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 £5,198
Used £4,000 - £5,100

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Yamaha’s A2-compliant twin-cylinder MT-03 was launched in 2016 and has flown quietly under the radar, accounting for just 6% of European MT sales since the first MT-09 triples hit the showrooms back in 2013.

Keen to redress the balance and bag a larger stake in the A2 naked bike market, 2020 sees the ‘03 gain its first major update since its inception; receiving new styling, front forks, an LCD dash, a revised riding position and tweaked rear shock, with altered preload and damping settings, plus a stiffer spring.

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.

Largely based on the fully-faired R3 sportsbike (updated for 2019) the 2020 MT shares the same dash, frame, and engine, with the tubular steel chassis, 321cc parallel-twin engine and ABS-equipped brakes all carried over from the original bike.

2020 Yamaha MT-03 headlight

Ride quality & brakes

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

Much like the also-new-for-2020 Yamaha MT-125, the latest A2-friendly ‘03 gets a reshaped tank in-keeping with the updated front-end design.

Remaining at a capacity of 14 litres, it’s now shorter with wider shoulders and more pronounced air intakes, moving you further over the front end. Yamaha have then added to this by placing the bars 39mm higher and 19mm closer to the pilot.

The result is a more engaging riding experience, which is further improved by the well-balanced chassis and a kerb weight of just 168kg. This allows you to throw the bike into corners with ease, as well as change direction quickly – ideal for tackling the urban sprawl as well as the occasional weekend backroad blast.

2020 Yamaha MT-03 rear shock

The two-piston front and single-piston rear calipers are ample, hauling the bike up in a controlled manner, without any discernible intrusion from the ABS. Around town, the rear lever is also perfectly placed for low speed manoeuvring, with the non-adjustable front item also within easy reach.

Engine

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

Unchanged from the previous generation of MT-03, the free-revving Euro4-compliant engine provides a silky-smooth, linear power delivery that’s unintimidating for new riders.

Also producing sufficient performance for experienced pilots, looking for something frugal for the daily commute, there’s enough poke to keep up and stay ahead of the traffic on any road, with the engine producing almost no vibrations, adding to the long-distance comfort.

It’s not just about practicality either, with the modest twin-cylinder lump encouraging you to wring its neck wherever possible, producing a delightful rumbly tone, reminiscent of Kawasaki’s old ER-6 range, which only gets better as you surge towards the 14,000rpm redline.

2020 Yamaha MT-03 on the road

This is helped further by a crisp gearbox action and feather-light clutch, delivering no missed shifts either up or down the cogs during our morning’s ride. A mixture of town work and drizzly mountain passes, despite this tester’s best efforts, the fuel gauge showed a loss of just one bar out of a possible six, too.

Reliability & build quality

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

Based on a basic recipe first conceived for the 2015 R3, the Indonesian-built Yamaha MT-03 has matured into a nicely-finished package, with solid switchgear and well-finished paintwork. 

Using the same basic design since its inception, owners appear to have no complaints about the previous incarnation – backed up by glowing reviews from MCN readers on our Yamaha R3 tests.

Value vs rivals

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

A2 licence holders are spoiled for choice these days and there are plenty of naked bikes competing with the MT-03. The Yamaha is the most expensive of the pack but it's actually pretty hard to work out why.

The KTM 390 Duke (£4299) has a bit more power, producing 44bhp from its 373cc single and you get a TFT dash with connectivity as an optional extra.

Kawasaki's Z300 (£4349) makes just 38bhp from its 296cc parallel-twin engine. The MT-03 also feels cooler and more up-to-date than the Kawasaki with a better dash and spec level, but not £850 better.

The Honda CB300R (£4629) is styled to fit in with the brand’s neo café range and arguably has the best looks of the bunch. The CB is down on power, though, making just 31bhp, and that means a lot on an A2 licence.

Despite now looking more exciting and offering greater engagement with the improved riding position, the changes are probably not enough to warrant swapping out your first-generation MT-03.

2020 Yamaha MT-03 forks

Equipment

3 out of 5 (3/5)

Shrouding the improved LCD clocks, which remain easy to read in all light conditions, is a more aggressive dual LED headlight unit, helping to give the bike greater road presence and likely to appeal more to young riders than the previous machines conservative design. The taillight and indicators are also LED.

The inclusion of 37mm non-adjustable upside-down forks, which Yamaha say are now more rigid and provide greater feedback, also gives the bike more of a premium feel; looking like less of an everyday run-around and more like the A2-friendly supernaked that kids crave. 

Unfortunately, in such a fiercely contested class, the Yamaha still looks quite bland, lacking the sophistication of Honda’s CB300R and the head-turning excitement of the thrapping single-cylinder KTM 390 Duke.

2020 Yamaha MT-03 dash

For some additional personalisation, Yamaha will also sell you a ‘Sport Pack’ consisting of a tank pad, fly screen, radiator guard and tail tidy. Also available is an Akrapovič end can, billet foot pegs, different chain guard and rear seat cover.

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 £44
Annual service cost -
New price £5,198
Used price £4,000 - £5,100
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term -

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

2016-2019 Yamaha MT-03 Launched a year after the first Yamaha R3, the original MT-03 (not to be mistaken by the 2006 XT660-derived urban cruiser) also featured a 321cc parallel-twin engine, producing 41.4bhp. 

Complete with 41mm telescopic forks, styling on the first incarnation was slightly more reserved and spec was a little more basic, including a part-digital-part-analogue dash, rather than the new bike’s LCD display. A more relaxed riding position and softer rear shock spring also featured.

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: full 2016 Yamaha MT-03 review on MCN Here’s how we got on: Jump to Small bike that thinks big Can it keep experienced riders happy? Small bike big fun Going t

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