First Drive Yamaha Kodiak 450 ATV

By: Barry Ashenhurst

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The new Yamaha Kodiak 450 ATV is beefing up the series. We went along to the launch and took it for a spin

The Yamaha Kodiak 450 offroad

Yamaha Kodiak 450 ATV Price & Warranty

  • PS model: $11,299
  • Non-PS Model: $10,2999
  • Warranty: Three years' unlimited km, parts & labour.

The Yamaha Kodiak 450 ATV’s ergonomics are nice and a big seat is comfy on fat bums. Nice low speed engine response enables the operator to crawl over obstacles. 

Buy now

The 500cc class of quad-bike is the most popular among Australian and New Zealand farmers so the 2018 Kodiak 450 is an important model.

No wonder Yamaha has gone all out to make it as good as it can be while keeping it at a reasonable price. The non-power-steering model retails for $10,299 and the power-steering version for $11,299.

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The Kodiak is made in Newnan, Georgia. Here we get one colour, Steel Blue, but in the US the EPS model comes in Armor Grey, Fall Beige, Hunter Green and Realtree camo. The non-EPS model comes in Red. Is power steering worth it? If you can afford the additional 1000 bucks, go for it. Power steering makes any ATV less physical to ride, takes the harshness out of the steering and makes the vehicle more manoeuvrable when you’re screwing it through tight scrub all day.

the Kodiak 450 side on

Rear rack capacity is 80kg and front rack capacity 40kg. Tow rating is 600kg, which means the Kodiak can pull twice its own weight. In Australia we get one colour but in the US you can order the Kodiak in Armor Grey or a camo Fall Beige as well

The Kodiak bridges what Yamaha sees as a gap between entry-level machines and those made for more experienced riders, and in our opinion does it very well. The 2018 model isn’t a tart-up, though, but a full-blown revision of what Yamaha believes a modern 450 should be.

The company has even pinpointed the age and likely income of the buyer: a male aged about 55, with 15 years’ riding experience and an annual income of $60,000 to $80,000. Ag use will account for 70 per cent of Kodiak sales, and between them, commercial and recreational use for the remaining 30 per cent.

Since quad manufacturers are keen for their customers to stay alive, rider education through an accredited training company – in this case Getabout Training Services – is part of the deal when you buy a Kodiak.

If you believe you’d benefit from training, or even a refresher course, let your dealer know and they’ll put you in contact with Getabout. (Since we too would like to see you remain on this earth, if you’d prefer to contact Getabout yourself, you can ring ’em on 1300 660 320.)

Okay, so much for niceties. Let’s get dirty. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said that just about everything on this machine is new. I was about to write that only the controls are unchanged, then I discovered that Yamaha has made the thumb throttle slightly longer and deeper, so there goes my clever observation.

In fact, as far as we can tell, the only thing unchanged is the Ultramatic transmission. However, rather than struggle through a tedious explanation of all the new features, here’s a list of major improvements:

  • The chassis is new, the frame can accommodate the new fuel-injected engine
  • The engine has rubber mounts to reduce vibration
  • The machine is wider (930mm up front and 935mm down the back)
  • Wheelbase is longer at 1240mm
  • The suspension comprises long travel, pre-load adjustable gas shocks
  • There are new CV joints
  • Front and rear A-arms are longer by 38mm
  • The seat is wider and longer
  • The footwells are larger for more legroom, and stiffer to reduce flexing
  • Side covers are new
  • So is the exhaust system
  • The shifter mechanism has been moved forward
  • CVT cooling is better than it was
  • The full-length bash plate has access holes for changing diff and engine oil

The Kodiak 450's accessory manual

The machine is prewired for a winch. Other useful accessories include soft and hard cargo boxes, over-fenders, gun boots, rack extensions and heated grip and seat kits

Out and about

This would be a great learner machine. It feels compact and, thanks to the speed-sensitive power steering, it’s easy to make it change direction.

The riding position feels natural and, since the transmission is one of the slickest in the industry, you think of it only when changing from 2WD to 4WD or from high to low range or vice versa. As far as ‘push the button and drive’ goes, it’s foolproof.

A bunch of mongrel farm journos rode the Kodiak all day during the official launch, and I’d have to say that despite the godawful dust I enjoyed it.

Without getting mushy about it, the Kodiak does what mid-size ATVs do best. It feels small, manoeuvrable, light on its feet, and best suited to technical riding where accurate wheel placement and throttle control are all important. 

Top speed is about 80km/h but you need no more than that when you’re poking along at low speed all day. What you do need are excellent ergonomics, a responsive bottom end and a big, wide seat for big, wide bums. This is a capable ATV with excellent suspension.

The familiarisation course Yamaha prepared for us wasn’t challenging but did give me an opportunity to gauge overall braking power.

The front disc brakes are strong and provide plenty of feel when you have to stop in a hurry. I like ‘em. The sealed rear brake, not so much.

The Yamaha's seat removed
Removing the seat gives access to the no-tool air filter and a small odds and ends box, the only storage area on this machine

Manufacturers put rear brakes in a sealed environment because the rear of an ATV is where all the muck is. Enclosing the brake prolongs service life and reduces maintenance, but in just about every instance, sealed brakes have little actual braking power. So it is with the Kodiak.

The strange thing is that the rear brake feels a little more effective through the lever than through the pedal.

Yamaha says downhill engine braking feels ‘natural’, and probably does, but in low range it’s actually about average, definitely not as good as engine braking on the Suzuki 500 KingQuad, possibly the industry’s most complete midsize ATV.

On the other hand the Kodiak has better downhill braking than some brands, and that’s why we say it’s average.

As one of the Yamaha blokes said when we were discussing stability during the product launch, "It’d be nice to make the Kodiak as wide as a Humvee, but that wouldn’t help when you’re trying to coax a mob of cattle out of the scrub".

True, of course, but you have to give Yamaha a thumbs-up for making the Kodiak as wide as it can be without compromising manoeuvrability.

Power is nice too. Bottom-end acceleration won’t rip your sunnies off but it’s lively enough to help you change direction quickly with a blip on the throttle. Smooth power off the bottom also helps when you’re climbing over logs and rocks.

This engine is perfectly matched to the Kodiak’s job sheet but the first thing I noticed was how smooth gear selection is. On cheap quads the selector mechanism has to be wrenched through the gate, but the Yamaha’s selector moves like a chainsaw though cheesecake.

Bar height feels okay to me but tall blokes will have to reach down when they’re standing, and that can be uncomfortable. I doubt that bar risers are possible but it’d be nice if they were.

Yamaha Kodiak 450 Price & Specs


  • Non-PS model: $10,299
  • PS model, $11,299


  • Type: 4-stroke single, SOHC
  • Displacement: 421cc
  • Bore and stroke: 84.5 x 75mm
  • Fuel system: Yamaha injection
  • Transmission: Yamaha Ultramatic V-belt
  • Drive system: Yamaha On-Command, push button 2WD-4WD


  • Front suspension: Independent double wishbones
  • Rear suspension: Independent double wishbones and anti-sway bar
  • Front brakes: Dual discs
  • Rear brake: Multi-disc in gearcase
  • Front tyres: AT25 x 8 x 12 - 4-ply
  • Rear tyres: AT25 x 10 x 12 - 4-ply


  • LxWxH: 2035 x1180 x 1160mm
  • Wheelbase: 1240mm
  • Turning radius: 3200mm
  • Min. ground clearance: 245mm
  • Wet weight: 295kg
  • Fuel capacity: 14 litres


  • Colour: Steel Blue
  • Warranty: Three years’ unlimited km, parts and labour
  • Load capacity: Rear 80kg. Front, 40kg
  • Price: Non-PS model, $10,299. PS model, $11,299.

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