Honda Pioneer 520 ATV en route to Australia

Enhanced version of Pioneer 500 SxS offers more power, upgraded suspension and tilting cargo bed.

Honda’s local side-by-side (SxS) lineup is expanding with the imminent arrival of the Pioneer 520.

Due for Australian release in May, the 520 is built on the same platform as the Pioneer 500 and retains that model’s two-seat capacity, but adds a larger capacity single-cylinder engine, modified suspension and a practical tilt/dump cargo bed that can hold over 200kg.

hHonda previews Pioneer 520

ATV out, SxS in

The release of the Pioneer 520 is part of a growing Honda SxS range, which will fill the gap when all Honda utility ATVs are withdrawn from Australian dealerships later this year.

Honda is joining Yamaha and Polaris in withdrawing all their utility ATVs from the Australian market, rather than fit the contentious Operator Protection Device (OPD) that will become mandatory for all new utility ATVs sold here from 11 October, 2021.

Honda previews Pioneer 520

Honda has presented evidence that OPDs may cause more injuries than they prevent and, like Yamaha and Polaris, believe the science behind their introduction is untested, adding that alternative safety measures would be more effective.

“Safety standards must be evidence-based, in both criteria and testing methods, to internationally accepted standards. Honda has provided research to show the negative outcomes of the governments’ proposal but unfortunately it was not considered and we are here in this position,” said Managing Director of Honda Australia Motorcycle and Power Equipment, Robert Toscano, when Honda’s withdrawal was announced on 31 March, 2020.

With the imminent withdrawal of all of Honda’s ATVs, it shifts the focus on to their SxS range, which is where the upcoming Pioneer 520 comes in, joining the existing Pioneer 500, Pioneer 700 and Pioneer 1000.

Honda previews Pioneer 520
Two-seat Pioneer 520 expands Honda’s SxS range to four.

Pioneer 520

Being based on the Pioneer 500, the 520 shares most of that model’s componentry and is broadly similar in size, including the same 1270mm width and 1855mm wheelbase.

The main difference is that the 520 upgrades the 475cc liquid-cooled four-stroke single-cylinder engine to a 518cc single that features revised shift mapping and more power (although no actual kW or Nm numbers are provided).

Honda previews Pioneer 520
518cc engine in the Pioneer 520 replaces the 475cc unit in the Pioneer 500.

The upsized engine is matched to the same five-speed automatic transmission, which includes a reverse gear and offers manualised gear changes via steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

Like the 500, the 520 also offers ‘Traxlok’ selectable two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive, ensuring maximum traction when you need it most, aided by off-road tyres with an aggressive tread pattern.

The Pioneer 520’s overall suspension package is the same as the 500, comprising independent double wishbones with preload adjustable shocks and dual-rate springs at each end, but this set-up has been upgraded to suit the 520’s extra weight. Front suspension travel is fractionally less, too, at 147mm for the 520, compared to 149mm for the 500. 

Honda previews Pioneer 520
Cargo tub features a tailgate and gas strut-assisted tilt mechanism.

The other major change on the Pioneer 520 is the incorporation of a tilting rear cargo tub instead of a carry rack. Measuring 658mm x 983mm x 249m (LxWxH), the tub can hold 204kg and features a folding tailgate, tie-down points within the tub and lever-operated tilt function with gas strut assistance.

The inclusion of the cargo tub doesn’t impact the 520’s towing capacity, which at 453kg is the same as the 500, but it does add to the SxS’s overall length and increases kerb weight from 466kg to 482kg.

Honda previews Pioneer 520

Most of the other features on the Pioneer 520 are the same as the Pioneer 500, including the dual 200mm front and single 170mm rear disc brakes, heavy-duty front nudge bar, 12-inch wheels, dual 35W headlights, a removable hard roof, comfortable seats and a multi-function LCD instrument display.

As with the Pioneer 500, the Pioneer 520 features an ‘Occupant Protection Structure’ roll cage, rear-hinged half-doors, side nets and three-point seatbelts.

honda pioneer

Pitched as both a farm and a fun machine, the new Pioneer 520 is priced from $17,600 (approx., see your Honda dealer for specific pricing), which is a $500 (approx.) increase on the Pioneer 500.

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Phil Suriano

Phil Suriano