2010 Polaris Trail Blazer 330 ATV Review 0
Getting into the sport of ATV riding can be daunting, expensive and dangerous. Polaris wants to attract new customers with its line of entry-level quads, and the 2010 Polaris Trail Blazer 330 is at the heart of its sport demographic. Cheap, efficient and simple, the Trail Blazer is just what a newbie needs when looking to get a foot in the door with the ATV crowd.
As the Editorial Director at MotorcycleUSA, Ken Hutchison has ridden more motorcycles and ATVs than most. Now he’s passing the sport down to his kids, one of whom is exactly what Polaris is targeting with the Trail Blazer. Ken’s oldest daughter, Ariel, already has experience on small youth quads, but she can only outgrow so many pairs of boots before it’s time to upgrade the ATV as well. Making a jump from sub-200cc machines commonly found in the youth market is a pretty big deal. Not only do riders need to adjust to a physically much larger machine, but they have to cope with the increased power as well. Fortunately, the 329cc air-cooled Single tucked inside the Trail Blazer is very rider-friendly.
Ariel was a little nervous her first time on the larger 330, but after spinning a few laps through some beginner-friendly trails she took an immediate liking to the Indy Red machine and was confident trying more advanced terrain. Top speed is mellow and our heavier and more experienced riders constantly had the thumb throttle pinned, but the Polaris was gentle enough to make a great novice ride. Towing capacity is a claimed 850 pounds at the accessory hitch and 1263 lbs for trailer-pulling capacity, but we never hooked the two-wheel-drive machine up to any heavy equipment or a weighted sled.
A large part of why this machine is so user-friendly is the Polaris Variable Transmission (PVT). Fully automatic, the PVT is a one-speed tranny. Riders never have to worry about shifting once the gear lever is engaged forward or reverse. The Blazer idles contently once in gear and doesn’t move forward until throttle is applied, though it takes more from the carbureted engine than you would expect for a beginner quad. Considering this is an entry machine, it’s surprising the amount of rpm that is needed to get it moving, and once the revs are high enough, the Blazer lurches into motion. It takes awhile to get used to. Heavier, more aggressive riders who hammer the gas right away won’t have any problem, but it caught Ariel by surprise several times. Fortunately the overall power from the air-cooled engine isn’t overwhelming.
A note about the shift lever: Located on the right-hand side, our larger rider (5’11″) complained that his knee would hit the lever when cornering aggressively. When the lever is in the reverse position, the problem is compounded and is very noticeable when trying to turn and look over the left shoulder. This is a rare occurrence and our shorter testers never had any issues. The ergonomic package as a whole is a little tight for tall riders. Polaris utilizes a very tall handlebar which makes it somewhat more comfortable, but it was a long reach for Ariel. The controls are simple and minimal with no clutch lever to worry about and only a single hand brake. A plastic lever is mounted on the left side which operates the hydraulic front discs. The rear is a hydraulic unit as well with braided steel lines all around. However, where the front is exceptionally good, the rear is moderate at best, and both binders have some issues.
Power from the front brake is exceptional, easily handling the speeds Polaris’ mild motor can produce, but the plastic lever is cheesy. It works, but we kept waiting for a reason to replace it with a new one. Technically there’s nothing wrong with it, but we prefer the feel of an aluminum lever and so will any rider, novice level or otherwise. The rear brake is actually good as well, but good luck finding the lever. Without a hand lever available, only the right-side foot control will engage the disc unit. The lever itself is positioned so high that even our riders with the largest feet had a difficult time finding it. Mild terrain isn’t such a big deal since it’s easy to remove a foot and find the pedal, but once the pace increases and your feet are bouncing around, it’s nice to have the lever closer to the toe where it can be accessed.
Riders will get 8.2 inches of travel from the front Sachs shocks though we doubt that we ever maxed them out. They work very well for larger pilots, but it looked as though Ariel was barely compressing the springs, and the rear end is even stiffer. Only the shock offers adjustability in the form of preload settings. Just pressing on the rear grab bar makes the shock seem pretty supple, but even our heaviest rider thought it was stiff out on the trail. As such, we never tightened down the preload and also never felt like we used the full 10.5 inches of travel. The forks and MacPherson strut worked much better for us, though they too were pretty rigid. We felt a lot of the jolts and impacts through the seat foam which is comfortable at first but turns soft very quickly. Around the edges were especially squishy and our butts hit the frame rails underneath quite often during turns.
Speaking of turns, the Polaris is somewhat tippy. The combination of suspension that doesn’t want to settle and a weak motor which struggles to break the rear end loose equate to some handling woes. We had the inside tires raising off the ground an awful lot with our faster pilots, but in all fairness, the true entry-level tester had nothing to say regarding the issue. Her wheels were firmly on the ground at all times. Just keep in mind that once riders become comfortable with the Polaris and start to challenge its limits, the tall handlebars, 35-inch seat height and 49-inch width will start to conspire against extra speed. The handling isn’t bad and one of the major issues is that the soft motor and lack of a manual clutch make it difficult to get the rear wheels spinning. We were able to ride around this most of the time, though it requires extra body English, muscle and pre-planning to get the straight-axle rear end stepped out. Sport quads are all about pitching the rear through turns and the Polaris is a bit reluctant to do that without being high in the rpm and aggressive with your bodyweight.
There are indications throughout the machine that demonstrate the low MSRP, but at the same time it has some nice features as well. For instance, the footpegs/floorboards are all plastic, offering some grip but not enough for wet or aggressive riding. A cam-style chain adjuster is controlled by two pinch bolts. It’s a simple design that makes doing basic maintenance easy. Polaris included an O-ring chain for low-maintenance and it’s a nice feature considering the $4299 pricetag. We were also impressed with the aesthetics and we definitely liked the overall styling of the Trail Blazer. Sport bodywork is derived from Polaris’ Outlaw lineup and gives the 330 a modern, aggressive look. Black steel rims also add to the sport attitude along with knobby Carlisle tires. Polaris also sells the Trail Boss 330, which is virtually identical but with sport utility bodywork and racks front and rear.
Thick plastic skidplates protect the front bumper area and the swingarm. With only 4.75 inches of ground clearance, the Blazer needs what it can get. We got hung up multiple times on obstacles we thought should pass right under. Almost always it was a log which bounced one of the rear wheels off the ground. Once that happens, a lack of 4WD means you’ll either be rocking a whole lot, or just get off and lift the Polaris off – not necessarily an easy feat for smaller riders considering it weighs in at 530 pounds with a five-pound bias on the front end with a full four gallons of fuel.
The instruments are simplistic with only neutral and reverse lights, fuel gauge and a high-temp light. A key starts the engine with an automotive-style ignition. Rather than turning the key and then hitting a starter button, like most electric starts, this one requires cranking the key like you would in any car or truck. A choke knob is located on the left side of the display though it actually made little difference for us. In all, the Polaris is a bit cold-blooded. Once warm, however, it starts with barely a full crank. A backup pull-starter is located down by the rider’s right boot. It too starts the engine with little effort.
By the time our experienced riders were through, they were obviously left wanting more out of this entry-level quad, but the Polaris surprised them with its capabilities, climbing more hills and conquering more obstacles than expected from our shrewd evaluators. There’s plenty of fun to be found in the Trail Blazer and that definitely was the mindset of our young female rider. Riders with less skill will find the 330 a willing ride that offers the next, or first, step into sport ATV riding. It’s friendly, has attractive styling and you can probably get it from a dealer for about four grand, exactly the requisites we expect to see from this type of machine.