Peak Performance

By Dave McMahon

All-new Yamaha Kodiak 450 shines in Pacific Northwest

The view of Puget Sound from Capitol Peak atop Capitol State Forest is something to behold. Block out the cell phone towers just a stone’s throw away, and the wildflowers combined with an audible breeze made for an ideal spot to take in the scenery. 

Of course, the best way to gain access to such mesmerizing views on this July afternoon just outside Olympia, Washington, was aboard the all-new 2018 Yamaha Kodiak 450 EPS.

Yes, Yamaha dealers will have themselves a winner with this machine, which lived up to its pre-ride billing of encompassing the “3 Cs: capability, comfort and confidence.”

While the overall ATV market continues to struggle with negative growth (it has declined by 5.6 percent year-to-date through June compared to the same time last year), the Kodiak 450 and its 450 EPS upgrade figure to give Yamaha dealers reason to believe growth is on the horizon. All models at the media launch were EPS versions. EPS color options include the new Armor Grey with Aluminum Wheels ($7,099 MSRP), Fall Beige with Realtree Xtra Camo ($7,149) and Hunter Green ($6,899). 

From Yamaha’s ATV/side-by-side division, (from left) Ryan Stiver (product planning manager), Pat Biolsi (testing manager) and Matt Barr (testing technician) hosted a week’s worth of riding for off-road, agricultural, farming and powersports media in Washington state.

In addition to Fall Beige with Realtree Camo and Hunter Green, the non-EPS Kodiak 450 comes in red, with pricing starting at only $5,999 MSRP.

Ryan Stiver, product planning manager in the company’s ATV/side-by-side division based in Kennesaw, Georgia, claims the Kodiak 450 is “the highest value mid-class 4x4 ATV, providing the best off-road capability, comfort and confidence for all-day riding.” After two separate rides served as bookends for an outstanding catered lunch of brisket and BBQ, it’s a point well taken. It’s older brother — the two-year-old Yamaha Kodiak 700, is the top-selling big bore utility ATV in the market, Stiver said. Similarly, the Yamaha Grizzly 4x4 is the top-selling big bore recreational ATV.

With the 4x4 market claiming about 71 percent of ATV retail sales, the Kodiak 450 is an ideal machine. Youth sales comprise about 13 percent of overall sales, followed by 2WD machines (9 percent) and sport quads (7 percent). Taken a step further, the Kodiak 450 will play in the 400-499cc 4x4 space, or 21 percent of the market. Stiver added that the Kodiak 450 figures to find its niche between the Kodiak 700 and Grizzly, with about 50 percent work and 50 percent recreational usage.

We didn’t do any work while trekking through the varied terrain and tight trails in Washington, but we recreated plenty, and gained confidence with the passing of each 50-inch-wide switchback (although some flirted with a width in the upper 40-inches). Confidence oozes from the machine, thanks in part to the reliable Ultramatic CVT. The all-wheel engine braking was a gem, especially for this novice riding down the trails. Upon releasing the throttle, there was no disengaged feeling. 

The all-new 2018 Yamaha Kodiak 450 found the 50-inch-wide trails in Washington state’s Capitol State Forest to be equal parts challenging and fun.

Yamaha targets the end user as 55 years old, with $80,000 annually in household income and about 17 years of ATV riding experience. First-time buyers will likely be about 24 percent of the market for the Kodiak 450. In addition to wanting the machine to provide confidence, they want it to be capable. It’s compact, narrow body size allows riders to maneuver easily through tight spaces, and the challenging terrain carved out of Capitol State Forest. The tires are 3.15 inches wider than their Kodiak predecessor, and there were times when all three of those extra inches were critical to the continued enjoyment of the ride. The 25-inch tires also have been upgraded to 4-ply. A full-length skid plate was nice to have during the final rock crawling section of the climb to the trail’s peak.

As Pat Biolsi, testing manager of Yamaha’s ATV/side-by-side division, noted “any rider can get on the Kodiak 450 and feel confident. The EPS on this machine is torque and speed sensitive, and offers a reduction in negative feedback.” The rocks, roots and off-camber trails certainly allowed that idea to put to test.

Comfort is the third most important trait for future Kodiak buyers, and the EPS system allows for an easy feel while on the trails. Five-position pre-load adjustable shocks assist with the comfort factor, and noise, fuel consumption and vibration all have been reduced as a way to enhance comfort. A roomy riding area includes a narrow, compact seat, and a large footwell, which combine to offer an improved riding position and overall enhanced comfort. The throttle lever had not been changed in 15 years, but it’s been thoroughly overhauled. It’s closer to the hand grip and has a wider, longer shape to allow for reduced effort. Rubber engine mounts also improve comfort and lessen fatigue.

Add it all up, and off-road enthusiasts, outdoorsmen and women, farmers and ranchers alike have something to look forward to with this 421cc machine.

To reach Capitol Peak, the Yamaha Kodiak 450 overcame a variety of obstacles, including a brief rock crawl.

“Since the introduction of the Kodiak 700 to our family of 4x4 utility ATVs just two years ago, we have received an extraordinarily positive reception for a value-packed vehicle that is both hard working and fun to ride,” said Mike Martinez, Yamaha’s vice president of ATV/side-by-sides. “This year, we’re expanding the ATV line again with the all-new Kodiak 450, a mid-size multipurpose ATV bridging the gap between the entry-level customer desiring comfort and confidence, and the experienced rider seeking precise handling and class-leading off-road versatility.”

Dealers also will benefit from accessory sales from the Kodiak 450. It’s designed for easy installation of genuine Yamaha accessories, including a new highly-integrated winch and mounting plate kit — with wiring already pre-installed by the factory on the Kodiak 450, custom over fenders, gun boot mounts, rack extensions, cooler carriers and more. Over half of all Kodiak 700 and Grizzly buyers have had a winch installed on their machines. Nearly 30 factory accessories are available.

The Kodiak 450 will join the assembly line at the company’s factory in Newnan, Georgia. 


Photos by frank hoppen/


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *