Low-bud­get bat­tle New Z650 v MT-07 v SV650

They may not boast big power, but these mid­dleweights top the sales charts. Which should you buy?

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - By Jon Urry MCN CON­TRIB­U­TOR

The new Fireblade may well dom­i­nate the head­lines this week – and rightly so, a Honda’s flag­ship – but more peo­ple will buy one of these three bikes in 2017. Like a Hol­ly­wood movie, while the stars grab the lime­light, be­hind the scenes an army of work­ers en­sure that the magic ac­tu­ally hap­pens. While Yamaha launched the YZF-R1 in 2015, the bike that trans­formed their fortunes is the MT-07, un­veiled a year ear­lier. And the same has been true in the past for Suzuki with its SV650; ditto Kawasaki and their ram­pantly pop­u­lar ER range. But which one is truly de­serv­ing of your money? Suzuki should pay at­ten­tion to what Kawasaki have done with the Z650 be­cause it per­fectly demon­strates how you can take an out­dated model as a solid base and give it a com­pletely new lease of life. By al­ter­ing the chas­sis and styling, yet leav­ing the en­gine vir­tu­ally un­changed, Kawasaki have taken the ER-6N from mor­bidly obese also-ran to a gen­uinely at­trac­tive mid­dleweight con­tender.

The Z650’s weight loss to­tals an im­pres­sive 17kg, while it also gets an all-new H2-ap­ing trel­lis-style chas­sis and new sus­pen­sion, all of which have trans­formed Kawasaki’s mid­dleweight and given it far sportier han­dling. It has

the same Er-odd­ness of very nar­row bars, which along­side the thin­ner tank and low seat height make it feel re­ally nim­ble in town. But on the open roads it is so much more as­sured. Gone is the overly squishy sus­pen­sion of the ER, re­placed with a bike that on a sunny day I reckon would match the sporty SV650. Yet Kawasaki have man­aged to do this with­out it feel­ing too firm thanks to a well padded seat. It’s not all good news, though. I’m not a fan of the new dig­i­tal dash, and the sculpted tank’s edge did nig­gle against my knees, but over­all the im­prove­ments have cer­tainly moved the Z650 up a level in the mid­dleweight class and al­lowed it to bat­tle with the MT-07.

Like the SV650, on dry roads the Z650 has the up­per hand on the MT when it comes to han­dling, but it can’t match the Yamaha’s mo­tor. The Kawasaki’s par­al­lel-twin en­gine feels lumpier and slower to rev than the MT’S freerevving unit, and this lack of spirit and flair still gives the MT the edge over­all. But it is only by a whisker and where be­fore the Yamaha had ev­ery­thing its own way, now the Zed is of­fer­ing real com­pe­ti­tion in terms of per­for­mance, looks and price.

‘On a sunny day I reckon the Zed would match the sportier SV650’

● 67bhp ● 187kg Far more than a re­hashed ER-6N, the Z650 is 17kg lighter than the ER and boasts a new frame and swingarm as well as a lower seat, im­proved styling and more grunt. YAMAHA MT- 07 £6099 ● 74bhp ● 182kg Yamaha’s best-sell­ing mo­tor­cy­cle in Europe has been a smash hit since it was launched in 2014. It’s the bench­mark mid­dleweight in terms of price and per­for­mance. KAWASAKI Z650 £6099

Nar­row bars make the Z650 a nim­ble per­former

SUZUKI SV650 £5699 ● 75bhp ● 197kg The SV650 was re­ju­ve­nated last year with more than 80 changes that in­cluded a new chas­sis, re­vised styling, a 6kg weight loss and over 60 al­tered com­po­nents within its V-twin en­gine.

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