UTV TEST: HONDA PIONEER 1000-5 TRAIL
New tech, updated look and more capabilityBy the staff of Dirt Wheels
Honda’s Pioneer 1000 was all new in 2016 with features that were somewhat unique in the UTV industry at the time. Honda chose to upstage its former top-line Pioneer 700 single-cylinder UTV with a full 1000 twin cylinder with a roomier cab, 10 inches of wheel travel and a larger chassis. Honda doesn’t like follow-the-leader, so there are no CVT-motivated machines in the line. The 700 was unique enough with a 3-speed automobile-type automatic transmission, but it had no associated low-range capability. The Pioneer 1000 quantum-leaped the 3-speed with a 6-speed gear-to-gear dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifters.
Honda called the 1000 a “multi-purpose” UTV at the time, meaning that it was a willing and capable work machine, but has the comfort and performance to make it a desirable sport vehicle. These days the Pioneer 1000 falls in the rec/utility class, and that is by far the largest category in sport UTVs. Our test machine is the new-for-2022 Pioneer 1000-5 Trail. In 2016 Dirt Wheels called the Pioneer 1000 “as sporty as four wheels and a roll cage get at Honda.” But, the magazine didn’t know that 2017 would get even better with 1000 and 1000-5 Limited Editions equipped with i-4WD and adjustable Fox QS3 shocks for the first time.
Our 2022 Pioneer Trail owes a lot to that 2017 Limited Edition. It has almost all the same features, but the original LE had aluminum A-arm guards. The loss of A-arm protection is a good trade, though. 2022 is the first significant revamp of the platform since 2017. The changes include a restyled front end including the lighting.
The Pioneer 1000 shares engine architecture with the Talon sport UTV and the Africa Twin adventure motorcycle. Of those machines the Talon has the most power. For 2022 the Pioneer has more power in the middle and upper rpm ranges, thanks to revised valve timing and an updated throttle-body plate setting. Towing capacity is up to 2500 pounds with the added performance. The cooling fan size has been increased correspondingly.
All Pioneer 1000 versions receive updated gear ratios that are wider overall, with more pulling power at lower speeds. We didn’t notice the ratio change, but we did notice and appreciate changes made to improve shifting action with reduced shock during gear changes. It still doesn’t have CVT-smooth acceleration, but it is smoother.
On Pioneer Trail (and Forest and Deluxe) under-seat storage has been enlarged at the opening, making it easier to put in and remove objects. New storage areas have been added below the dash, with contents secured via cargo nets. We stuffed a hoodie in one, and it was perfectly secure while driving.
Honda redesigned the dash cup holders to hold tumbler-sized cups, but they still held ordinary water bottles just fine. The same is true of the in-door drink-bottle holders provided in all four doors.
Honda is committed to door nets, and we appreciate the security they provide when combined with three-point seat belts. Past Pioneer 1000s have had fussy latches and poor side vision. You must still open the door and unclip the door net to enter or leave the Pioneer, but we weren’t bothered, and side vision is much better.
It won’t matter if you are a drive-it-stock guy, but all 2022 Pioneer 1000s have a pre-wired panel under the hood to simplify installation of electronic accessories. On the Trail and other premium trim levels there are pre-wired switches integrated in the dash for additional accessories. That isn’t all the electrical news. Pioneer 1000 Trail, Forest and Deluxe now have a 12-volt accessory receptacle in the bed to power 12-volt devices. The Trail has interior lights as well. That is huge for night driving.
The 2022 Trail and Forest come standard with a 4,500-pound capacity winch.
With the Pioneer 1000-5 ,the seating arrangement is three on the contoured front bench seat and two on the hidden rear seats. When folded, the rear seats are invisible under the bed floor. Lift them up and you have seats and seat belts. Padding for the rear seats looks sparse, but they are surprisingly comfortable. The price difference between the 1000 and the 1000-5 is $1400. Unless you have an overwhelming need to haul something that will interfere with the cage over the bed, we would buy the 1000-5. If the seats are hidden, you have the full bed and additional storage in the rear-seat foot wells that you can access by opening the rear doors.
The Pioneer 1000 has a new dash meter with modernized styling. Added functions include clutch indicator, battery voltage and CAN communication. It is bright and easy to read, but pervasive silt dust where we tested in Tennessee often completely obscured the display. Pioneer 1000 Trails come with a large rear-view mirror mounted on the cage. We loved it.
Honda took care to keep engine heat and sound away from the passenger cabin. We are happy for the efforts, and they do make a difference. However, for our slow, technical driving on a warm day, the seat did get warm, and at one point the passenger-side seat belt buckle got hot enough to cause discomfort through clothes.
There is a lot of motion in the tilt steering wheel to make entering and exiting the Pioneer pleasant. Pulling it back into place with one hand takes some muscle.
We found the pedal positioning natural. Controls for the drive modes are on the dash. A gated lever allows you to select between 2WD, 4WD and Turf modes. A rocker switch selects auto-shift for the DCT or manual shifting with the paddle shifters. Pushing on the bottom of the shift switch engages Sport mode to extend the rpm before each shift in Auto mode. A second gated lever selects park, reverse, neutral, high and low. Low is 42-percent lower than high.
All Pioneer 1000 versions come with 14-inch wheels, and the aluminum cut-contrast wheels on the trail are our favorites. New tires are also part of the equation. New 6-ply (4-ply in 2021) OTR Dirt Master tires are standard for 2022.
Of all the Pioneer 1000 versions, the Trail is the only one that comes with Fox Quick Switch 3 (QS3) shocks. Our testing was at Ride Royal Blue. The well-marked trail routes didn’t tax the Pioneer Trail’s abilities to get through, but the routes were choppy and rutted enough for slow trail speeds. It was rare that we experienced smooth trail sections for any distance.
Under those conditions, we were happy to find that switching the Fox shocks from the standard setting of 2 to the number 1 on all four wheels made a huge impact on ride comfort.
Our trails didn’t have whoops, but our previous experience compels us to avoid them in the Pioneer 1000. As well as the Fox QS3 shocks work, there isn’t enough travel or wheelbase to have us looking forward to whoop sections.
WHAT IS I-4WD?
All 2022 Pioneer 1000 versions come standard with Honda’s torque-biasing, limited-slip rear differential. Turf mode utilizes two-wheel drive and the rear differential to protect lawns and other sensitive surfaces. Honda’s all-terrain division worked with Honda automotive engineers to come up with i-4WD. It offers the advantages of a differential lock without the drawback of hard steering.
When you select 4WD with the dash-mounted lever, you are selecting i-4WD (“intelligent four-wheel drive”). In action it is quite transparent, but Honda has dropped a lot of technology here to make it work. The front differential doesn’t lock, but the system channels torque to the wheels that have greater traction. Honda has a demonstration fixture that puts three wheels on roller bearings with a single front wheel forced to climb a steep metal ramp. One front wheel hangs in the air as the car climbs, but none of the wheels spin. It is impressive. When one front wheel starts to spin, the system brakes the spinning wheel and applies more power to the wheel that has traction.
It wouldn’t work without Honda’s brake-traction control managing the amount of slip between the left and right front wheels, and applying torque where grip is greater. Steering effort is reduced and there is little kickback compared to standard locking differentials.
In addition to managing driving forces, brake-traction control automatically optimizes braking forces between the front and rear wheels depending on where grip is greatest. The Pioneer Trail stops great, but you never feel that the computer is managing the stopping power at each wheel. It simply works just as i-4WD does. There is no need to stop to engage diff-lock, and there was no heavy steering or kickback at any time during our testing.
Thankfully, the Pioneer shows none of the odd traits that automotive anti-lock brake systems can exhibit on loose surfaces. The Pioneer Trail also has hill-start assist. It will hold the machine on a hill. We didn’t bother. We just left-foot-braked if we needed to take off on a hill.
Throttle inputs to the Honda are immediate with the sort of smooth and seamless delivery you want for utility work, but the acceleration is plenty zippy for fun and serious four-wheeling. It isn’t the sort of response that generates wheelspin when you mash the throttle. The Honda has all the power that the tires and terrain can use. The terrain at Ride Royal Blue rarely allowed for full-throttle operation, except for the tiniest spurts. Compared to the West Coast, the terrain never opens up. There is ample power towing, carrying loads or even using a heavy drag to smooth dirt roads.
The Honda’s Dual Clutch Transmission is an all-gear unit with two clutches and no CVT or drive belt. One clutch manages the even-numbered gears and the other clutch the odd-numbered gears. As one gear runs out, the next gear is already engaging. Whether you let the Honda shift for you or you select the gear with the paddle shifters, the engine management package rolls off the power, so each gear engages super smoothly. You feel satisfying acceleration all the way through the speed range and a new surge with each shift.
Unless we were just cruising, we opted to use the paddle shifters. In manual you do not have perfect control over the transmission, The computer will not allow the engine to stall, so if the rpm drops too low, it downshifts for you. We had times when it wouldn’t shift up if we were trailing throttle. On the automatic setting you can use the paddles to grab a quicker, more immediate shift up or down.
Honda’s DCT offers nice engine braking, but it rarely breaks the rear wheels loose. For descents we much preferred having the transmission in manual mode.
We couldn’t understand why the Pioneer models were so delayed for 2022, but with the restyling and new tech, it all makes sense. Our wish list would have included a Pioneer 1000 with a 64-inch track width and 14 inches of travel to make it a better competitor to the Polaris General XP or the Yamaha RMAX4. Obviously, Honda did not feel the same. Nevertheless, the Pioneer 1000-5 Trail is deservedly a rec/utility winner and well worth considering. There are those that will buy it because it is a Honda with the attending quality, and others that will choose it because it doesn’t have a CVT belt. There are plenty of other good reasons to choose the Honda. It is fun to drive with plenty of engine performance, capable adjustable suspension and amazing drive technology. It also has truly amazing accessory support from Honda. We know because our test machine had some nice additions, like a roof, windshield and light bar. Some had GPS as well. You can make the Pioneer 1000-5 Trail anything you want, and especially if you want it to be fun.
HONDA PIONEER 1000-5 TRAIL SPECS:
Engine type Liquid-cooled, four-stroke, four-valve, Unicam parallel-twin
Displacement 999cc Bore x stroke 92.0 x 75.15mm
Fuel system EFI
Fuel capacity 7.9 gal.
Starting system Electric
Final drive 6-speed dual-clutch transmission with P/R/N/H/L
Front Double wishbone/10.6”
Rear Double wishbone/10.0”
Front Dual 210mm hydraulic discs
Rear Dual 210mm hydraulic discs
Wheelbase 80.2 in
Ground clearance 12.3”
Payload capacity 1,000 lb. (600 lb. for California models)
Towing capacity 2,500 lb
Curb weight 1,777 lb.(wet)
Colors Matte Silver