Used Test: Suzuki SV650 S

Suzuki's fun-sized V-twin won't have you quivering with lust, but it won't disappoint if you're after a competent machine that'll keep you smiling all day

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Suzuki's SV650 isn't the sort of bike you get really excited about - it's not raunchy and sexy enough to do that. But it still has stacks of virtues to make it well worth considering - especially if you're a bit new to the biking game, having another go at it after a break, need a basic all-rounder, or if you're on a budget.

It's one of those quietly efficient machines that can do an awful lot of things well. And though you'll never rave about it, the SV will constantly command healthy dollops of respect every time you ride it. It always ends up generating plenty of smiles of satisfaction and lots of praise, even if those compliments are murmured more than screamed.

The V-twin is a very versatile tool, and suits runs to work, runs in the country (to destinations both near and far), and even runs round racetracks. But not only is it a great little all-rounder, because it's so light, small and easy to master, it's also perfect for those who are a bit vertically challenged or a bit daunted by anything too big and bulky. It's a bit of a toy - and a great one to play with.

One of its best features is the way it can devour corners. The SV's handling isn't 100% perfect and improvements can be made but few will feel that it's anything less than impressive to chuck about. And that praise applies at whatever speed you're pushing the little V-twin.

In town the poise and balance of the SV means trickling through heavy traffic is a job devoid of any drama. And its low weight is a nice bonus when you're pushing it to and from parking places. Up the pace and the ease and certainty continues.

Flat-out knee down action can be sampled all day - with no worries about scary stuff like wheelies or tankslappers. In keeping with the bike's overall personality, the SV just gets on with its job effectively. In fact, if it's ridden well, the Suzuki can raise the eyebrows of bikers mounted on much sportier tackle as they struggle to master the excess performance of their own mounts.

The SV's brakes and suspension will limit lunacy eventually. The stoppers need a fair old squeeze if you want to get the bike pulled up very sharply. But they do have very good feel and progression to keep the deceleration safe and secure. Besides, if you want some extra sharpness at the lever all you need to do is fit some braided hoses and softer aftermarket pads.

Suspension requires a bit more time, patience and money to improve. Though only those who want the last few per cent from the Suzuki would consider upgrading it. The rest of us will be happy with the softish, but decently damped action of the SV's forks and shock, which provide a comfortable and controlled ride over bumps in most circumstances.

Happy under virtually all circumstances is the 645cc V-twin engine. It's an excellent power unit with a broad spread of usable grunt. The delivery is smooth and progressive and as there's good throttle response no matter how hard the engine is spinning or what gear you're in, jumping up and down on the gearlever isn't a condition to prompt speed gains. This flexibility adds to the relaxed and easy-going nature of the bike.

In saying that, if you do choose to work the very slick six-speed box and keep the revs up, the SV will make some pretty spirited progress. And caning it to the limit will bring a genuine 130mph top speed - not bad for a budget bike.

Covering ground all day is pretty straightforward to achieve too. It's easier on the faired example we tested, and that's definitely the model to plump for if you want to tour or beat the elements. Allied to the relaxed riding position and comfy seat there's no reason why you can't head for Europe for a week or two.

Holidaying is just one of the many choices you'll have with SV650 ownership. And the fact that whatever you choose to do with the Suzuki won't cost you a fortune simply adds to the pleasure of having one. If the reliability and versatility of the SV are anything to go by, then the used 3700-mile / 1999 example we tested can't be viewed as anything other than a bargain at just £3695. Having a great time on a bike has rarely been as cheap.