Ride Quality & Brakes
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Also adding to this is a redesigned exhaust, which has be 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.
Build Quality & Reliability
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.
Insurance, running costs & value
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 £460 less at £3989 (2019 price) and Suzuki’s GSX-S125 now just £3599 (with £500 promotional saving), there are cheaper bikes out there in the catagory.
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.
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.
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 exhaust, which delivers a delightful burble, without being offensive.
Available in three colours; Ice Fluo (red and grey), Icon Blue and Midnight Black, it’s set to hit dealers around Christmas time, ahead of the 2020 riding season.