When anyone is asked about which ATV manufacturer produces the most reliable machines, the answer is almost immediately a Japanese brand. Whether it is a beginner, or a most experienced rider, this is the general opinion from all ATV fans. This enviable reputation is based on past experiences dating back to the early 80s, when Japanese manufacturers introduced the first ATVs.
Yamaha takes advantage of this reputation by boasting their reputation of excellence with its lineup of off-road vehicles that meet and exceed consumers’ expectations. The quality of their products is flawless and it is backed by a warranty and pledge of being the “Most Reliable” ATV.
People in their forties and above will remember that ATVs did not exceed 500cc not so long ago. It was more than enough for a majority of users at that time and the machines were nice, capable, and comfortable as well. Fortunately, despite the big-bore race taking place in recent years, most manufacturers still offer vehicles reminding us of that time when single cylinders made everybody happy.
2020 Yamaha Kodiak 450
The name of the big brown bear borrowed to designate this ATV is very familiar to enthusiasts. This name has been used over the years by Yamaha on their ATVs. Yamaha designers and engineers assigned to the Kodiak project were responsible for designing a versatile ATV suitable for a multitude of tasks. Its dimensions had to be adaptable to all riders and provide immediate confidence to all experience levels. Its price had to be equally attractive and suitable for the family budget of many outdoor enthusiasts. We think Yamaha achieve just that.
Always listening to its customers, Yamaha designed a 421cc single-cylinder liquid-cooled engine producing substantial torque in the lower and middle RPMs. It is in this range that the Yamaha Kodiak 450 engine needed to be effective because it is where it will be used most of the time. This electronic fuel-injection engine works well at low speeds by developing sufficient torque. The single intake and exhaust valves are optimized to allow good airflow at low speed, which is a power requirement. Even though this engine is capable of transporting the vehicle almost anywhere, it quickly reaches its maximum speed. You shouldn’t expect to ride the Kodiak 450 at breakneck speeds anyways, it’s just not its primary purpose.
Boasting a clutch with one of the best reputations on the market, Yamaha’s Ultramatic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) incorporates heavier weights (18 grams) that allow the engine to efficiently operate at low speeds. Located in the primary clutch, they engage earlier than the lighter weights, which helps the engine find the ideal point on the power curve when running at low revs. This advantage gives the Yamaha Kodiak the necessary performance, especially at low speed, to do all the work requiring a good power and torque to accomplish the task.
The CVT is of course sealed from the elements, but if water manages to make its way, the clutch housing has a drain plug that can be activated by a finger. All you have to do is empty the housing and you can return to working.
Yamaha offers a power steering version of the Kodiak 450. We don’t want to debate on its necessity, but we believe it is justified because of the way this vehicle is intended to be used. We greatly appreciated the power steering on our test vehicle, it is truly a charm to drive and worthy of the Yamaha name. The driving experience is really improved. It costs $1,000 more but it is well worth it.
One of the great features of the 2020 Yamaha Kodiak 450 steering is its very short turning radius. We have noticed a trend in the industry for vehicles that do not offer limited turning radiuses. Probably for safety reasons, with the advent of big-bore machines the manufacturers have designed chassis that reduce the risk of overturning at higher speeds. However, the Yamaha Kodiak, like other vehicles from this maker, offers the possibility of making turns on a very small footprint. This results in less gearing from “Reverse” to “Forward” for greater speed of execution when a tight change of direction is desired.
Ready to face the tests
The chassis is equipped with full skid-plate protection to counteract obstacles that may end up on your way. This armor has embedded fasteners that attach it to the chassis to offer a smoother surface, enabling it to pass everywhere almost unnoticed. Also, maintenance openings in the skid-plate provide drain access for engine fluids, and front and rear gearbox maintenance.
Yamaha has so far resisted fitting its vehicles with racks made of thermoplastics. The steel racks that equipped the Kodiak have the advantage of having a protective powder coat paint that ensures a long-lasting finish. They provide a maximum load capacity of 40 kg at the front and 80 kg at the rear.
The seat height is relatively low to increase the driver’s confidence and safety, and the riding position has been revised compared to the previous version. The main changes are the handlebars, a longer seat and improved footsteps. The goal is simple – increase the safety aspects of the vehicle with more space for the knees and feet for increased driver comfort. The fully enclosed running boards that connect the front fender to the rear are very effective on this model, as they offer complete protection against debris or splashes that can be ejected from the wheels. One thing for sure, it is typically not a determinant feature that would tip the balance when choosing an ATV, but the possibility of riding in a muddy trail and staying dry and clean greatly increases the degree of satisfaction in my opinion.
The Yamaha Kodiak is equipped with KYB nitrogen shock absorbers which offer a modulated damping sensation at higher speeds and on various types of trails. For improved comfort, they are five-position adjustable according to preferences, driver’s weight, and the loads added to the vehicle. Just increase the preload setting for a firmer feel or reduce it for a smoother ride.
One of the distinctive characteristics of the Kodiak 450 is the simplicity of the parts which will have to be changed during the life of the vehicle. It is equipped with front disc brakes which should be inspected and replaced if necessary. However, the wet-type rear brake is in a sealed oil bath. Rear braking occurs on a disc in front of the rear sprocket which is part of the drive. Consequently, the assembly is sealed so as to remain impermeable to mud, water and dust. It is designed to last the life of the vehicle. The only maintenance required is to replace the oil in the sealed wet brake assembly at maintenance intervals programmed by the manufacturer. That will ensure proper operation.
The 2020 Yamaha Kodiak 450 is a versatile ATV that can be used in various situations. Unfortunately, it does not offer the necessary storage to be fully convenient and this is the only negative point on this vehicle in my opinion. A tiny storage spot under the seat allows you to carry some tools. This lack of storage capacity will probably force its owner to equip the Kodiak with a trunk depending on the amount of equipment it will have to transport. We would have appreciated at least a waterproof space located in the front left fender, like the Yamaha Grizzly, to store a cell phone or precious objects away from contaminants.
To whom is it intended?
The answer to this question can have a broad meaning. In fact, the Kodiak 450 is intended for several categories of ATV riders.
First, beginners in this activity will find in this model an ATV that will give them confidence during repeated outings. Its mid-size dimensions and engine offer adequate power and easy handling to build confidence in the uninitiated.
Second, its affordable price will allow enthusiasts with a smaller budget to buy a new vehicle without having to tighten their belts. This vehicle offers a guarantee and reputation of reliability that will ensure peace of mind for years to come. In addition, its very good value allows an easy and quick resale in case of upgrading for another machine.
Third, trail enthusiasts will be able to tackle all surfaces without worrying about getting stuck. Yamaha’s On-command 4-wheel drive with push-button mounted on the handlebars is exclusive to this manufacturer and it allows the user to have the assurance of crossing muddy holes or snow-covered surfaces without hesitation.
Finally, the 2020 Yamaha Kodiak 450 is a reliable workhorse that offers nervous power and exemplary comfort. It can be used day after day without showing signs of failure. All you have to do is the required regular maintenance and the vehicle will take care of the rest.
You may have guessed that we were charmed by Yamaha’s Kodiak 450. It is certainly not the most powerful and it is not equipped with all the bells and whistles, but it offers what we expect the most from an ATV – a reliable vehicle that fits many riders and conditions.