This capacity of a motorcycle is arguably the most competitive arena to be associated with, for all brands. Around the world, the 300/400cc market is the becoming the one to watch as sales grow every year, but not necessarily here in South Africa, which is a shame.
‘We’ seem to think that small capacity engines only belong in a saturated European city riddled with pollution and vile, dense population problems. Fair enough I suppose, but you’re all missing the point. These bikes are so much fun that you soon ignore the capacity deficit and just enjoy them for what they are, and this is most certainly the case for the new Yamaha MT-03, with the most distinctive ‘face’ in this class.
That is what first grabbed my attention; its face. Without doubt the best looking headlight assembly of all its competitors, like the KTM 390 Duke and Kawasaki z400 for example. If not one of the best looking headlight assemblies on any bike, with its triangle shape adorned by twin thin ‘evil’ LED lights giving the MT-03 a real ‘Space Face’, don’t you think?But, unlike an old Hollywood hag with three inches of paste on her face, down below the MT-03 is a beautiful thing to behold and ride, without being rude, which I probably am if you are one, the hag that is. Oh yes, the MT-03 is one spectacular little ride on all counts and worthy of all interplanetary facial relations.To visit other ‘planets’ though you might be put off by a mere 41hp from its parallel twin, DOHC, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected engine. Well you’d be wrong; I loved the ultra-smooth revvy nature of the MT-03 and it is deceptively quick. At the traffic lights I met a greasy BMW M3 driver with the usual loud pipes and left it for dead up to 100km/h when he came by with red face and vigorous gear changes, wanker! But that shows how quick the MT-03 is around town and in fifth gear I saw 160km/h on the LCD digital display with a gear to go. At Joburg's altitude though sixth is a bit of an overdrive but at the coast/sea level it’ll be more relevant for top speed, which will be around the 180 mark. And don’t forget the superb fuel consumption and less wear rate on the mechanical parts compared to bigger engines, which is an important thing to consider in this current economic crisis.Now here’s an issue regarding costs and due to our inexplicable and dreadful exchange rate when the MT-03 was shipped here. It will cost you R94,950, which is a shame because it should be less. Its R3 pit mate is 10k less because of when it was shipped before the hike. Therefore I thought the MT-03 is too expensive but after having it around for a few days, I’m not so sure.You see it’s down to the build quality from this Indonesian made Yamaha and the way it feels. Basically it feels bigger than its engine suggests, as the wide tank curves over your legs with a secure sensation. It’s very easy to ride with light controls delivered from the clutch, brakes and throttle, and always has you smiling affectionately every time you ride.Most of this is down to the chassis and surrounding components, which are the same as the equally nice R3 we rode last year. That bike wins a lot of races in the World SSP300 class, confirming how good this chassis is. Light and nimble are obvious words, but the 168kg MT-03 generates a more naughty nature than the faired option. I am the biggest fan of naked bikes though, so that might swing my vote towards upright riding, and maybe my age. Another good point is that anyone, of any age, will have more fun than a free drinks party inside a helium filled tent, when aboard the MT-03. If you don’t believe me the Linex guys (details at the end of this article) will eagerly let you go and test ride this bike too, so go and do it!After such praise you might be asking if there’re any negative points, which there always are on any bike. One thing I did find was the KYB suspension, coming from the R3, was a little stiff/rigid on bumpy roads with its race derived internals. However, on a smooth, open, twisty road, it’s a different story as you carve through the corners at 14,000rpm hoping something of similar capacity is within your sights.Talking of sights I believe this 2020 MT-03 is the best looking of the current choices we have in SA, which is a very important attribute to a 300/400cc class. It offers so much more than specifications project and that is very hard to achieve. I think that sums up the Yamaha MT-03 to a tee.
Go to www.linex.co.za to book a test ride and view all Yamaha products on offer.