When Yamaha discontinued the Grizzly 450, we were disappointed that such a great mid-class 4×4 quad left the market. The Grizzly has been a staple in the 4×4 industry for for over a decade now, and the Kodiak was also well received until they stopped producing them. Fortunately, the Kodiak 700 was introduced and well received, the Grizzly 700 remained as one of the best selling 4×4 ATVs around, but Yamaha’s lineup was missing mid-class machines. The all-new 2018 Yamaha Kodiak 450 was just released and we had the opportunity to test it in the lush forests of Olympia, Washington.
The trails are tight and true 50-inch, mainly less, width trails in Olympia. We love a powerful machine that has a lot of suspension, but then again, a lot of our staff lives in Southern California where the trails are wide and fast. We expected to give the Kodiak 450 a fair shake but knew we would want a big 4×4 for technical trails. We were wrong! The nimble machine is well balanced in the handling, size and power department to tackle tight trails with ease.
We tested the 2018 Yamaha Kodiak 450 EPS in their Fall Beige with Realtree Xtra camo color scheme. If you have ever ridden an older Yamaha Grizzly 450, you know that the machine is small, that is why it is a mid class ATV. The Kodiak 450 is just as small with a little longer wheel base for a more comfortable ride, yet it still turns very well. The riding position of the Kodiak is quite roomy. Yamaha opened up the plastics, extended the seat four inches, raised the handlebars and widened the foot boards. The ATV is narrow between the legs which adds even more comfort. The chassis is compact so you get a nimble ATV with a big feel in the comfort area.
In the suspension department, the 450 has 6.7 inches of front wheel travel out of dual a-arm suspension, with 7.4 inches of rear travel through independent rear suspension. The shocks are 5-way preload adjustable. Our test rider bumped them up one position from the softest setting and felt they worked better. You won’t be gaining the most plush ride out there, and at high speeds the shocks won’t keep up with suspension on a Yamaha Grizzly 700, but they still work well. The shocks soak up chop and don’t wallow too much in corners.
We tested the Kodiak 450 that comes with electronic power steering. The first thing we noticed while riding the machine is that you feel a lot of trail feed pack through the steering. Yamaha designed the system that way to make you feel more in control and we certainly did. When navigated tight trails, having an over active EPS can lead to mistakes. The Kodiak’s system provided enough assistance to where we didn’t get fatigued as quickly as a non EPS quad, but still let you have a trail feel.
One aspect of the Kodiak that we feel could have been improved upon is the rear brake. The front hydraulic disc brakes are strong and work well, but the sealed multi disc rear brake felt spongy and a little weak. It still slows you down just fine, and if you don’t ride fast it is great.
The Kodiak 450 sports a 421cc liquid-cooled, SOHC, single-cylinder four-stroke engine that is paired to Yamaha’s Ultramatic V-belt automatic transmission with engine braking. The system has an On-Command two or four-wheel-drive system that is shaft driven to the wheels. The engine on this machine is perfect for the trails we rode. It isn’t too powerful, it’s very smooth and easy to manage. You won’t easily be able to pull a wheelie and the machine doesn’t slide sideways through corners like a sport quad, but it is enough power to get the job done. The electronic fuel-injection system livened the engine up over the old Grizzly 450.
The four-wheel-drive system works very well. We rode through slick, rocky, rutted, and rooted trail sections with ease on the Kodiak. There may have been one or two times where a front locking differential could have added more assistance but it wasn’t needed.
If you live in an area where the trails are tight and require less power, the 2018 Yamaha Kodiak 450 would be one of our top picks. The fit and finish is great, the comfort is equal to that and the handling is nimble. The base model Kodiak 450 starts at $5,999 while the EPS model has a starting price point of $6,899.
If you live in the desert, Yamaha’s Grizzly 700 would probably be a better choice for you, but one thing is clear, Yamaha makes great ATVs. For a more in depth test, keep a look out for the article in our magazine!