The Yamaha MT-07 is affordable to buy and incredibly good fun to ride. What more could you want?
The new Yamaha MT-07 represents a fresh approach from Yamaha, not least in its parallel twin-cylinder engine of unique 689cc capacity. But as a sporty twin with lively performance, light weight and an accessible price, it takes the firm back to its roots.
Yamaha’s success in the Seventies and Eighties was based on a string of quick and relatively cheap two-stroke twins such as the RD350 and RD350LC, which provided generations of young riders with their first taste of two-wheeled thrills. Now the MT-07 is attempting to provide a similar combination of fun and value for money.
On paper the MT-07 certainly looks like a promising continuation of the Yamaha revival that began with last year’s three-cylinder MT-09. The twin’s maximum output of 74bhp is respectable rather than outstanding for a 700cc bike, but its price of £5,199 is low enough to put it in a different division entirely, competing with smaller capacity or much less powerful machines.
There’s nothing particularly cheap looking about the MT-07, which is built in Japan, rather than in a developing country for cost reasons like rivals including Honda’s CB500s. The Yamaha is pleasantly styled and seems respectably well finished and comes in a choice of five colour schemes. It’s slim, light at 179kg with a full tank, and has a fairly low seat that helps make it manageable for shorter riders.
According to Yamaha, the unusual capacity was chosen to give an optimum blend of power, torque and economy from the dohc, four-valves-per-cylinder engine. My first impression was of disappointment, because the bike fired up with a lawnmower-like grumble from the short yet very efficient silencer. But if the MT-07 can’t match the aural thrill of its two-stroke forebears (or some modern twins), it certainly provides plenty of performance and fun.
The engine is very flexible, accelerating crisply from low revs, and picking up the pace strongly through the mid-range. It’s happy to rev, staying smooth to the 9,000rpm mark at which that 74bhp maximum is delivered. It also cruises effortlessly at the legal limit and has a top speed of about 120mph, its upright riding position and lack of wind protection adding to the sense of velocity.
Its chassis performance is similarly entertaining. The tubular steel frame isn’t hi-tech but it’s built using several types of high tensile steel, which helps make it a substantial 6kg lighter than the frame of Yamaha’s similarly powerful XJ6 four. The handling is suitably light, even though the MT-07 has a wide, 180-section rear tyre that gives more grip than rivals’ narrower rubber.
Similarly, the ride quality is good, even though the front forks are relatively simple units that can’t be adjusted, and the rear shock can be tuned for spring preload only. The sole slightly disappointing aspect of the chassis is the front brake, which is adequate but less powerful than is suggested by its superbike-style specification of twin discs and four-piston Monobloc calipers. An ABS system is a £400 option.
Still, the MT-07’s combination of engine performance, light weight and handling makes it a more exciting bike than others in its price bracket, and should appeal to a wide variety of riders. Those drawn by its price are likely to find its economy reasonable but nowhere near Yamaha’s claimed 68mpg. I averaged just under 50mpg, giving a range of about 125 miles from the 14-litre tank.
Detailing is generally good. The mirrors are broad and the compact digital instrument panel informative, though its information can’t be toggled using the handlebars’ rather basic switchgear. Versatility can be enhanced via the large range of accessories, from performance parts to screens and luggage.
It adds up to a bike that is inexpensive, reasonably practical and great fun to ride, and which looks the most desirable of the loosely defined class of machines that cost about £5,000. The MT-07 confirms Yamaha’s return not just as a motorcycling force but as a manufacturer of exciting bikes for sensible money. Anyone who (like this former RD400 owner) grew up on those old Seventies and Eighties two-stroke twins will surely be glad about that.
Tested: 689cc four-stroke parallel twin, six-speed gearbox
Price/on sale: £5,199 (£5,599 with ABS)/March 1
Power/torque: 74bhp @ 9,000rpm/50lb ft @ 6,500rpm
Top speed: 120mph (estimated)
Range: 130 miles @ 50mpg (estimated)
Verdict: Quick, light and entertaining naked twin that offers plenty of fun and reasonable practicality at a very competitive price
Telegraph rating: Five out of five stars
Honda CB500F, £4,999
The naked member of Honda’s trio of 471cc parallel twins looks neat, handles well and comes with ABS, but its 47bhp maximum output means it won’t keep up with the more powerful Yamaha.
Kawasaki ER-6n, £5,399
Kawasaki’s parallel twin is the MT-07’s closest rival in layout and performance and is a capable machine, but it’s 25kg heavier than the Yamaha as well as slightly more expensive and less powerful.
Suzuki SV650S, £4,975
Although Suzuki’s middleweight V-twin is old and has no ABS option, its blend of lively 71bhp V-twin engine and reasonably agile, aluminium-framed chassis is still attractive at this price.