Yamaha builds a true-blue four-wheeler.

Story Bruce McMahon    

Yamaha has reworked the venerable Grizzly 450 quad into a new and better workhorse, the Kodiak 450. Control, comfort, confidence and convenience are the catchcries for the new Kodiak, a mid-size ATV (All Terrain Vehicle) that builds on the success of the popular Grizzly while adding a touch more sophistication and sport to the unit.

Running a little-changed, fuel-injected 421cc engine, the Kodiak’s chassis is a tad wider than its predecessor and a little longer. This wider track, front and rear, plus a longer (1240-millimetre) wheelbase, adds extra composure to the four-wheeler and extra comforts for the rider – the redesigned seat is bigger, as are the foot wells – without compromising the bike’s manoeuvrability.

The two-metre long Kodiak’s plastic body is finished in Yamaha’s traditional blue, with steel cargo racks front and rear. The bike weighs in close to 300 kilograms and will carry 40kg up front, 80kg on the rear racks plus tow a fair 600kg. There are twin headlights plus a work light in the handlebars, a comprehensive set of instruments, from speedometer to four-wheel drive indicator, and ignition key set down on the right guard.

Front and rear brakes are operated by left and right-hand brake levers, with a right-hand pedal also helping operate the multi-disc rear brake. The Yamaha’s ergonomics and controls here are all fairly intuitive. There’s no drama with swinging a leg over the saddle and settling into a comfortable riding spot with handlebars also higher than before. Among other subtle changes over the Grizzly is a larger thumb lever for the throttle, another change designed to lessen rider fatigue.

Turn the key and fire the Kodiak up with the ignition button on the left-hand handlebar, slot the gear lever mounted on the left guard into high and move off. If headed down a dirt road or flat paddock, two-wheel-drive is sufficient; if moving into rough country there is the 4WD button on the right-hand bar – old hands would suggest it is often wise to take the 4WD option from the get-go when conditions ahead are unknown, especially when carrying loads or towing.

The Kodiak’s air-cooled, four-stroke engine is quiet enough for a single-cylinder bike; there are new engine mounts for less vibration and a reworked exhaust. It is mated here to Yamaha’s ‘Ultramatic’ Constantly Variable Transmission, which cuts out old-fashioned gear changes as the drive automatically picks up speed with more throttle. Central here to the Yamaha’s appeal is the transmission’s excellent downhill engine braking, particularly appreciated in low range on the steepest of grades. It is one of the best around.

Power and drive is well delivered, whether motoring across an open paddock, climbing rock-strewn slopes or sloshing through a bog hole in the back country.

Adding comfort is Yamaha’s $1000 optional electric power steering.  It may sound a tad citified for a work bike, but the assisted steering is a boon if operating in tight conditions, say mustering over the course of a day. It has a natural feel; there’s no light, over-assisted woolliness to the power steering.

Adding to working capabilities – some 70 percent of Kodiaks are expected to head to rural sheds – are all-new 25-inch tyres and long travel suspension all-round with 171mm of wheel travel up front and 189mm down back.

Down below, too, are full-length skid plates with access service points and A-arm guards to protect front drive shafts. Other protection from the elements includes a high-mounted air intake for keeping the CVT comfortable and marine-grade electrical connectors.

At the end of a decent day’s riding over a range of conditions, Yamaha’s Kodiak 450 proves a well-sorted, well-behaved and comfortable ATV. As with the Grizzly, the new machine’s specifications and options are aimed primarily at rural users. It has cargo boxes, seat heaters and gun boots to suit, and is pre-wired for a front-mounted winch.

The Kodiak arrives with a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty and seasonal payment farmer finance is available to approved buyers.  

Yamaha Kodiak 450 from $10,299. For more information, www.yamaha-motor.com.au.

This story excerpt is from Issue #116

Outback Magazine: December/January 2018