Yamaha MT-03 Test
Motorcycle Test by Wayne Vickers – Images by Rob Mott
I’m the first to admit that as a relatively seasoned rider I do find it challenging to get excited about entry level bikes. They generally don’t stir my nether regions like their full sized big brothers can – nor should they be expected to really… that said, I did thoroughly enjoy my time aboard the little MT03. It’s got quite a bit going for it and would make an excellent mount to learn the ropes on and start pushing the boundaries. I must say I’m liking the direction that Yamaha has taken their product line of recent years with the focus on fun and usability.
Like the rest of the MT range – it’s a funky looking bit of kit. Lots to like, especially from the side profile, that headlight assembly is a little transformer like, but I quite like the overall look. Nice materials and finish overall too. It doesn’t look cheap, or entry level. Plenty of nice little details to admire.
First things first. Yes, it’s small, but not cramped. In fact I felt as comfortable on this as I recall feeling on the KTM Duke 790 last year, which is saying something as that was a bit of a tardis. Sure – there isn’t a lot of room to move forwards or back, but the sculpted tank shape does a terrific job of letting your legs tuck in.
Even at my height of just shy of six-foot (181 cm), I actually really enjoyed the riding position and the snugness of that tank shape. Great for teaching newcomers the importance of keeping those legs in for that little bit more feedback from the bike. Seat is also surprisingly comfy even for extended boring highway hauls. Big tick for ergos.
The dash is one of Yamaha’s better ones. Nicely laid out LCD, clear and simple, but no distance to empty meter.. *cough* (I’m just going to keep saying that now, sorry if it gets repetitive, but they should be standard. It’s 2020…) Switch-gear is also nicely positioned and simple. No complaints here – nothing felt cheap or fragile – just simple. And I’d much rather simple and solid over complex and cheap. Another tick.
On take off, you notice the clutch feel is smooth and progressive, but man that first gear is low. I felt it was probably a little unnecessarily low and found myself often starting in second gear. Idling along in first gear was just barely faster than Rob’s walking speed on our photo shoot day… Nonetheless, with six cogs, it happily zips about and when on the go you can explore its limits with ease and confidence. And peddling the box when having half a crack on it was a true joy. I don’t think I missed a single shift and the shift feel itself is nice and solid too.
That little parallel 320 cc mill is a nice thing too. Obviously it’s no torque monster, but it’s almost impossibly linear in its delivery. Once off idle there’s barely a surge or dip all the way to the 14,000 rpm limiter. It’s a happy little vegemite at almost any revs to be honest. In fact.. I wonder what a Tenere 300 would be like… bored out to closer to 400 for some more midrange.. something to challenge the new KTM 390 Adventure… and drop it into a WR based frame with.. Hmmm … Sorry.. I digress.
ABS at both ends with twin-piston calipers up front provide the stopping power and never feel wanting. Good bite and plenty of feel through the levers. This thing just keeps getting ticks.
The real strength of the MT-03 is its handling though. That chassis and suspension work together in near perfect harmony. Helped no doubt by its light weight too (tipping the scales at just under 170 kg), there’s plenty of fun to be had on a twisty road aboard the little MT. It’s a proper corner carver in its own right, not just compared to other entry level bikes. Capable of surprising corner speeds. One particular set of tight esses that I ran a few times stood out. Even though it was near blind line on entry, I was gradually getting faster. And faster. And faster… to the point where I was running out of brave pills, not the bike. My corner speed gained about 40 km/hr in about four or five runs. I’d keep adding speed, the bike wouldn’t raise a sweat. Plenty of grip and feedback and never once felt like it was approaching the limits. Even though the road had plenty of ripples and dips both pre and mid corner. I like the steering too. Super agile yet not overly light, sharp or flighty in the front end. Very predictable and precise. It’d be proper fun on a flowing twisty road with super sticky tyres on…
There’s not a doubt in my mind that it’d be a great platform for a beginner to explore the limits and get the knee down for the first time on the right stretch of road. It took me back to my first bike actually. A CBR250RR four-pot screamer. I had a ball on that bike on roads like the black spur and Great Ocean Road – it only made a half dozen or so more hp at the top than the little MT03 does and the MT has a much better bottom end… It’s a solid package.
And to top it off the MT-03 barely uses any fuel.. I was seeing a bee’s dick over 3.5-litres per 100 kilometres. Given it has a 14-litre tank that puts it well past the 300 km tank range. It wouldn’t cost much to run, light weight and gentle power delivery means tyres and pads etc would last big kilometres too.
Time to wrap up. Bearing in mind that this is a low budget entry level bike (a smidge over 7k ride away!!!), it has a lot to offer. Upside down forks, ABS, a bullet-proof twin-cylinder engine and a chassis that encourages you to have fun. There’s no wonder I see quite a few of these on the road… that’s a lot of smiles per dollar right there.
Why I like it
- What a fun little package
- Doesn’t actually feel small. Surprisingly good ergos, great tank shape
- Agile yet predictable handling. It likes corners! And won’t bite.
I’d like it even more if
- Exhaust note is w-h-i-s-p-e-r quiet. Barely hear it on the highway over wind noise.
- Gearing is perhaps a little short down the bottom. It happily starts in second.
- I’d sacrifice some top end for a little more mid-range
Yamaha MT-03 Specifications
|Engine Type||Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC, 4-valve, 2-cylinder|
|Bore x Stroke||68.0 mm × 44.1 mm|
|Compression Ratio||11.2 : 1|
|Fuel Management||Fuel Injection|
|Starter System / Ignition||Electric / TCI|
|Transmission||Chain / Constant mesh 6-speed|
|Front Suspension||Telescopic forks, 130 mm travel|
|Rear Suspension||Swingarm, 125 mm travel|
|Front Brakes||Hydraulic single disc, 298 mm – ABS|
|Rear Brakes||Hydraulic single disc, 220 mm – ABS|
|Front Tyres||110/70-17M/C (54H) Tubeless|
|Rear Tyres||140/70-17M/C (66H) Tubeless|
|Seat Height||780 mm|
|Ground Clearance||160 mm|
|Wet Weight||168 kg|
|RRP – $7299 Ride Away|