Honda’s new Pioneer 520 is said to combine the benefits of side-by-sides and ATVs – marrying the former's safety and space with the latter's nimble handling and small, narrow footprint.

This latest model slots under the workhorse model, the Pioneer 700 and opens up a new market for Honda of a compact yet highly capable UTV.

The Pioneer side-by-side was first launched in 2015 with the 500 and since then, the flexible and highly useful model range has undergone six years of evolution and development – now, the Pioneer 520, which went on sale this month across the Honda network of approved dealers, wild add to its spectrum.

Priced from £9200, ex-VAT, this compact newcomer has a sophisticated suspension set-up that belies its size, but which allows it to tackle tough ground with a decent cargo. Power comes from a proven 518cc engine that drives two, or four wheels on demand via a five-speed semi-automatic transmission which can also be used manually – and even while riding two up, loads of up to 658kg in total can be hauled between towing and utilising the gas-assisted tilting rear bed.

The Pioneer 520 is just 1270mm wide – comparable with an ATV – while it has an overall length of just 2667mm, placing the four wheels in the corners of the vehicle for better handling and low-speed manoeuvrability.

Mounted to the steel ladder-frame chassis is an advanced, independent double-wishbone suspension layout in all four corners, which allows top notch dynamic behaviour across undulating terrain. It also has 5.8 and 5.9 inches of suspension travel front and rear, respectively, combined with a ground clearance of 8.5 inches.

Honda's engineers have also retuned shock absorber damping for better comfort and control, whilst the rear dampers have adjustable preload, allowing the ride height to be adjusted to match the rear bed’s load.

It has 12-inch diameter wheels shod in new, harder-wearing 24-inch-diameter all-terrain tyres that measure 24 x 8-12 up front and 24 x 10-12 at the back, with a tread design that has deeper blocks for greater grip. The front brakes comprise dual hydraulic callipers that grip on to 200mm discs, while the rear brake utilizes a single hydraulic calliper on a 170 mm disc to provide substantial overall braking power.

Its gas-assisted tilting rear bed is 29 inches in length, 38.7 inches in width and 9.8 inches high, providing a useful load space. Its ridged base design, three bed divider slots and five D-ring securing locations keep the load tied down. Its tailgate folds flush with the bed floor when open and integrates four cup-holders for that useful coffe break!.

The one-piece bed can carry loads of up to 204kg and features integrated tail-lights. Capable of towing 454kg, the Pioneer 520’s overall load capacity of 658kg makes it a useful tool.

It has a bench-style seat, but with separate headrests and three-point seat belts for safety and comfort, while half-doors ensure that the rough terrain stays on the outside of the cabin. Conventionally hinged for improved ingress and egress, they pair with roll-up nets for more complete cabin safety. n expanded range of accessories includes a roof, full length canvas doors and a Perspex screen for increased comfort and weather protection.