his is the year of the reboot. Cinema has had another go at making Starwars, and it’s even dug up Dad’s Army for a second crack at the big screen. Hell, TV is desperate enough to give Mrs Slocombe’s pussy another airing as Areyoubeingserved comes back later this year.
It seems the past is the newest gold rush, and now Suzuki are trying to get in on the act. After a tough few years it’s easy to see why the folks from Hamamatsu would look back with hunger. This millennium started with the Bandit 650/S, SV650S and Burgman 650 scooter as Europe’s three biggestselling machines.
But the subsequent decade-anda-half has not been kind to Suzuki. Sales have slipped, the flow of interestgenerating new models has become a dribble and the firm has been forced to raid the back catalogue and stride off down Reboot Street. And that means the SV650, wildly popular on its introduction during biking’s late-1990s boom, is back in the room.
The naked SV disappeared in 2009 as Suzuki dressed it in curvy plastic, flowing exhausts and renamed it the Gladius. Unfortunately the change led to more association with words like ‘Gladys’ or ‘Gladioli’ than the Japanese sword after which it was actually named, and it became seen as a little too feminine for some tastes.
It was the wrong direction, so Suzuki have swung a U-turn and gone back to what the SV did best – simple, inoffensive effectiveness.
After identifying a V-twin’s advantages over the parallel twin of its main rivals (fewer components and narrower layout, not to mention the
Tfact they already had the engine) they set sights on Kawasaki’s ER6-N and Yamaha’s MT-07. The mission was to make the SV lighter, more powerful and easier to handle.
The first target was to improve engine performance, which comes from reducing frictional losses by resincoating the piston skirts and plating the cylinder bores, allowing freer revs and bringing an extra 4bhp at peak.
This also helped meet another key target, passing new Euro 4 emissions regulations and making the SV the first bike in the class to get the new approval.
The final key goal was to make the SV easier to ride, which Suzuki have done with a smattering of new-riderfriendly technologies.
The headline news is always going to be the beefed-up power delivery, with the SV now outperforming the Yamaha by 75bhp to 73 and moving 4bhp ahead of its Kawasaki rival.
But the trouble with gaining extra power by winding up the rev-happy nature is that it comes at the price of low-end grunt, one of the old SV/ Gladius’ main strengths. On the road, it takes more prodigious use of the right hand to get the best from the new motor.
It’s not slow at low revs, but the SV only gets into its stride at 6000rpm and charges on to around 9000rpm before the rev limiter kicks in somewhere north of 10,000rpm. Suzuki’s revisions haven’t changed the amount of torque, which stays the same at 47ftlb, but it’s now strongest at 8100rpm rather than 6400rpm, which is a noticeable difference.
For more experienced riders, the new tune makes for a more rewarding ride. Give the throttle tube some stick and the SV sets off in its own sweet way, addictive induction noise bellowing from the airbox as the slinky-dink gearshift eases your passage through the box.
But what newer riders will make of this more demanding power delivery is something that will have to wait for another MCN test. There’s more demand on the left foot to keep the engine in its sweet spot and lazily chugging around in a tall gear won’t be as easy to do in this new guise.
The route for MCN’S first ride in Girona, Spain was dominated by tight stretches of tarmac wriggling their way up and down hills on the Catalan coast. The concentration-sapping stretches were second and third gear territory and the SV’S easy-going engine was the ideal companion.
The most snaggled road sections gave MCN the chance to test the SV’S Low RPM Assist function, one of Suzuki’s novice-friendly innovations. It’s primarily designed to eliminate stalling while pulling away, by increasing the revs slightly when the clutch starts to bite (the tacho shows another 250rpm if the clutch lever is eased out without the rider touching the throttle). But it’s also effective while riding at low speed, and makes life easier when squirting between tight turns. Instead of changing down to second gear for each corner, the system lets the rider stay in third without the engine labouring and becoming tricky to handle, which is a plus even for more experienced riders.
This all flatters a chassis that has sensibly been left alone, as there was little wrong with the way the old bike conducted itself. The new SV is 8kg
‘The SV650 sets off in its own sweet way, addictive induction noise bellowing from the airbox’
Instead of pressing the starter button and holding it until the engine fires, it now only takes one tap of the button. This is not just aimed at new riders as Suzuki introduced the system on their GSX-S1000 super
naked. lighter than its predecessor, a significant saving, and while it’s impossible to say whether it’s improved the handling it certainly hasn’t spoilt it.
The steel trellis frame is the same and it’s suspended by a similar shock and fork, which work well enough for a bike that costs £5499. The non-adjustable front end is never going to be the most compliant, but it’s effective and doesn’t dive at the first sign of weight transfer under braking. Preload adjustment would be helpful, but such luxuries come at a price (and it isn’t £5499).
The shock has seven-step preload adjustment and it coped well with my 14.5-stone frame throughout a challenging ride. It’s basic and effective for the price, but it will be one of the areas that more demanding riders will probably want to lavish some attention on. To help less experienced riders, the SV raises revs slightly when the rider releases the clutch lever to reduce the chances of engine stall and, say Suzuki, make the bike easier to ride in low
Suzuki claim the new SV covers another 5.77 miles per gallon than the old bike in test conditions, at 73.46mpg. On the launch MCN recorded 49mpg, but that was after 140 miles of hard riding in mainly second and third
The cooling system is revamped with a wider radiator and a liquid-to-liquid oil- cooler. This is located behind the oil filter and is connected to the engine coolant system, and lowers the temperature
of the engine oil.
The SV’S new piston skirts are coated with resin, both to reduce friction and to help the engine meet Euro 4 emissions rules. Max torque remains the same, but it peaks 1700rpm higher than before, at
The heavy exhaust on the Sfv/gladius has been junked, along with its bulky underslung
collector box. The new twointo-one system has a slimmer catalytic converter and contributes 3.5kg to the overall weight