The Suzuki SV650 has been around since 1999, during which time it’s not only grown into an adventure bike and a half-faired sportster, it’s even been a stylish Italian naked. But, more significantly than that, during its 16-year lifespan, the SV650 has sold over 410,000 units.
Few machines can claim to have introduced more learners to the delights of two wheels, or covered a greater number of commuter miles than the SV650. Throughout the 2000s, this bike has demonstrated that a cheap middleweight can punch well above its weight, and forged a formidable reputation for reliability and handling. Then it grew old, morphed into the unpopular Gladius and finally, when Yamaha launched the hugely successful MT-07, its sales dried up. Now Suzuki has reinvented its sporty middleweight V-twin to not only meet the new Euro 4 emission laws, securing its future, but also to take on the MT-07…
You know that feeling when you dive deep into your chest of drawers and discover a long-lost T-shirt that you’d all but forgotten about? That little tingle of joy that once again you can display your allegiance to a certain band, or prove you attended a famous event. Oddly enough, I got a very similar feeling to this within a few miles of riding the new 2016 Suzuki SV650.
The SV has long bubbled around under the surface, and in the recent excitement surrounding Yamaha’s MT-07, riders – myself included – have tended to forget it existed. Riding the 2016 Suzuki SV650 I’m once again reminded just how good the SV is. After a few years in the wilderness, the SV650 is most certainly back on the middleweight scene and thanks to a series of seemingly minor alterations, is ready to take on the MT-07 head-to-head. And it could well be a very close run battle in the UK’s showrooms.
Let’s not beat around the bush here, Suzuki has had a miserable time of late. The financial crisis has hit it hard, resulting in a lack of new models. Where Yamaha has caught the ball and made it to the try line, Suzuki has fumbled and knocked on. So, when news of a 2016 Suzuki SV650 emerged, most thought it was a bare minimum rehash to the firm’s trusty old warhorse. As it turns out, this is far from the case.
While the general basics remain the same, the 2016 Suzuki SV650 has received a significant number of updates – 140 to be precise, with the overall target of returning it to its original concept of a light, fun, V-twin sportsbike with a tempting price tag.
While the engine remains essentially the same, The 2016 Suzuki SV650 has been refined with over 60 new parts to give it a bit more of a fighting spirit and to satisfy Euro 4. It’s far from a drastic redesign of the 90° V-twin, but it has added a few bhp as well as improved its fuel economy to a claimed 73 mpg. Power is now 75bhp @ 8500 rpm – 4bhp up and 500 rpm earlier. Torque is up just 0.7lb-ft, but comes in 500 rpm later, with 47.2lb-ft @ 8100 rpm.
The chassis, which is heavily based on the Gladius’ trellis, is also tweaked. Overall, the bike is 8kg lighter, has a lower 785mm seat height and a far less quirky look than the Gladys. In short, it’s a revamped naked SV650 that has (thankfully) fed the soft and spongy Gladius to the lions. And it rides considerably better too…
2016 Suzuki SV650 – On The Road
Looks aside (which are a million times improved), when you sit on the new 2016 Suzuki SV650 it feels narrower, sportier and instantly cooler. The digital dash (which is very similar to the GSX-S’s) now has a gear indicator as well as the usual fuel gauge and trips. The seat is still very low at 785 mm, and a combination of the new sculpted pad (which has hidden luggage hooks) and the bike’s narrower waist (now 30mm more svelte) mean even the shortest of riders should find their feet planted firmly on the ground. It’s a reassuring and upmarket place to be, and a considerable improvement over the previous SV and Gladius models Touch the starter once and the engine will automatically turn over until it fires up. I’m not sure of the benefits of this new system, but it is a classy touch. Pull in the lovely light SV clutch and easing away has become even simpler thanks to Suzuki’s new ‘low rpm assist’.
Newer riders may appreciate this 2016 Suzuki SV650 technology, which increases the rpm slightly to avoid a stall, but I suspect those more experienced won’t even spot it’s there. While you can actually pull away on an even surface or downhill without touching the throttle, it’s more of a background likely to appreciate is the improved motor and chassis…
The 2016 Suzuki SV650 major strength has always been its 645cc V-twin, and this version is certainly the best incarnation of it to date. It’s not quite got the instant punch of the MT’s parallel twin, but the V-configuration makes it smooth and very easy to live with. As well as keeping the vibrations to a minimum thanks to its 90° angle, the improvements Suzuki has made to its power characteristics ensure it is an engaging motor to use and far from dull or lacking in grunt.
From very low in the rev range the little SV happily pulls and its flat torque curve means you’re seldom left wondering if you need to shift down to gain some momentum. There isn’t much of a top-end kick, but on a sporty middleweight I’d rather have an easy-going motor than a peaky one that needs to be revved. And anyway, should you need some excitement, just show the 2016 Suzuki SV650 a set of bends. Race series such as the MiniTwin championship have demonstrated the sporting potential hidden within older versions of this middleweight, and the new SV has lost none of its edge.
In fact, it’s even better. The forks may not be adjustable and the shock only has spring preload to fiddle with, but that doesn’t detract from the SV’s handling. Given a few tight bends, it really is surprising just how agile the new SV is and how well its new suspension acts. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if in a back-to-back run down a twisty road with the slightly soft MT, the SV comes out on top. But, agile as it is, do not think that Suzuki has overstepped the mark.
The great thing about the 2016 Suzuki SV650 is that while it can be thrown from one stupidly long hero blob to the other, by the same token it can simply be enjoyed at a more sedate pace. The 8kg weight saving and a slightly altered weight distribution mean this is a bike that feels even lighter than its 197kg kerb weight suggests. In town the SV takes no effort to carve through traffic while on the open road it’s responsive and fun to zip through the bends at whatever pace you choose. In short, its attitude is just like the original SV – fun and sporty without overstepping the mark. Which is exactly what Suzuki aimed to achieve.
2016 Suzuki SV650 vs Yamaha MT-07
But is it better than the Yamaha MT-07? There are a few key factors that have ensured the MT-07’s success up to now. First is its price, which Suzuki has beaten with the £5499 SV. Second is its excellent parallel twin motor, which while possibly not quite as peppy (gearing could be a factor here) the 2016 Suzuki SV650’s V-twin does offer a viable alternative to. It’s not as exciting as the Yamaha’s motor, but it is smoother and more relaxed.
Third is the MT’s styling, which is a subjective issue, but if you like more classical naked than neo Japanese, the 2016 Suzuki SV650 does appeal. And finally there’s its handling, with which I think the Suzuki may well have the edge over the Yamaha. What does all this add up to? A very close run race. It it will be hard to pick a winner until they are tested together in the UK. For sheer fun factor the MT might edge it, but for the overall riding experience, the SV is in with more than a shout of glory. Welcome back SV650, we’ve missed you.
2016 Suzuki SV650 Specifications & Price
Engine : 4-Stroke, 645cc, Liquid-Cooled, 90° V-Twin
Peak Power : 75 bhp (56kW) @ 8500 rpm
Peak Torque : 47.2lb-ft (64Nm) @ 8100 rpm
Frame : Tubular Steel, Trellis Style
Transmission : 6-speed, Chain Final Drive
Front Suspension : 41mm Telescopic Forks, Non-adjustable
Rear Suspension : Monoshock, 7-way Adjustable Spring Preload
Front Brakes : 2 x 290 Discs, Twin-piston Calipers
Rear Brakes : Single Disc with Single Piston Caliper.
Front Tyre : Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier 120/70 – 17
Rear Tyre : 160/60 x 17
Wheelbase : 1445 mm
Fuel Capacity : 13.8 litres
Kerb Weight : 197 kg
Seat Height : 785 mm
Price : £5499