A performance ATV is one that is generally built with racing in mind, though not all such models will be used for racing. These models are likely to be lightweight and nimble, and it will have a fair amount of suspension that make them suitable for jumping or harsh terrain. An ATV of any type can be customized or built from the factory with racing in mind, as several types of racing exist, but some models are designed with specific functions in mind instead, making them unsuitable for racing.
The opposite of a performance ATV would be a utility ATV. Such vehicles are designed with function rather than speed and steering in mind; a utility ATV will usually be larger and heavier, and it will very likely feature storage racks or other convenient accessories that make it a multi-purpose vehicle. Floodlights, trailer hitches, gun racks, and other accessories add to the versatility of a utility ATV. A performance ATV, by contrast, is designed for accurate steering, high speeds, and lightweight maneuverability. It will likely feature fewer body panels, more suspension, lighter weight components, and an absence of floodlights, racks, and other accessories.
While a performance ATV is usually used for racing, it does not necessarily have to be used exclusively for races. Recreational riders who prefer a nimble, fast ATV can buy a performance ATV instead of the larger utility versions. Performance models offer speed and maneuverability by cutting weight and enhancing suspension; some models have sufficient suspension to support jumping, as the added suspension can soften landings and actually make take-offs easier. The ATV must also have a low center of gravity to help improve cornering and prevent rollovers. The tires of the performance ATV can vary according to the type of terrain, but generally, the treads on the tires will be fairly aggressive.
Some ATVs built for performance will feature minimalist, aggressive fairings that will help improve aerodynamics and shave weight. These lightweight plastic or composite panels are usually fairly inexpensive, as they are likely to break during especially aggressive racing. The fairings are often brightly colored, adding to the customizability of the vehicle, and they may feature graphics for specific teams or sponsors. Sometimes a number plate will be present on the front of the ATV as well to identify the rider during often congested and confusing races; racers will be tracked by their numbers as they cross the finish line.