YAMAHA MT-125 (2020 - on) Review
- CBT-friendly naked bike
- Extremely popular, keenly priced
- Loads of kit and good reliability
At a glance
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
The CBT-friendly 2020 Yamaha MT-125 is a naked 125cc motorcycle that's ideal for learners, and it's received its first major overhaul since its launch in 2014. The refresh brings it in line with the rest of the ever-popular MT range with radical styling, improved performance and revised geometry.
- Related: Yamaha MT-125 refreshed for 2021
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: it's a miniature supernaked you 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.
Listen to the sound of the 2020 Yamaha MT-125 in our video review:
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
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.
- Related: corner with confidence
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.
EngineNext up: Reliability
The MT makes 14.8bhp, which is the most power a 125 can make whilst remaining learner-legal. This limit isn't always reached, though, so the Yamaha is one of the most powerful 125s you can buy along with the KTM Duke 125, Aprilia Tuono 125 and Suzuki GSX-S125.
Gaining the liquid-cooled, single-cylinder 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.
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. So, how fast is a Yamaha MT-125? With the new engine, it'll get you to around 80mph, not bad for a learner-friendly 125.
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 six-speed 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.
For 2021 the MT-125 received some engine tweaks to ensure it passes Euro5 emissions regulations.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
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.
- Related: How to buy a used motorbike
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 rivalsNext up: Equipment
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.
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.
- Related: Best 125cc motorbikes
How does the Yamaha MT 125 cope against the Honda CB125R? Check out our video review of the Honda below:
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 programmable personal greeting and fuel gauge, 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 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.
In 2021 a Storm Fluo colour was added to the line-up.
|Engine type||Liquid-cooled, single-cylinder 4v SOHC|
|Frame type||Steel Deltabox|
|Fuel capacity||10 litres|
|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||£21|
|Annual service cost||-|
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two years|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||15 bhp|
|Max torque||8.5 ft-lb|
|Top speed||80 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
|Tank range||292 miles|
Model history & versions
- 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.
- 2020 - Refreshed MT-125 launched.
Owners' reviews for the YAMAHA MT-125 (2020 - on)
No owners have yet reviewed the YAMAHA MT-125 (2020 - on).