Published on March 23rd, 2021 | by Joe
2021 Polaris Sportsman 450 EPS Test Review
If you’re looking to enter the ATV market for the first time, or you’re simply looking for an entry level machine for hunting or work that’s still capable of recreational riding on the weekends, chances are the industries best-selling ATV lineup of the Polaris Sportsman’s has made your short list.
Since first coming on to the scene in 1996, Sportsman’s have developed a reputation for value, comfort, and performance solidified by having the best-selling 4×4 ATV of all time in the Sportsman 500 h.o. We tested the Sportsman 500 a decade ago and came away impressed with the smooth ride and overall value.
In 2014 Polaris’s Sportsman 500 evolved into the higher performance ultra-popular 570 model, leaving room in the lineup for an even more budget friendly option that the Sportsman 450 h.o. was destined to fill.
For 2021 The Sportsman 450 is back with new styling and a number of upgrades. Our test machine is the Sportsman 450 H.O. with EPS which has a starting price of $7,299 in the US but budget conscious consumers can opt for the non-EPS version with a modest starting price of $6,399 US.
Both options come in either Sage Green like our test machine or Zenith Blue for the same price. Polaris also has utility packages available for the for the non-EPS 450 H.O. that aren’t available as packages for the EPS version, but there are a lot of options in factory accessories for both models.
The first thing that stands out to us in 2021 on the Sportsman 450s along with the 570s is the updated styling. Sharper more modern designs in the body work is evident from front to back giving the smaller displacement machines a more aggressive look that’s consistent with their big bore brothers on the 850 and XP1000 models.
Racks have been updated for 2021 as well and even though rack capacity remains unchanged with 90lbs front and 180lbs rear, the addition of steel rack extenders on the front as standard equipment along with more tie down options and lock & ride compatibility, makes the racks more functional. There’s also 5 gallons of dry storage available underneath the front rack.
Towing capacity is up for 2021 with a 1 and ¼ inch receiver rated to tow a respectable 1,350lbs.
The all-digital gauge display, found across the Sportsman line, is easy to read and navigate and features all the information you could want from your ATV. In 2021 the Sportsman 450 now comes with a 12-volt Power Plug, it’s pre-wired for hand and thumb Warmers as well as winch controls and now includes an in-Pod Battery Charger.
Sportsman operation is easy and intuitive with one touch true on-demand all-wheel drive, in line shifting that’s smooth and consistent, and single lever braking for simple and effective control.
According to Polaris, a larger more powerful battery delivers 78 percent more cold-cranking amps for reliable and confident starting along with added ability to power accessories. The battery has been relocated underneath the front rack, providing easy access for maintenance and the in-Pod Battery charger we mentioned will make it easy to keep the battery ready for every ride.
The Sportsman 450s feature an Electronically Fuel injected 499cc Prostar 4-Stroke SOHC Single Cylinder engine with a claimed 33hp. The top end is mated to a CVT style Polaris Variable Transmission featuring P/R/N/L/H selected via a shift lever on the rider’s right side.
Clutch engagement is exceptionally smooth and the power delivery couldn’t be any more linear across the rpm range. Although peak power does seem to come at the lower part of the mid-range when trail riding in High gear. The power is reminiscent of the 500 H.O. Sportsman’s of old, which is exactly what we would expect with displacement being a little higher than the sticker might indicate.
Enthusiasts who have already purchased or are considering the Sportsman 450 h.o. can find some additional power, torque, and a throatier sound than stock with the addition of a Titan series exhaust from HMF. The addition of a HMF Titan-QS or Titan XL slip on exhaust system paired with HMF’s Gen3 Optimizer, pick up 2 additional hp and add torque throughout the power curve. Find out more at HMFRacing.com.
The ergonomics are unmistakably Sportsman with a narrow midsection and neutral handlebar height that makes for a comfortable riding position both seated and standing for virtually any sized rider.
The Sportsman 450 is a claimed 48” wide with a 50.5-inch wheelbase. Which is a little wider and a little longer than most of its competition while still maintaining a relatively low seat height of just over 33inches. The dimensions add up to a stable feeling machine that instills rider confidence.
Front suspension features the sealed MacPherson Struts with 8.2 inches of travel and Sealed Dual A-Arm Independent Rear Suspension out back with 9.5 inches of travel. All of that adds up to an incredibly smooth ride over bumpy terrain and excellent absorption of typical trail obstacles.
We did find the front suspension to be a little soft for our higher performance tastes but our test riders agreed overall comfort and plushness of the ride was exceptional.
Ground clearance is up an inch over the 2020 models from 10.5 inches to 11.5 inches thanks to the new 25inch tire size. 25×8 inches front and 25×10 rear tires are mounted on 12in steel wheels and feature stronger 6ply construction for 2021. The taller tougher tires and ground clearance make the 450 Sportsman more terrain able than previous models which makes rock crawling through creek beds or absorbing rutted terrain easier than before.
Scrubbing off trail speed is made easy with the single lever 3-wheel hydraulic disc brakes with a hydraulic rear foot brake. The Sportsman 450s aren’t equipped with engine braking so all slowing and stopping power comes from the rider’s application of the brakes.
Electronic Power Steering isn’t truly a necessity on the Sportsman thanks to good chassis geometry, but it’s a luxury we’ve come to appreciate. The EPS is quick and precise which consumers who use their machine to work in tighter areas will appreciate. Like other Sportsman models we’ve tested, the EPS is best at lower speeds but we feel could stand to be dialed down a bit at higher speed.
We spent the majority of the short time we had with the Sportsman 450 EPS on the trail running it through a variety of obstacles to get a feel for its recreational capability. Wet slick trail conditions allowed us to get the most from the new tires and AWD system, which performed well in every situation we encountered. Polaris’s AWD drive system has proven over and over again to us, on a variety of machines, that it’s the most simple and effective system on an ATV. Especially for providing sure footed added traction in slippery conditions.
Having spent the majority of our time over the last two years at ATVonDemand testing some of the largest displacement, highest performing machines on the market, our expectations were reasonably tempered for the entry level model. But even with some of our bigger test riders north of 6 ft and 250lbs, the Sportsman 450 provided plenty of pep to have fun on the trails and muscle over obstacles.
The ride is distinctly plush as we’ve come to expect from Polaris and for an entry level machine, the 450 h.o. retains a lot of the quality look and feel of Polaris’s more premium options.
Intuitive and easy operation is what Polaris was going for with their 450 and 570 class lineups and we feel they’ve accomplished that goal with the Sportsman 450 EPS. The clutch and shift lever operates smoothly giving the Sportsman a refined feeling compared to some of its competition. The long shift lever that we’ve considered awkward in the past, makes for easy control of gear selection especially for frequent shifting or while plowing or working in tight areas, and modest but usable power make it an ideal choice as a budget friendly tool or a capable trail explorer.