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First ride: 'Suzuki SV650X is an SV with styling mods'

Published: 08 February 2018

Looking at the Suzuki SV650X I can’t help but feel a hint of irony. This is Suzuki’s take on a modern retro, however the bike they are basing it on isn’t that far from being classed as a classic in its own right!

Let’s be honest, while Suzuki have updated the SV (most recently in 2016), it’s still very recognisable as the bike that first appeared in 1999… So what do we have?

Put simply, the X is an SV with some styling mods. The seat has been given a ‘tuck and roll’ look, a nose cone and clip-on bars hint at some cafe racer spirit and, well, that’s about it aside from the paint.

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While the X looks cool, you are left wondering if Suzuki have thrown the towel in when it comes to the motorcycle market as this is their only new model for 2018. But there is a reason why some bikes gradually evolve rather than face radical updates and in the SV’s case it’s because the foundations are so strong.

It’s a shame that because the SV650 has been around for so long, we all forget this fact and it is often overlooked. Armed with a set of clip-ons rather than the SV’s flat bars, the X’s sporty riding position reminds you just how impressive this V-twin middleweight’s handling is.

Through bends the SV is a joy, flicking from side to side with effortless ease. On the back roads it will destroy the softly sprung Yamaha XSR700 and probably also the Ducati Scrambler. In fact, I’d be more than happy to take the SV650X on a trackday as I know it wouldn’t embarrass itself!

Unlike on some other cafe racers, the X’s clip-ons aren’t ludicrously dropped in their position and while set sportily, I’d say they are about as aggressive as the old half-faired SV650S’s bars. However they do position the mirrors weirdly close to the rider, which takes some getting used to. If you are ok with bar end mirrors they won’t bother you, and they do give a good view of the road behind. But the star of the show is that V-twin motor.

While I wish Suzuki had increased its capacity in the 2016 update to nearer 750cc, the SV650’s engine remains a joy to use. The exhaust note is pleasingly deep, the clutch light and the V-twin revs in a soft and assured way that builds up its power with deceptive ease. It’s quick when required, but also extremely easy-going and relaxed when you don’t fancy rushing around.

There is no denying the SV650X is a lazy attempt at retro by Suzuki as it is little more than a few bolt-on parts added to an aging bike. But in the SV650 Suzuki have added these parts onto a brilliant base and that makes the X surprisingly appealing. It’s great fun to ride, well priced and an absolute back road weapon.

But by the same token it’s also just an SV in disguise, which is a bit disappointing, but overall we give it four out of five MCN stars. 

SV650X highlights

  •  Café racer styling with nose cone
  • Sporty clip-on bars
  • Tuck and roll seat
  • 75bhp liquid-cooled V-twin
  • Claimed economy of 72mpg

The facts on the new Suzuki

  • Price: £5999
  • Engine: 645cc (81x62.6mm) liquid-cooled, DOHC, 8 valve, V-twin
  • Frame: Tubular steel trellis
  • Seat height: 790mm
  • Suspension: 41mm conventional forks, adjustable spring preload. Rear: Monoshock, 7-stage adjustable spring preload.
  • Brakes: 2 x 290mm discs, two-piston sliding calipers; 240mm disc, one-piston caliper. ABS
  • Colours: Grey/black
  • Weight: 198kg (wet)
  • Tank capacity: 14.5 litres Power: 75bhp @ 8500rpm
  • Torque: 47ftlb @ 8100rpm

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