So is Yamaha's MT-07 really better than an SV650S?

Long-term review part four

SADLY I’ve had to return my MT-07 long-term test bike to Yamaha. It was more of a mid-term loan than a long-term one – two months.

I said in my first report on the MT-07 that I’d be interested to see how it compared to the Suzuki SV650S, not least because I’d just bought one.

Yes, I bought an SV650S brand new in October because there seemed nothing on the market anywhere near as capable for the same money. Then, too late, Yamaha elbowed its way into contention with the MT-07. Had I made a mistake?

This is not just a matter of self-affirmation (or refutation). I expect there are lot of people with about five grand to spend on a bike who are choosing between these two.

In the white corner, that stalwart of affordable motorcycling, the poor man’s sports bike – the SV650S. With no major changes in 11 years, it seems to be chasing the Royal Enfield Bullet’s record for longest production run. But with such a good-value package of performance, handling and V-twin character, why change it?

And in the gunmetal grey and indigo corner, the MT-07, a cocky new parallel-twin. With 689cc, 75hp and 50lbft, it’s got slightly more of everything than the SV, including attitude. The riding position is from the modern era, upright and not all sporty like the SV, and it wheelies like there’s a wasp up its behind.

So is the Yamaha a better buy? Well, no. That’s my firm opinion after what has effectively been a two-month comparison test.

Motorcycle journalists have a phrase for a phenomenon that can occur when they travel to warmer climates to ride new motorcycles at manufacturers’ expense: ‘launch fever’. It refers to a tendency to become too wrapped up in the event to look at the bike in the same cool, impartial way you would in your own garage. Give a bike a party trick, like wheelies, and the effect can be magnified.

The MT-07 is a good motorcycle at a good price. I’m just not sure it’s quite as good as the almost universally positive launch reports would suggest.

Where the novelty of easy wheelies might not wear off during a day on a press launch, it does after living with the bike for a month or so. And then the limitations, which you’d been distracted from, become more difficult to deny.

The MT-07 doesn’t have very good suspension. It’s too soft and bouncy. When I rode it on track, the bike would try to stand up as the suspension rebounded over bumps. Admittedly I haven’t ridden the SV on track but it’s more composed on the road, with better damping.

Neither does the MT have as smooth a throttle response as the SV. It’s more aggressive. That wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, but it’s also prone to stalling. On the SV, just a trickle of revs is enough to ease out the clutch and smoothly pull away, every time. Try that on the MT-07 and sometimes it will it work, but others it will come to an abrupt halt as the engine dies. If you’re weaving through traffic at low speed, that can catch you out. As a result, I found myself blipping the throttle and slipping the clutch a bit more aggressively than I naturally would, and that annoyed cyclists.

I’m not the only person to observe this. Google ‘MT-07 stalling’ and you’ll find others.   

There’s another reason the MT doesn’t topple the SV as king of bargains: it’s not such a bargain any more. Yamaha introduced it at £5,199 plus on-the-road charges, just £224 more than the aged SV. They have since quietly raised the price to £5,349 plus OTR.

It’s not unusual. A surprisingly low price is conducive to positive appraisals. By the time the price goes up, the launch reports are written.

Meanwhile other 650s have entered the fray by dropping price in response to the MT. The Suzuki SFV650 Gladius, using the same engine as the SV, has dropped by a whole £1,000 to £4,999. Kawasaki has slashed about £500 off the ER-6 range, so it now starts from £5,399.

And the SV is still cheapest at an unwavering £4,975.

The MT-07 is an exciting and tempting offering to new and particularly younger riders. It seems more likely to motivate a teenager to take up riding than an SV is, and for that Yamaha should be commended because it’s something motorcycling desperately needs.

But for my money (literally), the SV remains the better buy.

Model tested: Yamaha MT-07

Price: £5,349 (£5,749 with ABS) plus on-the-road charges

Power: 75hp

Torque: 50lbft

Wet weight: 179kg (182kg with ABS)

Colours: grey, white, blue, red, purple

Availability: now

Model tested: Suzuki SV650S

Price: £4,975 plus on-the-road charges (no ABS option)

Power: 71hp

Torque: 47lbft

Wet weight: 196kg

Colours: white/blue, black

Availability: now

Read part one of my Yamaha MT-07 long-term review

Read our Yamaha MT-07 first-ride review

Read our Suzuki SV650S first-ride review