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Old 03-01-2016, 02:10 PM   #1
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First ride Suzuki SV650 review

The new SV650 updated GladiusSFV60 or new bike Should you care No

FOLLOWING its release in 1999, it didn’t take long for the Suzuki SV650 to become one of the pillars of Suzuki’s range – to the extent that in 2000 it was the second biggest selling bike in Europe (behind the Bandit). People loved the SV for its versatile and capable character; from touring to back lane scratching to commuting and even racing, the SV lapped it up.

Over time, the naked SV became the Gladius (or SFV650 as it’s now called) and sprouted that bulbous headlight and swoopy lines but now it’s being put out to pasture because Suzuki is replacing it with this new SV650. It’s no coincidence that the only thing separating the SFV and SV is the absence of one letter, so we went to Barcelona to see if a bike that has so much in common with the Gladius is really is deserving of the SV name.

Take a walk round the new SV and there’s no mistaking that it’s a basic bike, but thanks to its 645cc liquid-cooled DOHC V-twin engine, within a few minutes of thumbing the one-press start button, I was pleased to find out that I was in for an experience that was more than the sum of the SV’s parts.

The engine, with its new airbox, coasted piston and bores, injectors and exhaust system is undoubtedly the bike’s centrepiece. The configuration makes the SV unique among its competitors, where two of the big players from Yamaha (MT-07) and Kawasaki (ER-6n) use parallel twins instead of the inline-four found in Honda’s CB650F. With a claimed 75hp (5hp more than the SFV) and 47 lb/ft torque on tap, the figures are enough to make it fun, even though it tips the scales at 197kg compared to the MT’s 182kg. The engine is a great balance of smoothness and character, and although I haven’ ridden one for a few months, it didn’t take me long before I’d decided it’s more memorable than the motor in the MT.

Part of the reason for that is because it sounds so good. As well as working on the airbox so it contributes to more power higher up the rev range, Suzuki’s engineers have also spent time making sure it makes a half decent induction noise. They’ve done a good job – with the revs around 5,000rpm, the new SV650 gurgles like Chewbacca and even the stock exhaust doesn’t sound too sad.

On the road, the SV is punchy and while power begins to build from around 3,000rpm, it’s best to keep the motor spinning between 5,000 and 8,000rpm, which is where the I got the best of from the roarty-sounding engine. It’s also got enough to torque to be lazy with it and will tolerate running a gear or two too high without much in the way of protesting. This flexibility, combined with the way it punched me forward when asked to do so more aggressively, makes it feel like an accomplished and versatile bike.

It also benefits from sweet fuelling and a peachy throttle response, both of which came into their own on the countless never-ending curves on the roads leading up the Costa Brava from Lloret de Mar and around. The SV was enormous fun here and although it lacks techy traction controlling trinkets, they weren’t missed because the SV is such a simple and pure, fun loving bike. It really revelled in being turned in and fired out of bends with increasing gusto on my part as I pushed more and more as the day went on. The engine can’t take all the glory here however, because the new SV has a revised chassis (derived from the Gladius) but with 80 changes to make it lighter, simpler and narrower.

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For the most part, the rest of the bike is similarly capable, just not as endearing. Take the suspension for example – at the front the non-adjustable forks felt unfazed by wide range of roads I tested the bike on. They’re not amazing, but Suzuki has made a good choice with them because they coped without fuss all day and never got out of shape over bumps, lump or poor surfaces. I haven’t ridden an MT-07 since last year, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that the SV650’s forks are firmer and better damped when compared to the cutlery on the Yamaha.

It’s the same story with the preload adjustable rear shock – it was fine all day, even during the last and final blast back to the hotel when thanks to a combination of incredible roads and buoyant confidence, the pace was its quickest all day. With the majority of SV650s unlikely to spend their lives being razzed round coastal dream roads there’s no need for super stiff, trick suspension, but the kit that’s on it should be capable of seeing you through a track day or fast road blast without fuss.

Going fast ain’t no fun if you can’t stop though, and the SV’s front wheel is flanked by a couple of two-piston calipers and 290mm floating discs. They are also fine, if not amazing. The power is there, but I found myself using four fingers rather than my usual two on the adjustable lever. Still, they felt OK and gave consistent performance whenever I called on them to properly slow things down for a tight bend.

Suzuki says the new SV is simple, clean looking and is meant to be timeless and loved by a wide range of riders – hence the lack of modern styling trends like a more angular headlight, which it echews in favour of a classic round lamp. I get where Suzuki is coming from with all this, but a part of me can’t help but think that perhaps it looks a bit too classic and could have been styled five or more years ago. It’s up to you to decide whether Suzuki should have put more time in when it came to the styling. The new seat unit is a good example of this of the whole bike’s styling – there’s nothing visually interesting about it and in my opinion, the SV650 looks bland next the ER-6n and MT-07.

Ergonomically, if you’re short, you should have sit on the SV’s comfortable 785mm-high seat and marvel because there’s a good chance both of your feet will be able to touch the floor if you’re at least 5”4”. It’s a comfortable and unthreatening bike to sit on and ride all day and I found all the controls to be nicely and comfortably positioned. The mirrors are good too, and showed more of the road than my shoulder and arms.

The new LCD dash is great – really easy to read, with everything in a sensible, clear place. I suspect it’s attached to a naff bracket though because the dash on my bike easily moved under the weight of my finger as I jabbed my fingers the couple of buttons in charge of resetting this and adjusting that.

The one-press ‘Easy Start’ system worked flawlessly and although it didn’t interest me as a feature, by the end of the day I really liked it. One of the other new features, the ‘Low RPM assist’ - meant to prevent stalling when pulling away, was less useful to me but I can see it being a boon to new riders and people who spend most of their time in cities.

Reworked and rebranded Gladius / SFV650 or not, the new SV650 is a good bike with a lot to offer a lot of riders. It’s not the aluminium-framed naked sports bike it was all those years ago, but that’s not to say it’s short of fun. It’s friendly for new riders, and has ergonomics features that will undoubtedly broaden its appeal among that demographic, while also boasting an engine and grin factor that are deserving of wider attention. It costs £5,499 compared to £5,799 for the ABS Kawasaki Er-6n and £5,759 for the ABS Yamaha MT-07.

Model tested: Suzuki SV650

Price: £5,499

Engine: 645cc liquid-cooled DOHC V-twin

Power: 75hp at 8,500rpm

Torque: 47 lb/ft at 8,100rpm

Weight: 197kg kerb

Suspension: Non-adjustable 41mm conventional fork, preload adjustable shock

Brakes: Front – 2x Tokico two-piston calipers with 290mm discs. Rear – Single piston caliper. ABS.

Tyres: Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier – 160 section rear, 120 front

Fuel capacity: 13.8 litres

Seat height: 785mm

Colours: Black, white and blue

Related Content

Buyer Guide: Suzuki SV650
Suzukiís SV650 scrambler
Living with a 2004 Suzuki SV650 K4
Niall's Spin: 2006 Suzuki Bandit 650
You'll Never Forget Your First (Big Bike)

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