ATV manufacturers are offering more ATV models in 2000 than at any other time in history. There are literally dozens of four-wheel drives, a wide variety of two-wheel drive recreational and utility machines, sport and high-performance quads, and an ever-increasing number of minis in the 50cc to 90cc range.
However, there is one class of four-wheeled ATVs that has curiously remained small and stagnant for well over a decade. Throughout quad history, there has never been a large selection of innovative models in the 100cc to 200cc range. Our off-road brothers, the dirt bikes, have always offered many models in that displacement range. Our three-wheeled predessors also had quite a selection in that class during their heyday. Why should quads be any different?
When we first reported on the all-new Yamaha Blaster 200 sport quad in 1988, it appeared that a trend was about to be set?an affordable, no-frills, somewhat scaled-down fun quad for smaller and lighter riders. Something for teenagers to ride after they graduated from the 80s and 90s. Something mom and the girlfriend could feel comfortable on, but challenging enough for aspiring racers and expert riders. After the successful debut of the Blaster, however, not much happened. Other than the Blaster, the only current offerings in the under-200cc range are the Yamaha Breeze 125 and Suzuki LT160 QuadRunner, both of which don’t offer near the performance and thrills of the Blaster despite being in the same price range.
When we first saw photos of the new Kasea Skyhawk 150 this past winter, we thought, “Wow, this could be a contender! It?s as big as a Blaster, has a manual clutch, and looks as cool as Honda FourTrax 400EX. This is the type of machine that people might like.”
FIRST ADULT-SIZED KASEA
Upon receiving of our test machine, a close look revealed that the fit and finish on the new Kasea Skyhawk 150 was quite clean. The machine actually does look like the 400EX?s little brother, but it?s also obviously a copy of the Blaster?s chassis. Kasea quads are manufactured in China and then imported into this country through their offices in Seattle, Washington. The only previous Kasea quads which have made it to the states were the Mighty Mite and Super Mite 50cc mini quads. Those particular vehicles were not well-engineered and have since been discontinued. This marks the first adult-sized ATV that we?ve seen from Kasea. It?s suggested retail for 2000 is $2998, exactly one dollar less than the cost of the Blaster, QuadRunner LT160 and Breeze 125.
Unlike the Blaster, the Skyhawk features an electric starter which conveniently fires up the machine even while in gear as long as the clutch is pulled in. The choke is an easy-access, bar-mounted lever and the noise of the idling four-stroke is not at all loud.
The Taiwanese-built SMC engine is not merely a copy of an already existing Japanese powerplant. It is, however, quite basic and somewhat primitive with its pushrod two-valve design. This air-cooled four-stroke measures a true 149cc with a 62mm x 50mm bore and stroke. It gets its fuel and air mixture via a 29mm Keihin carb and has a 10.5:1 compression ratio. There is no backup kick or pull start and the battery is located under the rear end of the seat.
While getting ready for takeoff, we found the clutch action to be plenty easy. Shifting through the five-speed gearbox was smooth as well, but neutral was kind of hard to find sometimes (there is no reverse gear). The biggest problem in the Skyhawk?s engine/tranny department is a lack of power. There simply isn?t enough horsepower being generated to make this a fun ride for any intermediate-level or better rider. With a 160-pound adult on board, relatively mild hillclimbs were a chore just to conquer, even when shifting all the way down to first gear. Wheelies are possible, but you really have to work on it and it?s not going to happen in second gear. Broadslides? Well, you pretty much have to be on a gravel road to get this quad sideways.
Sure, it?s fun having a manual clutch and a five-speed, but without a somewhat peppy engine we had to wonder, “what?s the point?” The bland powerband has no real hits anywhere and we found ourselves pinning the throttle most of the time just to keep things interesting. Perhaps we?re expecting too much from a 150cc four-stroke in an adult-sized chassis.
It?s not uncommon in the ATV industry for Chinese and Taiwanese manufacturers to make replicas of already existing Japanese-built quads. The legal hows and whys of this practice aren?t always clear, and to tell you the truth, really don?t concern us during our evaluations. The fact of the matter is, these quads are being sold legally in the U.S. and it?s our job to simply report on how well they work. With that being said, almost the entire Skyhawk chassis is a Yamaha Blaster “knock-off.” However, it does have a few refinements. Gone is the dismal mechanical rear drum brake found on the Yamaha, replaced with a well-working hydraulic disc unit. The front brakes are still drums, and they perform just OK.
Even though the front double A-arms and the rear swingarm are identical to the Blaster?s, the shocks and springs aren?t. Kasea says in their specification sheet that the Skyhawk has 7.1 inches of wheel travel front and rear, which is the same as that found on the Blaster. However, during our first ride over some trail bumps we found that the Skyhawk wasn?t even close to the Blaster in the suspension department.
The worst is the front suspension, which doesn?t work very well at either low or high speeds. The front shocks appear to have springs that are way too stiff, giving you a rough ride on slow trails and feeling like they?re bottoming out when you hit the bumps at faster speeds. The rear shock has a milder spring and works OK at slow speeds, but it is also harsh at faster speeds, too. We figure part of the rear shock?s problem is the fact that the front shocks aren?t doing their job of soaking bumps, which then puts more stress on the swingarm.
Kasea tells us that they are aware of this problem and are planning to make the suspension softer on incoming 150s as soon as possible.
To its credit, the new Skyhawk corners fine and has pretty good trail manners. Like the Blaster, it fits smaller and lighter riders better. Most adult males will feel cramped on the Kasea.
The dry weight of the Skyhawk is 325 pounds, just five pounds more than the Blaster. The Kasea is lighter than the Suzuki LT160 (357 pounds) but is heavier than the Yamaha Breeze 125 (298 pounds).
There are two ways to look at the new Kasea Skyhawk 150. Since it is priced the same as the other three 125-200cc quads currently being offered, we feel it is fair to make an educated comparison here and now, since we have ridden the other quads extensively over the last decade. Two of these ATVs, the LT160 QuadRunner and Breeze 125, were designed simply as entry-level, recreational trail quads. Compared to those two, the Skyhawk has similar performance traits in speed and suspension, but the Skyhawk is a bit harder for first-time riders to master due to the manual clutch and it doesn?t have a reverse gear. However, it looks a lot sportier than either the Suzuki or the Yamaha.
Comparing the Skyhawk to the Yamaha Blaster 200 isn?t much of a contest. The Blaster?s two-stroke, air-cooled 195cc engine puts out considerably more horsepower than the Kasea, and though the Yamaha?s suspension isn?t the greatest in the sport quad world, it?s still heaps better than the current Skyhawk we tested. If racing and going fast is your goal, the equally-priced Blaster is certainly the better machine. In the Kasea?s defense, it does have the advantage of an electric start and a rear disc brake when compared to the Blaster. Its four-stroke engine is also quieter and may outlast the Blaster in the long run, but the jury is still out on the long term overall reliability of this all-new quad.
Perhaps there?s a reason why there hasn?t been much activity with sport quad models in the 100cc to 150cc range. It could be that it?s difficult to power quad chassis? that are so close to full-size with engines that small. It?s obvious that this 150cc four-stroke engine isn?t powerful enough to give a Blaster-sized frame a fun, thrilling ride. When you get right down to it, the Skyhawk needs either a bigger engine, a lighter, smaller frame or a much lower price. Then perhaps, it might find its own new niche as a “go-between” sport quad.
Engine type Air-cooled
w/fan assist, pushrod, 2-valve,
Bore & stroke 62mm x 50mm
Carburetion 29mm Keihin
Transmission Manual clutch,
5-speed w/no reverse
Final drive 520 chain
Fuel capacity 2.1 gal.
Claimed dry weight 320 lb.
Ground clearance 8.8″
Front 21×7-10 Cheng Shin
Rear 21×10-8 Cheng Shin
Front Dual A-arms
Front Twin mechanical drums
Rear Hydraulic disc
Lighting Single 18W headlight
Suggested retail $2998
6767 East Marginal Way South
Seattle, WA 98108