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.
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 OK 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.
Above: The small odds and ends box is the only storage area on this machine