YAMAHA YZF600 THUNDERCAT (1996-2003) Review

Published: 24 November 2006

"A real alternative to the VFR750/800 series and very underrated"

Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat motorcycle review - Riding

"A real alternative to the VFR750/800 series and very underrated"

  • At a glance
  • 599cc  -  100 bhp
  • 40 mpg  -  140 miles range
  • Medium seat height (805mm)

Overall Rating 4 out of 5

If you're after a versatile sports-touring motorcycle, with a reliable engine, decent suspension and braking, plus the ability to carry two people plus kit for a two week holiday, the Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat is damn-near perfect.  The Thundercat makes a real alternative to the VFR750/800 series and is very underrated.

Ride Quality & Brakes 3 out of 5

Push on and the Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat goes all Bagpuss on you. The motorcycle weighs a beefy 187kgs dry and its suspension - especially at the front end - is too soft to cope should you decide to play tag with someone who knows how to ride a pure sportbike. That said, the Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat is a superb touring motorcycle.

Engine 5 out of 5

Basically a detuned R6 motor, the Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat has a claimed 100bhp in its cylinders, it provides all the power you need, so long as you have to rev it above 6000rpm. The Thundercat's gearbox makes playing racers occasionally a whole lot of fun, although the clutch is the weak link in the transmission.

Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5

Apart from the cheaply painted exhaust system, which tends to rot quickly in winter, the Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat is a well built motorcycle and the engine will easily rack up 60,000 miles without major problems. The beautiful brake calipers need careful attention in winter to keep them from seizing up too - a common Yamaha problem. 

Value & Running Costs 4 out of 5

Motorcycles like the Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat go cheap secondhand, mainly because they've never really been in fashion. But the Yamaha Thundercat offers sharper handling, better braking and slightly more durability than also-ran 90s motorcycles like the Suzuki GSX600/750F, BMW R850R or Triumph Trident 750. Worth a look. Find a Yamaha Thundercat for sale

Insurance group: 14 of 17 – compare motorcycle insurance quotes now.

Equipment 3 out of 5

The YZF600R Thundercat has decent brakes but the suspension is a bit soggy and the dashboard doesn't offer much touring related info. The Thundercat's fairing is a bit wider than the average 600cc motorcycle, so it offers good wind protection, with a slightly higher screen than usual too.

Owners' Reviews

17 owners have reviewed their YAMAHA YZF600 THUNDERCAT (1996-2003) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

We’re currently improving the way this section works, which means we’ve had to suspend the submission of new owners’ reviews for a short period. Please check back soon.

Summary of Owners' Reviews
Overall Rating 4.5 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4.3 out of 5
Engine 4.4 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4.6 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4.7 out of 5
Equipment 3.9 out of 5
5 out of 5

What a Smasher

10 October 2012 by kevtore999

I've owned my 1996 Yamaha Thundercat since March 2012, If your looking for a reliable, economical with excellent performance and good handling look no further. I get about 180 miles to a full tank (£20).. Its happy cruising down the motorway at 70mph... Read more or flying round a track at 130mph. I'm struggling on what bike I'll get next as I'm so happy with the Thundercat, my next bike is going to have alot to live up too. Really is under estimated!

Overall Rating 5 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
4 out of 5

Thundercat Review

11 November 2011 by jackson7715

Well what can i say,ive had my bike for nearly a year, and am still getting to grip with the bike really. The bike does everything i can ask of it, and is great for gaining confidence on. (Hence why i got it!.) The brakes are strong, especially the... Read more front end, mine are due a overhaul and clean now. (winter job). Riding position, i wouldnt really say extreme, cam get a bit of ache on the wrists, and for me leg cramp (only long journeys), but otherwise spot on. The engine so far has been pretty good, no major mecahnical dramas at present, so all good there. Gearbox so far has been pretty solid, albeit a few false neutrals. But thats it,otherwise faultless. Check shock for damping, mine's going for a rebuild soon,as im sure its not ben touched since 96!. def worth doing, its only gotta make it better right!. about £150.00 ive been quoted for all new internals and set up to rider weight,new oil etc. Equipment is basic, but does the job no problems. Paid £1000 for mine,with 18,000 miles on the clock 96 bike, and have seen cheaper around. So bargains to be had. As a bike to gain confidence on,and get to grips of a bigger bike, its brilliant. I can see me holding on to the Cat for some time yet. O' and yes it's fast!. Predeccesor to the track hungry R6.. Capable of 130mph no problems, more id say if u get a later bike such as a 2000 plated bike. So all in all a good solid,fun reliable bike, definately in sports tourer category.

Overall Rating 4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
5 out of 5

One of the most underated bikes out there

06 May 2010 by Conan46

I brought mine having past my Direct Access August 2007. I’m 6’2”, 125 kg (20st) which doesn’t fit in with my love for sports bikes! Despite this, the Cat is as big a 600 as you will find and I was happy to do long motorway runs on the large, comfy... Read more seat. The riding position is friendly on the larger framed rider, with low pegs and bars at a nice height putting very little weight on the wrists. The rear is pretty soggy in its default setting so you may want to consider firming it up. Despite having no previous biking experience, it was a doddle to jump on and ride. The engine is a joy and demands to be revved. Although the Yam would be eaten alive on the track, in the real world, it would hold its own against anything. It is the ultimate first big bike, confidence builder, great all-rounder with no major faults.

Overall Rating 5 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
5 out of 5

Great real world bike

08 April 2010 by blackbullet

One of the greatest real world sport bikes ever made. Comfortable as a commuter and has an engine with a usable power band. I have had my bike for three years and over 50,000 miles in that time and have not had any problems. Highly suggest getting... Read more a used Thundercat over the new budget minded diversion that does not even have an adjustable suspension....really yamaha?!?CRAP

Overall Rating 5 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 5 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 5 out of 5
4 out of 5

Better than a ZZR600

20 May 2009 by Ealing53

Came back to biking after a gap of 5 years having owned a ZZR600 previously, and bought a 10 year old bike. I absolutely love it! The balance of the bike is something to behold; although heavy to push around whilst moving you can easily manoeuvre... Read more it at near walking pace which makes it ideal for commuting through congested London. The ergonomics are simply superb as well thanks to the short tank, perfect for my 5'5 frame (who needs to flatfoot anyhow). Fantastic value for money too, and economical if ridden smoothly. The only downside is the gearchange from 1st to 2nd - feels like the gearbox is about to fall out! The ZZR which most people compare this bike was better equipped, but top-heavy with a long reach to the bars.

Overall Rating 4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 5 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 3 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
4 out of 5

american import thundercat

28 April 2009 by asroth

Lovely smooth bike, very smooth engine, dos have a manual chooke, but didnt have any problem starting the bike. Quite light to throw around, more economical than most reviews give it, did an average of 60 mpg , averaging at 5-6k revs, would get 240... Read more miles on a tank including the reserve. My only fault of the bike is the riding position, im 6'1 and found to much weight on my hands and got cronic back ache after a few miles.

Overall Rating 4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 5 out of 5
4 out of 5

MUCH FASTER THAN EXPECTED

06 April 2009 by stevejacko101

BOUGHT MY THUNDERCAT IN 2008 AND HAVE NOT BEEN DISAPPOINTED.HAD TO REPLACE THE SILENCER WDUE TO ROT, PUT A DELKEVIC ON AND IT SOUNDS NICE!! IT IS VERY QUICK TOO, ITS AN IMPORT AND IVE HAD 150+ MPH OUT OF IT AND MY MATES WITH BIGGER BIKES CAN'T... Read more BELIEVE HOW WELL IT GOES... MAYBE IT WAS PREVIOUSLY TUNED BUT IT REALLY DOES SHIFT. REALLY RELIABLE BIKE WITH LOW RUNNING COSTS AND INSURANCE. NO PLANS TO REPLACE IT AS IT GOES SO WELL!!! AN EXCELLENT BIKE ALL ROUND.

Overall Rating 4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
4 out of 5

Great all rounder

29 November 2008 by Johndercat

I picked up a red white and black '98 model about 3 months ago for daily use and I love it. Mostly. Doesn't do a lot below 6000 revs as you'd expect which is actually quite helpful when the weathers poor, you never feel like your going to spin the... Read more wheel out. Gets going nicely at 6000 and takes off at 8000. Brakes are lovely, lights are good if you upgrade to a halogen bulb and handles well if set up correctly but isn't as sharp as some. Seat and position are comfier than a pair of old boots and you can easily get 50 mpg out of it. Buy. Ride. Enjoy. NOW

Overall Rating 4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 3 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
5 out of 5

Brill

17 August 2008 by fkerrigan

I've had a 2001 model for 3 years nows and can't fault it. Still have the same chain, sprockets and brake pads. In July 2008 I took it to Europe via France, Swizerland, Italy and Germany. The cat was faultless and never missed a beat. It was packed... Read more up for two weeks with gear and soft luggage. I also use it daily for getting into work as well as back lane scratching and general touring. The handling is perfect for the road is very stable. The tank range is good with 19litres and with the reserve light coming on around 150 miles.

Overall Rating 5 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 5 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
4 out of 5

1997 Thundercat

06 July 2008 by staffsknot

This is my first all rounder 600 and I have to say I was really impressed with the brakes and handling. Never had any problems with the bike, always fills me with confidence and its quick enough to keep up with my friends on proper sports... Read more bikes. Ideal as a first bike and I won't be selling mine, it might become a second bike though.

Overall Rating 4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5
Read all 17 owners' reviews in full

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 1996
Year discontinued 2003
Original price -
Warranty term (when new) Two year unlimited mileage
Running costs
Insurance group 14 of 17
Annual road tax £58
Annual service cost -
Performance
Max power 100 bhp
Max torque 48 ft-lb
Top speed 145 mph
1/4-mile acceleration 11.3 secs
Average fuel consumption 40 mpg
Tank range 140 miles
Specification
Engine size 599cc
Engine type 16v, in line four, 6 gears
Frame type Aluminium Deltabox type
Fuel capacity 599 litres
Seat height 805mm
Bike weight 187kg
Front suspension Preload, rebound, compression
Rear suspension Preload, rebound, compression
Front brake Twin 298mm discs
Rear brake 245mm disc
Front tyre size 120/60 x 17in
Rear tyre size 160/60 x 17in

History & Versions

Model history

1996: Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat launched.
1997: Dark blue metallic paint scheme dropped.
2000: New silver/yellow and red colour schemes.
2002: New Yamaha blue/white colours.
2003: Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat discontinued.

Other versions

None.

Photo Gallery

  • Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat motorcycle review - Riding
  • Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat motorcycle review - Side view
  • Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat motorcycle review - Instruments
  • Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat motorcycle review
  • Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat motorcycle review - Riding
  • Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat motorcycle review - Side view
  • Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat motorcycle review - Side view
  • Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat motorcycle review - Side view
  • Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat motorcycle review - Side view
  • Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat motorcycle review - Side view
  • Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat motorcycle review - Riding
  • Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat motorcycle review - Side view
  • Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat motorcycle review - Instruments
  • Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat motorcycle review
  • Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat motorcycle review - Riding
  • Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat motorcycle review - Side view
  • Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat motorcycle review - Side view
  • Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat motorcycle review - Side view
  • Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat motorcycle review - Side view
  • Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat motorcycle review - Side view