YAMAHA MT-125 (2020 - on) Review

Highlights

  • CBT-friendly naked bike
  • Extremely popular, keenly priced
  • Loads of kit and good reliability

At a glance

Power: 15 bhp
Seat height: Medium (31.9 in / 810 mm)
Weight: Low (309 lbs / 140 kg)

Prices

New £4,449
Used £4,000 - £4,500

Overall rating

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

The CBT-friendly 2020 Yamaha MT 125 has received its first major overhaul since its launch in 2014; bringing it in line with the rest of the ever-popular MT range with radical styling, improved performance and revised geometry.

Listen to the sound of the Yamaha MT-125 in our video review:

The second-best-selling MT model in the UK, behind the parallel-twin MT-07, the vast majority of these changes were first seen on the fully-faired Yamaha YZF-R125, which was relaunched for 2019 with R6-inspired fairings, a new frame, fatter 140-section rear tyre and rim, a new engine complete with Variable Valve Actuation (VVA), an LCD dash and more.

Plastics aside, the new MT receives all of the above, offering teens a miniature supernaked they can be proud of, complete with big bike looks, excellent build-quality and an impressive spec sheet. The 2020 model replaced the 2014 Yamaha MT-125.

Once you've read this review, you may want to join a community about this bike, such as the Yamaha MT-125 Club and Forum.

Ride quality & brakes

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

Shod with grippy Michelin Pilot Street tyres, cornering on the MT-125 is a joy to behold, making mincemeat of the congested urban sprawl and capable of carving through nadgery back roads without tying itself in knots.

Helped by the well-damped 41mm upside down KYB forks and a reworked preload-adjustable rear shock, the bike also gets a new steel deltabox frame and aluminium swingarm taken directly from the updated R125 sportsbike.

Dan Sutherland gets the best from the 2020 Yamaha MT-125

Now featuring a shorter, more rigid swingarm with a wider pivot, the wheelbase has been reduced and this has improved agility. There’s also a shorter rear subframe, designed specifically for this model.

Combined with the new 140-section rear tyre, the result is an engaging, sweet-handling motorcycle, capable of fast changes of direction, as well as remaining unintimidating to novice riders.

On the move, it’s also fairly comfortable, soaking up the vast majority of bumps in the road, and only let down in this respect by its hard seat and a persistent vibe through the bars from the buzzy little motor. What’s more, although fine for this 5ft6in tester, the riding position is quite cramped and could feel uncomfortable for a taller pilot over longer distances.

Hunched forward in an almost supermoto-like fashion, the reach to the wider 741mm bars (up from 680mm) has been shortened thanks to a new seat, revised shock settings and stubbier, wider tank, which sacrifices 1.5-litres of fuel capacity to give the MT more of a big bike presence. It also has more prominent air scoops.

Engine

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

Gaining the liquid-cooled, single-cylinder 4v SOHC engine from the 2019 YZF, the bike now benefits from a Variable Valve Actuation (VVA) system.

Triggered at 7400rpm, a pin within the YZF-R125-derived engine switches the variable valve timing from low to high-lift, improving performance significantly at the top end of the rev range. The maximum output of 14.8bhp (0.1bhp up on the previous MT-125) is available at 9,000rpm, with the redline pegged at 11krpm.

There’s also more midrange, meaning less time spent chasing gears to keep up with the flow of traffic. This is aided by a shortened the final gear ratio, which improves acceleration even further. A light clutch lever and smooth gear box also help you to progress through the cogs quickly.

2020 Yamaha MT-125 heading through tunnels on the launch, pilotted by Dan Sutherland

Signaled by a small ‘VVA’ icon on the logically-placed LCD dash, the system also helps deliver greater top end performance, creating more of an engaging riding experience when exploring more open twisty roads. Despite the newer engine, don't expect the Yamaha MT 125 top speed to exceed around (a genuine) 80mph.

Also adding to the excitement is a redesigned exhaust, which has been worked on for improved sound quality (and is very important when you’re 17). Delivering a charming purr from its standard end can, the motor is audible at any speed and really encourages you to work the bike hard to achieve the most from its output.

For smoother downshifts and a lighter lever action, there is also a slipper clutch, which uses less plates to achieve a lighter weight. As well as helping new riders as they get to grips with the manual box, the light lever also allows for optimum low-speed control when scything through city traffic.

You can read an in-depth explination of the Yamaha MT-125's VVA system here.

A diagram of the Yamaha MT-125 VVA engine system

Reliability & build quality

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

Being so new it’s difficult to comment on the reliability of the MT-125, however owners’ reviews from MCN readers on the 2019-onwards R125 (which this bike is based on) suggest nothing but positivity, with four and five-star ratings across the board.

If purchasing on the used market, as with any 125, it’s important to check for a decent service history and any evidence of crash damage. For many owners, this is likely to be their first motorcycle, so tumbles are likely – as is sub-par maintenance.

Look out for scraped levers and pegs, as well as scuffs to the minimalist plastics. Aftermarket levers and exhaust cans - although potentially desirable - could also hide a spill.

A static view of the Yamaha MT 125

Note also the general state of the bike. Has it been cared for? A tip to consider when buying any used motorcycle; rusty chains, bald tyres, leaky fork seals and other small gripes could all reveal a lifetime of neglect.

Bag a good one though (and many newer bikes will be) and you're in for miles of excellent low-capacity motorcycling, with enough 'go' to keep up and stay ahead of the surrounding trafic. 

Value vs rivals

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

Just £100 more than the outgoing MT-125 at its December 2019 launch, with a price of £4449, the MT-125 is an expensive proposition when considered alongside some of its rivals.

With Honda’s CB125R costing cosiderably less at £4049 OTR (2019 price) and Suzuki’s GSX-S125 now just £3599 (with 2019 £500 promotional saving), there are cheaper bikes out there in the catagory.

Riding the Yamaha MT 125

That said, with the new styling, revised engine and sweet handling, these machines would struggle to match the overall package of the Yamaha, which feels like a well-finished high-quality product.

What’s more, when purchased on PCP over three years, it’s just over £70 a month – little more than some 17-year-olds would shell out for their monthly phone contract and online PlayStation account.

Away from the Suzuki GSX-S125 and Honda CB125R, other rivals to the MT 125 Yamaha to consider are the KTM Duke 125, Kawasaki Z125 and Aprilia Tuono 125

How does the Yamaha MT 125 cope against the Honda CB125R? Check out our video review of the Honda below:

Equipment

4 out of 5 (4/5)

Despite being an entry-level motorcycle, the MT-125 boasts a spec sheet some larger-capacity machines could only dream of. With dual full-LED headlights, an easy-to-read LCD dash, complete with programable personal greeting, and new ‘big bike’ inspired looks, it’s hugely impressive.

Much like its fully-faired sibling, this is a 125 for young riders to be proud of, pairing quality components with excellent build quality.

Optional Akrapovic exhaust on 2020 Yamaha MT-125

For a little extra personalisation, Yamaha have also produced a number of accessories, including a ‘Sport Pack’ comprising a tank pad, smoked fly screen, engine protection, LED indicators and a tail tidy.

There’s also an Akrapovič full-system exhaust, which delivers a delightful burble, without being offensive. That said, for many younger riders - who yearn for the antisocial growl of an open-piped single - this noise simply isn't good enough to justify its £664 price tag (2020 pricing).

As such, you can expect many used machines to come with cheaper aftermarket alternatives from the likes of Lextek, which offer the option of removing the baffle for maximum volume at - in some cases - less than half the price, with the added bonus of a lifetime warranty. 

Available in three colours; Ice Fluo (red and grey), Icon Blue and Midnight Black, it arrived in dealers around Christmas time, ahead of the 2020 riding season.

But how does the Yamaha MT 125 compare to the YZF-R125? Check our video review of the latter, here:

Specs

Engine size 125cc
Engine type Liquid-cooled, single-cylinder 4v SOHC
Frame type Steel Deltabox
Fuel capacity 10 litres
Seat height 810mm
Bike weight 140kg
Front suspension Upside down 41mm telescopic fork, non-adjustable
Rear suspension Single shock, preload-adjustable
Front brake Single 292mm disc, four-piston radial caliper
Rear brake Single 220mm disc, single-piston caliper
Front tyre size 100/80 x 17
Rear tyre size 140/70 x 17

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 133 mpg
Annual road tax £20
Annual service cost -
New price £4,449
Used price £4,000 - £4,500
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term -

Top speed & performance

Max power 15 bhp
Max torque 8.5 ft-lb
Top speed -
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range 292 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

2014 – Yamaha MT-125 launched based on the then-current Yamaha YZF-R125. No VVA featured on this model, with the bike fitted with the four-stroke 4v Minarelli engine found in the 2008-2018 R125. Although receiving a few incremental updates, the 2020 model is the first major change.

Other versions

Yamaha YZF-R125 – Launched at the beginning of 2019, the latest incarnation of Yamaha’s fully-faired 125 sportsbike provides the basis for the 2020 MT-125. Sharing the same frame, VVA engine, larger 140-section rear tyre and rim and more, the largest difference between the two machines is found in the styling department.

Yamaha MT range – Away from the sporty YZF, the MT-125 is the smallest in a long line of naked Yamaha road bikes, first launched in 2013. Comprising of the aforementioned 125, A2-compliant MT-03 (also updated for 2020), middleweight MT-07, three-cylinder MT-09 and full fat R1-derived MT-10, Yamaha have now sold over 235,000 MTs in Europe alone.

Owners' reviews for the YAMAHA MT-125 (2020 - on)

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