ride.
We have two real complaints about the Z90. First, it doesn’t have reverse. Most of the other 90s do. Then, it doesn’t offer much room for growth. The chassis is very limited because of its rudimentary suspension and ground clearance. Riders will run out of both if they get aggressive in rough terrain. The power can be altered if you know what you’re doing. The 90cc four-stroke clearly leaves a lot on the table, and companies like CT Racing specialize in hop-up parts. The stock exhaust, clutch and ignition are all restricted somewhat.
Expect the Z90 to be passed around in an extended family for years.
Before you go crazy trying to get more performance out of your Suzuki, you should look around at the current crop of 90s. Of the major ATV makers, Suzuki is one of the most conservative. In terms of performance, the top of the class is probably the Can-Am 90X, which sells for $600 more. The Kawasaki and Kymco, which are blood relatives, offer a little more power and reverse for less money. The same goes for the Polaris, but that machine is physically very large compared to the Z90. The Honda TRX90 is $100 more expensive and has a manual gearbox. Then there’s the Yamaha Raptor 90. That machine offers more power and much more sophisticated suspension, but is strangely missing from the Yamaha lineup for 2014. The word is that most dealers can still get them, and the price is similar to Suzuki’s.
The bottom line is that the Suzuki is still near the top in reliability and quality, and should outlast a fast-growing kid’s pre-teen years. We’re just happy to see that it’s back.
SUZUKI QUADSPORT Z90
Engine type Air-cooled, 2-valve
Bore & stroke 45.5mm x 55.2mm
Fuel delivery 16mm Mikuni carb
Final drive 530 chain
Front Single A-arm
Front Dual drum
Fuel capacity 1.6 gal.
Ground clearance 5.9″
Curb weight 280 lb.