Published on May 20th, 2015 | by Joe
2015 Kawasaki Brute Force 300 Test: WITH VIDEO
A fun and affordable sport utility ATV
The entry-level 2wd sport utility segment is one of the most overlooked and underappreciated. It also happens to be one of our favorites. For the mature, practical rider, these simple, affordable machines often offer all the performance needed. For the younger up-and-coming rider, 16 years and older, of course, as mandated by the United States federal government, these machines provide a great starting point to learn the ropes, or a place to move up to having outgrown their youth ATV.
Kawasaki’s 2wd Brute Force 300 is one such machine. When it was released back in 2012, we came away impressed with its overall performance after our one-day test ride at its press intro. With Spring having sprung, we decided to acquire a Brute Force 300 to put to the test in our neck of the woods in southern Ohio.
Kawasaki opted to have an outside manufacturer build the Brute Force in order to save on R&D and tooling up an entire assembly line. The 300 is built for Kawasaki by Taiwan manufacturer, Kymco, a name we trust based on previous experience. Kawasaki made sure their quality control and design specifications were met; plus, the 300 benefits from availability through a Kawasaki dealer, where you can get Kawasaki parts distribution and Kawasaki mechanical service.
29-year-old Damon James and his 16-year-old son, Brayden, were the perfect pair to ride the Brute Force 300. At 6’3” Damon weighs 225 pounds. He owns a big bore 4×4 ATV and is looking for an affordable second machine for Brayden, who is 5’11” and weighs 145 pounds. Damon has the experience to put the Kawasaki’s performance to the test, while Brayden joined us for his second ATV ride ever.
The Brute Force is powered by a 271cc, liquid-cooled, four-stroke engine, with a two-valve, single-overhead-cam head design, and a compression ratio of 11.0:1. According to CARB, it produces 21.4HP. Electric starting with a recoil backup brings the engine to life. It’s fed its air/fuel mixture via a 32mm Keihin carburetor with a choke lever mounted by your left hand. The fully automatic transmission features high and low ranges, plus neutral and reverse. Power is delivered to the rear wheels via shaft drive.
When you stab the gas, the transmission engages smoothly off the bottom, then upshifts pulling well in the midrange, followed by a good amount of top-end power for the engine’s size and simplistic design. Damon wanted a little more snap from the transmission at lower RPMs; however, its smooth engagement makes it less intimidating for newer riders like Brayden. The engine offers enough thrust in the midrange to break the back tires loose in turns, providing a fun, happy-to-rev feeling. Damon was surprised at the hills the 300 conquered in high range with ease. For low-speed stuff like rock crawling, the transmission’s low range makes the most of the power and saves wear on the drive belt.
Publications are too quick to complain about 2wd machines needing 4wd. Brayden got stuck a few times, but quickly learned that a little momentum and wheel speed could get him through most of the mud holes and soft-bottomed creek crossings he encountered. Not depending on the machine to do all the work, you quickly learn to become a better rider and that’s half the fun of riding an ATV. Overall, the engine is very beginner friendly while offering enough performance for higher-skilled riders to have a good time. We didn’t need a ton of displacement to have fun off-roading back in the day, and the same holds true today.
Handling and Suspension
The Brute’s tubular steel chassis is compact, providing a higher level of control and improved rider confidence. It measures in at 42.5” wide, with a wheelbase of 45.9”, a seat height of 33.3”, and weighs in at a claimed 535.8 lbs fully laden with fluids. Kawasaki outfitted the 300 with 22×7-10 front and 22×10-10 rear Maxxis tires mounted on black steel wheels. A smaller machine can sometimes be a bit less stable, so the rear tires feature a low profile, sport-quad-like design to enhance stability.
Dual A-Arms reside up front with a solid axle located out back. The shocks offer five-way preload adjustment, something not found on some machines costing thousands more. They offer 5.2” of travel up front and 5.6” out back.
The Brute Force goes where it’s pointed without feeling twitchy at higher speeds. On wooded trails, it feels light, nimble, and fun. Bumping the front wheels off a small log or other obstacle, wheelies are possible, while feeling predictable and reasonably planted on steep climbs.
We ran our shocks one notch in from full soft. This allowed the machine to deal with Damon’s 225-pound mass without issue. It also kept the front end from diving excessively in turns. Add in the solid rear axle, low profile rear tires, and the ability to easily move around on the machine, and you can have a surprising amount of fun sliding through turns, not typical of all machines in this class. It also feels stable and manageable on side-hills. The only drawbacks to the lower profile tires is that they limit ground clearance to 6.1 inches, requiring you to be a little more careful in your line selection. A more rounded rear tire may also result in a slightly plusher ride, but we feel the benefit in handling well worth it.
Suspension is the first thing we look for when judging the performance of a machine and the Brute Force didn’t disappoint us. Its performance is well-rounded and versatile. Our riders traversed roots, rocks, logs, got a little air, and Damon even pounded through a set of whoops just to test the limits. On smaller bumps, the suspension provided a decent level of plushness for beginners and casual riders. They do a good job of keeping the machine tracking straight through moderate-sized bumps at speed. Damon could bottom the shocks in their softest setting on bigger hits, but never felt the shocks bottom out once we firmed them up a notch. We really can’t imagine going any stiffer than the shock’s middle setting, unless we were planning on greatly exceeding the limits of the racks’ capacity.
Separate front and rear hydraulic disc brakes feature 100mm rotors at both ends. The brakes offer good feel, and when used together, do a good job of slowing the machine from speed and on downhills. While braking power is definitely adequate, we would like a little more from both ends.
Fit and Finish
The 300 welcomes you aboard with a comfortable seat, floorboards with raised steel pegs instead of plastic, and well laid out controls. Its smaller stature won’t intimidate riders in the five feet tall range and offered enough space that 6’3” Damon didn’t feel cramped up. It’s easy to move around for riders of all sizes with no annoying protrusions or snag points on the engine or bodywork.
The controls feel crisp and high quality, including the handlebar-mounted front and rear brake levers, easy-to-engage parking brake, and rear brake pedal. A gated shifter lets you select between the transmission’s different settings. Its operation feels light and accurate. The controls, plastic body work, and steel body fasteners are all indicative of a high-quality, well-built machine.
The airbox is located under the seat and allows you to access the filter without tools. There’s plenty of room left over in the airbox for a larger filter, which would increase airflow and slightly reduce service frequency.
Storage and Capacities
Steel racks reside at both ends and are rated to carry 44lb up front and 66 lb rear, numbers that we suspect are pretty conservative. Their tubular steel design makes tying down a load as easy as it gets although we would prefer a higher traction, textured finish over their smooth shiny one. A built-in tongue and ball mount is rated to tow an additional 500 pounds. There is an open storage pocket in the right front bender that can hold a bottle of water or other small items and a convenient storage box in the center of the front rack that’s large enough to hold three bottles of water, or whatever items you choose to carry along.
The Brute Force 300 is a versatile machine that delivers a good time out on the trail at a price that most people can afford without mortgaging the house. A family of four could each have their own Brute Force 300 to ride for less than the price of most four-seat UTVs, leaving no one stuck in the back seat. It’s ideal for work applications where affordability, nimbleness, and easy transportability are key. Overall, we feel Kawasaki Brute Force 300 proves you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a capable and fun-to- ride ATV.
Model: 2015 Brute Force 300
2015 Kawasaki Brute Borce 300: Ratings
Summary: The Brute Force 300 is a versatile machine that delivers a good time out on the trail at a price that most people can afford without mortgaging the house. A family of four could each have their own Brute Force 300 to ride for less than the price of most four-seat UTVs, leaving no one stuck in the back seat. It’s ideal for work applications where affordability, nimbleness, and easy transportability are key. Overall, we feel Kawasaki Brute Force 300 proves you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a capable and fun-to- ride ATV.