Exhaust noise:
Even though the Honda’s muffler is larger than the Kawasaki’s, it’s the same diameter but two inches longer, the Kawasaki is much quieter than the Honda. The Honda’s exhaust note has a rather sharp and unpleasant crack to it. Advantage Kawasaki.
Footpeg arrangement: The area between the Kawasaki’s footpegs and rear fender has a metal support that will bear my weight (180 lb.). The Honda’s rear fender curves down and attaches immediately behind the footpeg and is bolstered by only two thin wire supports. Anything more than a few pounds pressure would cause the Honda’s plastic fender to tear away from its support. Advantage Kawasaki. Please note that my perception of the apparent weakness of the Honda’s rear fender supports was confirmed in the September ‘96 issue of 3 & 4 Wheel Action where their long term test Foreman suffered that very problem.
Rider protection: The rear fenders on the Kawasaki extend more than six inches further toward the ground than do the Honda’s. The front fenders of each offer equal coverage, but the Kawasaki front fenders are slotted in three places at the bottom edge to allow them to better clear obstacles without tearing. Advantage Kawasaki.
Rider comfort: The Kawasaki has an engine counterbalancer and bar-end weights to damp vibration. The Honda has no bar-end weights. The Honda vibrates through the footpegs and handlebars much more than does the Kawasaki. The Kawasaki has a larger plusher saddle than does the Honda. The Kawasaki’s thumb throttle required less pressure to activate. It would be less tiring to use on long rides. The Kawasaki’s reverse gear engagement procedure has two steps the Honda’s has three steps. It’s the little things that become large annoyances over time. Advantage Kawasaki. Please note that I made the noise and comfort comparisons at a local Honda/Kawasaki dealership where I was able to do a side-by-side evaluation of the two machines.
These additional advantages tipped the decision in favor of the Kawasaki. Please note that nearly a year later the above reasoning was nicely validated when Dirt Wheels rated the Bayou 400 as the best big bore utility 4x4 in the Work/Farming/Ranching class in their ‘96 Buyers Guide.
Now what remained was the dealer and the kind of price/treatment I would receive. I went to several different Honda and Kawasaki dealers to take test rides, to get prices, and to gauge the way they treated their customers. Most dealers, or retail organizations, regardless of their product, still don’t recognize the importance of good customer service and the substantial effect it can have on their business success. I work in an organization that instituted a Total Quality approach to business, including customer service, several years ago. I have attended a number of customer service training programs, and have received an award for outstanding customer service every year for the past three years, so I am especially sensitive to the quality of service I receive when I’m the customer.
Several dealers I visited fell into the undistinguished middle on price and customer service. One dealer pulled the old "used car salesman shuck and jive" on me. You know the routine, the one that goes "Let me talk with the sales manager to see if I can get you a better price, but you have to take it tonight. I can’t hold it for you, at that price I’d be losing money". There are few things I hate more than that, but I played along so I could compare prices. Befitting the high level of aggravation and hassle I experienced, including two 50 mile round trips to his establishment to handle in person what could have just as easily been handled via the telephone, though he refused to do so, this dealer came in with the highest (read: worst) price. He was immediately dismissed from further consideration.
As a general rule, any dealer, regardless of the product, that refuses to quote prices over the phone isn’t worth bothering with and doesn’t deserve your business. They are invariably uncompetitive and seek only to corner you with their high pressure sales pitch. My more than thirty years experience in the marketplace has proven this to be true time and time again.
There was one dealer who stood head and shoulders above the rest. Paul Doric of Kawasaki Of Pittsburgh (412-781-8611). His friendliness, honesty, candor, and his obvious interest in me as a customer were absolutely amazing. He told me that he needed to make a certain margin on the sale in order to stay in business and provide service to his customers, and that within those parameters he would give me the best deal he could (almost like Saturn). And he did. In fact, his deal was the best deal of all, but even if it were not, I still would have bought the ATV from him. He freely gave me all the price information I requested about the ATV and the accessories, promptly returned all my phone calls, and always treated me with courtesy and respect. I can not commend his efforts highly enough. I can, and will, recommend his dealership without reservation to anyone looking to purchase a motorcycle or ATV.
Magazine road tests are a great source of information for the potential quad buyer. I used one to help me make my buying decision. Unfortunately, magazine road tests, at least the ones I’ve read, tend to be somewhat subjective and sometimes make unsubstantiated claims. For example, in a recently published test it was said of the KLF400’s towing ability that "The 1100-pound towing limit is probably higher than you will ever need, and the machine can probably handle even more." The first part of the statement is entirely subjective and the second part is unsubstantiated by the test as it was not quantitatively measured. It is incumbent on the reader to remember that the test is written from the testers’ aggregate perspective. There is usually more than one tester and the subjective judgments rendered have been filtered through the editorial policy of the magazine before ever making it into print.
Model Upgrades:
Previously, I stated that it made no sense to look at the 250/300cc class 4WD quads and I listed a few reasons why I thought that was true. That’s all very fine you say, but you’re making an unequivocal recommendation without much hard evidence... let’s see some facts. With the facts presented in the table below, I believe an unequivocal recommendation can be made by using marginal cost/benefit analysis. Marginal cost/benefit analysis compares the marginal changes in performance and capabilities that can be attributed to the amount of increase/decrease in like elements of a given item. Since I am most familiar with Kawasaki’s product line, I will use the KLF300 and KLF400 as the subjects of this comparison.

Kawasaki/4WD KLF 300KLF 400Marginal Change% Marginal Change
Cost$5249.00$6049.00+ $800.00+ 15.2%
Displacement290cc391cc+ 101cc+ 34.8%
Weight 604 lb.636 lb.+ 32 lb.+ 5.3%
Cargo/Capacity430 lb.452 lb.+ 22lb.+ 5.1%
Front-Rack70 lb.88 lb.+ 18 lb.+ 25.7%
Rear-Rack140 lb.154 lb.+ 14 lb.+ 10%
Tongue-Weight30 lb.88 lb.+ 58 lb.+ 193.3%
Towing-Weight700 lb.1150 lb.+ 450 lb.+ 64.3%

As the chart clearly shows, the buyer is getting much more for their $800.00 than just a nearly 35% increase in displacement for a mere 15% increase in cost. They also get increases in overall cargo capacity, front and rear rack carrying capacity, trailer tongue weight, trailer towing ability, and an engine that is moving 5% more weight with 22% less effort. The last fact is not one usually brought out, but it is a key issue nonetheless. The increase in displacement and the resultant decrease in displacement loading yields an engine that:

(1) Doesn’t work as hard.
(2) Has more reserve power on tap.
(3) Will probably go longer before a major rebuild is necessary. This factor becomes even more important when, if as I did, you add every available accessory to the vehicle. The Super Winch and mount alone added 35 lb. to my KLF400. The radiator guard, headlight and taillight guards, speedometer, floorboard extensions, and kickstart lever added about another 10 lb. to bring the wet weight to 681 lb. At that level the displacement loading of my fully accessorized KLF400 is still less (681/391 = 1.742 lb./cc) than that of the stripped KLF300. The economies of scale are readily apparent.

Let us look at the KLF300/KLF400 comparison from another angle. The chart below represents my proprietary "Bang For The Buck Index". The purpose of this index is to permit you, the prospective quad buyer, to make a quantitative and objective comparison between different machines. This index functions on the premise that even substantially different machines have individually quantifiable elements that can be directly equated. This process is akin to the mathematical operation of deriving the lowest common denominator for a series of dissimilar fractions. Once this direct relationship is established, it becomes possible to construct, at least on paper, an "elemental quad". An "elemental quad" is one composed of one unit of each of the individually quantifiable elements you wish to compare. Elemental unit cost is derived by dividing the purchase price by the number of units that comprise the element in question. For example, the elemental unit cost of one KLF300 cc of displacement is $18.10 (5249/290). The elemental unit cost of one KLF400 cc is $15.47 (6049/391). By summing the elemental unit costs for each machine, a "Bang For The Buck" index number can be calculated. The machine with the lowest total elemental cost is, in the parlance of "Consumer Reports", a "Best Buy". It offers the most value for your hard earned dollar, or in other words, it offers the most "bang for the buck".
Kawasaki-4WDKLF 300Unit CostKLF 400Unit Cost
Cargo-Capacity430 lb.$12.21452 lb.$13.38
Front-Rack 70 lb.$74.9988 lb.$68.74
Rear-Rack140 lb.$37.49154 lb.$39.28
Tongue-Weight30 lb.$174.9788 lb.$68.74
Towing-Weight700 lb.$7.501150 lb.$5.26

Even though the KLF400 is the clear winner, by now you’ve undoubtedly noticed that certain elements can have an apparently disproportionate effect on "bang for the buck". You may even have wondered why I chose not to weight these elements. The sole purpose of the "Bang For The Buck" index is to have a comparison model that avoids subjective judgments. The beauty of the "Bang For The Buck" index is in its mechanical simplicity. Anyone can use it by doing nothing more than plugging in the appropriate numbers and doing some simple long division. If you find that any single element, such as Tongue Weight, has a disproportionate effect on the total elemental value, it would be better to eliminate that element from the comparison rather than weight it. In the example above, the elimination of Tongue Weight brings the two vehicles much closer together but does not change the end result. The KLF400 still offers the most "bang for the buck".
My research unequivocally shows there is no compelling reason to even consider a 300cc 4WD utility ATV. When it comes to "bang for the buck", the 400s are the hands down winners. You’ll find this comparison between 2WD utility ATVs yields similar results. There is no compelling reason to even consider a 220/250cc quad over a 300cc quad.
In conclusion, unless you are penurious, if you are going to buy a 2WD utility ATV and your choice is between a 220/250cc class machine and a 300cc class machine, buy the 300. Likewise, if you are going to buy a 4WD utility ATV and your choice is between a 300cc class machine and a 400cc class machine, buy the 400.
Free advice is always easy to find. There is always somebody eager and willing to dispense it. Talk is cheap and rarely do those who proffer advice seem to follow it themselves. I don’t hesitate to stand behind my advice 100% because I put my money where my mouth is. I bought a new ‘96 KLF400 Bayou and every available accessory, i.e., kick starter, headlight guards, taillight guards, radiator guard, floorboard extensions, speedometer, winch, winch mount, and 48" plow, from Kawasaki of Pittsburgh and took delivery on August 26th, 1995.
As this is written in mid-August ‘96, the Bayou 400 is unavailable, Kawasaki has "placed it on hiatus" and replaced it with the new Prairie 400. But if you are currently in the market for a new quad, I believe that my Marginal Cost/Benefit Analysis and "Bang For The Buck" index, with their objective perspectives on the decision making process, can help determine the right quad for you. If you use either of these tools to help with your decision making, or if you merely wish to comment on them, I’d like to hear from you. Kudos and brickbats may be directed to Army Man at the rotating E-mail symbol below.
This Article has been written by Jim Phillips "Army Man"

Contact Jim Phillips below,by e-mail.

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