The best ATVs always remind us of one thing: why we began riding in the first place. For play riding on the trials or the dunes, we want an ATV that offers nimble handling, good power, and sporty looks. Yamaha has sport ATVs for every size and skill level, but late last year they came up with a unique solution to fill the last hole in their sport ATV lineup.
Costs to develop a new model are huge, but rather than start from scratch, Yamaha chose to introduce a new version of their original YFZ 450. The new model was the sum of lessons learned from racing, but everything has been optimized for aggressive play riding. The liquid cooled, high performance 4-stroke with a 5-valve head and a cam is designed for bottom end and mid-range power. An external oil tank sits ahead of the motor, and a large radiator is tucked into the frame for protection. Power is competitive with any other 450 yet easy to control. A more forgiving throttle return spring on the carb and throttle is easy on your thumb as well. The YFZ also shifts well with positive engagement even when under power, although some riders may wish for a reverse gear.
The YFZ 450 chassis responds to input very well. Stand on the wide, sturdy pegs, grab the narrow tank with the knees, keep the throttle pinned, and it will track wherever you point it. Although the steel tube chassis may be “old-school” when compared to the aluminum frame of the YFZR, the steel chassis flexes enough to feel forgiving on the track.
The YFZ 450 is quick, precise, powerful, easy to ride, confidence inspiring, and just plain fun! One of its best features, though, is the price: it’s $1200 less than its closest competitor and that is a huge factor to consider in overall value. It makes a big difference to most riders. For the value it offers, the Yamaha YFZ 450 is our Playmate of the Year and the Best Sport ATV of 2012.