Budget-friendly Utility ATV impresses
About two months after Yamaha took the covers off its new budget-friendly 2016 Kodiak 700, I made the trip to the mountains of middle Tennessee to find out what this Utility ATV was made of.
The Kodiak 700 carries itself in some ways just like the sportier Grizzly. Though the Kodiak has a milder look, it was clear straight away that this Ute could hold its own on the trail or farm.
Sitting on the new Kodiak I immediately noticed the lower slung handlebars. I prefer to stand a lot more than the average rider, so this was evident right off the bat for me. The addition of the third headlight on my EPS model Kodiak gives the ATV a somewhat sinister good look, but a useful one as well. I prefer the extra headlight between the bars, as it is helpful when turning corners by allowing you to see farther out the trail before making a full turn.
Built into the backside of the headlight pod is the digital gauge system, which displays fuel level, speed, clock, 4WD engagement status, and much more. It is also backlit for easy reading at night. Unfortunately, you do not get this headlight or gauge pack on the base model Kodiak 700.
Yamaha built this Kodiak to work and if you are going to spend hour-after-hour on this machine, you will really enjoy the seated position. The new seat is sculpted a little slimmer around the middle to lower the rider a bit more. This is what Yamaha calls a “sit in” positioning and it actually makes the machine a tad easier to get on or off of. I found this to be very comfortable during our ride, but as I mentioned before, when the trails get rough I stand more than I sit, and the lower bars on the Kodiak are not as accommodating for this as the bars on the Grizzly. The seat is also slim between the legs for a little more comfortable rider position.
Turn the key and the engine fires to life and keeps a low tone, which would be perfect for working around the homestead or animals that are easily spooked. While the engines in the Kodiak and Grizzly are essentially identical, modifications to the clutching to give the Kodiak a milder power delivery. This fuel injected 708cc engine has dual overhead cams and utilizes a Mikuni 44mm throttle body to produce plenty of torque on the low end for towing and climbing. As with most ATVs that are fuel injected, this machine starts without any trouble and has a very linear delivery to suit the working consumer. According to Yamaha, the Kodiak is more suited for the owner who needs a reliable working platform that is powerful but controllable for riders of varying skill levels.
Getting the power to the ground for the Kodiak is Yamaha’s Ultramatic CVT transmission. We have experienced this reliable system for many years and have even heard of machines that have not once had a belt failure even after many years of service. It proves that Yamaha does have a good handle on this part of the puzzle. To get the engine rpm to stay low and produce the grunt needed for towing as well as controlled power output, Yamaha simply added more heft to the clutch weights. The difference between the Grizzly clutch set up and the Kodiak is about 12 grams. Power does not come on nearly as snappy as it does on the Grizzly, but Yamaha built the Kodiak to be a pure Utility ATV, while the Grizzly is more of a combination of Sport and Utility. As I found my way along the rock filled and sometimes severely rutted trails, the Kodiak just kept moving forward with just gentle throttle and had plenty of power in reserve. Elevation changed quite dramatically at times and the power seemed to remain exactly the same.
In some areas of the trails it was necessary to engage the Kodiak’s 4WD system. Yamaha has several Kodiak models available, but unless you get a Special Edition model you will not get the traditional button-operated 4WD actuator. For my particular demo-model, a no frills lever engagement was utilized. The fact that the engagement is mechanical instead of electrical does not in any way take away from the machine. In fact, I think it could be easier to service down the road. Getting into 4WD was as easy as coming to a stop and pulling a lever under the left handlebar. The rain had been coming down for a few hours already at higher elevations, so the use of 4WD over rougher trails and slick rocks while heading up into the hills was quite useful. Controlled power output to the wheels allowed slow crawling over the roughest sections in four-wheel drive and just reinforced the Kodiak’s capability.
The Kodiak 700 4×4 braking is managed by dual hydraulic front discs and a rear sealed brake multi-disc system. I found the sealed rear brake system provided ample stopping power during our ride; however, the ground beneath the wheels failed to cooperate at times. Being sealed, the rear braking system will always work and is not affected by water, mud or debris.
My test unit benefits from Yamaha’s Electronic Power Steering and this is something I recommend for anyone thinking of riding or working a machine in rough terrain. EPS is input sensitive and relies on many different inputs, such as vehicle speed and driveline function to determine just how much help it gives. When asked if the EPS is preset for standard assist, Yamaha noted that the amount of help is adjusted when the vehicle is placed into 4WD to give even more relief to the rider through the bars. Basically, it adds to the amount of assist. It also takes the shock out of harsh impacts on the trail. We felt it could use a tad more assist on the slowest sections when locked into 4WD.
As far as the suspension of the Kodiak is concerned, riders will appreciate a generous 11 inches of ground clearance. This means I missed many obstacles in the trail that normally could have torn through the plastic skid plates underneath the Kodiak. Suspension travel is set at 7.1 in. out front and 9.1 in. in the rear with a narrow width at 46.5 in. to get into and out of tight trails. Shocks are also upgraded on the EPS and Special Edition models. The base has no shock adjustment, but with ours being the EPS model we had five-way preload adjustment collars on the base of the shock.
The Kodiak 700 is a great platform for riding trails as well as working. My trip into the mountains of middle Tennessee was followed up by a North Georgia Mountain adventure in the middle of the night. I was able to get a first hand experience with the third headlight and it just reinforced my belief in its usefulness. The comfort and maneuverability of the Kodiak reinforced its already proven ability and for the $8199.00 price tag it is also affordable. If you like a no frills kind of off-road machine then you will still be very happy with base Kodiak and its $6,199 price tag. Either way you choose this reliable machine should be considered in anyone’s search of quality equipment.