The world is getting smaller. When it comes to UTVs in particular, America, Japan, Canada and Asia are merging into one conglomerate of shared sources and mixed parts. Take the CFMoto UForce 800 side-by-side for example. It’s a utility-oriented UTV from mainland China that has parts from China, Taiwan, Italy and probably the U.S. Most important, you used to be able to identify a vehicle’s country of origin simply by looking at the quality of its finish and construction. Those days are long gone. The UForce 800 compares well to anything from anywhere.
CFMoto is based in Hangzhou, China, but it has become the largest-selling ATV/UTV maker in Europe. The company is just getting started in the U.S. and has set itself apart from other new manufacturers by controlling its own U.S. distributor in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Chinese companies have a bad reputation for switching names, distributors and identities to the point that you don’t know who’s who. CFMoto is CFMoto and no one else. There have been collaborative efforts with companies like Ducati and KTM, but the 800 isn’t sold under any other brand name.
THE PARTS AND THE WHOLE
CFMoto is in an early stage of growth here in the U.S. and is still searching for an identity. If you hang on every word in Dirt Wheels, you might remember coverage from previous issues. The company makes utility ATVs and UTVs, in addition to scooters and motorcycles, and we’ve tested several examples in two years, including a sporty 600cc UTV that was called the Z6 (July 2013). The company has renamed its various models in hopes of offering a clear-cut identity for each one. The Z6 is now called the ZForce 600. The subject of this test was called the Tracker in earlier references. Now it’s the UForce 800. The 800 is entirely new, sharing virtually no parts with other side-by-side models in the line. It has an 800cc V-twin that looks very Rotax-like. We would, in fact, go so far as to say that CFMoto took a good, long, hard look at the 80-degree V-twin that powers most of the Can-Am line before starting this project. The top-end parts look strikingly similar. We suppose if you’re going to copy something, the Rotax engine is better than most. Clearly the CFMoto project took on a life of its own at some point in the development process, and everything below the base gaskets is obviously different. The fuel injection is actually a Ducati system. The company claims the 800cc motor produces 62 horsepower at 6700 rpm. Can-Am places its 800cc, SOHC V-twin at 71 horsepower. The drivetrain has a belt-and-pulley, continuously variable transmission with high, low, reverse and park. You can switch to four-wheel drive on the fly with the push of a button. You can also lock the front differential with a Yamaha-like switch on the dash.
This motor was introduced last year in a two-up ATV that appeared in Dirt Wheels. A new UTV chassis was built around that motor and is unlike anything the company previously produced. It’s a sporty-looking utility machine that doesn’t appear to be a copy of anything from Can-Am, Polaris or anyone else. It uses double A-arm suspension all the way around with 9 inches of travel. The vehicle looks big, but has a smaller footprint than most UTVs. The width is just a tick over 56 inches. That’s narrower than most utility side-by-sides of this displacement by about 2 inches. It still can’t quite squeeze into the same places as a standard Polaris RZR 800, but it comes very close.
ADD-ONS AND THE CUSH FACTOR
The real calling card of this particular vehicle is that it’s loaded. It comes built up with accessories and features that usually cost extra. In case you hadn’t noticed, most dealers won’t let you get out of the showroom without a long list of add-ons, often pushing the price of a side-by-side up toward $20,000. The UForce 800 already has most of the good stuff. The wheels are cast alloy, the tires are CST Abuzz, and there’s even a Lianda winch mounted up front.
Calling this machine a “utility vehicle” doesn’t quite fit—it’s not like a Mule or a Big Red. It’s actually somewhat uptown. The finish, in particular, is like a limited-edition flagship. It has automotive-style paint and a nice interior with high-back bucket seats. Latching doors are standard equipment, and all the controls and grips have nicely contoured surfaces. In case you live in a state where you can get a UTV licensed, there’s a license-plate bracket, taillights and a high/low beam switch for the LED headlights. This is the one area where CFMoto doesn’t seem like a newbie, striving to catch up with Japanese and North American side-by-side makers. In the fit and finish department, the UForce 800 isn’t second fiddle to anyone.
Still, the UForce has all the right credentials to be a workhorse. The bed is large and easily dumped. It has a receiver for a trailer hitch. There are drains on the floor so you can hose out the interior. There’s a small glove compartment inside and a medium-sized storage trunk under the hood. CFMoto doesn’t list capacities for the bed or hitch, but judging by the construction, it should be around 2000 pounds for towing and 1000 pounds for carrying. There’s an option for an electrically controlled dump bed in the works, and the company is also working on a power-steering feature for the near future.
SPIN THE WHEEL
We were stunned by the instant throttle response of the 800. When you push the pedal, it moves out—right now. In the past, we complained about the sloppy clutch engagement and weak power output of the 600. Those aren’t issues here. The 800 is very different from the sport model we tested in July. In this case, the clutch engagement is crisp, and the big V-twin motor is a brute and easily in the same league as the Kawasaki Teryx and Polaris 800. After the initial hit, the power builds at a steady rate, eventually topping out around 60 mph. Power and low-end torque are excellent.
In fact, it’s easy to get carried away. Regardless of the power output, the UForce is not a sport UTV. It’s not designed to slide turns and leap off jumps. It’s too narrow and a little top-heavy. The suspension is also very stiff, especially without a passenger and when unladen with cargo. It is, however, very adept at rock crawling. Ground clearance is good, and even though the narrowish track makes it tippy, it gives the machine more ability to straddle ruts and rocks without high-centering. The wheelbase is about 4 inches shorter than that of a Commander, which also helps in tight confines. But the overall handling is quick. It doesn’t take much steering-wheel input to change direction. The power-steering option might be helpful as a steering stabilizer, but the effort required to drive the CFMoto is already minimal.
Our complaint list is short. Several drivers mentioned that the engine is too jumpy off the bottom. That makes it difficult to be smooth in delicate situations where you only want to inch forward a tiny bit. And, shifting is still a little crunchy. Putting the transmission in low range requires a very deliberate push on the stick shift. This could be an adjustment issue, but it has been an issue with other CFMoto products that we have tested.
KEEPING IT TOGETHER
By far, the biggest concern is more about the company than the product. When you buy a machine this large, you’re investing in the future of the brand, and you’re probably going to own it for a long time. So far we’ve had nothing but good luck with the UForce. After a couple of months, it still runs like it did on day one. The digital speedometer has been intermittent, which is a problem that we had on the Z6 as well. But all the big parts seem durable. We confess, we even tested the roll cage, and it proved itself well. The company is making a serious effort at building a good reputation by warehousing parts in Minnesota and operating a full-time tech department. The warranty is one year, bumper to bumper. It seems certain to us that CFMoto will, indeed, be around in a year and a long time after that. The bottom line is that the UForce is an incredible value. The MSRP is $9999, which places it in the same price category as stripped-down 500cc and 600cc UTVs. Dealerships might be rare now, but give them time. They are coming fast.
2013 CFMOTO UFORCE 800
Engine Liquid-cooled, SOHC,
Final drive Shaft
Fuel system Ducati EFI
Front Dual A-arm
Rear Dual A-arm
Front Dual disc
Rear Dual disc
Fuel capacity 6.9 gal.
Claimed curb weight 1306 lb.
Ground clearance 11.0”
Colors Gray, black, orange, camo