UTV TEST: 2022 KAWASAKI MULE PRO-MX EPS CAMO
Small but mighty at a reasonable price By the staff of Dirt Wheels
Kawasaki has an amazing line of Mule vehicles. All are fully viable as tools ready to work at the turn of a key. A smaller but still significant number are equally at home hunting, camping or just having fun on the trail. Our Mule Pro-MX EPS Camo test unit may be close to the smallest of all the Mule vehicles and designed for two persons, but it is one that we would take out adventuring on the trail. While the little Mule might not be our first pick for a trip to giant sand dunes, we do enjoy it on trails. We do have to admit that we scrambled harder for the Mule key when there was work to be done than when we were headed for playtime. We almost felt guilty about keeping it in servitude, but we still kept it busy.
COMPACT IS COOL
The affordable, compact Mule Pro-MX EPS Camo is a 60-inch-wide two-seat UTV with a somewhat short 78.9-inch wheelbase. Full-size Pro-Series Mules are 64 inches wide, seat three or six, and have a 92.5-inch wheelbase. The Mule Pro-MX starts at a budget price of $10,399 for the 2022 model. Our test machine is $12,749, and the Pro-MX EPS LE is $12,699. The longer, wider full-size Mule Pro-FX starts at $12,199. Honda’s Pioneer 700 starts at $10,999, and the two-seat Polaris Ranger 570 Full Size starts at $10,799. The Honda also has hard doors but no low range. The Polaris is new and has low range, but no doors, just nets.
While the price of the base model is a bonus, our EPS Camo has that electric power steering we like so much. It makes it so pleasant and easy to drive. The roof is a nice addition, and if you like that look, the pricier camo finish looks good. All Mule Pro-MX models have a tilt wheel and LED/halogen headlights. All that it misses compared to other versions are the cast-aluminum wheels of the LE version.
WHAT IT’S MADE OF?
The Pro-MX’s steel-floored cargo bed is rated for carrying 700 pounds (600 in California), and the machine can tow 1500 pounds. We can vouch for the towing. We didn’t do any long trips while towing, but we used it frequently to park and move trailers. While the trailers were always empty, some of the larger ones have to exceed the tow capacity. The Pro-MX was always up for the task.
The cab floor is steel as well. Its two-place bench seat is formed a bit for comfort instead of being a flat bench. It is quite comfortable. Unlike many UTVs aimed at work, all of the Mule Pro-MX models come with handy, hard half doors. That is a big advantage.
While hard doors are almost a luxury item for a utility machine, the rest of the interior is fairly basic. It does have a compact gauge with a lot of information, but not much else.
ULTIMATE COSMIC POWER?
A 695cc, single-overhead-cam, single-cylinder engine provides motivation. It has vibration-reducing mounts and a quiet, silenced intake make the single pretty smooth. It doesn’t match the silky, 812cc, three-cylinder engine in the larger Mule Pro models, but it is great for the price. Mated to the engine is a fully automatic, belt-type continuously variable transmission with a centrifugal sprag clutch on the primary clutch. That means that the CVT doesn’t kick in until the centrifugal kicks in. The centrifugal clutch protects the belt, and the sprag (one-way) clutch provides smooth four-wheel engine braking in 4WD. Shafts connect the power to the front and rear differentials. It has selectable 2WD/4WD and a lockable rear differential. That is interesting terminology. It is normally referred to as an unlockable rear diff or Turf mode. ATV and UTV rear axles are normally locked so that both rear wheels turn the same. That is why the tires squeal on hard surfaces. Unlocking the rear end keeps the Mule from tearing up grass or leaving black marks on the driveway. It also unlocks to make tighter turns easier.
SPEED—DOES IT MATTER?
As we remember back to the early Yamaha Rhinos, which were also singles, the Pro-MX is quick for a single-cylinder, utility-focused 700cc UTV. Top speed is slightly over 40 mph, and the 700 has more than enough muscle for trails with steep climbs. On soft, steep climbs we ran out of traction from the 25-inch Duro tires before we ran out of power.
The Pro-MX has the smooth, tractable throttle response that’s important for negotiating tough terrain while carrying cargo or for technical trails. The 700 produces strong, even low-rpm power, and it keeps pulling as the rpm build. There’s enough acceleration and speed on tap to cover wide-open spaces in a hurry if you want to. Like other Pro-Series Mules, the Pro-MX is impressively smooth and quiet, so long rides are more enjoyable, and it’s easy for the driver and passenger to talk to each other.
GOTTA HAVE SUSPENSION
Double-A-arm front and rear suspension with spring preload-adjustable shocks allow 8.6 inches of front suspension travel and 9.1 inches in the rear. That travel offers a surprisingly smooth ride. Those travel numbers actually surpass Kawasaki’s sport utility Teryx 800. The threaded preload adjusters on the shocks are more precise, but slower and less convenient than stepped adjusters.
Being light and compact with a short wheelbase and only 60 inches wide, the Pro-MX is plenty agile and maneuverable while still displaying good stability. It has a zippy, energetic response to the steering, handling and engine performance that the heavier, larger Mule models can’t match. There’s less body roll in hard cornering, and the sculpted seats offer more support than the flat bench seats on bigger Mules. Both the interior accommodations and the handling were very comfortable on challenging trails and when driving aggressively.
UP TO THE CHALLENGE
It doesn’t really matter what you ask of the Pro-MX, it is up to it. Our first day was spent running around at a track. The work wasn’t hard. We didn’t haul much more than camera equipment. Rolling around the track, the Pro-MX handled the steep jump faces (as hill-climbs) and the descents without effort. It is nimble enough to turn around on the top of a jump.
After that we spent time running around in the country. It had a steady diet of errands, routine running around and accomplishing general tasks. It hauled firewood and loads of gravel. Our trailers are stored where it is tough to get them parked and hooked back up with a RV or our truck with a camper mounted.
An eager Pro-MX needed only a draw bar and a ball to become the standard trailer shifting device. It is so nimble and has such good visibility that it makes the job a snap.
While running around the farm, or on trails and roads, it is equally happy. When you hit open, fast roads, you will notice that the top speed is somewhat limited. Fortunately, Baja 1000 racers are unlikely to select the Mule as a race vehicle.
When you use the Pro-MX at speeds that suits its size and performance, the experience is outstanding. It has the engine performance that matches the capabilities of the chassis and suspension.
EASY FOR WORK
When you are ready to work, things go equally well. The bed has a tailgate and a dump bed. Cleverly, the bed has a slight rearward tilt to the bed floor that makes it easy to rinse out. The same is true of the relatively smooth bed-floor surface. It has a fairly smooth diamond-plate finish that adds traction for cargo without making it hard to shovel or broom clean.
Kawasaki also offers more money-saving accessory packages for the Pro-MX than other Mules. There’s the Utility package, the Open Range package, the Adventure package, the Sportsman package, the Soft Cab package and the Hard Cab package.
Whether you use the Pro-MX for hauling, transportation or towing, it handles everything you throw at it.
WHAT IT MEANS
We find the Pro-MX to be a fine-looking little machine in camo or one of the solid colors. It is easy to enter and exit, and the driver’s compartment is comfortable and supportive. We have come to truly enjoy Kawasaki choosing an effective hand brake rather than having park in the transmission.
Driving the machine is always a pleasure. The property we used it on is not that large with buildings and other machines to wiggle around. That nimble handling was a bonus in those conditions. At times there were other machines on hand to choose from, but the Pro-MX was our go-to machine. While we are highly tempted by the $10,399 price of the base model, we must admit that the power steering and the roof are very nice and worth the additional cost. This machine is a great value for a machine that is so willing and able. It is no wonder that it is so popular.
2022 KAWASAKI MULE PRO-MX
Engine 4-stroke, single cylinder, SOHC, 4-valve liquid-cooled
Bore x stroke 102mm x 85mm
Fuel system EFI
Fuel capacity 9.5 gal.
Transmission Automatic CVT
Final drive Shaft
Front Dual wishbone w/ 8.6”
Rear Dual wishbone w/ 9.1”
Front Dual hydraulic discs
Rear Dual hydraulic discs
Ground clearance 10.6”
Curb weight 1599 lb.
Payload capacity 1200 lb.
Cargo bed capacity 699 lb. max
Towing capacity 1500
Colors TrueTimber HTC Green