The 2018 Honda Pioneer 500 carries over the improvements seen in last year's model. For 2017 the 500 Pioneer has both manual and automatic transmission modes. Previous models only offered manual mode.
The choice of manual or automatic mode gives the updated Pioneer 500 much more flexibility for most owners. The automatic mode allows for more relaxed trail riding without sacrificing the sportiness of being able to shift gears manually.
Even though the Pioneer 500 has a single cylinder engine, the manual transmission gives it a performance edge over similar models with CVTs. In our opinion, there is no substitute for shifting yourself.
For those of us that operate in wet or muddy conditions, the Honda Pioneer 500 transmission has no belt to slip and no exposed vent to let water in. All that translates to much less required maintenance.
The smallest Pioneer has always represented a great value for those that need their UTV to be a jack of all trades. The Pioneer 500 is small enough to access 50 inch ATV trails while still large enough to accomplish most chores around the farm or ranch.
When compared to other side by sides in the same price and size class, we feel the Pioneer 500 represents the best bang for the buck.
The legendary Honda reliability also plays a part in that opinion. When you're miles from the middle of nowhere, it's comforting to have a machine as reliable as the little Pioneer 500. The Honda also requires less maintenance than most other machines in its class, which is an added plus.
The Honda Pioneer 500 also has the benefit of safety on it’s side. The Pioneer closes the price gap between a side by side with full roll over protection and an ATV. If you plan on taking younger children for rides, that's an important consideration. It's also something to think about for those of us who don't heal as fast as we once did.
The main competition for the Pioneer 500 comes from Polaris and Arctic Cat in both the recreational and utility categories. The problem is it takes two models each from both of those companies to cover the same range as the Honda.
From Arctic Cat we have the Prowler 500 and the Wildcat Trail. Polaris offers the Ranger 500 and the RZR 570. Both the Wildcat and the RZR have a performance edge in recreational riding. Unfortunately they are both considerably more expensive than the Honda Pioneer 500.
So when price is a factor, the only real competition is the Prowler 500 and the Ranger 500. Even both those models have a higher list price than the Pioneer 500. All things considered we would have to give the nod to the Ranger 500 in the utility category.
The Honda Pioneer 500 is not a class leader in either the recreational or utility sectors. But it is relatively competent in both. It has the sporty feel and responsiveness of a recreational UTV, while offering most of the capability of the utility class leader.
The 50 inch width allows the Pioneer 500 to fit into spaces the others can't. That includes the bed of most pickups. Not having to have a trailer lessens the cost of ownership even more.
There have been very few Pioneer 500 problems reported. There have been reports by owners of some earlier models about some rust issues on parts of the frame and gas tank. A significant number of owners report that they feel the Honda Pioneer 500 is too noisy. A few more think that the ride is too harsh. And a few have complained about the lack of a fully locking front differential. Just something to keep in mind if any of these issues seem like deal-breakers to you.
The smallest Honda Pioneer, at a street selling price of a little over $8,000, seems like a lot of bang for the buck to us. The base model is capable of all kinds of work and fun by itself. If that's not enough for you, there are plenty of accessories offered by both Honda and the aftermarket. So that leaves us with practical, reliable, and fun to drive. What else is there?