We are taking another good look at this ride today in 2016, mainly because it has become one of the rare choices for beginners that have no interest in quads looking like trucks and lacking rideability. Simple, efficient, and loads of fun to ride, the 2016 Arctic Cat XC 450 we feel deserves a larger part of this struggling segment of the market.
Learning how to safely operate an ATV should be done on the lightest ride possible and we still favour any straight axle equipped and good old chain driven sport quad over anything else. Yes you heard right; if you are ergonomically correct for a Yamaha YFZ 450R, go for it! With coaching and supervision of course but its high-performance abilities in stability and in handling rough terrain, will help protect you as you slowly progress to becoming one with the machine. After that, you will be able to handle and control any sort of off-road vehicle.
The visual appeal of the 2016 Arctic Cat XC 450 jumps right at you, very refreshing to see during this quiet period in the ATV world. Side x Side vehicles are stealing a lot of attention, but are no replacement for this type of sporty and fun-to-ride trail conqueror. I love the idea behind this machine, now one of very few with pointy fenders. It is compact and light enough, with just the right amount of low to mid-range power, to offer a gratifying truly sporty feeling ride. Although a tall rider might be tempted to melt down and reshape some of the plastic around the gear selector, its versatile ergonomics naturally push you to ride it somewhat like a common 450 straight axle motocross style ATV, meaning with proper weight transfers with repositioning of the bum, not just a tilt of the upper body. If the sharp edges around gear selector hurt your knee, it’s a good indication that you are doing things right. Don’t let it discourage you from making the right moves on the quad and do whatever it takes; like wearing kneepads, if you are not comfortable with cutting or making other modifications that could negatively affect the value of the machine.
It isn’t as powerful, as light, as good in flight, as the great Yamaha YFZ450R, but it remains a little more logical to be riding it in sticky mud or deep snow and can become just as fun, in the right places. It seemed almost to good to be true when we first tested one at this very appealing price and we have remained huge fans of it to this day. We actually sort of feel bummed that there aren’t more young riders opting for this surprisingly safe to push in performance model.
This is Arctic Cat’s first ever crossover ATV, the automotive-style paint job and automotive influenced shapes and lights, setting it nicely apart from anything else on today’s shrunken sport quad market. Sit on this ride and it already feels like it wants to go fast. This surprisingly versatile sport quad enters Arctic Cat into a new class of machines, with very little similar offerings to directly compete against except maybe KYMCO’s Maxxer 450i, which you might have guessed is basically the same quad. It is kind of a disappointment to see the very same wheels on both but the 2016 Arctic Cat XC 450 does have better tires and a little more fuel capacity.
Arctic Cat has so far just changed the colours and graphics on this model for many years and we sort of agree with it staying as is at this appealing price since it leaves very little room for improvement. Like its KYMCO cousin the Maxxer 450i, it has gained a solid reputation for its reliability. Prominent Japanese brands have for many years used off shore Taiwanese builders such as KYMCO for major components and Arctic Cat has high standards for the components and vehicles they sell. It is nothing to get scared about since KYMCO has become an exceptionally credible OE themselves.
This new Arctic Cat, introduced a good while ago, seems like an attempt in satisfying a young or feeling young crowd, and it is working with us. Although we can’t get overly excited about it in general, it brings forward things that should have been included in our world long ago. When comes time to back up, the dual backup lights shine the way and that is something we are surprised didn’t make its way onto every Side-by-Side and ATV yet. Chrome accents, popping bright lights and shiny wheels, we all have now almost come to expect and want. We are still waiting on all of them to go a little crazy with LED lights. The XC 450 has dual taillights that illuminate brightly to let everyone know where you are.
Forget the pointy fenders and you’ve got the same quad as the old 450 Core, with the same rear 2 inch receiver, fully independent suspension and dual taillights and backup lights. It still uses the same 443cc, 4-valve, 4-stroke engine with Electronic Fuel Injection that keeps the engine tuned to perfection during operation in any temperature, at any elevation. Rain or shine, too cold or too hot, nothing should affect the engine’s performance. Choice of Low range on the Automatic CVT and dynamic engine braking, can actually transform this sporty ride into an efficient little hauler. This means it can be used for utility purposes but we just can’t picture this ride other than in fun bits of wheels off the ground action.
The option of riding in 4WD, and keep up a quick pace through big mud puddles, instead of having the reflex of slowing down and zigzagging around them like is most times the case on 2WD 450 sport quads, should appeal to many young and playful riders. The power is totally usable in a control sense. It is also nice to be able to set the spring preload on the shocks quickly and easily to 5 rear positions and 5 in front, to set the ride perfectly in accordance to individual riding styles, or different types of terrain to be conquered.
The 4WD mode can be engaged on the fly for more challenging sections but you can’t lock the front differential and we are happy with that as the XC did great in what moderate mud we rode it in and stays light. Keeping good momentum was easy and felt natural and everything we put this ride through just kept on adding points to the fun factor.
There is a lot to love about this nice looking Cat. The handling is truly impressive for an Independent rear suspension equipped quad. It truly feels planted when power sliding through a flat turn and the power doesn’t die on you when you pressure the outer edge of your back tire to carve and grip out of the turn with good speed. The low profile Maxxis tires and stiffer set of suspension springs makes it a bit less comfortable to ride than any one of the many new Alterra models if you are just on a relaxing slow trail ride but most riders will feel confident in riding it with some pep, which is where it feels perfect in every way.
For more information on the above mentioned models, please visit the Arctic Cat Website