The Pioneer replaces the Big Red in Honda’s line up, bringing more capability to a lower price point.
Big Red was a two-seat utility SxS, retailing for $11,699. The two-seat Pioneer starts at $9,999 and the four-passenger convertible model seen here retails for $11,699.
The Big Red to Pioneer 700-4 story is about much more than just some extra seats though. With it, Honda wanted to create a SxS that could handle both work and play. The bed, which can raise at the front to dump its load out the rear can carry the same 1,000lbs payload as Big Red and both vehicles use the same 675cc, liquid-cooled, four-valve, single-cylinder motor and three-speed, torque-converter, automatic transmission. But, the similarities end there.
The Pioneer is equipped with independent suspension front and rear with 7.9 inches of travel at the front and 9.1 at the rear. In an effort to keep the price down, no power steering is fitted, with Honda saying that the combination of front suspension geometry with a new, 8-inch front tire should keep steering light.
The mid-mounted engine drives the rear wheels through a non-differential rear end in default, Two-Wheel Drive mode, directing power to the front in 4WD or locking the front differential when “4WD Diff Lock” is selected. There’s no low-range transfer case or hill descent control, but the low gearing and sensitive brakes are able to walk you down steep hills in complete confidence.
The automatic transmission is equipped with three forward speeds and a reverse, as well as programming that allows it to detect rider input and adjust itself automatically between “sport” and “cruise” modes, with the former kicking down noticeably sooner and holding onto gears longer and the latter delivering a much more relaxed ride.
The Pioneer is also equipped with a car-style parking brake that makes deactivating it while parked on a hill simple and easy. Some other Side-by-Sides require rocking the vehicle to remove pressure from the mechanism before it will release. Honda is targeting user friendliness in nearly every aspect of this vehicle.
The company is also serious about safety. Unclip the standard safety net, reach inside to unlatch the standard door, climb through the heavy-duty roll cage and clip yourself into the three-point safety belt and you’ll find the Pioneer’s cabin spacious and comfortable, if extremely utilitarian. The only potential problem with ergonomics comes from the unadjustable steering wheel, which may get in the way of very large riders’ beer bellies.
Believe it or not, but the rear seats are even more comfy. Fold the backrest up and the cushion down — which takes about 15 seconds — and the tilt bed locks in place. Rear seat passengers also get doors, safety nets and three-point belts, but also more leg room than is available in the front seat. Even at 6’ 2” tall, with a 34-inch inseam, I was able to ride back there in complete comfort, with inches between my knee and the front seats. Rear seat passengers are also treated to a plusher ride thanks to the rear suspension’s longer travel.
RideApart Review: Honda Pioneer 700-4
The Pioneer is a better Big Red.