When we picked up this 2023 Kawasaki KRX1000, we already knew that it would be a monster in the rocks. While we grew up riding the deserts and dunes of Southern California, the past few years we have been frequenting Sand Hollow, UT and it has quickly become one of our favorite riding destinations. The mix of high traction red rocks, epic scenery, winding sand washes, views of the reservoir and snow capped mountains in the distance makes this area unlike any other for us South West riders. So when we planned out our next visit, we decided to do the best kind of test for a new UTV, straight from the dealership to riding, with zero prep.
With a full tank of fuel and a couple of 5 gallon jugs, we hauled the KRX right to its happy place and immediately started logging miles. A few things were immediately obvious which make this UTV so different than others on the market, both good and bad.
Like any UTV, the premier trim comes with all of the goodies, but we still opted for the base model with the lowest tiered shocks offered and fewest accessories. The 2.5" FOX shocks come with a single compression adjuster, and the spring preload and crossover collars were proving to be set up in less than ideal configurations. Moving forward we knew that some adjustments would be needed, but we were more curious as to how the rest of the vehicle performed.
Being a naturally aspirated v-twin means despite all the noise, not a whole lot of power is being made in the back. At 112hp, there are multiple naturally aspirated 1000cc class UTVs making more power, but this wasn't ever a high speed desert car where HP numbers mattered. The clutching and gearing is the strong suit of the KRX. Smooth and linear CVT engagement was a welcoming surprise compared to some jerky RZR and X3 CVTs in the past. Low gear is useable up to about 20mph, and the "low power" feature was a great touch in the slower trails we encountered. Flipping the low power switch cuts throttle response and input about 50% it felt, which resulted in less stabbing the gas when bouncing in some of the more difficult rock climbs. High gear is, well, higher. We saw a limited 67mph at full tilt with 2 occupants, which while slower than most (if not all) other UTVs on the market, is plenty fast enough to still have fun, and get into some trouble.
Factory 3 point harnesses is surprising still, and with all of the accidents and safety issues coming into play these days, we are not sure why so many manufacturers still abide by the bare minimum requirements. 5 point harnesses will be going on this unit immediately.
The factory ROPS (rollover protection system) offers phenomenal visibility, both forward, side and behind you. The doors are wonderful, feel solid, and an exterior door handle is surprisingly more useful than we thought it would be. The factory seats felt comfortable, although some lateral support would likely be needed for long rides. One thing we did notice is with no roof, the seat bases absorb a good amount of moisture over night, and our bottoms did not enjoy this surprise when we set out to ride the following mornings. Luckily they are easily removable, and they stayed in a truck over the remaining evenings while we were out camping.
The factory lighting is likely sufficient. While this is more of a rock crawler and trail cruiser, some side lighting may be required, but since we will not be bombing the desert at over 60mph, a large light array is unnecessary. The day time running lights look sleek, and both low beams and high beams provide more than enough light to guide you when the sun has fallen.
Another item worth noting is how quiet this engine is. The twin 999cc idles smoothly and you could easily cruise in and out of camp without waking up the neighborhood, something even our RZR with stock exhaust cannot claim. The rest of the car is fairly drama free, with minor noise coming from the suspension and body panels, but the car still feels tight and well put together, even after several hundred miles flogging it in all kinds of terrain.
For the price point, this mid level UTV is a great deal, and if you primarily ride on slower trails that require technical crawling we dont think there is a better option. While not the fastest or most outfitted rig available, the wheel base, factory tires, and efficiency of the CVT system makes this a dream to drive. Our deserts and dune crowds will likely gravitate to the higher horsepower cars with more aggressive suspension, but this is a great deal for someone that wants to have the ability to do a little bit of everything.
Keep an eye out for a full Fastlab UTV build and product line soon!