2018 Yamaha Kodiak 450 Review

Rick Sosebee
by Rick Sosebee
Fast Facts

Engine: 421cc Single

Power: 27 horsepower
Ground Clearance: 9.6 in.
Weight: 637 lbs
MSRP: $5,999 (Base)
An affordable, mid-sized Utility ATV

Looking into your savings and finding out that maybe you should be a little more frugal can be an eye opener. This is especially true when you love to ride off-road and are desperately seeking a new Utility ATV. There are many choices in the market today when it comes to ATVs, but very few give you an outpouring of features sometimes only found on larger displacement machines. And then comes the 2018 Yamaha Kodiak 450 with a retail price starting at $5,999.

The Kodiak 450 is a very action-packed, feature-filled product that seems to come into the world at an affordable price for most anyone looking to get outdoors. We were able to get a little seat time on the new 2018 Yamaha Kodiak 450 in the tight terrain of the Washington State Forrest.

Let us first describe our riding conditions so when we say things like “tight twisty trails,” you will be more aware of what we were referring too. The riding area we were testing our 2018 Yamaha Kodiak 450 at had to be some of the tightest trails we have experienced. Labeled at 50 inches, it really seemed a lot slimmer in some sections. Not only are the trails tight, but they can be very unforgiving to a rider who is not prepared to pay close attention to the trail itself. Elevation was not really a factor even though we did get to somewhere in the 2,500-foot range when visiting the Capital Peak Radio Towers. Between the rocks and large tree roots wandering into the tight trails as well as the soft shoulders on the trail sides, it was a day of excitement to say the least. This is a trail system that shows off the compact nimbleness of the Kodiak 450 perfectly!

2018 Yamaha Kodiak 450 Action Front

Let’s get to the specifics of the 2018 Yamaha Kodiak 450. Starting with the engine with a displacement of 421cc, this single overhead cam mill is now fuel injected. This one feature alone is great for the cold starts or higher elevation riding areas where a carbureted engine might suffer a bit. This gives the Kodiak 450 some get up and go even though it is a smaller bore machine. It really does have nice responsiveness when the newly redesigned throttle lever is pressed. The power delivery is smooth and controllable for most any rider. This engine is also water cooled and Yamaha has developed a new mounting system for the engine that reduces vibration. During our ride the Kodiak’s powerplant was very manageable and actually fun while keeping older, jaded journalists on their toes.

The power of this single-cylinder engine is transferred to Yamaha’s UltraMatic transmission or CVT. This belt drive system has proven time and again that under most riding conditions it can go many years without any need of service.

2018 Yamaha Kodiak 450 Action Speed

Shifting the Kodiak into gear is easy and seems to work with little trouble. The linear feel in the delivery of power is most noticeable as the throttle is pressed and there is no jerky initial reaction to the throttle. This is also a feature of Yamaha’s CVT design. When the Kodiak was forced into the rocks and steep ledges heading into the upper trails of the Capital State Forrest, the grunt of this machine pulled well while giving us confidence by being smoothly predictable.

2018 Yamaha Kodiak 450 EPS vs. Can-Am Outlander 450 DPS: By the Numbers

As for the connection between the Kodiak and the trail beneath us, the engineers at Yamaha have redesigned the overall suspension in a way that gives a more comfortable ride. As a rider in the 250 lbs range on this mid-bore machine, I needed all the help I could get. Hitting the tight spots in the paths, I did notice a little different feel from the Grizzly 450 of years past. The Kodiak cornered well and remained predictable in the faster sections of the trail. Yamaha has widened the overall reach of the suspension arms on the Kodiak by three inches – that’s 1.5 inches per side. And the preload adjustable shocks give the rider some adjustability if they so choose. The 10 inches of ground clearance seemed like a full foot at times as I was sure I would bottom over the rocks in the forest. The 6.7 inches of front travel and 7.4 out back seemed to soak up the heavy down swing as I lobbed the Kodiak over the water breaks.

2018 Yamaha Kodiak 450 Bridge

One other item that gives the Kodiaks handling a confidence inspiring vote is the electronic power steering. Yamaha has included this on the Kodiak 450 EPS ($6,899) and with a trail manner that still allows the rider to feel the trails. When we say feeling the trail, it refers to the feedback you get in the bars that lets you know you are still in control of the machine. It does a great job of providing assistance in slower speed technical adventures.

As I mentioned before, I may be a slightly larger rider, but Yamaha has developed the cockpit for every rider to be able to move around at will. This includes the fact that the front plastics are wider from front to rear and the shifting lever is also moved out of your seating space. The gear shift is placed more upward onto the front left fender to get it out of your knees and with wider foot well areas any shifting of the feet is unrestricted. This also allows for large riding boots (or feet) and the tread as well as molded plastic pegs have plenty of grip in most applications. We did not get into any deep mud, but the floorboards seemed as if they would clean out well with limited loss of foot traction. As for the movement in the seated position, I never felt restricted in any way. It was refreshing to be able to move around on the Kodiak, especially when tackling off camber, root-filled trails.

2018 Yamaha Kodiak 450 Woods

When riding tight and very elevated trails with steep edges it is also important to have braking that works well. The 2018 Yamaha Kodiak 450 does have substantial braking and with a sealed rear braking system you know you will always have brakes. There were several instances where I needed immediate braking and even though the earth would turn loose under the wheels, I was able to get the ATV slowed down. The sealed braking system is key in harsh conditions as it stays true without interruption of water, mud or even tiny rocks because it is completely enclosed from the elements.

There is another important feature we want to mention as we wrap up our review. If you decide to add a winch, the wiring is already in the harness, in place and ready for the winch to be mounted to predrilled holes in the front bumper area of the 2018 Yamaha Kodiak 450. That makes at least one more task incredibly easy for every off-roader.

2018 Yamaha Kodiak 450 Winch Mount
Rick Sosebee
Rick Sosebee

Whether he is in Mexico covering the Baja 1000, building ATVs for local racers, or out enjoying the trails, Rick’s passion shows in his stories. Learning to wrench his own machines from his grandfather, Rick also has an undying appreciation for the mechanics of off-road vehicles. Do not let the dirt and mud fool you, though, as Rick also has a deep love for street cars.

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