New school vs. old school

Back in our November 2007 issue we brought you Yamaha’s all-new entry-level sport machine, the Raptor 250. Its lightweight chassis combined with a peppy 249cc four-stroke powerplant was the perfect replacement for the old Blaster. Before we hand over the crown to the all-new Raptor, we did a shootout with the long-time entry level front-runner, the Honda Sportrax 300EX. Stacking up as the Raptor’s closest competitor, the 300EX is lightweight, powerful, and you can pull a wheelie for miles. Can the old-school leader defend its crown, or will the fresh new Raptor prove to be of a higher class? Read on.

The 2008 Honda 300EX features a 282cc air-cooled, SOHC, four valve, single cylinder four-stroke, while the 2008 Yamaha Raptor 250 taps in with a smaller 249cc air-cooled four-stroke, SOHC, two-valve powerplant.
The Honda’s runner has been around since the beginning of time; well, just over 15 years, but close enough. This just means it is proven, and is one of the most reliable motors around. The Raptor 250’s powerplant was derived from the Yamaha Tricker motorcycle sold overseas. It is a well-built motor and should also prove to be one of the most reliable in the small sport class.
It obvious that neither the EX nor the Raptor 250 will ever be conceived as a rip-snorting high performance sport quad, but these are two of the most fun machines to ride!

The 2008 Honda 300EX features a 282cc air-cooled, SOHC, single-cylinder four-stroke, while the 2008 Yamaha Raptor 250 taps in with a larger 249cc air-cooled four-stroke, SOHC, two-valve powerplant.

Both the Sportrax and the Raptor have an electric start, feature a five-speed transmission mated to a manual clutch, are chain-driven, and both are fed by a standard carb; the Honda runs a 32mm Mikuni, while the Yamaha runs a 29mm Keihin.
The clutch on the Honda is pretty stiff. After longer rides, our test riders complained of a sore left hand,  whereas on the Yamaha they commented on how much lighter it was.
The 300EX features reverse and the Raptor 250 does not. This is not a huge deal if you plan on racing the Raptor, but as far as normal trail use, a reverse, mechanism would have been appreciated. There were multiple occasions where our testers needed reverse on the Raptor. The Honda was able to back up and get out of situations where we had to pick up and turn the Yamaha around. Fortunately, it’s much lighter than the Honda.
Both machines have manual clutch and five-speed transmissions to let a rider have control and move through the gears. It allows you to rev out when you need to, and popping wheelies seems natural to both ATV’s ergonomics.
The Raptor has much more torquey power from low to top range, making it seem like a much more powerful ATV. Top speed goes to the Honda’s larger cc engine, but the Raptor takes off quicker and smoother all the way through the gears. Gearing on the Honda needs some major improvements. First through third gears are spaced too close together, whereas fourth on up is a bigger gap. If Honda fixes this issue, the 300EX would be  a much better ATV.

The Raptor 250 is much smaller than the 300EX. You can tell not only by looking at it, but riding it as well. It is nearly 60 pounds lighter, and there is a spacious amount of legroom. All in all, the blue machine is much more comfortable.

Both ATVs are very comparable underneath. They both feature the same amount of underbody protection including motor skids and full heelguards with footpegs.

As far as suspension is concerned, both machines feature a double A-arm setup along with a standard swingarm. The Yamaha’s 7.5 inches of travel up front and 7.9 inches in the rear beats out the Honda’s 7.1 inches (front) and 7.9 (rear). Both are preload adjustable front and rear.
The Raptor 250 is the lighter of the two at 313 pounds, which is nearly 60 pounds lighter than the 300EX’s 372.5-pounds. It is also noticeably smaller overall. The Honda is three inches longer, an inch wider and an inch taller.
The Honda is the better of the two on rough roads and smaller whoops. The suspension is very soft, giving the machine a plush ride through these  sections. The Yamaha’s setup is much too stiff through the lighter whoops and rough roads, making it a very harsh ride.
However, the Yamaha takes over when it comes to jumping. You can sky double jumps, and flat land singles without bottoming out. Slamming though whoops was also much more enjoyable on the Raptor. The 300EX’s soft setup kills it on landings. You bottom out after nearly every jump. Keep this ATV on the trail, or invest in some aftermarket shocks.

Both machines feature a double A-arm setup. The Raptor 250 has 7.5 inches of wheel travel, while the Honda TRX300EX has 7.1 inches.

Both machines run on Dunlop knobby radial tires, but the Honda’s 22×7-10 (front) and 22×10-9 (rear) tires are much larger than the 20×7-10 and 19×10-9 Raptor treads.
The Honda tires are much too tall. They have a balloon feel to them, giving the machine too much tire roll in the corners.
The Raptor 250’s tires are spot-on. They have great all around traction, no tire roll whatsoever, and their sportier profile make the machine look ready for the track.
Both machines are slowed to a halt by an all-hydraulic disc setup. Up front features dual hydraulic discs, while the rear features a single hydraulic disc.
The Raptor’s brakes were pulled directly off the YFZ450 and are amazingly good. Nose wheelies can be done with ease.
The 300EX brakes are just as good, but slamming on the brakes makes the tall tires give too much. You do a lot more sliding than on the Yamaha. The Yamaha is the victor in this department.
The Yamaha is hands down the best handling ATV of the two. The Honda is very hard to turn, and the tire roll definitely does not help. The Yamaha handles very well. You can turn on a dime and it is very controllable on the ground and in the air.

Both ATVs are fun to ride, and would be a great purchase for any entry-level rider. However, the Honda 300EX is far outdated yet more expensive. We wonder why, Honda?

The Yamaha is the clear winner in this department. ”Everything felt great when sitting on the Raptor,” said test rider Daniel Hendrix. “It just feels like it wants to go fast,” said Derreck Murphey. It feels small when you first sit on it, but when you realize how well everything is spaced out you begin to like it. There is room to really get aggressive with it.
The Honda is very bulky. The front and rear fenders of the plastic seem like they are pushed right up into you. When you hop on the Yamaha you want and feel like you can race it, but on the Honda you “feel like you want to just cruise.” There is no room to lean or slide.
The one thing the Honda has going for it is its ultra comfortable seat. The Yamaha’s was a bit too soft, but we were barely sitting on it half the time anyways.
The Honda has a very clean look to it. It looks just like its TRX450R brother. The Raptor looks awesome! It is one of our favorite-looking ATV’s out there. It looks much better than the cool YFZ450 as well. We give kudos to the Yamaha design team.

Both machines are similar on fuel mileage. The Honda 300EX’s 2.2-gallon fuel capacity is outdone by the Raptor 250’s 2.4-gallon tank.
The Raptor 250 features dual 30W Krypton multi-reflector headlights, as well as a 21/5W brake light in the rear.
The Yamaha comes standard with a six-month limited factory warranty, and so does the Honda; however, Honda also offers 12, 18 and 24-month  warranty packages. You just have to pay a little extra for each one.
If you are looking for a little more power out of the Raptor 250, Yamaha’s GYTR department has you covered. They sell a pipe, filter and jet kit that will increase the output by 15 percent over stock. This kit retails for $230, and is available through, or by ordering through your local dealer.
Honda does not offer a power-up package for the 300EX, but you can purchase one through most any aftermarket supplier.



4-stroke air-cooled, SOHC,  4 valves

 4-stroke air-cooled; SOHC, 2 valves




Bore & Stroke 

74mm x 65.5mm 



Manual-clutch 5-speed w/reverse

Manual-clutch 5-speed


32mm Keihin w/ accelerator pump

29mm Mikuni 










Seat Height 



Suspension/wheel travel: 






Double A-arms; 5-way prld-adj shocks/7.1″ 

Double A-arms; 5-way prld-adj- shocks/7.5″


Swingarm,  prld adj shock/7.9″

Swingarm, prld-adj shock/7.9″







Dual hydraulic disc 

Dual Hydraulic discs 


Single hydraulic disc 

Single Hydraulic disc  







22×7-10 knobby 



22×10-9 knobby 


Fuel Capacity 

2.2 gal. 

2.4 gal. 

Turning radius 

10.2 ft 


Claimed dry weight 

372.5 lb 

.313 lb. 

Ground clearance 



Final drive 




White and red 

blue, gray/red, orange (SE) & black, (Custom SE)






Yamaha Motor Corp. 

The Honda has had its day as the number one small sports quad. Honda, and others, will need to make some major upgrades, or we will see the Yamaha Raptor 250 at the top for many years to come.For general trail riding, and we mean general, the Honda 300EX is a good ATV. It is very plush on the rough roads, but it doesn’t handle as well as the Raptor 250. The Raptor turns better, jumps straighter and lands smoother. It is even much more torquey for being a smaller cc’d machine. The biggest surprise is that the Honda is over a thousand dollars more. Sure, the 300EX comes with reverse, but is it worth the extra $1100 bucks. Congratulations to Yamaha on building an outstanding mid-sized sport machine, and we look forward to seeing upgrades from Honda, hopefully soon.

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