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YAMAHA YZF600 THUNDERCAT (1996-2003) Review

Published: 24 November 2006

Updated: 21 November 2014

"A real alternative to the VFR750/800 series and very underrated"

YAMAHA YZF600 THUNDERCAT  (1996-2003)

"A real alternative to the VFR750/800 series and very underrated"

  • At a glance
  • Read more about the YAMAHA MT range.
  • 599cc  -  100 bhp
  • 40 mpg  -  140 miles range
  • Insurance group: 14 of 17
    Compare insurance quotes now
  • Medium seat height (805mm)

Overall Rating 4 out of 5

If you're after a versatile sports-touring motorcycle, with a reliable engine, decent suspension and braking, plus the ability to carry two people plus kit for a two week holiday, the Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat is damn-near perfect.  The Thundercat makes a real alternative to the VFR750/800 series and is very underrated.

Ride Quality & Brakes 3 out of 5

Push on and the Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat goes all Bagpuss on you. The motorcycle weighs a beefy 187kgs dry and its suspension - especially at the front end - is too soft to cope should you decide to play tag with someone who knows how to ride a pure sportbike. That said, the Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat is a superb touring motorcycle.

Engine 5 out of 5

Basically a detuned R6 motor, the Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat has a claimed 100bhp in its cylinders, it provides all the power you need, so long as you have to rev it above 6000rpm. The Thundercat's gearbox makes playing racers occasionally a whole lot of fun, although the clutch is the weak link in the transmission.

Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5

Apart from the cheaply painted exhaust system, which tends to rot quickly in winter, the Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat is a well built motorcycle and the engine will easily rack up 60,000 miles without major problems. The beautiful brake calipers need careful attention in winter to keep them from seizing up too - a common Yamaha problem. 

Insurance, running costs & value 4 out of 5

Motorcycles like the Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat go cheap secondhand, mainly because they've never really been in fashion. But the Yamaha Thundercat offers sharper handling, better braking and slightly more durability than also-ran 90s motorcycles like the Suzuki GSX600/750F, BMW R850R or Triumph Trident 750. Worth a look. Find a Yamaha Thundercat for sale

Insurance group: 14 of 17 – compare motorcycle insurance quotes now.

Equipment 3 out of 5

The YZF600R Thundercat has decent brakes but the suspension is a bit soggy and the dashboard doesn't offer much touring related info. The Thundercat's fairing is a bit wider than the average 600cc motorcycle, so it offers good wind protection, with a slightly higher screen than usual too.

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 1996
Year discontinued 2003
Original price -
Used price -
Warranty term (when new) Two year unlimited mileage
Running costs
Insurance group 14 of 17
Annual road tax £66
Annual service cost £200
Performance
Max power 100 bhp
Max torque 48 ft-lb
Top speed 145 mph
1/4-mile acceleration 11.3 secs
Average fuel consumption 40 mpg
Tank range 140 miles
Specification
Engine size 599cc
Engine type 16v, in line four, 6 gears
Frame type Aluminium Deltabox type
Fuel capacity 599 litres
Seat height 805mm
Bike weight 187kg
Front suspension Preload, rebound, compression
Rear suspension Preload, rebound, compression
Front brake Twin 298mm discs
Rear brake 245mm disc
Front tyre size 120/60 x 17in
Rear tyre size 160/60 x 17in

History & Versions

Model history

1996: Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat launched.
1997: Dark blue metallic paint scheme dropped.
2000: New silver/yellow and red colour schemes.
2002: New Yamaha blue/white colours.
2003: Yamaha YZF600R Thundercat discontinued.

Other versions

None.

Owners' Reviews

20 owners have reviewed their YAMAHA YZF600 THUNDERCAT (1996-2003) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

Review your YAMAHA YZF600 THUNDERCAT (1996-2003)
Summary of Owners' Reviews
Overall Rating 4.5 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 4.3 out of 5
Engine 4.5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4.6 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4.8 out of 5
Equipment 3.8 out of 5
5 out of 5

What a bike!

20 September 2018 by William Knott

Bloody brilliant bike. Biggest problem is what will I ever replace it with?! I bought my Thundercat with 28k miles on it and only intended to keep it for up to 1 year. That was 5 years ago and it's now got 50k miles on it! I've had other more expensive, newer, faster bikes since and they have all come and gone and still the Thundercat remains. It's just such a useful and lovely bike. I commute on it, tour on it, do track days and just fun days out. It does all of this brilliantly and totally reliably, while still returning up to 60mpg (UK). It's very comfortable - have crossed the entire width of Southern Ireland on it in one hit and it was still comfortable at the end of that! The brakes are great (although they do require cleaning and servicing to keep them from binding). I use it all year round in sun, rain, and even snow, and it still looks great after a clean (I treat it with ACF50 for the winter). In summary it's so good I don't know if I'll ever find anything to replace it!

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
Brakes are spot on - just keep them serviced. Ride quality is lovely. Can tour all day long in comfort, but still keep the litre bikes honest on track. Ideal. I keep thinking I'll need to replace the shock but that still hasn't happened.
Engine
5 out of 5
What a jewel. Loads of mid range, great top end rush - lots of power for a 600, 60mpg and total reliability. What's not to love?
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
The build quality is much better than you'd imagine. The paint is good and overall it puts lots of new bikes to shame. Reliability is faultless. I never worry about reliability with this bike at all.
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
Cheap to buy, service, insure and fuel. Total bargain for a bike that can do so much.
Equipment
4 out of 5
Not much equipment but I like it that way. It has good bungee hooks and a big comfortable seat. That's all the equipment I need really.
4 out of 5

25 June 2015 by Keith1983

Great all-rounder that is a big step up from my previous SV650S

Ride Quality & Brakes
3 out of 5
The standard front shocks are a bit like a pogo stick. I intend to change the oil in them and maybe get some progressive springs to sort the front end.
Engine
5 out of 5
The engine will do whatever you want it to. Give it some revs and progress is rapid. You can also get away with being a little bit lazy on your gear changes if you're just pootling along!
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
The naff standard exhaust lets it down a bit but other than that if it's looked after it will last!
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
These are stunning used bargains at the minute. I got mine with 15k miles for £1400!
Equipment
3 out of 5
As you'd expect. Nothing less, nothing more.
4 out of 5

Cheshire cat grin?

31 May 2015 by ilimiti

As a rider who has recently gained a full A license I cannot recommend this bike highly enough! Useable, fun and cheap to insure! The power works across the range and the bike is very forgiving of those mistakes we all make at times. The only problem with this bike would be the weight, it is however only a matter of getting used to it and being careful when moving the bike under your own steam.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
The t'cat is a Jack-of-all-trades, it enjoys a spirited ride (although not quite as taught as its r6 sister) but can easily take care of the rider if you need to be in the saddle for over six hours (i've done this three times in the past 2 months and haven't been notably uncomfortable once). The brakes have an amazing amount of feel and are one of the keys to this bikes ability to build confidence for a new rider in my opinion.
Engine
4 out of 5
The power delivery is usable for any occasion whether commuting or having some fun. Predictable inline four with a touch more flexibility than the comparable pure sports machines. In all honesty the t'cat leaves me grinning every time I ride it and this is in no small part due to the usability and performance of the engine. Exciting and surprising.
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
They are not altogether modern motorcycles however I've yet to have any kind of problem which wasn't wholly due to the dealership I bought it from.
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
Cheap parts available and good mpg.
Equipment
3 out of 5
Not a lot of modern equipment on the t'cat. No fuel gauge and an analogue dashboard. Luckily the previous owner installed a touring scottoiler as well as braided lines. Can't recommend these highly enough. Currently running avon 3d x-m tires front and rear and have to say they feel great in the twisties and in the wet.
Buying experience

I bought my t'cat from a dealer in Bradford, but would not buy from them again! There was a rubber seal missing from engine filler cap, oil sump loose, wrong size back tyre fitted with a leaking valve and a dead battery. Absolutely shocking from a dealer claiming to do all work in-house.

5 out of 5

What a Smasher

10 October 2012 by kevtore999

I've owned my 1996 Yamaha Thundercat since March 2012, If your looking for a reliable, economical with excellent performance and good handling look no further. I get about 180 miles to a full tank (£20).. Its happy cruising down the motorway at 70mph or flying round a track at 130mph. I'm struggling on what bike I'll get next as I'm so happy with the Thundercat, my next bike is going to have alot to live up too. Really is under estimated!

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
-
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
3 out of 5
-
4 out of 5

Thundercat Review

11 November 2011 by jackson7715

Well what can i say,ive had my bike for nearly a year, and am still getting to grip with the bike really. The bike does everything i can ask of it, and is great for gaining confidence on. (Hence why i got it!.) The brakes are strong, especially the front end, mine are due a overhaul and clean now. (winter job). Riding position, i wouldnt really say extreme, cam get a bit of ache on the wrists, and for me leg cramp (only long journeys), but otherwise spot on. The engine so far has been pretty good, no major mecahnical dramas at present, so all good there. Gearbox so far has been pretty solid, albeit a few false neutrals. But thats it,otherwise faultless. Check shock for damping, mine's going for a rebuild soon,as im sure its not ben touched since 96!. def worth doing, its only gotta make it better right!. about £150.00 ive been quoted for all new internals and set up to rider weight,new oil etc. Equipment is basic, but does the job no problems. Paid £1000 for mine,with 18,000 miles on the clock 96 bike, and have seen cheaper around. So bargains to be had. As a bike to gain confidence on,and get to grips of a bigger bike, its brilliant. I can see me holding on to the Cat for some time yet. O' and yes it's fast!. Predeccesor to the track hungry R6.. Capable of 130mph no problems, more id say if u get a later bike such as a 2000 plated bike. So all in all a good solid,fun reliable bike, definately in sports tourer category.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
-
Engine
4 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
3 out of 5
-
5 out of 5

One of the most underated bikes out there

06 May 2010 by Conan46

I brought mine having past my Direct Access August 2007. I’m 6’2”, 125 kg (20st) which doesn’t fit in with my love for sports bikes! Despite this, the Cat is as big a 600 as you will find and I was happy to do long motorway runs on the large, comfy seat. The riding position is friendly on the larger framed rider, with low pegs and bars at a nice height putting very little weight on the wrists. The rear is pretty soggy in its default setting so you may want to consider firming it up. Despite having no previous biking experience, it was a doddle to jump on and ride. The engine is a joy and demands to be revved. Although the Yam would be eaten alive on the track, in the real world, it would hold its own against anything. It is the ultimate first big bike, confidence builder, great all-rounder with no major faults.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
-
Engine
4 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
-
5 out of 5

Great real world bike

08 April 2010 by blackbullet

One of the greatest real world sport bikes ever made. Comfortable as a commuter and has an engine with a usable power band. I have had my bike for three years and over 50,000 miles in that time and have not had any problems. Highly suggest getting a used Thundercat over the new budget minded diversion that does not even have an adjustable suspension....really yamaha?!?CRAP

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
-
Engine
4 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
5 out of 5
-
4 out of 5

Better than a ZZR600

20 May 2009 by Ealing53

Came back to biking after a gap of 5 years having owned a ZZR600 previously, and bought a 10 year old bike. I absolutely love it! The balance of the bike is something to behold; although heavy to push around whilst moving you can easily manoeuvre it at near walking pace which makes it ideal for commuting through congested London. The ergonomics are simply superb as well thanks to the short tank, perfect for my 5'5 frame (who needs to flatfoot anyhow). Fantastic value for money too, and economical if ridden smoothly. The only downside is the gearchange from 1st to 2nd - feels like the gearbox is about to fall out! The ZZR which most people compare this bike was better equipped, but top-heavy with a long reach to the bars.

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
-
Engine
4 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
3 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
3 out of 5
-
4 out of 5

american import thundercat

28 April 2009 by asroth

Lovely smooth bike, very smooth engine, dos have a manual chooke, but didnt have any problem starting the bike. Quite light to throw around, more economical than most reviews give it, did an average of 60 mpg , averaging at 5-6k revs, would get 240 miles on a tank including the reserve. My only fault of the bike is the riding position, im 6'1 and found to much weight on my hands and got cronic back ache after a few miles.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
-
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
5 out of 5
-
4 out of 5

MUCH FASTER THAN EXPECTED

06 April 2009 by stevejacko101

BOUGHT MY THUNDERCAT IN 2008 AND HAVE NOT BEEN DISAPPOINTED.HAD TO REPLACE THE SILENCER WDUE TO ROT, PUT A DELKEVIC ON AND IT SOUNDS NICE!! IT IS VERY QUICK TOO, ITS AN IMPORT AND IVE HAD 150+ MPH OUT OF IT AND MY MATES WITH BIGGER BIKES CAN'T BELIEVE HOW WELL IT GOES... MAYBE IT WAS PREVIOUSLY TUNED BUT IT REALLY DOES SHIFT. REALLY RELIABLE BIKE WITH LOW RUNNING COSTS AND INSURANCE. NO PLANS TO REPLACE IT AS IT GOES SO WELL!!! AN EXCELLENT BIKE ALL ROUND.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
-
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
-
4 out of 5

Great all rounder

29 November 2008 by Johndercat

I picked up a red white and black '98 model about 3 months ago for daily use and I love it. Mostly. Doesn't do a lot below 6000 revs as you'd expect which is actually quite helpful when the weathers poor, you never feel like your going to spin the wheel out. Gets going nicely at 6000 and takes off at 8000. Brakes are lovely, lights are good if you upgrade to a halogen bulb and handles well if set up correctly but isn't as sharp as some. Seat and position are comfier than a pair of old boots and you can easily get 50 mpg out of it. Buy. Ride. Enjoy. NOW

Ride Quality & Brakes
3 out of 5
-
Engine
4 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
4 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
-
5 out of 5

Brill

17 August 2008 by fkerrigan

I've had a 2001 model for 3 years nows and can't fault it. Still have the same chain, sprockets and brake pads. In July 2008 I took it to Europe via France, Swizerland, Italy and Germany. The cat was faultless and never missed a beat. It was packed up for two weeks with gear and soft luggage. I also use it daily for getting into work as well as back lane scratching and general touring. The handling is perfect for the road is very stable. The tank range is good with 19litres and with the reserve light coming on around 150 miles.

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
-
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
-
4 out of 5

1997 Thundercat

06 July 2008 by staffsknot

This is my first all rounder 600 and I have to say I was really impressed with the brakes and handling. Never had any problems with the bike, always fills me with confidence and its quick enough to keep up with my friends on proper sports bikes. Ideal as a first bike and I won't be selling mine, it might become a second bike though.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
-
Engine
4 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
4 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
-
4 out of 5

My 1st Bike

19 June 2008 by weatie

I owned one of these in 1999 as my first bike. It was awesome as a first bike as was easy to get on with. I even went to MotoGP at Le mans on it and it was very comfortable and capable.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
-
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
-
5 out of 5

Let the cat out of the bag

22 May 2008 by buginson

Although this lovely machine has the oddest name ever (80's cartoon) It has never disappointed me! It is on the large side but this helps stability in windy conditions. I don't know if there is something wrong with mine but MCN states 140miles per tank of fuel . . . well I get around 200 miles on mine. The best bike i've ever owned, very comfortable especially for passengers! Mine is the 1998 version in Black orange and silver. Some dislike this colour and some love it. For a good review on the yamaha thundercat and looking after it see. . . http://reviews.ebay.co.uk/Yamaha-Thundercat-YZF600R-Guide-to-buying-Servicing_W0QQugidZ10000000002245488 The next bike I will buy when I do will be another Yamaha Thundercat!

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
-
Engine
4 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
-
5 out of 5

My first bike

24 May 2007 by skycat

Love it... and sad to of seen it go. For anyone deciding on a first bike, this is it. I had the 2002 model, blue and white. I loved the looks, though i fitted a aftermarket carbon can, sounded fantastic. Good handling, good for long distance, and good for a blast. Oh and excellent brakes.

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
-
Engine
4 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
4 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
-
4 out of 5

Great 1st bike for bigger rider

12 March 2007 by mcnricharde

I bought a 1997 Cat (11k) in 2005 for £2k and it's been a terrific reintroduction to biking after a 6 year layoff. Great value, decent comfort (6' 3" & 17 st) and quick enough for the road (license threatening on ever blast). I'm beginning to find the limits of the 600cc engine, but would find it hard to get rid of such a good bike. I'm hoping to convince the misses I need to keep it as a winter hack when I can afford a newer bigger bike. It's a shame most new 600s are so small in comparison.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
-
Engine
4 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
4 out of 5
-
Equipment
3 out of 5
-
5 out of 5

THUNDERCAT 1998

15 September 2006 by sextotty2308

I bought mine last year a 1998 model, it was my first bike from getting my ''big bike licence'' all I can say about the bike is it's excellent , I have had no problems with it at all, the seating position for me is perfect as I found the sports bikes I rode I did'nt like, it is A very easy and forgiving bike to ride and in the future I'll probably move up to the thunderace, all in all if you get the chance to buy one........DO IT. Strengths: Brilliant all rounder, very comfortable for the long miles, looks sporty, very quick, ideal first bike. Weaknesses: None that I can think of.

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
-
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
-
5 out of 5

Awesome, I regret the day I sold it but you sometimes don't know what you got til it`s gone.

29 April 2006 by ianalaidler

I owned a red and white one with braided hoses. It was fantastic, very quick, great handling and the brakes were amazing. These bikes go for a song and if I find a clean example I`ll definately get another. Comfort is good, I once spent 8 hours solid riding with only minor discomfort. The engine is sweet and has loads of midrange. Seriously this bike will feel so strong compared to the current revvy 600 supersports bikes like the R6. The top end rush is great too. The engine sounds fantastic at anything over 4000rpm. Do yourself a favour BUY ONE. In fact don't, leave them for me. Strengths: Engine and brakes are flawless, handling is spot on, comfort, reliability, cost. Weaknesses: Honestly I can`t think of any weaknesses. Not many clean examples for sale I suppose. Most are fairly old by now.

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
-
Engine
5 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
-
5 out of 5

Excellent Allrounder

12 March 2006 by gwarman

This is my first bike and I've had it for 15 months. In that time I've done over 20k miles. It makes an excellent first bike for those whose "larger frame" doesn't suit a smaller machine. The bike's easy to control but you can let loose when you want to, I can't keep up with a mate in the corners on his CBR600RR but that's no drama. Speed in a striaght line and on A-roads is great for a bike of this age. Reliability is impeccable. I commute in all weathers, all year round. The only issue was when the front sprocket nut came off, a £4 fix!! I find Avon Azarao's are a good combination for the tyres and last really well, that last rear lasted 8k miles! Fitting braided hoses really helps the brakes. Strengths: Easy of use, comfort, usable power and reliability. Weaknesses: Front headlamp, I generally commute with the fullbeam on. Needs an aftermarket pipe as otherwise it's too quite.

Ride Quality & Brakes
4 out of 5
-
Engine
4 out of 5
-
Build Quality & Reliability
5 out of 5
-
Value & Running Costs
4 out of 5
-
Equipment
4 out of 5
-

Photo Gallery

  • YAMAHA YZF600 THUNDERCAT  (1996-2003)
  • YAMAHA YZF600 THUNDERCAT  (1996-2003)
  • YAMAHA YZF600 THUNDERCAT  (1996-2003)
  • YAMAHA YZF600 THUNDERCAT  (1996-2003)
  • YAMAHA YZF600 THUNDERCAT  (1996-2003)
  • YAMAHA YZF600 THUNDERCAT  (1996-2003)
  • YAMAHA YZF600 THUNDERCAT  (1996-2003)
  • YAMAHA YZF600 THUNDERCAT  (1996-2003)
  • YAMAHA YZF600 THUNDERCAT  (1996-2003)
  • YAMAHA YZF600 THUNDERCAT  (1996-2003)
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