Are you after a sensible daily that has the potential to chop on some backroads and looks mean? Take a gander at the all-new 2020 Yamaha MT-03, which has had some serious upgrades for this model year... Review: Jack Maguire Photography: Heather Ware
A few weeks ago I tested Yamaha’s YZF-R3, which is an amazing, small-capacity sportsbike that blew my expectations out of the water. Now I’ve just tested the R3’s naked version, the 2020 MT-03, which has had a facelift and various other changes for this model year.
The biggest change to the MT-03 is in the design department, with the new bike looking more aggressive than the previous generation. This is highlighted by a progressive looking LED headlight that appears interesting to say the least and certainly wasn’t my cup of tea when I first got the bike. It’s grown on me and now and I actually quite like the design.
We received the MT-03 in Icon Blue, a stunning colour that looks great in all lighting conditions. I personally love it and I think it is one of the best colours Yamaha offer. The 17-inch cast aluminium 10-spoke wheels are also painted in the blue and the design of the wheels looks great. Plenty of ground clearance too, 160mm – you won’t be scraping on anything anytime soon. The big tank gives the MT-03 a big bike feel and look, something I personally prefer.
The 2020 MT-03 utilises the same inverted forks found on the YZF-R3, another big change for this year’s model, and alongside the seven-step preload adjustable rear shock, allows for a good balance between commuting and sport riding. I found that the rear shock is on the softer side of the equation and causes a bit of bounce back (lack of rebound control). Increasing the rear preload will firm things up but worsen the rear rebound control without rebound adjustment.
The overall finish is brilliant on the MT-03, from the paint work to the quality of the parts. Nothing on this bike screams ‘cheap’, except for maybe the tyres, which I’ll get into shortly.
The overall ergonomics are upright, with easy to reach handlebars and a low seat high of 780mm that sits you in the bike. The low seat height also means most riders could probably place their feet flat on the ground with relative ease.
The updated model also features the same LCD multi-function dash found on the YZF-R3, which is feature packed and includes an oil-change/service trip meter, shift light, fuel consumption average, as well as all the usual features.
For this price point and particularly for a small learner machine, the features are certainly welcomed. The instruments are easily seen in all lighting and the overall layout of the dash makes sense and is an easy system to navigate.
There is LED lighting all around on the MT-03, with the headlamp offering great lighting and the indicator signals and taillight easily visible in broad daylight as well.
I raved about the YZF-R3’s 321cc inline twin when I reviewed it and the same powerplant exists in the new MT-03. The motor offers comfortable and manageable power but is seriously competitive at the same time and is a very capable motor for sports riding. The exhaust can get pretty loud when you open it up and absolutely screams at high revs.
Geared on the taller side and revving to 13,000rpm, the feeling of that mid-range and top-end power is unbeatable. The gearbox has nice, smooth shifts and the ratios are well spaced. The clutch is good, fairly light and smooth, and I had no issues with stalling. The fuelling on the MT-03 is smooth, which allows for great control over the bike whether that be in traffic or on the backroads and is good particularly for learners who need something that can be easily tamed at low speeds.
Riding this bike on the backroads is plenty of fun especially for a motorcycle aimed mainly at being a good commuter/urban bike. The bike responds well to footpeg inputs and also to handlebar inputs, with a large turning circle, steering the bike at low-speeds and around town is really easy.
Engine braking into the corners is really important on the MT-03 as the brakes are kind of underwhelming, the front lacks feel and the rear also, although there is just enough power there. Steering in is super easy, and even easier when you’re trailing, so easy in-fact that I found on my first few corners I oversteered… off turns the bike tracks well and stays on line.
Throughout the corner, the bike is really stable and I found that it’s pretty forgiving if you mess up your line. You just have so much control over the bike at all times, which is great for learners who are just getting the grips on cornering and lines. The suspension set-up makes the machine stable over bumps and the good mid-range and top-end torque makes the drive out of a corner a delight, where you can really just pin it. There is good bottom-end power and torque too, but it’s not mind blowing.
The budget Dunlop Sportmax GPR300 tyres provide reasonable grip in the dry and my only complaint is that they under perform in the wet. In fact, I was spat off the bike in the wet in a roundabout.
I said the same for the YZF-R3, which has the same hoops, and I recommend that if sportier riding is your thing but commuting and longevity plays a big factor in your purchase decision, then making the swap to a set of upgraded street sports tyres makes sense.
The brakes fall short on sporty performance, with the front brake lever going soft after excessive braking and spirited riding, but for commuting purposes they are adequate, with good bite and strong stopping power that won’t scare away learner riders and certainly won’t unexpectedly send you flying over the handlebars.
The rear brake is OK for commuting purposes but again might not be enough for the performance this bike offers. Under aggressive braking and hard downshifting you’ll feel the ABS kick in on the rear.
As expected, the bike comes standard with ABS, which works reliably and is an essential for learner riders. If you’re concerned about the braking ability or you’re interested in sportier riding, you could benefit from upgrades such as braided lines, sintered pads and performance brake fluid.
The commuting ability on the MT-03 is fantastic. It’s reasonably narrow and lightweight, which makes lane filtering easy, while the mirrors are stable with plenty of vision on offer.
The MT-03 is really efficient, averaging approximately 3.2L/100km over my test period. Even though it’s a naked, you don’t at all feel like a windsock at highway speeds, and it’s a comfortable ride thanks to that softer suspension set-up. The MT-03 also has plenty of grunt to perform overtakes at highway speeds with no problems at all.
It sits securely on the side-stand, which is easy to reach and the bike has a steering lock, which is the most basic line of defence against thieves.
Testing this bike was a lot of fun. It is essentially a YZF-R3 undressed but with a greater potential for commuting in my opinion. The looks are great, as well as the performance offered from this bike, and the amount of features jammed into it at this price point is amazing really.
In competition with the Yamaha MT-03, you’ll find Kawasaki’s Z400 at approximately $7,461R/A, Honda’s CB300R at approx. $7,188R/A and CFMOTO’s 300NK at approx. $4,990R/A. You can pick up the 2020 Yamaha MT-03 for $7,299R/A and should definitely be taken into consideration if you are in the market for a new naked commuter bike, that has plenty of potential to be a sporty freak.
Second Opinion – Nick Ware
Having loved the look and style of the Yamaha MT series since their introduction, I was stoked to have the opportunity to jump on the LAMS approved MT-03. We took it out for the day and put it to the test, here’s what I think…
While it’s not the MT-07 or MT-09 I’d always hoped for, the MT-03 really manages to pull in all the performance and handling capabilities of its older brothers. The R3 derived motor really packs a punch. This thing, for a small-capacity LAMS bike — is incredibly quick. I was really surprised with how much power and torque the MT-03 has.
For the taller rider like myself, at 197cm, it isn’t the most suitable. I struggled with the position of my knees as they don’t quite tuck into the fuel tank like Yamaha intended. I did get used to it over the course of the day however for a longer ride I assume it would get rather uncomfortable.
City riding is a breeze on the MT-03, it’s light, agile with a very smooth and lightweight clutch. The seat height is very low, which makes slow moving traffic very easy to navigate through. Once the road opened up and we moved into the longer corners, I found a little more confidence to start leaning it over. The classic naked stance, more upright and less sporty than the R3, isn’t always my favourite to corner fast on, however the MT-03 felt at home on these roads.
The 321cc parallel twin motor really screams right through the rev range. The little LAMS bike doesn’t at all feel like it is struggling to keep up with the corners, it felt like it was asking for more. It wanted me to redline it. It wanted to reach that 13000rpm! I really enjoyed it.
The gearing is great in my opinion. We took the freeway up north to get to the twists a little quicker, and surprisingly the MT-03 is very comfortable at touring speeds. Unlike a couple of the other LAMS competitors, the Yamaha feels at home on the freeway.
For the heavier rider like myself, the brakes are more than enough. The ABS, like on most LAMS bikes, can’t be switched off, but I didn’t notice any issues while braking or cornering hard. The rear brake is a little soft for my liking but probably better for the newer rider. The front held up well under harder braking.
Overall, I loved the MT-03. It lived up to all the childhood expectations I had of the MT series, despite being the LAMS approved version and 600cc less! Personally, I wouldn’t grab one, simply due to my physical size. I’d have to jump on the 07 or 09 and see how they feel.
2020 Yamaha MT-03 Tech Talk
The diamond frame design features very little bending or welding to create a minimalist and attractive structure. Using the engine’s crankcase as a stressed member of the chassis keeps overall weight to a minimum, delivering light and agile handling performance.
One of the most signiﬁcant technical upgrades for 2020 is the ﬁtment of new high-speciﬁcation upside down forks that deliver enhanced handling performance during braking, acceleration and cornering.
The long 573mm swingarm reduces fluctuations in the angle of the swingarm in relation to the road surface during both compression and rebound when compared to a conventional, shorter design. This provides more efficient transmission of power to the rear wheel, particularly during acceleration, deceleration, and cornering.
An upright riding position, wide steering angle and moderate seat height makes the MT-03 easy to use and enjoyable to ride. A wide 68-degrees of steering lock offers impressive manoeuvrability in slow traffic and tight spaces.
With its strong focus on everyday urban use, the MT-03 is equipped with natural ergonomics designed to deliver high levels of comfort, and includes a sculpted fuel tank and knee grip area so the rider can feel at one with the bike.
The 780mm seat height delivers a feeling of sitting in and not on top of the bike. This enables the typical rider to get both feet on the ground. The raised passenger seat provides plenty of space for a pillion and includes aluminium grab bars for added comfort.
In addition to the aggressive new front-end styling, the unique MT look uses horizontal design lines as well as minimal front and rear overhang. The mass-forward look is reinforced by the centrally located muffler as well as a forward-inclined engine, sculpted fuel tank and air scoops that contrast with the bike’s slim and minimalist tail to accentuate the ready-to-pounce stance.
The compact and lightweight 321cc inline twin-cylinder engine has been developed from Yamaha’s multi-championship winning YZF-R3 sportsbike. The liquid-cooled DOHC four-valve CP2 engine features a 180-degree crank and integrated counterbalancer to deliver excellent vibration-free power and responsive torque characteristics.
For strong and predictable stopping power, together with plenty of feel, a large diameter 298mm front brake disc and floating twin-piston calliper has been fitted. The rear wheel has a 220mm disc.
To match the radical new look of the MT-03, Yamaha has also fitted a stylish LCD dash that displays all the information required by the rider via an attractive multi-function layout. The compact multi-function meter informs the rider of gear position, fuel capacity, real time and average fuel economy, water temp, clock and an oil change trip meter.
Dual slant-eye position lights and LED headlight
The aggressive new face features dual slant-eye position lights to convey a predatory look. A small but powerful LED headlight is positioned inconspicuously beneath the front cowl and position light assembly. This minimalist design gives the new model a unique and charismatic look that reinforces the bike’s bold and futuristic style. Slim new LED ﬂashers integrate well in the MT-03’s aggressive styling.
2020 Yamaha MT-03 Specifications
Colours: Icon Blue, Ice Fluo, Tech Black
Claimed power: 30.9kW [41.4hp]@10000rpm
Claimed torque: 29.6Nm [21.8ft-lbs]@9000rpm
Wet weight: 168kg
Fuel capacity: 14L
Engine: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, inline twin-cylinder, eight-valve four stroke, 68 x 44.1mm bore x stroke, 321cc, 11.2:1 compression, TCI ignition,
Gearbox: Six speed, constant mesh
Clutch: Wet multi-disc
Chassis: Steel diamond-type tubular frame, long steel asymmetric swingarm
Suspension: 37mm KYB USD forks, 130mm travel, Monocross shock, preload adjustable, 125mm travel
Brakes: ABS, single 298mm floating rotor, two-piston caliper (f), single 220mm rear rotor, single-piston caliper (r)
Wheels & Tyres: Cast aluminium 10-spoke, Dunlop Sportmax GPR-300 , 110/70–17in (f), 140/70–17in (r)
Ground clearance: 160mm
Seat height: 780mm
Overall height: 1070mm
Overall length: 2090mm
Overall width: 755mm
Instruments: Full digital multi-function display
The Verdict | Review: 2020 Yamaha MT-03 LAMS nakedbike
Yamaha’s 2020 MT-03 is a brilliant and capable ride, aimed mainly at the commuter however definitely has the edge to be so much more. The bike would make the perfect daily, with great looks and good performance, what more could you want?