Tested – Suzuki SV650

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Suzuki’s new SV650 is everything the original bike was, and then some. The king of the middleweight’s is back, and gives more bang per buck than ever.

Suzuki launched the original SV650 back in 1999, and the mercurial middleweight V-twin quickly won us over with its eclectic blend of agility, punchy performance and low price. It was a successful formula and more than 410,000 units were produced. It’s no understatement to say this was a bike that revolutionised the middleweight class, but then Suzuki took its eye off the ball – the Gladius lost the SV’s agility, and Yamaha introduced the class-leading MT-07. The writing was on the wall, and brand new bikes were heavily discounted. We know of some brand-new bikes that were being sold for as little as £3900.

But this year Suzuki has seen sense and given the SV a thorough going over, and the result is the bike you see here – the SV650.

This bike isn’t just some made over and reworked Gladius, it’s an all-new bike, and it’s one that’s to look at – classically modern without being too fussy or cool. It’s full of neat touches; the digital dash, which now includes a gear indicator, oozes quality, and the attention to detail ­– back bars, sporty stripe on the tank, new exhaust – is exquisite.

However, Suzuki’s venerable 645cc V-twin powerplant is the real star of the show. The engine has received 60 changes including new pistons, electro-chemically coated bores, ten-hole fuel injectors. It also boasts a few electronic tweaks such as a new low rpm assist function. All of these changes mean the engine pumps out 75bhp and 47lb.ft of torque, and because it’s a V-twin, it has plenty of punch available when you need it. This is something worth pointing out, as it’s pretty much unique in this class – Kawasaki and Yamaha use parallel twins while Honda uses an inline four – and this is the ace up Suzuki’s sleeve.

Thumb the starter (the SV has Suzuki’s new ‘easy start’ system, which means you don’t have to pull the clutch in; if the bike is in neutral, hit the starter button once and the bike will automatically turn over until it fires into life) and you’ll be greeted by a pleasant, burbling rumble. The Suzuki sounds good, potent even. Suzuki’s engineers have worked on the airbox, ensuring it contributes to more power higher up in the rev range, and that, when combined with the induction noise, giving the SV an addictive sound.

It has the bite to match its bark too. That engine works well on UK roads, combining a useable linear spread of torque with a healthy dose of speed, and it’s just as happy crawling through town as it is hunting down corners on your favourite back roads.

Twist the throttle and the response is instant and smooth, lacking any the hesitation associated with twins of old. This is a bike that delivers and entertain, irrespective of your level of riding experience.

And that punchy performance is more than backed up by the SV’s handling. The chassis is excellent, and while the suspension may lack adjustment (only the dampers’ preload can be tweaked), it’s more than good enough most of the time. You can push it much further than you have any right to, and it will only start to complain when you start taking real liberties.

Its performance may be punching well above its weight, and price tag come to that, but Suzuki hasn’t forgot who this bike is aimed fat, and it retains a wealth of handy new-rider friendly features. The tank is narrow, for improved grip, and this narrowness also impacts on the eat height, which now sits at 785mm. Then there’s the low rpm assist, which has been designed to increase the revs slightly at the point the clutch starts to bite to help reduce the chances of a stall.

This is a bike that offers something to riders of all abilities, and it just as entertaining for new riders as it is for those with more miles under their belts, delivering more smiles per mile than its any of its competitors. And then there’s the price. The SV is back. With a bang, and may just be the biggest bargain in Britain at the moment.

 

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