New Suzuki SV650 first ride

Published: 22 February 2016

Suzuki have gone back to basics with their revamped SV650. Once hugely popular, the SV was sidetracked when the curvy, futuristic design of the Gladius was revealed in late 2008 for the 2009 campaign.

With sales falling, Suzuki admit they have gone back to the start for a bike that was the second biggest selling motorcycle in Europe in its debut season in 1999.

The sculpted lines of the Gladius (that name was ditched in 2013 but the bike remained the same in its final three years) are gone as the SV returns to the more angular look of the 2003-2008 version.

Suzuki have also focused on power, giving the 645cc V-twin an extra 4bhp at its peak (8500rpm) to make it more powerful than its main competitors, Yamaha’s MT-07 and the Kawasaki ER6-n.

But the focus on a bigger bhp number does come at a cost, with low-rev oomph reduced from previous models.

We found on our first ride in the Catalan region of Spain that the new SV’s power delivery really comes into its own from 6000rpm onwards, when there’s a rewarding surge of drive. This is a contrast from the more torquey-feeling earlier models – the new bike has the same peak torque output as the outgoing SFV (as the Gladius was renamed) at 47ftlb, but the old bike was kicking that out at 6400rpm while the new machine’s impressive new LCD rev counter has to be displaying 8100rpm to get the same thrust.

For more experienced riders this potentially makes the experience more rewarding. And while it’s hard for me, with 15 years of riding experience, to say what a new rider will think of it, it could make the bike easier to ride in the lower part of the rev range. It could also give them something to grow into and make an SV a longer-term investment rather than a starter bike that soon wears thin.

The extra power comes from less internal friction thanks to resin-coated piston skirts and plated cylinders. This lets the bike rev harder than before, and also contributes to it passing the new Euro4 emissions regulations.

There are a host of other changes to make it more environmentally friendly and please the bureaucrats, but none of them interfere with the riding experience, which is classic SV.

There are changes to the chassis, but there was little wrong with the old bike so there was no need for Suzuki to rip anything up and start again.

It’s short to suit new riders, but is also narrow and relatively lithe – even with 8kg shaved off, the new Suzuki is still 15kg heavier than an MT-07, but it feels anything but flabby on the move.

This isn’t the place for back-to-back comparisons, but the ride quality feels more assured than the MT-07, with a more supportive shock and compliant non-adjustable forks.

The twin-pot, sliding piston brakes don’t give the most feel but they are comparable with others in the class and do the job well enough. The ABS system works well and will be attractive to new riders while only interfering with the more experienced rider under heavy braking over sizeable bumps, as we found on our first ride.

The slim outline that comes from the SV’s V-twin configuration rather than the parallel twin MT also helps and the Suzuki has to be one of the most manageable middleweights around for those who want the confidence that comes from two solid feet on the floor. The 785m seat height remains from the old model, though it is now narrower and the side covers have been on a diet to give a more direct route for the rider’s legs to point towards the floor. Suzuki has shown images of a 5ft 9in rider with feet flat on the ground and a 5ft 3in rider with the balls of both feet in contact with the floor.

The riding position is slightly cramped for taller riders, but I’m 5ft 10in and didn’t find it uncomfortable, with some riders on this test who are considerably over six feet also reporting ache-free riding on the little SV.

The arrival of the SV will make things interesting in the middleweight arena, which was revived by 2014’s arrival of the MT-07. It’s not exactly a revolution, but the SV displays all the traits that made the first two generations so damned popular.

And the final kicker could be the price. Suzuki has brought the new SV in at £5499, which makes it £250 cheaper than the MT and £300 less than an ER-6n in equivalent ABS spec. It’s possible to get either bike for less than an SV, but that means foregoing the ABS (£5349 for MT or £5399 for ER-6n in non-ABS spec).

But the comparison testing can wait. In the meantime, Suzuki are in the game again – and it’s good to have them back.

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