The 5 Best Honda Engines for Go-Karts

Honda is renowned for making high-quality engines that are ideal for go-karts. These engines are highly sought after due to their reliability, great build quality and high performance.

While Honda engines are popular among homemade go-kart builders as well as reputable go-kart manufacturers, they come at a price. However, they can be exactly what you’ve been looking for if your budget is right, as they are bound to give you years of high-performance usage. 

In this review, we’ll be looking at the best Honda go-kart engines. Here’s a quick summary:

  1. Honda GX270
  2. Honda GX390
  3. Honda GX200
  4. Honda GX160
  5. Honda GX120

The GX line from Honda features a wide range of reliable 4-stroke engines that each have their own qualities. Let’s check them out in more detail. 

1. Honda GX270

Engine Features

  • Displacement: 270 cc
  • Output: 8.4 hp
  • Adult & Youth Karts

The GX270 is the best Honda go-kart engine you can find, as it features the perfect balance of reliability, built quality, affordability and performance. Due to its size and compatibility, it’s an extremely versatile engine that is also one of the most popular engine models used by various go-kart manufacturers. 

With a displacement of 270 cc, this engine has a total power output of 8.4 hp (6.3 kW) at 3,600 rpm and a torque of 19.1 Nm at 2,500 rpm. This makes it an extremely versatile go-kart engine for various different applications – racing and off-road go-karts alike. 

The GX270 is an 4-stroke air-cooled engine that features a dual element air cleaner, cast iron cylinder sleeves, dual oil drains and a heavy-duty recoil starter. It’s also fairly quiet for it’s rated output and easy to maintain. In fact, it’s even used in the Mach 1 and Sodi RT10, SR5, GT5R, RX8, RT8 and various other go-kart models.

GX270 Specifications

  • Engine Type: 4-Stroke
  • Displacement: 270cc
  • Output: 8.4 hp
  • Torque: 19.1 Nm
  • Dimensions: 15″ x 16.9″ x 16.6″
  • Dry Weight: 55 lbs (25 kg)
  • Fuel Capacity: 5.6 qts (5.3 L)
  • Fuel Type: 86+ Octane

What Type of Go-Karts Is the GX270 For?

As the Honda GX270 is the most versatile in terms of performance and weight, this engine is suitable for pretty much any type of racing or off-road go-kart. 

I would recommend this engine for medium to high-performance racing go-karts or medium to large off-road go-karts. It definitely has enough power for adult and youth drivers without having to compromise on performance. 

  • Driver suitability: adults and youths
  • Go-kart suitability: racing & off-road go-karts

2. Honda GX390

honda gx390

Engine Features

  • Displacement: 389 cc
  • Output: 11.7 hp
  • For Adult Karts

The Honda GX390 comes in close second, as it’s technically more superior in terms of performance, but is more expensive and doesn’t have as much versatility as the GX270. In essence, it produces more horsepower and torque, but it also weighs considerably more. Nevertheless, it’s a fantastic engine for go-karts.

The GX390 has a displacement of 389 cc, an output of 11.7hp (8.7 kW) at 3,600 rpm and a torque of 26.5 Nm at 2,500 rpm. This makes it about 40% more powerful than the GX270 – the added weight justifies this. 

Moreover, it features an automatic decompression system, multi-chamber exhaust system and as with all Honda GX engines, requires no catalyst. This engine is also featured in the higher-powered Sodi 2Drive, SR5, GT5R, RX8 and RT8 go-karts.

GX390 Specifications

  • Engine Type: 4-Stroke
  • Displacement: 389cc
  • Output: 11.7 hp
  • Torque: 26.5 Nm
  • Dimensions: 16″ x 19.1″ x 17.7″
  • Dry Weight: 69 lbs (41.5 kg)
  • Fuel Capacity: 6.4 qts (6.1 L)
  • Fuel Type: 86+ Octane

What Type of Go-Karts Is the GX390 For?

The Honda GX390 is a powerful engine for go-karts with a specific application. It’s designed for heavier and larger go-karts that cater towards adults.

I would recommend this engine for higher-powered racing go-karts and heavier off-road go-karts that are designed for adults. It’s also a great engine for two-seater go-karts that can easily handle the additional weight. 

  • Driver suitability: adults 
  • Go-kart suitability: racing & off-road go-karts

3. Honda GX200

Honda GX200

Engine Features

  • Displacement: 196 cc
  • Output: 5.8 hp
  • For Adult & Youth Karts

The Honda GX200 is a mid-tier performance engine that is based on the same engine design as the GX160 and GX120. It makes a great engine for go-karts, due to its lightweight construction and great reliability.

The GX200 features a displacement of 196cc, an output of 5.8 hp (4.3 kW) at 3,600 rpm and a net torque of 12.4 Nm at 2,500 rpm. With a weight of just 35 lbs, its weight-to-output ratio is great for various mid-range types of go-karts. 

As with it’s similar models, it features a recoil starter, a large fuel tank for its size, an automatic decompression system and various other features. 

GX200 Specifications

  • Engine Type: 4-Stroke
  • Displacement: 196 cc
  • Output: 5.8 hp
  • Torque: 12.7 Nm
  • Dimensions: 12.6″ x 14.8″ x 13.6″
  • Dry Weight: 35 lbs (16.1 kg)
  • Fuel Capacity: 3.3 qts (3.1 L)
  • Fuel Type: 86+ Octane

What Type of Go-Karts Is the GX200 For?

The Honda GX200 is powerful for its size. However, due to it’s mid-tier performance classification, this engine would be most suitable for low to medium-powered racing karts or regular 2-seater off-road go-karts for youths. 

While it is able to power lighter go-karts designed for adults, they most likely won’t get the thrill of racing and quick accelerations due to its limited output and torque. 

  • Driver suitability: adults & youths
  • Go-kart suitability: racing & off-road go-karts

4. Honda GX160

Honda GX160

Engine Features

  • Displacement: 163 cc
  • Output: 4.8 hp
  • For Youth & Kid Karts

The GX160 is an extremely fuel-efficient go-kart engine, due to its exceptional compression ratio of 9:1 and its lightweight construction. Being based on the same engine design as the GX200, this engine is a slightly less powered version of it. 

It has a total output of 4.8 hp (3.6 kW) at 3,600 rpm and a rated torque of 10.3 Nm at 2,500 rpm. With a displacement of 163 cc it’s about 20% less powerful than the GX200 variant. 

Additionally, it’s equipped with a recoil starter, a dual element air cleaner, dual oil drains, a cast iron cylinder sleeve amongst various other features. The Honda GX160 engine is also featured on the Sodi LR5, which is specially designed for kids!

GX160 Specifications

  • Engine Type: 4-Stroke
  • Displacement: 163 cc
  • Output: 4.8 hp
  • Torque: 10.3 Nm
  • Dimensions: 12.2″ x 14.3″ x 13.6″
  • Dry Weight: 33 lbs (15.1 kg)
  • Fuel Capacity: 3.3 qts (3.1 L)
  • Fuel Type: 86+ Octane

What Type of Go-Karts Is the GX160 For?

With the GX160 being a slightly less potent version of the GX200, it’s recommended for go-karts that are designed for youths and slightly older kids. 

The 4.8 hp is simply not enough to make a 2-seater go-kart for youths fun and if you’re thinking of installing it on a 2-seater kart, it would be more suitable for kids

  • Driver suitability: youths & kids
  • Go-kart suitability: racing & off-road go-karts

5. Honda GX120

Honda GX120

Engine Features

  • Displacement: 122 cc
  • Output: 3.2 hp
  • For Kid Karts

The GX120 is the smallest Honda engine in this list and while it’s small, it still packs a punch – well, at least for younger kids! This engine features the same design as the GX200 and GX160, but has a much lower displacement, making it the perfect Honda go-kart engine for kids. 

This engine has a displacement of 122 cc, an output of 3.2 hp at 3,600 rpm and a 7.3 Nm of torque at 2,500 rpm. While it isn’t the smallest engine in Honda’s GX line, it’s the smallest that should be considered for go-karts.

The GX120 comes with the same features as the GX200 and GX160 and is extremely reliable and fuel efficient. It’s also the featured engine of the Sodi Delta go-kart that is designed for the Micro and Mini kart classes. 

GX160 Specifications

  • Engine Type: 4-Stroke
  • Displacement: 122 cc
  • Output: 3.2 hp
  • Torque: 7.3 Nm
  • Dimensions: 11.7″ x 13.6″ x 13″
  • Dry Weight: 28.9 lbs (13.2 kg)
  • Fuel Capacity: 2.1 qts (2 L)
  • Fuel Type: 86+ Octane

What Type of Go-Karts Is the GX120 For?

The Honda GX120 engine is perfect for go-karts that are designed for kids. It even has a mechanical governor system making it ideal for setting speed limits. 

If you’re thinking of installing this engine in a two-seater go-kart, ensure that it’s not too heavy and designed for kids. Alternatively, this engine is ideal for single-seater racing karts that are made for kids.

  • Driver suitability: Kids
  • Go-kart suitability: racing & off-road go-karts

Honda Engine for Go-Karts: Buying Guide

When it comes to selecting the right Honda engine for your go-kart, you should analyze the most important aspects of each Honda engine and evaluate what sets it apart from the rest. 

In this section, we’ll be taking a look at the performance, suitability, compatibility, features and price ranges for each of the Honda engines. This overview and evaluation aims to better equip you with the required information, in order to make an optimal purchase decision for your go-kart.  

Performance

Arguably the most important aspect of any Honda engine that you should consider is its performance, which is closely related to the type of go-kart it’s intended to power. Honda offers a wide variety that ranges from low to high-powered engine models. 

Generally speaking, the heavier a go-kart is, the higher the output and the overall performance the engine needs to be. While I will talk a bit more about suitability later on, let’s take a closer look at the performance of each of the GX engines. 

Honda ModelTypeDisplacementOutputTorque
GX3904-Stroke389 cc11.7 hp26.5 Nm
GX2704-Stroke270 cc8.4 hp19.1 Nm
GX2004-Stroke196 cc5.8 hp12.7 Nm
GX1604-Stroke163 cc4.8 hp10.3 Nm
GX1204-Stroke122 cc3.2 hp7.3 Nm

As you can see, the GX390 is the highest powered engine, followed by the GX270. The mid-tier engines are the GX200 and GX160, and the GX120 is considered to be a low-powered engine. 

In order to evaluate this correctly, you’ll need to ask yourself how much power you actually need. Let’s explore that in the next section. You may also want to check out the other review covering the best go-kart engines, featuring other brands too.

Suitability 

It’s important to understand the output requirements of your go-kart, in order to ensure it’s not over or underpowered. If you opt for a Honda engine that is overpowered, you’ll run the risk of damaging some of the go-kart’s components. 

Conversely, if your go-kart is underpowered, it will feel sluggish and not responsive enough. I find the GX270 is the most versatile and fits the average go-kart the best! Here’s a quick table to show you the recommended suitability for each of the Honda GX engines. 

Honda ModelRacing Go-KartOff-Road Go-Kart
GX390High-Powered Racing Go-Karts for AdultsLarge and Heavy Off-Road Go-Kart for Adults
GX270Medium to High-Powered Racing Go-Karts for Adults & YouthsMedium to Large Off-Road Go-Karts for Adults & Youths
GX200Low to Medium-Powered Racing Go-Karts for YouthsMedium Off-Road Go-Karts for Youths
GX160Low-Powered Racing Go-Karts for Youths & KidsSmall & Light Off-Road Go-Karts for Youths & Kids
GX120Low-Powered Racing Go-Karts for KidsLight Off-Road Go-Karts for Kids

This table serves as a guide, so that you can better identify which Honda engine is most appropriate for the type of go-kart it powers.

Compatibility

You should also consider the size and weight of the engine, as well as it’s specifications. Your go-kart will need to account for the weight and the engine needs to fit onto the mounting area. 

Take note of the size specifications carefully before deciding on your purchase. In the suitability section, the weight is already accounted for. However, if you want to be more thorough and assess the overall weight yourself, then it’s best to take note of the engine weight. 

Features

The features of the above mentioned Honda engines are largely the same, as they are all from the GX line. This line of engines is designed for commercial use and are therefore reliable and made for heavy-duty operations, making them ideal for go-karts.

While they’re all 4-stroke engines that have the same Overhead Valve (OHV) design, air intake systems, dual element air cleaner and more, there are some subtle differences to take note of.

Honda Model / FeaturesGX390GX270GX200GX160GX120
Bore x Stroke88 X 64 mm77 X 58 mm68 X 54 mm68 X 45 mm60 X 43.5 mm
Compression Ratio8.2:18.5:18.5:19.0:18.3:1
CarburetorButterfly FloatButterfly FloatButterfly FloatButterfly FloatButterfly Float
LubricationSplashSplashSplashSplashSplash
CoolingAir-CooledAir-CooledAir-CooledAir-CooledAir-Cooled
IgnitionDigital CDIDigital CDITransistorized MagnetoTransistorized MagnetoTransistorized Magneto
StarterRecoil/ElectricRecoil/ElectricRecoilRecoilRecoil

You’ll be able to use the table above to see the features of each model. This is important if you have certain requirements that a particular Honda engine should fulfil. 

Price

As with every purchase, everyone has a budget to work with. Therefore, it’s going to be hard to recommend a specific engine based on your budget. 

The general rule is, the higher the displacement and output of an engine, the more expensive it’s going to be. With that in mind, it’s best to pick an engine that fits your budget, but at the same time is suitable for your go-kart. 

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