2017 Suzuki SV650 Ride Review

The latest edition of the venerable SV finally goes back to its original "simple and fun" roots

2017 Suzuki SV650 First Ride Review
The Suzuki SV650 carves the canyon with the handling of the original.Sport Rider

Ever since Suzuki punched out the engine displacement of the Japanese domestic market SV400 to create the SV650 in 1999, the model has remained a best seller for the manufacturer from day one. The company didn't tamper much with the SV in the next nine years—and for good reason. Why mess with success?

But then Suzuki made some changes to the SV in 2009 that included a switch to the somewhat peculiar "Gladius" moniker. A cheaper steel tube frame replaced the previous aluminum unit (contributing to a weight gain of around 20 pounds), and funky-styled bodywork was offered in various contrasting pastel colors. The SV faithful frowned, and sales figures dropped. Suzuki tried to mend the situation in 2013, rebadging the bike as the SFV650 and ditching the pastel colors. But the bike was a still a Gladius underneath the paint, and it continued to languish in showrooms.

2017 Suzuki SV650 V-twin engine
The 645cc V-twin engine gets new pistons as well as a new airbox and exhaust system among 60 new parts to gain 4 more horsepower over the old SFV mill.Sport Rider

So for 2017, Suzuki is returning the middleweight V-twin back to its roots, starting with the comeback of its original SV650 nomenclature. In the engine bay, the 645cc DOHC V-twin gets new CAD-designed pistons that feature resin coating on the skirts and TiN coating on other sliding areas for less friction; compression ratio is lowered slightly to 11.2:1 (from 11.5:1) to allow the use of regular unleaded fuel. The SDTV EFI 39mm throttle bodies get new long-nosed, 10-hole injectors for better fuel atomization, with a new "low-rpm assist" feature that opens the throttle plate slightly when the clutch begins to be engaged to help avoid stalling from a dead stop.

Up top, the airbox has been redesigned with more internal volume and staggered intake funnels for better midrange response. The 2-into-1 exhaust featuring the catalyzer in the mid-pipe section is new, with less weight and increased flow for improved overall performance that also meets the more stringent Euro 4 emissions standards.

Changes to the chassis are centered around ergonomics, with a new slimmer fuel tank and seat (the fuel tank is 2.5 inches narrower at its widest point than the SFV, while the seat is 1.2 inches narrower), allowing the rider to put his/her feet on the ground easier at a stop. Note that the slimmer fuel tank doesn’t impinge on its capacity; the new SV fuel tank still holds 3.8 gallons, same as the SFV. Suspension is basically the same nonadjustable 41mm fork and single spring-preload-adjustable shock with some minor adjustments to spring and damping rates.

2017 Suzuki SV650 CAD-FEM design pistons
New CAD-FEM (Computer Aided Design Finite Element Method) design pistons and rings are lighter and have resin-coated skirts and tin-coated sliding parts for less friction.Sport Rider

All told, the 140 new parts (60 in the engine, 80 on the chassis) contribute to a claimed power increase of more than 4 peak horsepower, with the same torque. Even better, the new SV weighs 15 pounds less than the SFV (and the SV650 ABS weighs 18 pounds less than the SFV650 ABS).

Throw a leg over the new SV and you immediately notice how much slimmer and smaller overall it feels than the outgoing SFV. The fuel tank no longer seems bulbous from the saddle, and the seat height is the same, but it feels lower because your legs get a straighter shot at the ground. You only need to hit the starter button once, with an “easy start” system turning the engine over until it fires up. The low-rpm assist is another nice feature for novice riders, providing just a hint of throttle to help prevent stalling at take-off.

2017 Suzuki SV650 dash
While we basically like the layout of the new LCD instrument panel on the 2017 SV, we still find the bar-graph tachometer hard to read at a glance.Sport Rider

As far as the engine upgrades, it's a bit difficult to ascertain much difference without having the older SFV to compare back to back, but we can say the new SV certainly retains the original SV's peppy engine response and amiable character that made the first-generation 650 such a sales success. There's plenty of low-end and midrange power to zip you out of turns or pass traffic, and that power continues climbing in a nice top-end rush that eventually begins to drop off around 9,000 rpm. Simply put, there's a generous amount of power to be had almost anywhere in the rev range. And that's a good thing because the bar-graph tachometer in the new all-LCD instrument panel (similar to the 2016 GSX-R1000 unit) is hard to read at a glance.

Flicking the new SV into the first set of canyon corners reveals that same nimble yet planted handling feel that endeared the original bike to so many club racers and novice street riders alike. Despite the suspension’s minimal adjustability, the spring and damping rates are well chosen, keeping the chassis nicely under control at a rapid pace in the twisty pavement sections without being too stiff at lower speeds on imperfect urban tarmac. Speaking of comfort, the new SV retains the original’s excellent ergos, and we had no complaints after a full day spent in the saddle.

2017 Suzuki SV650 seat
The new SV650's seat is more supportive and has more room for the passenger.Sport Rider

About the only gripe we have with the new SV is the brakes. The two-piston Tokico front calipers are the same old slide-pin design from 1999, and their action feels like it, with not much power and very numb feedback. While it’s likely Suzuki was thinking about preventing a novice rider from easily locking up the front tire in a panic maneuver, a better set of brake pads would go a long way toward shoring up this issue.

All in all though, we really liked the 2017 SV650 and are certainly glad to see the spirit of the original bike return in the latest version. The Suzuki has all the clean styling and spunky personality of the first-gen model but with some new technology added in to put a fine polish on the overall package. To top it all off, the 2017 SV650 retails for $6,999 ($7,499 for the ABS model), retaining yet another feature of the original: superior bang for the buck.

2017 Suzuki SV650 First Ride
The SV rekindled our love for the spirit of the original with its styling and personality with all the modern tech that 2017 offers.Sport Rider
2017 Suzuki SV650
MSRP $6999, $7499 for ABS
Engine
Type Liquid-cooled, DOHC 90º V-twin
Displacement 645cc
Bore x stroke 81.0 x 62.6mm
Compression ratio 11.2:1
Induction Suzuki SDTV, 39mm throttle bodies, single injector/cyl.
Chassis
Front tire 120/70ZR-17 Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier J
Rear tire 160/60ZR-17 Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier J
Rake/Trail 25º/4.1 in. (106mm)
Wheelbase 56.9 in. (1445mm)
Seat height 30.9 in. (785mm)
Fuel capacity 3.8 gal. (15L)
Claimed wet weight 430 lb. (195kg)