Suzuki SV650 old v new: long distance

Suzuki SV650 old v new: long distance

Is the new SV650 a match for the old one on longer rides? Um, no.

I’VE got a 2013 SV650S, which I own. And I’ve got this brand-new 2016 naked SV650 as a long-term test bike.

You can still buy the old one but only for as long as stocks last, after which it will be effectively be replaced by the new one. So I’m finding out whether the new one, which is actually an updated Gladius given the SV name, is a worthy successor.

I was undecided when I wrote my first long-term test report, finding the new one more fun, with a punchier engine, but the old one a better all-rounder for a number of reasons, not least its fairing.

The case for the new SV has not been helped, then, by a recent trip I had to make from the south coast of England to Rutland in the Midlands and back, in a day, to attend a one-hour meeting.

That’s three hours riding there, an hour talking about stuff, then three hours back, and a round-trip of 350 miles on A-roads, motorway and B-roads.

The B-roads were fun, thanks to the new SV's sharp handling, noticeably stronger mid-range and better, firmer suspension. As for the other five hours...

Well, I think they would have been better on the old SV. On the new one, it became one of those rides on which you literally count the miles, watching them ticking by, unable to believe there are still so many to go.

I’ve got a sat-nav which I take with me from bike to bike, and I found myself glance at the ETA, and the time, at the ETA, and time, in a kind of downward OCD spiral of despair.

You know the kind of ride I’m talking about. Maybe it’s February, and you’re on the motorway, your fingers like ice pops with nerves. You’re asking yourself why on Earth you decided to get on your bike today instead of the train or in your car, and the remaining half-hour of your journey seems like the projected lifespan of the universe.

And this wasn’t February – it was July.

Obviously I’m exaggerating. It wasn’t as bad as a long mid-winter ride. It was just more arduous than another bike (the old SV) would have made it.

Long motorway rides are always boring, and sometimes the tedium comes to the fore of your mind, but then thoughts drift to something else, and you find 20 miles have past.

The new SV is just a bit too uncomfortable for that. The seat, I think, is one of the most uncomfortable things I’ve ever sat on, except perhaps a spike, by accident.

Again I’m exaggerating (I’ve never sat on a spike) but it’s just too thinly padded. It’s fine if your riding consists of half-hour journeys, but another 10 or 20 minutes is all I’ve got before I want to get off. Add another hour to that and I’m shifting around on it, trying to think about something else. It’s not helped by the fact that it slopes slightly toward the tank, something else you don’t notice initially.

Oddly, Suzuki still has no official accessory range for the new SV. There is a special edition available with Gilles accessories including a comfort seat, but the bike just needs to come with one in the first place.

Like the old SV. As I said in my last report, it’s not exactly fit for royalty. It’s just okay.

And then there’s the fairing. Is it fair and useful to compare a naked bike to a faired one and criticise it for being naked? If it’s replacing the faired bike in the line-up, for £600 more, then yes, I think it is.

I’m not going to describe what the absence of a fairing meant for that long ride, because you. All I’ll say is that the old SV’s fairing and screen is just substantial enough to provide a degree of long-distance comfort.

The issue is, the SV represents one of, if not the, cheapest proper Japanese middleweights you can get. I think a lot of people will choose it for that budgetary reason. And I think given a choice, those people might like it to have a fairing, so that it’s suited to a broader range of jobs.

I could be wrong.

The SV650S and SV650 together. Where's my fairing gone?

The new SV has a more upright and natural riding position, where the old one is sporty, but that is the only comfort point the new bike scores, and a sporty riding position is something I get used to anyway.

The long journey gave me the chance to establish the range of the new SV’s 13.8-litre tank. I did 173.3 miles between stops, including motorway and some urban roads, and the dash said I had a range of three miles left – so that’s 176 miles. The fuel consumption, calculated from the petrol receipt, was 61mpg – better than the old bike’s 54.5mpg.

I think it’s safe to say the old SV’s 17-litre tank could manage over 200 miles, but with no range indicator or fuel gauge, just a low-fuel light, I’d be less inclined to find out the limit.

For your extra £600 you get ABS, along with that stronger mid-range and slightly more peak power, at 75hp instead of 71hp. I’ve accidentally made the rear spin-up a couple of times by getting on the power too keenly as I exit a bend. That’s never happened on the old one.

As I've said, the extra performance makes it more fun at times, but over a long distance there’s no contest. Give me the old one.




Model tested: Suzuki SV650

Price: £5,499

Engine: 645cc 90° DOHC V-twin

Power: 75hp @ 8,500rpm

Torque: 47lbft @ 8,100rpm

Kerb weight: 197kg

Frame: Steel

Suspension: Pre-load adjustable shock, non-adjustable fork

Brakes: Two-piston Tokico calipers on twin 290mm floating front discs; single-piston Nissin caliper on 240mm rear disc, with ABS

Tyres: Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier 120/70-17 front, 160/60-17 rear

Seat height: 785mm

Tank capacity: 13.8 litres

Fuel economy: 61mpg (achieved); 73.6mpg (claimed)

Range to empty: 176 miles

Colours: White, blue, black

Availability: Now

Model tested: Suzuki SV650S

Price: £4,999

Engine: 645cc 90° DOHC V-twin

Power: 71hp @ 9,000rpm

Torque: 47lbft @ 7,200rpm

Kerb weight: 196kg

Frame: Aluminium

Suspension: KYB shock and 41mm fork, both pre-load adjustable

Brakes: Two-piston Tokico calipers on twin 290mm floating front discs; single-piston Nissin caliper on 240mm rear disc

Tyres: Dunlop Sportmax 120/60-17 front, 160/60-17 rear

Seat height: 800mm

Tank capacity: 17 litres

Fuel economy: 54.5mpg (achieved)

Range (based on achieved fuel economy): 203 miles

Colours: White, black

Availability: Now