Review: 2012 Yamaha Raptor 90 – Proof That The Kids Are Alright.

By -

Your ATV Connection editors have taken a long and dirt-laden road to get where we are but don’t let that get you into the reasoning that we don’t remember where we’ve come from.  Small bore 3-wheelers with no suspension and lawnmower-style pull starters were how many of us got our first taste of off-roading.  At the risk of sounding like an old man, kids these days have it much better. Case in point, they’ve got the 2012 Yamaha Raptor 90.  Looks, performance, reliability, versatility; this thing has them all.

The Skinny

ATVs designed for kids rarely get the type of updates that racing and utility ATVs get, but that doesn’t mean Yamaha is content with rebadging old tech with new decals.  The Raptor 90 was designed new from the ground up when it was introduced in 2009. It was released into the waiting maw of legislation that had essentially pulled the plug on the sale of youth ATV models.

Fast forward to 2012, and the lead ban that had kept the raptor out of the waiting hands of future riders has finally been rectified. The Raptor 90 is proof that many of the goodies and features that make dad’s quad so awesome can be appreciated by junior as well.

What Stands Out

The Yamaha Raptor 90 has a pretty well rounded spec sheet including features that parents are sure to value. These include a keyed ignition and a plug-and-play CDI jumper to control the rev limiter (and the machine’s top speed if your kid has a need for speed and selective hearing).

The transmission is a fully automatic CVT similar in design and operation to those in full-sized quads.  Providing the power to the rear wheels is an 88cc air/ fan-cooled single overhead cam (2 valve) single cylinder four stroke being fed by a 22mm carburetor. The push-button electric start makes getting going a simple affair. There’s even a backup kick-starter for those cold mornings when the battery decides to sleep in.


Typically when testing ATVs, we take joy in the opportunity to riding the machines in question and judging they’re  then relaying the experience to you.  Minis present a unique challenge because we no longer have the body of a teenage boy. Instead, we recruited an actual 10-year-old to ride for us. After a hard day’s ride, our riders were full of piercing insight. One rider even went as far as to say “it was okay.”

Still, we coupled such interviews with a bit of our own cockpit cramping and here’s what we discovered…

The cockpit on the Raptor 90 is surprisingly roomy; with loads of growth opportunity for just about any rider thanks to well-placed controls and spacious floorboards.  The engine is typical Yamaha; which is to say well engineered and reliable.  We were impressed with the backup kick-starting feature even though the battery never gave us any fits during our week spent with the machine in the cold.

Power is smooth and surprisingly peppy if the rider tends to find the throttle stop. Never is it wheelie happy, abrupt, or intimidating.  We performed a majority of our testing with the rev limiter set to maximum (8000 rpm), netting us a top speed of nearly 35mph.  However, the included CDI jumper allows parents to lower the rev limiter down to 4800 RPM, nearly cutting the top speed in half. A smooth CVT makes this an ATV that is truly beginner-friendly with the potential to grow as skill and confidence increases.

Handling is impressive and the suspension package is just firm enough to make maximum use of the power on tap.  We were able to get the machine up on two wheels with some aggressive flat-terrain cornering attempts but on the whole, the machine tracks straight through choppy terrain and contains enough flex to make hopping over trail clutter a snap.

Braking was decent. Out back a single hydraulic disc brings speeds down in a hurry.  Dual drums up front are plenty adequate when dry but give up a little performance should the ride turn wet.


The Raptor 90 impressed us on many levels- particularly in regards to the safety features integrated to take some of the worry off the shoulders of the parents.  The way we figure it, there is enough to consider when attempting to train your little-one in the ways of off-roading, a nice reliable engine, controllable top speed, flawless transmission, even a front brake lever that blocks throttle application all make the Raptor 90 an excellent choice.  Factor in the $2699 price tag and it’s apparent Yamaha went the extra mile to deliver a solid, well rounded package.  We even had some adult female testers claim they felt very comfortable on the Raptor 90 and could imagine it being their main ATV.  The Raptor 700 styling is the icing on the cake!

Are you in the market for a new mini? Recently buy a Raptor? Tell the us your opinion in the forums.

Comments ()