First Ride: 2004 Suzuki LTZ250

The First Real Sport ATV for a wide range of customers.

May. 01, 2003 By ORC STAFF
"The First Real Sport ATV for a wide range of customers."

For over a year now we've been waving the banner of the 2003 Suzuki LT-Z400 as probably the best all-around sport quad launched last year. In fact, we personally have one that has been used heavily for trail riding, desert racing, and even motocross competition. We give it HUGE thumbs up and have recommended it as an excellent entry-level machine.

Leave it to those sneaky Suzuki factory bodies to not tell us quite the whole story - had we known that the little brother LT-Z250 was less than 12 months away, we might have steered some of you to hold off just a little while longer. In September, Suzuki gave us a sneak peak, and now you'll start seeing them appear at your dealer. For those smaller, younger or newer riders that want something zippy but easy to ride, the Z250 is tailored just for you.

At a glance, the strong selling points will obviously be: Sporty styling - setting a firm design image for this line is key for Suzuki. The LT-Z250 is nearly identical to the Z400, and also comes in Champion Yellow and Solid Special White. You also have the opportunity to pick up Racing Decal kits, Sobe style or Tribal, from your local Suzuki dealer. You can get shock covers, a seat cover and cool side graphic kits for around $200, to make it truly your own. Keep shopping and add on A-Arm guards, skid plates, front bumpers and nerf bars, and you'll be competition-ready.

Automatic clutch - you do still have to shift with a foot lever, so you will need some brain power. But there is no clutch, so you won't have to be all that coordinated. This is really a great feature for trail riding or in the dunes, when you have steep hill ascents or descents that may require fast shifting while keeping both hands securely on the grips. Novice riders or those transitioning from an automatic/utility quad often find the most difficult part of learning to ride a sport quad is the shifting - this is a great introduction to the foot shifter, without having to deal with annoying or dangerous situations of popping the clutch.

Shaft drive - intended to keep maintenance as simple as the riding, Suzuki got rid of the chain, and all the headaches that go with it.

Comfort - The Z400 introduced a new T-shaped design in ATV seats, and the Z250 carries it on. The transition of seat to gas tank is perfect, and the rear seat area is slightly thicker, for utility quad comfort.

Value - for the same retail price as the only other real competition it has, the Honda 250EX, the LT-Z250 throws in substantially more goodies and newer technology. The reverse is a huge advantage - I will admit I never did really "get it" with the Z400. After two tries and someone actually showing me how to use it on the 250, I finally "get it!" And actually used it often.

When Suzuki engineers were developing this quad they had to look all the way from the inside out, and the ground up. The goals included to lower the center of gravity, concentrate the vehicle mass, provide ample "track" front and rear, and ample suspension travel, and keep it light weight. They met these goals, achieving great cornering performance for those sport-minded riders, ground clearance that ensures its suitability for trail riding, and using lightweight materials such as aluminum wheels and sharply shaped fenders to keep the weight a trim 365 pounds.

So, what do we think? With any quad we test, at least this reviewer personally, I know within the first 5 minutes in general what I'm going to say about the quad. If I can't jump on it and GO, it's just not going to get much better with an hour of riding, or even a week. If it's not fun or easy to ride, if I were Joe-Consumer, I wouldn't be getting past that first experience to want to ride again.

The LT-Z250 is targeted at the entry-level rider market, so as the least hot-dog of the ORC ATV Staff, that put me on a plane to West Virginia. I won't be trying to wheelie it (hopefully, neither will your kids), I won't be jumping it into a tree (because your wife probably wouldn't either). I'm not looking to see what it's faster than. I want to know if I can ride it and enjoy myself, right off the showroom floor.

The Z250 hooked me immediately. Honestly. I rode all morning, nearly missed lunch, rode all afternoon, nearly missed the agreed-upon appointment with the photographer for the technical shots we always promise you. Too bad readers! I can send you to their web site if you want to see photos of it - I wanted to ride!! But I suffered through my job, and grudgingly came back to base camp and filled out the obligatory review sheet. Wish I could draw - the whole experience gets two big thumbs up.

The automatic clutch takes only moments to get used to. I will admit that I grabbed for air the first few times, but it's much easier to teach yourself how to NOT use something, than the other way around.

I have spent quite a few afternoons on the Z400; in fact, raced it in the Adelanto Gran Prix, and the 250 is honestly a better match for my body size. I'm average height and weight. I have found that the 400 is a little much for me at times - the back end can get a little light, as I tend to ride rather far forward (probably gripping the gas tank for dear life, because I'm riding half out of control...). The 250 was well balanced, smooth accelerating, gave me much more confidence in my riding.

I will admit that after several hours of hard forest trail riding I was physically beat, and blew shift after shift when trying to do some flat acceleration demos. What can I say. The other editors in attendance I'm sure were shaking their heads in disbelief. Told you, I have a tough job...

The only thing I did not like, was the shifter itself. I don't know if it was the position or the size of the lever, but I found that I could not catch it easily with the toe of my boot to up-shift. I had to position my foot totally vertical, rolling my knee well forward into an unnatural place, to grab that thing each time. I tried several positions of my body on the seat, and it just never worked ergonomically for me. I figured it's probably just my weird feet, or shifting position, but the other Novice rider there that day said the same thing. If the weenie riders had problems at testing, that said something to me. However, the shift lever is adjustable so if I owned one, I would look into that first. It was no where near enough of a nuisance to be a no-buy factor, and didn't slow down the riding day, so I'll only mention it because I can't find anything else to fault.

So - if you waited to buy the Z400 for your wife or kid (or, be honest, for yourself!) - take a look at this baby. I have a feeling they will be screaming off the showroom floor as well. Or buy a LT-Z250 for the kid, and reclaim that Z400 for your very own!       MSRP $3,899 ($1,800 less than the Z400)

Dimensions and Dry Mass
Overall Length 67.7 in
Overall Width 42.1 in
Overall Height 42.9 in
Wheelbase 44.7 in
Ground Clearance 9.1 in
Seat height 31.9 in
Dry mass 365 lbs
Type Four-stroke, air-cooled, HOC
Cylinders 1
Bore 2.598 in
Stroke 2.835 in
Displacement 15.0 cu in
Compression 9.2: 1
Carburetor Mikuni BSR20, single
Starter Electric
Lub Wet Sump
Drive Train Wet multi-plate, automatic, centrifugal type
Transmission 5-forward, 1 reverse
Front Independent, double wishbone, coil spring, oil damped
Rear Swingarm type, coil spring, oil damped
Front wheel travel 6.3 in
Rear wheel travel 6.7 inch
Turning Radius 8.9 ft
Front brake Disk brake, twin
Rear brake Drum
Front tire AT22x7-10
Rear tire AT20x10-9
Fuel 2.8 gal
  • Detailed Info

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