2009 Yamaha XJ6 and Diversion road test review

Niall Mackenzie goes walkabout with a pair of Yamaha’s budget bikes in the Australian outback. Disappointingly, Jenny Agutter is nowhere to be seen.

Click to read: Yamaha XJ6 owners reviews, Yamaha XJ6 specs and to see the Yamaha XJ6 image gallery.

Considering the state of the economy, Yamaha couldn’t have picked a more appropriate year to launch these two entry-level 600s. With my favourite of the two, the XJ6, costing just four and a half grand, you get a cracking bike, but more importantly, a whole load of fun for your money.

Starting with looks, the naked XJ6, in white at least, is a proper little stunner, with a cheeky presence suggesting it will be a bit of fun to ride, and, as I’ll explain in a moment, it certainly doesn’t disappoint.

At the front end, the dash, headlight and conventional 41mm front forks have a minimalist but functional look, which I actually prefer to the more expensive, sporty FZ6. The naked bike also sports excellent solid mirrors, which are positioned perfectly for maximum rear vision. Heading to the rear, I also like the chunky contours of the tank leading back to the nicely exposed frame rails under the seat.

Exhausts these days are becoming a work of art, and this one is no exception. The stubby silencer and pipe sits directly under the engine, and I think it looks the part. It makes a good noise too, unmistakably Yamaha but with quite a loud distinctive growl. If I had to pick one item be the skinny black swing arm.

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Naked and faired

The narrow frame and seat make it easier for shorter riders to get their feet on the floor while maintaining a decent ride height for good ground clearance. I was pretty happy with the overall riding position straight away and, as I found out on more than one occasion, the leverage from the straight bars comes in very handy. I didn’t get a chance to do a pillion test, butI popped myself back there during the lunch break and, although it might not provide Gold Wing comfort, it felt a thousand times better than any other sports bike I’ve tried.

Unlike some launches, I was pleased to find this time our test ride took us through down town Sydney and then out and about in the Australian countryside. Setting off from the Harbour Bridge involved lots of stopping and starting in heavy traffic for a good 12 miles. I found the XJ nimble and happy to change lanes with the slightest tug on the bars. The light clutch and progressive brakes were also ideal for town work. I did find one downside though: as some of this bike’s agility comes from a relatively stiff front suspension set up, I found my braking had to be very progressive or the front wheel would lock up.

Being gentle on the brakes makes for good riding any day of the week, but this is a bike that requires this discipline more than others. You could, of course, solve this problem by spending about £500 more and going for the ABS option.

The smooth in-line four-cylinder engine will make about 75bhp at 10,000rpm, but for low-speed work it is perfectly happy short-shifting while using only half the revs available. The motor is actually from the FZ6 but with a different cylinder head, cam timing and redesigned clutch and gearbox. This, combined with a different air box and smaller throttle bores, makes for a torqueier, more user-friendly engine.

I found gear shifting slightly notchy, although higher mileage XJs felt better so it could be the more miles you do the better it becomes. And as it said on the box, I was pleased to find a smooth throttle response from a closed throttle upwards with no hesitation at any point. With many 600s on the market feeling totally strangled at low revs these days, this user-friendly engine made a pleasant change.

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Overall and specs

Winding the XJ6 up the smooth and twisty roads was a joy as the firm ride and quick steering delivers very positive handling however fast you care to go. Where I found I had to be careful was when I came across unexpected bumps. Although I couldn’t fault the rear end, the front suspension didn’t cope brilliantly on rough roads, giving a flighty feel.

On the plus side, the chassis, suspension and excellent Bridgestone BT021s will tell you how fast the little XJ wants to be ridden, so it’s really just a case of backing off to the appropriate pace and enjoying the experience. Interestingly, I found the faired Diversion version worked better over bumpy terrain. I could be wrong, but I reckon the extra weight and maybe some slight down force from the fairing helps to soften the suspension, making the front end more planted. Along with the nicely sculpted stylish fairing, the Diversion also has a tidy centre stand, which makes it an altogether more practical option. All very sensible, but when combined with the dull colour options I would plump for the much funkier XJ model.

Should you be looking for a very capable motorcycle that has been specifically designed for the new or less experienced rider you won’t go far wrong with the XJ6. It is fun to ride, looks fantastic – especially in white – and is at the right price point. Another £500 gets you the Diversion with some protection from the elements, making it ideal for taking you and yours touring. You decide.


Price: £4499 (£4849 with ABS)
Engine: 600cc, liquid cooled, 4-valve, inline four
Power: 76bhp @ 10,000 rpm
Torque: 44 lb.ft @ 8,500 rpm
Front suspension: 130 mm Telescopic fork
Rear suspension: Swingarm (mono cross) 130 mm
Front brake: 298 mm discs
Rear brake: 245 mm disc
Dry weight: 190kg (est)
Seat height: 785mm
Fuel capacity: 17.3 litres
Top speed: 120mph
Colours: Blue/White/Red, Blue/Blue, Black/Red

Visordown rating: 3/5