Expert Reviews

2017 Suzuki SV650 Test Ride

Suzuki’s SV650 has become something of a cult hero in its 17 years of existence. The light, tight and gutsy little SV is a regular on racetracks thanks to its low cost, easy-to-ride dynamics and low-down grunt.

Those same attributes have made the SV650 a favourite for learners and new riders chasing a middleweight street bike with solid performance credentials at an accessible level.

For 2017 the Suzuki SV650 is reborn in a new generation. There’s no faired version this time, and the SV platform now borrows a little from the Gladius which is discontinued, effectively distilling three bikes into one.

The new SV is far slimmer, lighter and even easier to ride courtesy of some new electric wizardry, specifically Low RPM Assist. This clever gadget uses the ECU to automatically raise RPM when the clutch is released, preventing the rider from stalling.

The system works beautifully. I was able to walk the SV off the line with zero throttle input from me, and in stop-start traffic the Low RPM Assist kept the bike from stalling with far less intervention for the rider than usual. This is the perfect solution not only for new riders who are learning, but for those of us who regularly commute in peak hour on our bikes.

A narrow side profile and a lower (785 mm) seat height also help make this bike accessible and easy to ride. At 5’6 I’m a short man but found I could easily flat-foot one foot and was comfortable on the balls of both feet when moving the bike around.

Also nifty is Suzuki’s easy start. With the bike in neutral, a casual quick-press of the start button has the bike firing up with no more intervention from the rider. I keyed the button quickly as I was putting my gloves on. Motorcycle riders are by nature impatient types – the seconds saved here are more valuable for our sanity than you might think. Indeed, my next test bike was without this feature and it annoyed me no end to have to wait for the engine to catch before I could get on with gloving up, etc.

The engine itself delivers power smoothly and easily right throughout the 11,000 rpm rev range. With 75 hp and 47 lb-ft of torque on tap to motivate the 197 kg (wet) Suzuki middleweight along there’s more than enough gusto to make daily riding enjoyable – though only just enough to get playful with gravity and front suspension travel. Not that we would. Of course.

If you’re fan of 90-degree v-twin engine notes you’ll like this one, but I find the uneven barple to be offputting – more revs only make the sound worse in my opinion. Your results may vary.

Suzuki claims best-in-class fuel economy and under my admittedly heavy-wristed supervision, and without being broken in yet, the SV650 recorded a 4.2 l/100 km average, meaning the 14.5L tank should be good for over 300 km of range.

That light frame and small chassis dimensions take some time to get used to. On my first couple of runs through longer sweepers I experienced momentary instability in the front end. This was because I was anticipating less compliance and effectively turning in too much to the corner. I could have solved the problem with more pace, or by being less aggressive with my turn in. I chose the latter option because the law and because safety – these are public roads after all. One wonders what I could extract from this thing at the track.

The point? You could hustle some really strong mid-corner speed out of the SV650, and it will express frustration if you try to over-ride it at too low a speed. The SV truly does ride like a much smaller bike which can be disconcerting at first but is utterly fantastic once you warm up to it.

The new LCD instrument cluster is the same used on the GSX-S1000 and GSX-S1000F. It’s easy to read in all light and carries a wealth of information – though I wish the bar-graph tachometer was larger and took up more of the screen.

I also couldn’t seem to shift the fuel economy readout away from km/l to l/100 km which I found frustrating.

The ABS system works well and isn’t intrusive, giving a gentle throb in the rear lever when instigated and waiting til late in the grip limit to even engage on the front. Clearly Suzuki prefers to use these tools as a final line of defense, not the point-guard and that’s a good thing, letting the rider get used to braking hard without nannying us too much.

The suspension set up is uncomplicated and provides a decent ride over rough ground. The 41 mm conventional forks with 125 mm of travel could be firmer and aren’t adjustable but do soak up the road with little impact to the riders arms through the wide bars.

The rear shock is again softer than I like but it is adjustable through seven settings for pre-load so can be tuned to suit your tastes. I can see a lot of people who opt to track their SV opting for some different internals in the front but those of us who only casually tickle the track will be well enough served by the standard set up – especially given its compliance on the real roads we ride daily.

When it comes to appealing to a broad church of riders without feeling staid or boring, the SV650 continues to occupy almost its own place on the ladder. Its blend of performance and ease of riding coupled with a sub-$8,000 price tag make it a compelling argument for most riders – new, old and returning alike.

The 2017 Suzuki SV650 is hitting dealerships now with a $7,799 MSRP.

Key Specs: 2017 Suzuki SV650
Engine: 645, 90-degree v-twin
Horsepower: 75 hp (official)
Torque: 57 lb-ft (official)
Curb weight (wet): 197 kg
Seat height: 785 mm
Length: 2,140 mm
Wheelbase: 1,445 mm
Width: 760 mm
Tires front/rear: 120/70 ZR 17, 160/60 ZR17
Fuel capacity: 14.5L
Suspension: 41 mm conventional fork 125 mm travel
Rear – link-type coil spring monoshock with 63 mm travel and seven-level pre-load adjuster.
Frame Type: trellis frame made from high-tensile steel.