THIS BIKE'S A BIG DEAL
WORLD FIRST TEST New Yamaha MT-03 mixes lightweight ease with big bike attitude
‘The 321cc twin won’t lash out at new riders and won’t complain if more experienced hands grab it by the scruff of the neck’
Yamaha are a clever bunch. They’ve been on a roll ever since they introduced the MT range back in 2013 with the hugely popular MT-09. They’ve expanded it by adding the excellent MT- 07, a learner friendly single-cylinder MT-125 and the soon-to-be-released muscle naked, the MT-10. But they haven’t stopped there. Yamaha have used their successful machines as donor bikes, restyled them and named them XSRS to fit in their Sports Heritage segment. They are going for domination by producing, adapting and redesigning their bikes to attract as wide an audience as possible. And that’s exactly what they’ve done with the latest addition to the MT family line-up – the new MT-03.
Simply put, the MT-03 is the 2015 YZF-R3 in naked guise, much like the MT-125 is the YZF-R125 and the MT-10 is the YZF-R1 without its fairings. But we’re not complaining. By using clever design and smart marketing Yamaha are reaching out to more customers and hopefully bringing a whole bunch of new riders into the fold at the same time. And that is where the MT-03 fits into all this. Being A2 licence friendly Yamaha hope it will make an attractive stepping stone for new riders looking to progress through the ranks before one day owning one of the firm’s larger machines.
The MT- 03’s engine, chassis and wheels remain the same as the sportsbike-alike YZF-R3. It does away with the R3’s sporty fairings and gets a standard MT headlight complete with LEDS (both front and rear), a mini headlight cowl and a short, sharp tail unit. The R3’s clip-ons have been ditched in favour of a one-piece handlebar, which is now 39mm higher, 19mm closer and 40mm wider than before, making the riding position more upright and comfortable. The seat height remains at 780mm, which allows a 5ft 7in rider like me to plant both feet flat on the floor. And that’s about it as far as changes go, although Yamaha are also boasting over 20 accessories for the 03, far more than they offer for the R3.
How does it ride?
The YZF-R3 won MCN’S group test against the KTM RC390 and Kawasaki Ninja 300 because it was the most user-friendly, versatile and fun bike on test. It’s a proven and capable machine – and its fantastic qualities have been passed onto the MT-03.
The really clever thing about both bikes is that they aren’t big small bikes, but small big bikes. The 03 gets all the benefits of a lightweight machine in an engaging big-boy chassis, coupled with an incredibly flexible and freerevving engine. The 321cc paralleltwin motor won’t lash out at new riders with eager wrists and it won’t complain if more experienced hands grab it by the scruff of the neck to see what it’s made off.
The 41mm Kayaba fork is basic but does a good enough job of inspiring confidence when you push on, even on a bumpy surface. Both the front fork and rear shock are firm enough and
remain compliant and composed too. The front twin-pot sliding caliper complements the suspension set-up by only asking for a gentle squeeze before returning plenty of stopping power, and there’s decent ABS as backup too.
There’s something satisfying about riding a smaller-capacity machine, perhaps because you get to brush up against its limits, and the MT-03 is no different. With peak torque at 9000rpm the 03 requires plenty of leftfoot action to get the most out of it. But when you back off the throttle it’s still very usable and easy-going, making it a really well-rounded machine.
Unlike its bigger siblings which originate out of Japan, the MT-03 is screwed together in Indonesia and only comes in Midnight Black or Race Blu, which is a shame because the rest of the 2016 MT range are treated to the funky Night Fluo colour scheme, which makes the 03’s paint job look dated already. The overall build quality looks good enough with a few notable components like a swish dash featuring gear indicator, fuel gauge and shift light offsetting cheap-looking levers, brake pedal and switchgear.
But we’ll forgive that considering the £4499 price tag, which works out £300 cheaper than the YZF-R3 and only £400 more than the MT-125 and helps the new MT-03 slot perfectly into the MT range.
Swish dash packs plenty of features like fuel gauge and gear position indicator
MT family headlamp features LED running lights
Tapered seat is comfortable and allows easy reach to the floor Cool styling and plenty of attitude, the MT-03 is a proper city slicker MT-03 mixes small
bike agility with big-bike presence