In the motorcycle hierarchy, the Suzuki SV650A and Yamaha MT-07 middleweight twins are considered entry-level big bikes not only in engine displacement but also in specs and price. Most riders even regard them as “transition” bikes, meaning they could serve as stepping-stones when moving up from a small displacement bike to a much bigger one. While we agree that the best way to enjoy riding motorcycles in the long term is to start out small then gradually work your way up the displacement ladder as your riding skills improve, the performance offered by these two middleweight bikes are anything but entry-level. Yes, they’re generally designed for new riders in mind, but that doesn’t mean seasoned riders won’t enjoy riding them. In fact, there were many instances when more experienced riders who ride bigger and faster motorcycles eventually gravitate towards middleweight twins like the MT-07 and SV650A because of their easy to ride nature and versatility. In this comparo, Nico and I rode both bikes to the Batangas Racing Circuit to see which one deserves your hard-earned money.
The SV650 has come a long way. First introduced in 1999 as a low budget entry motorcycle, the first generation SV650 immediately become a favorite among motorcycle riders. Suzuki strike the perfect combination of power, rigid chassis, light handling at a reasonable price that appealed to both new and experienced riders.
Now on its third generation, the SV650A not only carries on the proven formula of its predecessors, Suzuki also made a host of updates to the chassis and engine to increase its performance. For the DOHC 645cc V-twin engine, Suzuki engineers made use of larger 39mm throttle bodies and new, long nosed 10-hole injectors for better fuel atomization; new CAD design pistons with resin coating on the rings and skirts and also titanium nitride coating on the cylinder walls to reduce friction. A bigger airbox and staggered intake funnels improved mid-range response. The 2-into-1 exhaust system with catalyzer is lighter and with increased flow allows the SV650A to pass the stringent Euro-4 emissions standards. The motor produces 75 hp at 8500 rpm and a peak torque of 47 lb ft at 8100 rpm.
Instead of aluminum, the trellis frame is made of tubular steel and chassis improvements are generally centered on reducing weight and improving ergonomics. The fuel tank is noticeably slimmer at its widest point but capacity remains at 13.8 liters. Seat height is low at 785mm and also narrower where it meets the fuel tank to allow most riders to reach the ground easily. Surprisingly, the low seat height doesn’t compromise legroom even for tall riders like Nico and the reach to the tubular handlebars is short for a relaxed riding position. In full view of the rider is a full LCD instrument panel adopted from the GSX-S 1000 that displays everything from gear position, speed, tachometer, odometer, trip meter, average/real time fuel consumption, range, clock, water temperature and fuel.
A new trick up the SV650A’s sleeve is a new quick-start system where you just press the starter button once and the motor will start automatically. Another neat function the SV650A has is the low rpm assist which prevents the engine from stalling when taking off from a complete stop or low speeds. What the ECU does is increase the throttle slightly when it senses the rider releasing the clutch in first gear. We find this feature very helpful in urban environments like the stop and go EDSA traffic, and will surely benefit new riders. Like on the MT-07, you won’t find other electronic aids on the SV650A except for an ABS that works really well. We just wish the front brakes offered more initial bite but changing the brake pads might rectify that.
Inside the racetrack, however, the SV650A displays a different personality. From a docile urban commuter, the SV650A turns into a sporty V-twin roadster, devouring corners with its neutral handling characteristics and confidence-inspiring surefootedness. The smooth V-twin offers linear power delivery from tick over and has a very healthy midrange but there’s no need to rev up to the 10700 rpm redline because power tapers off around 9000 rpm. Keeping it inside its sweet spot between 6000 to 9000 rpm is easy enough using the smooth 6-speed transmission. The front suspension provides good damping characteristics even though they’re not adjustable but the rear suspension sometimes exhibits a tendency to bounce around mid-corner bumps. Adjusting the rear preload may help.
The Yamaha MT-07 has always been one of my favorite middleweight-twin bikes. It’s fun, capable and inexpensive, I often wonder why people even bother riding bigger, heavier and more expensive bikes. Like the SV650A, Yamaha designed this bike for beginners. But seasoned riders can still have a blast riding it because of its versatility and engaging characteristics. Although the styling may not appeal to mature riders, it surely does to younger riders. On the saddle, the riding position feels similar to the SV650A with its slim fuel tank and tall handlebar position. The compact LCD instrument panel also packs a surprising amount of information for its diminutive size such as speed, tachometer, gear position, fuel, trip, odometer and time.
The centerpiece of the MT-07 is the smooth and very torquey parallel-twin motor. Displacing 689cc with dohc and 4-valves per cylinder, the liquid-cooled parallel twin employs what Yamaha calls the crossplane philosophy to provide that perfect balance of linear torque output and outstanding fuel efficiency. This also makes the parallel-twin uncharacteristically V-twin-sounding. Peak power is only 74 bhp at 9000 rpm, but the real star of the show is the 50 lb ft of torque and a majority of which is readily available from as low as 2000 rpm to its peak 6500 rpm, and when coupled with low overall gearing gives the MT-07 almost telepathic-like throttle response, giving the impression that it has more power than it actually has. It also helps that the MT-07 is lighter than the SV650A by a whopping 15 kg.
Contributing to the MT-07’s lightness and agility is the slim and compact tubular backbone frame that uses the engine as a stressed member. While the suspension setup is comprised of simple non-adjustable forks up front and only a spring-preload adjuster for the rear shock, their carefully tuned damping rates give the MT-07 a supple yet composed ride that’s perfect for most Philippine road conditions, swallowing road irregularities and minor potholes with ease.
Inside the racetrack, picking up the pace reveals an unexpected characteristic of the MT-07. From a sedate city commuter, the MT-07 transforms into a capable and highly entertaining track bike. The MT-07 responds quickly to counter-steering inputs and will obediently follow your desired line through a corner. Even mid-corner corrections are possible without upsetting the chassis balance. And for a bike with a wide 180-section rear tire, the handling remains light and positive while providing more confidence-inspiring grip. ABS is standard on the MT-07 and the 4-pot calipers biting on dual 282mm front discs provide more than adequate stopping power for the 182 kg (curb weight) MT-07.
After switching bikes several times and much deliberation, Nico and I finally decided that it’s a tie between the MT07 and the SV650A. While both bikes share almost the same specifications, performance and price, each bike has different personalities that would appeal to different types of riders. With its classic styling and friendly behavior, the Suzuki SV650A would certainly appeal to more mature riders who are looking for a versatile bike they could keep for a long time. The Yamaha MT-07, on the other hand, would appeal more to a younger audience, someone who doesn’t mind changing bikes as often as they change mobile phones, and wants a hooligan bike they could ride every day to the office or as a track bike on weekends. It’s up to you, however, to decide whether you belong to the young or mature rider category. Whether you are young or a young at heart rider, you can’t go wrong with any of them.
Yamaha MT-07 Specs:
Engine: Liquid-cooled, 2-cylinder parallel, EFI, dohc, 8-valves, 4-stroke
Max power: 74 bhp @ 9000 rpm
Torque: 50 lb ft @ 6500 rpm
Tire, front: 120/70-17 tubeless
Tire, rear: 180/55 -17 tubeless
Seat height: 805 mm
Fuel capacity: 14 liters
Curb weight: 182 kg
Top speed: 200 km/h (estimated)
Price: PhP 439,000
C! Rating: 10 / 10
Plus: Characterful motor, lively handling
Minus: Not much
Suzuki SV650A Specs:
Engine: Liquid-cooled, 2-cylinder V-twin, EFI, dohc, 8-valves, 4-stroke
Max power: 75 bhp @ 8500 rpm
Torque: 47 lb ft @ 8100 rpm
Tires Front: 120/70- 17 tubeless
Tires Rear: 160/60 – 17 tubeless
Seat height: 785 mm
Fuel capacity: 13.8 liters
Curb weight: 197 kg
Top speed: 200 km/h (estimated)
Price: PhP 399,000
C! Rating: 10 / 10
Plus: Smooth power, lower seat height
Minus: Not much