Sometimes even great ATV’s are lost in history. In fact, the Kawasaki Lakota 300 offers a lot of value for a great price in the used marketplace. For 2016 (used marketplace) we picked this quad for the best entry level ATV priced under $1600. It was introduced in 1995 and was one of the first quads to be labeled a sport/utility.
Kawasaki engineers stuffed the engine from the bullet-proof Bayou series into a Mojave frame and birthed the Lakota. Although the styling leans more toward the sporty side, engineers admitted it was considered 40% sport and 60% utility. The rear swingarm was lengthened a bit from the Mojave, but it remained with 8.5 inches of rear suspension travel. The front suspension also offers 6.9 inches of suspension travel, not bad for a 60% utility ATV.
The 300cc engine from the Bayou was tweaked a bit for more power. The rugged driveshaft used in the Bayou was replaced with a chain drive that robbed less power. In 2001 Kawasaki made some subtle changes to the Lakota by removing the racks, relocating the front headlight and badging it the Lakota Sport. Other than these changes, the Lakota Sport was virtually still the same ATV from start to finish, 1995-2003.
LAKOTA ATV – The Ride
The first time I set down on the Lakota I knew this ATV was going to offer something different. Being 6’2″, 180 lbs and having ridden many of the larger bodied four wheel drives over the past months this ATV felt compact. Sitting on the quad I felt a bit cramped, although comfortably cramped.
The Lakota fired up easily with a carburetor and has a handlebar mounted choke if needed. Changing gears (1-5) on the quad was smooth and the reverse knob was conveniently mounted next to the Neutral-Reverse lights. On the trail, it requires a lot of shifting, because there is not much run out between gears. Some this can be attributed to the way the engine delivered its power. The bottom to mid-range grunt was great, but the top end is rather flat.
The suspension and handling on the ATV is as advertised. It rode smooth for the size and was predictable on jumps. It turns on a dime, is capable of getting sideways in turns and is just fun to ride.
Overall, I consider this sport/utility ATV to be a great value in the used marketplace. These ATV’s are a best-kept secret for the buyer looking for a lot of value on a budget.