Bikes 10 Jun 2016

Review: 2017 Suzuki SV650 test rides the 2017 Suzuki SV650.

Words: Matthew Shields

The adoption of the Learner Approved Motorcycle Scheme across Australia had a dramatic affect on the shape of the entry-level motorcycle market in Australia. From what was a range of machinery limited to 250cc machines, the menuboard now includes every style and format imaginable. The larger capacity end of the market is one of the most hotly-contested ones with the range of machinery to choose from including both tailor-made machines for learners with optimised power and handling characteristics and restricted machinery based on full power machines around the 650cc mark. The restricted machines typically are the ones that cause more of a fuss based on the reputation their full-powered versions give them.

If there’s one machine that has been missed from this market segment of late, it would have to be the SV650. Thankfully it returns to the fray this year in place of the stylish and interestingly-named Gladius. When Suzuki moved to the Gladius, it was a step in a gentler direction moving away from the core of what made the SV650 so successful but for 2016 all that changes again. “The factory, in terms of the design concept, has gone full circle and the bike has gone back to its origins,” said Suzuki Australia’s Lewis Croft. “The mid-sized learner market has grown – in Australia it has nearly doubled since 2013. Our market share has declined over the last few years as we deciced to pull back on the SFV650, but with this new bike we hope to reclaim a lot of that market share as the new SV650 goes back too what made the original so good.”

Image: Greg Smith (iKapture).

So how has Suzuki done just that? Firstly, with price. At $9990 rideaway, you couldn’t buy the original machine and register it for that price – so it is better than the original already! Compared to the Gladius it replaces, it is $1500 cheaper, has ABS as standard, is lighter, better handling, better performing and better looking too – and not many people will argue. Most noticeable about the new SV650 is that the styling has gone back to the classic nakedbike look with round headlight and minimal bodywork over a trellis frame carrying a 90 degree V-twin engine. Although it is small in its proportions – something short and novice riders will appreciate when maneuvering the bike – it is still a striking looking machine.

The heart of the SV is an evolution of the original powerplant that has featured in no less than 410,000 units. The first was the faired SV650S and then followed by the nakedbike a year later. In 2003 the boxier-styled SV featured the engine with fuel injection and carried it until it was updated in the Gladius. It also features in the V-Strom 650 in both learner-approved and full power models. On that note, the SV650 is only coming to Australia in the learner-approved, low power version – for now. If this engine wasn’t as reliable and durable as I say it is, surely you would have heard different elsewhere by now.

In the full power trim version we don’t get, the SV puts out 56kW of power. The torque benefit isn’t as impressive with the full power version puts out 64Nm at 8100rpm, where as the Aussie-spec machine is all done with its 57Nm by 4000rpm. Torque is what’s important, and Suzuki’s hasn’t lost much in complying with power restrictions for learners. The resulting engine character is the winner though. It delivers good drive at low rpm and at the other end of the scale freeway speeds are easy to achieve and you’ll see 155km/h, on the racetrack. Top speed isn’t a factor for this machine, though, and the lower end of the rpm scale is very well-suited to the needs of a learner rider with strong, predictable, linear power delivery form a standstill.

Image: Greg Smith (iKapture).

Suzuki has gone a step further cleaning up the bottom-end power by adopting a Low RPM Assist function. By monitoring the gear position, throttle position, rpm and clutch actuation, the ECU alters the ignition timing and throws in a few more rpm on take off to aid the transition from a standing still/clutch in to clutch fully disengaged. This function isn’t a gimmick – you can’t dump the clutch and expect the bike to take off, but you can take off with no throttle at all and just carefully ride the clutch out. For riders who remember learning to use a clutch or have ever taught someone to, this function is a great aid while learning a basic skill and even for experienced riders will clean up take offs on the mid-sized twin to the kind of smoothness you get out of an in-line four.

Once you are on the move the 645cc twin won’t get you into trouble with the throttle. Experienced riders will want more speed, but as a learner or developing rider you wont be left wanting more from the V-twin on a tight twisty road, around town or out on the freeway at the speed limit. There’s a big, purposeful rev range and no need to frantically swap cogs in the six-speed gearbox that is straight out of the unrestricted SV and as a result there are more than you need. If it only had a four-speed gearbox you’d be quite content with the performance in all conditions except the open road. Passing on single carriageway requires preparation and revs onboard to pass safely, but it’ll get the job done well. So it should – Suzuki has been doing V-twins since the 90s and its application has always been done well in both the more road-focussed V-Strom and SV formats.

Along with an engine that isn’t stressed by the level of performance it has to deliver, another advantage of a full power bike made learner-legal is that you get a chassis package that is more capable of dealing with what the engine can serve it. And when you are talking about another 20kW of power, that’s a lot more performance that the SV’s chassis is designed to cope with. There’s a sportier feel to the SV in the handling dynamic than the Gladuis. Steering is light, responsive, the suspension is supple and when pushed hard in the corners there is little you can do to upset the chassis balance. In this regard, the SV chassis is the best performing aspect of the new machine. Add to that sporty rubber, tyre sizes, superb twin disc brakes and ABS and you have an excellent-spec package – and I haven’t mentioned the price again.

Image: Greg Smith (iKapture).

The front-end is a non-adjustable fork while at the rear the shock has preload adjustment. Set up in standard trim for riders around the 75kg mark, even though I was carrying another 25kg I felt no need or want for any adjustment out of the front or more preload in the rear. The actuation is very well-controlled considering how comfortably it rides over bumps and doesn’t go to mush under heavy braking. From the GSX-S1000 is the dash, the main difference being you can’t scroll between the different tacho designs. That’s of little importance to the SV owner and it still has all the extras like clock, tripmeters, fuel consumption and range, but most importantly of all the speed and gear notifications are easily read at a glance.

Looking at the styling you can see Suzuki has done their homework – and perhaps history lesson – by going back to the essence of what the original, highly-succesful SV looked like. It should strike a chord amongst those who remember the first SV, but better still by rolling in the original SV character and traits this new machine will take it back to the head of the class. As a restricted big bike it has a highly-evolved chassis and engine built to deal with a lot more than it delivers. That bodes well in terms of performance, reliability and longevity – something the SV, and then the Gladius, have an impeccable reputation for.

As far as a learner rider’s needs go the new SV650 has a low seat height, easily controlable power, ABS and excellent handling. Add to that the Low RPM Assist and the fact that it is less expensive than any other bike in its market segment and you have the perfect machine to start your life on two wheels aboard.

The liquid-cooled, DOHC, 645cc, 90° V-twin engine comes with more than 60 redesigned parts and components. It delivers strong torque in the low-to-mid rpm range and higher max power and better fuel economy while meeting new EURO4 emission controls. New pistons were engineered using FEM (Finite Element Method) analysis to achieve optimal rigidity and reduced weight. Piston skirts are resin coated, and the other sliding parts are tinned for less friction and greater durability. Suzuki’s original L-shaped piston rings contribute to reduced blowby gas, resulting in less emissions and greater combustion efficiency.

SCEM (Suzuki Composite Electrochemical Material)-plated cylinders reduce friction and improve heat transfer and durability. The cylinder heads feature Suzuki’s original Dual Spark Technology for greater combustion efficiency, better fuel economy and cleaner emissions. The fuel injection system employs Suzuki’s original SDTV (Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve) 39mm throttle bodies, and the secondary throttle valves are controlled by a servo motor for smooth power delivery and optimum combustion efficiency. Ten-hole, long-nosed type fuel injectors are used on each throttle body to improve fuel atomisation for better combustion efficiency and while reducing fuel consumption.

Suzuki’s patented, Throttle-body Integrated Idle Speed Control (TI-ISC) contributes to better startability and stability as well as lower emissions after starting the engine. It is also compact and lightweight. Idling air flow is regulated by the shaft notch section through rotating secondary butterfly valve. TI-ISC has the Low RPM Assist rider aid feature where in take-off or riding at low speeds, the engine rpm sensor sends signals to the ECM, and activates the ISC system. By opening the ISC circuits, the engine rpm raises slightly. The Low RPM Assist features helps the rider in achieving a smoother launch and it also makes the motorcycle easier to ride at slow speeds i.e. In traffic.

The airbox has also been redesigned to match the required intake capacity. The funnels in the air box are of staggered lengths to heighten mid-range torque. The exhaust system is newly designed to achieve lighter weight, clean looks, and brisk acceleration performance. The lower chamber found on Gladius is eliminated and the new design contributes to lighter weight, and stronger low-to-mid range output. The newly designed, high-efficiency radiator with enlarged cooling fan, has increased cooling performance and a liquid-to-liquid oil cooler is used.

The newly designed, full LCD Instrument cluster is lightweight and compact. Thanks to its full-LCD design, it eliminates the need for motor and needle mechanics and weighs only 275g. The instruments are brightness-adjustable full LCD with readouts for speedo, nacho, odometer, dual trip meter, gear position, water temperature, driving range, average fuel consumption, instant fuel consumption, fuel gauge and clock. The cluster is also backlit white for good visibility in night time riding.

The SV650 features the new Suzuki Easy Start system, first featured on GSX-S1000. On most motorcycles when starting the engine, the rider needs to press and hold the starter button until the engine fires up. On the SV650, all you need to do is just press the starter buttom once (just like you do on most of today’s new cars). The ECM recognises the signals and keeps starter motor working for a certain time.

The wet weight of the SV650 is reduced by 8kg from the Gladius ABS (not sold in Aus) and by 5kg over the Gladius (Non-ABS, LAMS) it replaces. More than 70 new parts and components are built into the new chassis to achieve lighter weight and slimmer bodywork. Thanks to its V-twin engine, the seat and fuel tank are slim, making it easier for riders to reach the ground. The fuel tank width (at its widest point) is reduced by 64.5mm while featuring a 13.8L fuel tank capacity.

The seat height is 785mm, the lowest in its class. Shorter riders can confidently reach the ground easier thanks to the new side covers which are slimmer. The seat to fuel tank interface also features a slim profile and the riding position has been designed for sporting comfort. A sporty yet upright riding position reduces rider fatigue and increases visibility.

At the front, 41mm forks feature 125mm travel providing a sporty yet plush ride. The link-type rear shock is tuned to deliver a superb progressive feel whilst efficiently reacting to varrying road conditions, delivering an agile and stable feel. Spring pre-load is 7-way adjustable. Two piston front brake calipers are mated with 290mm floating-mount dual discs providing strong braking performance. The Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) monitors wheel speed 50-times per wheel rotation, and matches stopping power to available traction. The new ABS control unit, produced by Nissin, is compact and lightweight in design, lighter than the previous design by 830g.

Overall shape is designed to express its slim, lightweight design and to enhance the strength of V-twin engine. Clean, neatly-shaped body lines are aimed to be accepted by wide range of riders. A combination of black plastics and painted parts emphasise its slim, sporty and lightweight looks. The body lines are made of flat line on the top and angular line from front axle to tail section. The round shaped headlight is multi-reflector type with 12V60/55W bulb.

Thin, flatly-shaped rear combination lights use LED instead of the Gladius’s bulb –type tail/stop lights. LED lights are high visibility and long life. The fuel tank is narrowly shaped and boasts 13.8L fuel capacity. Sporty racing stripes featured on the fuel tank enhances the SV’s sporty character. Seat shape is tailored for sporty riding and easy to move around on and good grip from the seat cover. Underneath the pillion seat, two luggage loops are installed. It helps rider to carry items and luggage on the pillion seat.


Engine type: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, V-tein
Capacity: 645cc
Bore x stroke: 81mm x 62.6mm
Compression ratio: 11.2:1
Claimed power: 35kW @ 8500rpm
Claimed torque: 57Nm @ 4000rpm
Wet weight: 197kg
Seat height: 785mm
Wheelbase: 1445mm
Fuel capacity: 13.8L
Colours: Pearl Glacier White, Pearl Mira Red, Metallic Mat Black.
Price: $9990 rideaway
Detailed specs: