YAMAHA MT-03 (2020 - on) Review

Highlights

  • A2-friendly naked bike
  • Modern looks and tech
  • R3 engine is very free revving

At a glance

Power: 41 bhp
Seat height: Low (30.7 in / 780 mm)
Weight: Low (370 lbs / 168 kg)

Prices

New £5,300
Used £4,100 - £5,000

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
3 out of 5 (3/5)

The A2 licence friendly middleweight class is a tough old place to be, and you really need a unique selling point to help you stand out from the crowds. Something, it has to be said, that the Yamaha MT-03 does struggle with.

Initially launched in 2016, the MT-03 is effectively a naked YZF-R3 and while this is no bad thing at all (especially considering Yamaha race the R3 on the world scene) the issue is that the bike it is based upon is also, well, a bit budget if we are being brutally honest.

To be fair to Yamaha in the 2020 update, which saw the MT-03 gain inverted forks as well as a new LCD dash, it was given a bit of extra bling but when you compare it to the likes of the KTM 390 Duke with its TFT dash and radial brakes, or even the Kawasaki Z400 which has a cool dash but lacks inverted forks, the Yamaha is a bit behind the curve.

Not without its fans (there are a few MT-03-specific forums and Facebook groups out there) the MT hasn’t quite replicated the sales success of its bigger siblings and only equates for 6% of all MT family sold in Europe. If you are after a light, fun and easy-going A2-legal middleweight for urban use that won’t break the bank it isn’t a bad option, it’s just not the best in its class.

Yamaha are pitching this bike firmly at young riders, aged between 20 and 30, wanting something with big bike appeal – offering a stepping-stone between the L-plate-friendly MT-125 and middleweight MT-07.

Watch: Yamaha MT-03 video review

In this video our Dan Sutherland takes the two smallest Yamaha nakeds - the MT-125 and the MT-03 - to task to find out if they're the top of the class. 

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
3 out of 5 (3/5)

Don’t be put off by the fact the MT-03 has a pretty basic-looking tubular steel chassis, it is effectively a naked YZF-R3 and that’s the bike Yamaha race in the World Supersport 300 series.

In 2020 the MT’s riding position was revised very slightly, making it a bit more relaxed, however the major update came from the telescopic forks being replaced by chunkier 37mm inverted items.

More a visual improvement than a performance one, the MT is set quite softly on its suspension but can still be hustled along at quite a rate through a set of bends – well, once you have junked the hideous OE rubber and fitted some proper European-spec alternatives.

A light weight of just 168kg makes it really agile and manoeuvrable at low speed while a low 780mm seat height is reassuring for newer riders.

2020 Yamaha MT-03 rear shock

Far from an intimidating bike to ride, the MT is fun and while much like the chassis the single two-piston conventionally-mounted brake caliper looks a bit budget, it performs admirably and has a reasonable ABS system as standard.

If you want to upgrade the MT’s chassis, spend your money on quality rubber, a set of braided brake lines and some high-friction pads – that’s all the racers do in WSS300.

Well, aside from a suspension refresh but that’s a bit overkill on the road. While it has pillion pegs, the soft rear shock does struggle a bit (you can adjust its preload) and the motor hasn’t got much left to give so progress is slow...

Engine

Next up: Reliability
3 out of 5 (3/5)

As with the chassis, the MT-03’s parallel twin motor is taken straight from the YZF-R3. Best described as ‘sufficient’ the 321cc twin has liquid-cooling and makes a reasonable, if not outstanding, 41bhp with 21.8ftlb of torque. 

Fairly charming (if a little slow) it emits quite a pleasant exhaust note and has a smooth and linear power delivery that makes it ideal for urban use, helped by a lovely light clutch action and slick gearbox.

Out of town, once you feed it some berries it can zip along at a merry pace and is happy to rev to over 11,000rpm and reach motorway speeds. 

2020 Yamaha MT-03 on the road

However its trump card is its economy with mid-70s mpg figures equalling a range of over 200 miles from its 14-litre tank.

A lot of owners stick on a loud pipe, which can make the MT sound remarkably fruity, but doesn’t release much more power as the little twin is giving all it has got already!

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
4 out of 5 (4/5)

The MT-03 is built in Indonesia and not Japan, however this isn’t really an issue in terms of build quality and the Yamaha is quite well finished.

As with any budget bike, if you take care of it you will be rewarded and if you let the cleaning slip you will be punished, but overall if it looks good you should be alright.

There are few major areas of concern when buying used and owners report that the exhaust rots through (replacements cost from as little as £150) and stone damage (or crash damage) to the radiator is also fairly common, so fit a guard. 

The two-piston caliper can seize on its slider but a rebuild kit is only £30 and is an easy DIY job or one that will take a trained mechanic less than an hour to do. 

The biggest concern when buying a used MT is crash damage as newer riders and a bike that generally lives in an urban environment equals low speed spills.

Stand at the back of the bike and look down it to see if the bars are straight and also inspect the levers/pegs/mirrors for scrape marks. If the bike has a non-OE exhaust can, treat it with caution as it could have been replaced due to a ding. 

Not many MT’s get stolen, but just to be safe always check the same key operates the ignition and seat lock and that the steering lock still works.

We don't have any 2020 Yamaha MT-03 owners' reviews. You can leave one now, or check out the 2016-2019 ones instead.

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
3 out of 5 (3/5)

A frugal bike to run in terms of its fuel economy and insurance costs, the MT-03 does have slightly short service intervals of every 3500 miles, however this is really just an oil and filter and check over so won’t break the bank. 

Pleasingly the valve clearances only need looking at when the bike hits 25,000 miles – which is pretty unlikely to have been reached by now! 

Costing £5299 new, prices for used 2020 MT-03s start at £4000 for bikes that have virtually no miles on them, which makes it pretty tempting when you consider a similar age KTM 390 Duke is £4300 and Kawasaki Z400 £4700. 

2020 Yamaha MT-03 forks

Will the MT hold its value as well as its rivals? If you look at the used market there are a lot of MT’s out there (the older generation) so competition is high and therefore prices low whereas the number of Z400s and Dukes seems less so they tend to hold their value better.

Many MT-03s are sold to MT-125 owners who are upgrading where the Duke appeals to a wider range of riders due to its cool looks and high-spec chassis.

Equipment

3 out of 5 (3/5)

Not exactly bursting with technology, the MT has ABS and did get a new LCD dash for 2020 (which has a gear indicator and fuel gauge) but it lacks connectivity and while the forks are inverted, the brake caliper isn’t radial in its mounting. 

Yamaha sold a ‘Sport Pack’ alongside the MT-03 that consisted of a tank pad, fly screen, radiator guard and tail tidy, which is handy to have, and even an Akrapovic exhaust end can, which is even cooler. 

2020 Yamaha MT-03 dash

Generally, if the Akra is fitted it means someone haggled hard and got it free from the dealer when they bought the bike so don’t pay extra for one!

A fair number of MTs have top boxes fitted (Yamaha sell their own) and crash protection is (sensibly) also quite common. Other than a new set of tyres, better brake pads and these extras, there isn’t much you would want to add to an MT-03.

You've got a choice of three colours for the 2020 Yamaha MT-03: Ice Fluo (silver), Icon Blue or Midnight Black.

There's a wide range of aftermarket accessories available for the MT-03, too. Companies like R&G and Bikerzbits will offer a raft of extras to personalise your bike, from crash protection to luggage, tail tidies and heated grips. 

Specs

Engine size 321cc
Engine type Liquid-cooled DOHC parallel twin
Frame type Tubular steel chassis
Fuel capacity 14 litres
Seat height 780mm
Bike weight 168kg
Front suspension 37mm upside down forks, non-adjustable
Rear suspension Single shock, pre-load adjustable
Front brake 298mm single disc, two-piston caliper. ABS.
Rear brake 220mm single disc, single-piston caliper. ABS.
Front tyre size 110/70 x 17
Rear tyre size 140/70 x17

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 74 mpg
Annual road tax £45
Annual service cost -
New price £5,300
Used price £4,100 - £5,000
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two year unlimited mileage

Top speed & performance

Max power 41 bhp
Max torque 21.8 ft-lb
Top speed -
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range 228 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

  • 2006-2015 Yamaha MT-03: Confusingly, the first MT-03 was powered by an XT660 engine. A funky looking naked with impressive handling, it never really caught on.
  • 2016-2019 Yamaha MT-03: The MT-03 is relaunched as a small capacity naked bike with Dark Side styling. Powered by the YZF-R3’s 321cc parallel twin motor, it makes 41.4bhp and is A2-legal. Also sharing the YZF’s chassis, it has agile handling but somewhat basic components that include telescopic forks, part-digital/part-analogue clocks and a single two-piston brake caliper.
  • 2020: The MT-03 is revised with updated suspension, fresh styling and a new LCD dash.

Other versions

  • Yamaha YZF-R3 – Updated at the beginning of 2019, the first-generation R3 was launched back in 2015 and was the platform for the original MT-03; sharing the same engine, chassis and wheels. The only real thing that differed was the naked bike styling, with the YZF boasting a fully-faired sportsbike look. For 2020, it’s much the same story, with the latest MT-03 again sharing the same brakes, chassis and engine as the 2019-on R3 (which actually come from the previous incarnation). Despite lacking the full fairing, it weighs just 1kg less, fully-fuelled.

MCN Long term test reports

2016 Yamaha MT-03 long-term test

2016 Yamaha MT-03 long-term test

MCN spent 12 months living with Yamaha’s A2 licence-friendly MT-03 to see what this ‘small big bike’ is really like to live with. Related: 2020 Yamaha MT-03 review Here’s how we got on: Jump to Small bike that thinks big Can it keep experienced riders happy? Small bike big fun Going two-up S

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