Polaris Predator 90 Review
Shopping for a youth-model ATV can certainly be a daunting task. With dozens of apparent makes to choose from only a few ring familiar- Suzuki/Kawasaki, Honda, Yamaha, and Polaris. Of these, the Japanese big-4 have been making a youth model ATV for better part of a decade. However, only recently has Polaris jumped on the youth ATV band-wagon with their 50 and 90cc Scrambler four-wheelers. And if you've done your research you'll recognize that Polaris' Scrambler 50/90 fall into the Asian-made category that includes Alphasports, Kasea, E-Ton, and a gaggle of others.
No doubt eager to set themselves apart from the rest Polaris has taken their machine and significantly improved it over the two years it has been out, to the extent that last year they even released a 90cc Scrambler X with features that cater to the more experienced, competitively oriented youngsters. And this year, with the debut of the Predator 500, Polaris figured it'd be silly not to ride big brother's coat-tails and re-skin the Scrambler X with Predator plastic. For 2003 the Scrambler 90 and X are gone in lieu of the new Predator.
First off, it's important to recognize the basic differences between the older Scrambler 90 (non-X) and the new Predator 90. To give the machine better stability and cornering the Predator was made wider and longer. This was achieved by redesigning the front suspension A-arms to be 3/4" longer giving the front track another inch and half more width. The rear track remained the same. Additional wheelbase was affected by moving the spindles forward on the A-arms about 2", and by lengthening the rear swingarm by about an inch. Overall the wheelbase has grown by 3".
Differences between the X and Predator include wider, squarer profile tires, a wider seat, revised full footrest that promotes a more comfortable "toe-down" stance, and a manual choke. Another welcome improvement is a redesigned thumb throttle that is much easier to push thanks to a wider lever, and much less push resistance. Young riders that seem to suffer from thumb fatigue will certainly appreciate the improvement.
Front and rear suspension have multi-step preload adjustments, and the front shocks have a second set of upper mounting holes that can be used to change the shock geometry to provide even more effective spring rate. Advertised wheel travel at 4-1/4" remains unchanged versus the older Scrambler. Drum brakes front and back are actuated by hand levers.
Without a doubt the most striking aspect of the Polaris Predator 90 is the bodywork styling shared with its bigger-bore sibling. Without a four-foot rider standing next to the machine you'd swear you where looking at the 500. And the fit and finish of plastic, seat, and panels are about the best out there on any mini. Disappointingly though, the lights are decals only as the CPSC can't seem to see the light in allowing headlights on youth ATVs. Fortunately, the rear brake light is fully-functional.
And as far as the engine goes, it does! Polaris has spent some effort redesigning the cylinder-head for improved cold starting, acceleration and performance. The occasionally problematic automatic choke has been replaced with a manual version located on the handlebar. The Predator 90 awoke with no hesitation, and easily revved with apparent eagerness to hunt down it's first jump which it consumed handily with little objection.
In fact, this Predator flies well and lands confidently without much twitching- due at least in small part to the longer wheelbase. Turns could be tackled with little concern for two-wheeling, and the 90cc motor easily brings the back end out to add a little excitement.
Overall, it seems Polaris was quite successful in producing a distinctive, unpretentious machine with the Predator 90 and has given it some bite to go with its aggressive looks. The fact that Polaris is as recognized as the big-4 Japanese ATV OEMs, combined with its striking looks and lively performance, is sure to move the Predator 90 to the top of the food chain.
Click here to see more images of the Predator 90.