UTV TEST: 2022 KAWASAKI MULE PRO-FXT
As good as utility gets for six people By the staff of Dirt Wheels
Kawasaki’s Mule line is the old guy of UTVs. The willing and effective work partners have been available since the 1980s! Especially in the beginning, the Mule was a very basic machine, and in many cases, Mules continue to be relatively low on luxury appointments. Despite the somewhat Spartan spec sheets, the Mule Pro lineup remains quite desirable, and like so many motorsports products, dealer inventories can be low.
Of the many machines in the Mule line, the straightforward 2022 Mule Pro-FXT EPS is almost as fully featured as a Mule Pro gets. It has what it needs to get the job done and does well carrying up to six people. The sole exception is the Mule Pro-FXT Ranch Edition Platinum. There is no fluff or flash with the standard FXT. It is made for work, with the ability to handle some trail fun, camping or hunting tossed in, and that’s just how most customers like it.
One look at the Mule Pro-FXT Ranch Edition Platinum shows you something a little different. It isn’t exactly a dirt limo, but it does have distinctive color, graphics and badging. It also has what Kawasaki calls “Ranch-inspired luxury leatherette seats and interior padding.” That means the cut-and-sewn seat material is saddle brown and black with embroidered Ranch Edition Platinum and an embroidered graphic in four places on the seats.
Even more unusual for a Mule, the grab-handles on the cage are covered in the same saddle brown leatherette material. The starting price of the Pro-FXT is $13,599, up $500 from 2019 when we last tested one. An EPS version runs $15,099, and that is only $200 more than in 2019. Our 2022 Ranch Edition Platinum runs $19,099. With the Metallic Rustic Bronze paint and Ranch Edition Platinum graphics, it is immediately clear that this is a richer model. It is, and the price reflects that. It is more than any other Mule model.
RICH LOOKING AND READY
There are other features that easily justify the price. It has brush and headlight guards with more coverage than any other Mule model. A Warn VRX-45 powersports winch is mounted to the brush guard. Most people don’t use a winch much, but when they do, it is priceless. We have traditionally employed them to clear obstacles out of trails and help other machines out of tight spots, but we still love to have one.
There is also a very clever sun top with a deep rain gutter at the front and a flip-up rear section. More on that rear section later. Cast-aluminum wheels come standard, as do quad LED headlights, a rear bumper and a generously sized rear-view mirror.
All the FXT models have front under-seat storage, but the Platinum has a covered under-seat storage bin. We have a love/hate relationship with the front anti-cinch seat belts. As the machine rocks side to side, plastic clips lock the retractable belt so they don’t continue to tighten with movement. We like that. When it comes time to let the belts adjust for a different-size rider, releasing the lock clips is fiddly.
Kawasaki has done an amazing job on the 812cc, three-cylinder engine. While not loud, the sound is robust and gives you confidence that there is power for any project. There is a nice quantity of torque and power from the Mule Pro-FXT’s dual-overhead-cam, EFI four-stroke engine. The high-rpm power doesn’t match high-performance sport machines, and not even a sport utility machine like the Teryx, but it holds its own on the ranch, job site or trail.
The smoothness and lack of vibration while running is surreal. For a work engine, we can’t think of a more impressive characteristic. And that is before we even put it in gear! The 7.9-gallon fuel tank provides hours of work or many miles of exploring.
Mated to the engine is a fully automatic, continuously variable, belt-style transmission. There are four gear choices in the transmission, including forward high and forward low, neutral, and reverse. There is no park gear, but there is an effective and convenient dash-mounted parking brake lever to make sure the Kawasaki doesn’t roll away while unattended. Power arrives at the wheels via shaft drive out of front and rear differentials. Once you put the FXT in gear, the drivetrain smoothness continues. Clutching engagement is silky with no jerks or judders. That vibration-less feel from idle continues as the rpm climb. It doesn’t crave rpm. Letting the engine scream doesn’t produce enough G-force to push you back in the nicely padded seats, but it does eat up the miles when needed.
It is common to see a differential lock and unlock switch next to the 2WD/4WD switch, but with the Mule, the diff-lock switch locks and unlocks the rear differential. You can drive the Mule on soft surfaces, like grass, with only one rear tire providing power during turns and not tearing up the surface.
If you drive the Mule with the rear unlocked, it won’t create rutted turns on your property. A quick click of the four-wheel-drive switch engages the front differential. There is no locking front differential on the Mule Pro-FXT models.
SUSPENSION & STEERING
The dual-A-arm, or wishbone, suspension design isn’t new, and it hasn’t been updated, but it remains a fresh concept. The front end of the Platinum has 8.7 inches of wheel travel, and the rear dual-A-arm independent suspension shares the same travel numbers. In the rear, the A-arms are robust with generous dimensions. They are more beefy than you would expect for a machine with modest travel. We’d guess that Kawasaki is making sure the rear suspension can handle the load that the bed can haul or the trailer weight.
Shocks on all four corners are gas-charged coil-overs with spring preload adjustability only on the fronts. The base Kawasaki does not come with electronic power steering, but the Ranch Edition Platinum does. Steering is smooth and easy with EPS, and the Kawasaki system is speed sensitive.
When you need to stop, the Mule has hydraulic disc brakes on all four corners. The front calipers are dual pistons, while the rears are single piston.
CLASSY & CRAFTY
The styling of Kawasaki’s Mule Pro line is ruggedly attractive, but the Ranch Edition Platinum treatment refines the look.
The FXT model is based on the three-person FXR frame. With the Pro-FXT’s rear bench seat, the FXT has seating for six. Kawasaki designed the six-person Trans Cab system to extend the rear cab seating into the cargo bed space. While the rear seat is employed, the cargo bed shrinks in size and can only carry 350 pounds of cargo.
Kawasaki’s Trans Cab is very clever. The same latches that allow the bed to dump let the rear seat bottom roll forward. Hinged sections in the bed area straightened out, and the seat back and attached “headache” rack cargo wall slide forward to increase the bed size and reduce the Platinum to a three-seater.
With the long-bed configuration, the cargo guard hits the roof before the bed fully dumps. The rear section of the sun top releases with two rubber straps, and the rear of the roof flips forward to allow dumping the steel-floored bed!
Once the rear seating is folded forward, the full size of the tilting cargo bed can carry a 1000-pound load (600 pounds in California). Having the versatility in seating and cargo is helpful. It is almost like having two different machines. There is a rear 2-inch hitch receiver that can tow up to 2000 pounds, more than most compact cars and some small trucks and vans!
There are multiple storage locations, including little nooks in the dash, along with two cup holders and a sizable glove box. Underneath the front seat is a water-resistant storage bin that can hold up to 20 pounds of cargo. If you search the Kawasaki Accessories web page, you can find another large cargo bin that fits in the large open space under the front seat.
The Mule Pro-FXT has an impressive 16-foot turning radius. The steering wheel tilts to fit different drivers, and the center-mounted dash gauge has the needed readouts. It has a speedometer, fuel gauge, hour meter, clock, dual trip meters, multiple warning indicators, gear selection, the 2WD/4WD indicator and more.
Entering the machine is quite easy. There is an outer door handle to open the short door and slide in. The tilt steering wheel allows tall or short drivers to pilot the FXT. The cab is spacious enough to easily fit three adults across the bench seat and still provide room for the driver to safely operate the Mule. If the passengers aren’t ballerinas, we opt for four people total for longer trips.
The FXT’s steering is light and manageable. Electronic steering is a big benefit, and its automatic computerized speed adjustments can be felt as you pick up the pace. While the Kawi has a mighty-sized powerplant, it is more civilized than potent. As we mentioned, low-rpm power comes in very smoothly. Most of the torque feeling is in the middle rpm, and it revs up but doesn’t impress at high rpm. Top-speed numbers fall off in the 40-mph zone. We would like to see a bit more top speed for smooth routes; however, the suspension is not tuned for spirited driving at speed.
Some utility models with modest suspension travel can beat up the passengers. You barely feel slow-speed chop with the FXT. It handles some higher speed hits, but it is no sport machine. No doubt thanks to the supple ride, there is significant body roll if you toss it into a turn or cross cambers. We took it trail riding, and it was a hit around camp as a people hauler. Traveling further afield we found that normal desert trail conditions used the skid plate early in rocks.
If you want to go hunting, or take workers around the ranch or job site, this machine is perfect. Don’t dig through deep mud pits, hit jumps or rail rutted turns. The Mule is stable at its capable speeds and comfortable as well.
When loaded with passengers and cargo, it only struggled on steep, sandy hills.
Remember to find the right jobs for this tool and you will be happy for many years. Go to www.kawasaki.com or see your Kawasaki dealer to check out Mules and other great products!
2022 KAWASAKI MULE PRO-FXT RANCH EDITION PLATINUM
Engine In-line triple, DOHC, liquid-cooled, four-stroke
Bore x stroke 71.9mm x 66.5mm
Fuel system EFI
Fuel capacity 7.9 gal.
Transmission Automatic CVT
Final drive Shaft
Front Dual A-arms w/ 8.7”
Rear Dual A-arms w/ 8.7”
Front Dual hydraulic discs
Rear Dual hydraulic discs
Ground clearance 10”
Curb weight 2035.2 lb.
Payload capacity 1616 lb.
Cargo bed capacity 1000 lb. max
Towing capacity 2000 lb.
Colors Metallic Rustic Bronze