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HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPORTSTER 883 Iron (2015-on) Review

Published: 01 October 2019

Updated: 11 December 2019

Riding the 883 feels good – and that's what matters most

Harley-Davidson Iron 883

Riding the 883 feels good – and that's what matters most

Overall Rating 3 out of 5

Before the Street 750, the Harley-Davidson 883 Iron was Harley’s smallest-capacity entry-level bike, with its unthreatening 883cc engine and compact dimensions making it ideal for shorter riders and those not completely confident handling larger bikes. But the introduction of the Street potentially made the Iron redundant in Harley’s Dark Custom range.

Harley-Davidson Iron 883 v Honda VT750C video review

There are many reasons to be put off the Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 Iron. Its clutch is heavy, its brakes relatively poor, it’s slow steering, the engine is comparatively clunky (as is the gearbox) and the rear cylinder gets uncomfortably hot in traffic – but it does look and feel like a genuine Harley and that shouldn’t be underestimated.

Harley-Davidson Iron 883 left side

Compared to the Street, the 883 has cleaner lines with its purer, simpler design and the lack of a radiator. Then there’s the iconic ‘peanut’ tank, twin, side-mounted exhausts, classic cut-down rear ‘fender’ and ‘drag’ style bars. If you removed the H-D badge from the Iron you’d still be in no doubt who made it.

Despite its flaws, riding the 883 feels good – and that's what matters most. It doesn't feel like riding an imitation of a Harley – it feels like the real deal. If all that clunk and heaviness puts some off, fine, Harley has the new Streets for them. If not, the original is still the best.

Ride Quality & Brakes 2 out of 5

The Iron is a small bike and taller riders will have to fold themselves onto it, especially with the rearset pegs, which bring your knees up quite high. The pegs are still fairly low though, limiting lean angle in the corners (they scrape before you hit 30 degrees), and also transmitting quite a lot of vibes, especially at around 2800rpm.

For the 2015 version, Harley reworked the suspension, resulting in a much plusher ride. Riding over bumps the suspension travel feels smooth and controlled. Unfortunately the revised suspension doesn’t have much effect on the handling.

Granted, the 883 is in no way designed to handle like a sportsbike, but the steering is still on the slow side and is less than engaging when the roads get twisty.

Harley-Davidson Iron 883 action

The single front disc does an adequate job of bringing the 256kg Iron to a halt, and the ABS helps to keep things controlled under hard braking.

The Iron is definitely one for those more concerned by budget, style, physical size or making an entry into the Harley family, rather than outright cruiser performance or gusto. It looks effortlessly cool, but the performance is little more than lukewarm.

Engine 2 out of 5

The Iron’s air-cooled, 883cc, pushrod, 45-degree V-twin is classic Harley-Davidson. Yes, the liquid-cooled, 750cc, camchain-driven, 60-degree Vs of the Streets are a big step forward, but there's a lot to be said for the lethargic, low-revving Sportster lump.

That said, the 883cc V-twin only produces a claimed 51.2bhp and 50.2ftlb of torque, and it really feels like it lacks punch in the low to midrange, which you feel especially keenly when it comes to overtakes.

Wind the throttle on, and rather than being pushed back in the soft, plush seat, you’re left wondering why you’re still alongside the slow-moving car you were trying to pass.

Harley-Davidson Iron 883 front

Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5

Older Harley-Davidson models had a reputation for agricultural build quality and reliability issues, but things have moved on over the years.

If the service schedule is followed, the lazy V-twin engine shouldn't give any problems, but the finish will need looking after to retain its shine.

Insurance, running costs & value 4 out of 5

The 883 is designed to be an introduction to the Harley-Davidson range and attract new owners to the brand. And its price is a reflection of this.

Costing £7280 when this version was first released, it wasn't exactly cheap, but compared to Softail models (starting at over £13,500) or the brand's tourers (starting at almost £19,500) it is a bargain basement price.

Equipment 3 out of 5

The 883 doesn't come with any bells or whistles. You get a basic, analogue speedo and ABS. Two-tone paint will cost you extra.

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 2015
Year discontinued -
New price £8,895
Used price £6,200 to £9,800
Warranty term Two years
Running costs
Insurance group -
Annual road tax £91
Annual service cost £230
Max power 51.2 bhp
Max torque 50.2 ft-lb
Top speed -
1/4-mile acceleration -
Average fuel consumption 49 mpg
Tank range 135 miles
Engine size 883cc
Engine type Air-cooled Evolution V-twin
Frame type Tubular steel cradle
Fuel capacity 12.5 litres
Seat height 760mm
Bike weight 256kg
Front suspension Telescopic fork
Rear suspension Twin shock, non adjustable
Front brake Dual-piston single disc
Rear brake Dual-piston single disc
Front tyre size 100/90 19
Rear tyre size 150/80 16

History & Versions

Model history

The Iron 883 was first introduced in 2009 as a dark and brooding antidote to the colourful and brash middleweight Harleys that came before it. It was updated in 2015.

Other versions

The term 'Sportster' isn't actually a model name but defines a whole family of Harley-Davidson models. These include:

Owners' Reviews

1 owner has reviewed their HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPORTSTER 883 Iron (2015-on) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

Review your HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPORTSTER 883 Iron (2015-on)
Summary of Owners' Reviews
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 4 out of 5
Equipment 5 out of 5
5 out of 5

Don't knock them 'til you try them

23 December 2019 by Nick

Under rated. Very satisfying to ride.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
OK so everyones concern with a Harley is vibrations, but it's not as bad as you think. It's more of a rumble than a buzzy vibration. Some inline 4's have annoying buzzy vibrations at certain revs which makes them uncomfy to ride, the sportster is more of a thumping rumble. Makes you feel like you are handling a beast and not a buzzy rampant rabbit. The vibrations on the sportster are comparable to an ER6. The brakes are adequate, you can stop wherever you like and as quick as you want, but they will never be like a sportsbikes, but that's just stupid to compare them to that. Comfort wise, it's a very relaxed riding position, you are sat upright on a well padded seat. If you don't like the seat there is a mind boggling selection of aftermarket seats. Anyone can get comfy on a Harley!
5 out of 5
Probably one of the most satisfying parts of the bike. It sounds amazing, you quite literally never get bored of riding it. The pushrod v twin makes that unique Harley sound. It is very torquey and pulls well from down low, doesn't run out of steam even all the way to the end of 5th. Fuel consumption is good, it just has a small tank. No, it's not the most powerful, but it's powerful enough. When's the last time you used all your GSXR's power on the road? Exactly! It's still a big bike and it will shame and out accelerate Corsa VXR'S and Fiesta ST's etc. Nothing to be sniffed at!
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
Not a single problem in 8k miles, always started, never broken down. Think about it, the engine design has been around since the 50's, that's 60 years of refinement, all the gremlins have been worked out. Less moving parts and less electronics than modern engines so less to go wrong. Finish needs looking after like any other bike, if you are good with your maintenance and wash, dry and lube stuff after a ride, you won't have any problems. The paint is the deepest of any bike I've had, way better than the japs. Less time in the garage, more time riding, makes a change!
Value & Running Costs
4 out of 5
Not any more expensive than any other make, if anything it's a bit cheaper. No labour costs to remove fairings and dig deep into the middle of the bike to access plugs or filters. On the sportsters, you can remove the air and oil filters and change the plugs without removing a single piece of the bike. Long service intervals too, first service is at 1k miles, then every 12 months or 10k miles, whichever comes first.
5 out of 5
MCN got this completely wrong, saying you only get a speedo and that's it. As standard you get a tacho, gear indicator and a clock! How many jap bikes come with a gear indicator or a clock? You also get self cancelling indicators, the bike senses you've made a turn, and if you don't cancel your indicator after 15 seconds, it does it for you. The stock tyres are Michelin Scorchers and they a brilliant, very sticky, haven't felt the need to go to a different type of tyre. Harleys are probably the most customisable bikes out there, whatever you want to replace or add, you will definately find it.

Photo Gallery

  • Harley-Davidson Iron 883
  • Harley-Davidson Iron 883 turning right
  • Harley-Davidson Iron 883 on the road
  • Harley-Davidson Iron 883 action
  • Harley-Davidson Iron 883 left side
  • Harley-Davidson Iron 883 turning left
  • Harley-Davidson Iron 883 right side
  • Harley-Davidson Iron 883 front
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