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?
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should pay attention to what Kawasaki have done with the Z650 because it perfectly demonstrates how you can take an outdated model as a solid base and give it a completely new lease of life.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.