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2018 YAMAHA KODIAK 450

–First test of Yamaha’s exciting new 4×4 —

The 2018 Kodiak 450 has a 4×4 system that is strong enough to take on the trail obstacles in your way. (photos by Frank Hoppen)

 

When Yamaha discontinued the Grizzly 450, we were disappointed that such a great mid-class 4×4 quad had left the market. The various Grizzly models have been a staple in the 4×4 industry for over a decade, and the Kodiak was also well liked until Yamaha stopped producing them for a period of years. Fortunately, the Kodiak 700 was introduced in 2016 and was well received, and the Grizzly 700 remained one of the best-selling 4×4 ATVs around. But, Yamaha’s 4×4 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.

This 450-class ATV engine is potent enough to climb hills and crawl through mud, but we would have been happy to get a bit more torque on the low end.

 

SIZE MATTERS

The trails are tight and true 50-inch-width trails, mainly less, in Olympia. We love a powerful machine that has a lot of suspension, but then again, 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 has well-balanced handling, compact size, and power that is appropriate and effective for tackling 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 in size. That is why it is considered a mid-class ATV. The Kodiak 450 is just as small, with a little longer wheelbase 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 4 inches, raised the handlebar and widened the foot boards. The Kodiak 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.

The Kodiak shocks are five-way preload adjustable on all four corners with independent dual-A-arm suspension.

 

HANDLING

In the suspension department, the 450 has 6.7 inches of front-wheel travel via dual-A-arm suspension with 7.4 inches of independent rear suspension. The shocks are five-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 supple ride out there, and at high speeds the shocks won’t keep up with the suspension on a Yamaha Grizzly 700, but they still work well. The shocks are tuned to work smoothly in the tight wooded and rocky areas we tested them in. Don’t plan on hitting big jumps, railing turns and skipping the tops of whoops out in the open desert, but the suspension does soak up chop well and doesn’t allow the nimble machine to wallow in corners.

Changing or cleaning the air filter on the Yamaha is simple. There is a storage location under the seat as well.

 

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 feedback through the steering. Yamaha designed the system that way to make you feel more in control, and we certainly did. When navigating tight trails, having an overactive EPS can lead to mistakes if you can turn the ATV too quickly. The Kodiak’s system provided enough assistance to where we didn’t get fatigued as quickly as on a non-EPS quad but still let you have a trail feel.

The rear brake is one aspect of the Kodiak that we feel could have been improved upon. The front hydraulic disc brakes are strong and work well, but the sealed multi-disc rear brake felt spongy and a little weak. During our test rides we adjusted the brake to make it engage quicker, which helped a lot. It slows you down just fine, and at trail speeds it is more than capable of getting the stopping job done without worry.

The thumb throttle has been redesigned from the old Grizzly 450, and the two-and four-wheel-drive button is easy to press.

 

POWER TIME

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 all-wheel engine braking. Electronic fuel injection has been implemented on the new Kodiak to enhance engine performance and throttle response. The Ultramatic transmission system keeps a true constant belt tension, which reduces wear and performs better for a longer time. It is rare to need to change the CVT belt of a smaller engine, but it is beneficial to do so over time.

The 4×4 system of the Yamaha has an on-command two- or four-wheel-drive system that is shaft-driven to the wheels. It is operated through a button on the right handlebar. The Kodiak has an all-wheel engine-braking system that is potent but not too strong, which we appreciated. You won’t be frightened traversing downhill when the system kicks in, because the rear wheels don’t instantly lock up and send you sliding. Once you chop the throttle, you feel the system kick in and help slow you down, which complements the braking system well.

The front brakes on the Kodiak 450 are hydraulic discs, while the rear brake is a sealed multi-disc setup. The rear brake could be a little stronger but works well.

 

The engine on this machine is perfect for the slower-speed trails we rode in the woods. It isn’t too powerful, and 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 has ample power to get the job done. The electronic fuel-injection system livened the engine up over the old Grizzly 450.

The automatic CV transmission and four-wheel-drive system work 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 isn’t needed unless you really get yourself into a hairy situation.

Getting to the engine of the Yamaha Kodiak is fairly easy: just remove a few screws and plastic pins.

 

GETTING THE JOB DONE

The Kodiak 450 is a fun mid-class 4×4 ATV, but fun doesn’t get work done. Fortunately, the Kodiak is also set up to utilize as a tool around the ranch or job site. For starters, the machine can tow up to 1,322 pounds from a rear ball mount that is part of the frame. The steel cargo racks can hold a combined weight of 264 pounds, and there is a water-resistant storage container under the seat.

Electronically, there is a DC 12-volt car-charger port so you can utilize essential items like a mini tire compressor or even charge your phone on a trail break. The newly designed LCD display mounted on the handlebar shows a speedometer, transmission status, fuel gauge and more. The EPS model of the Yamaha Kodiak 450 has an added handlebar-mounted headlight to complement the two base-model headlights.

The Kodiak 450 EPS model comes with a third headlight to brighten your way at night and an EPS system that provides a lot of trail feedback.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

We couldn’t be happier that Yamaha decided to bring back one of our favorite 4×4 ATVs in a new flavor through the Kodiak 450 design. The EFI engine is potent yet the delivery is soft and controllable for new riders and tight terrain. The engine braking system works well, and the 4×4 system can tackle a surprising number of obstacles. This mid-sized ATV feels extremely roomy, even for a taller rider. The electronic power steering assists turning the machine quite well, but could be a little bit stronger. The handlebars could have a better standing riding position feel if their sweep wasn’t so far back, but for the average trail rider, they are very comfortable, especially in a sitting position. The suspension on the Kodiak is smooth and tackles chop and rocks well while still offering a nice cornering feel. Overall, our complaints of the machine are very minimal, and we are glad to have it show up in the Yamaha lineup.

An all-new instrument cluster sits between the handlebars of the Kodiak 450 that shows speed, fuel usage, hours and more.

 

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 are great, the comfort is equal to that and the handling is nimble. The base-model Kodiak 450 starts at $5999, while the EPS model has a starting price point of $6899.

If you live in the desert, Yamaha’s Grizzly 700 or Kodiak 700 would probably be a better choice for you, but one thing is clear—Yamaha makes great ATVs that perform well in many different riding and working conditions. Go to www.yamahamotorsports.com to check out the rest of their ATV and UTV lineup!

The 25-inch-tall CST tires are supple enough to provide a smooth ride yet strong enough to withstand the stress of sharp rocks and other trail debris.

 

2018 YAMAHA KODIAK 450 EPS

Engine 421cc, SOHC, four-stroke single

Bore x stroke 84.5mm x 75.0mm

Fuel system EFI

Transmission Automatic CVT

Starting system Electric

Final drive Shaft

Suspension/wheel travel:

  Front Dual A-arm/6.7″

  Rear Dual A-arm/7.4″

Tires:

  Front 25×8-12

Rear 25×10-12

Brakes:

  Front Dual hydraulic disc

  Rear Sealed multi-disc

Wheelbase 48.8 inches

Length/width/height 80.1″/46.5″/45.7″

Ground clearance 9.6″

Towing capacity 1322 lb.

Cargo rack capacity:

  Front 88 lb.

  Rear 176 lb.

Weight 650 lb.

Color Fall Beige w/ Realtree Xtra, Armor Grey, Hunter Green

MSRP $7149

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