Yamaha’s MT range has been popular since the hyper-naked styled bikes launched, offering a combination of raw aggressive looks, great-performing engines all while still being competitively priced – it's little surprise they have done as well as they have. So, when I got the chance to test-ride the MT-03 for a couple of weeks I naturally jumped at the chance.

The MT-03 finds itself in the very competitive A2 naked bike market with strong competition from the likes of the KTM 390 Duke and Kawasaki Z400, but does the latest version have enough to remain a top dog?

Engine

The MT-03 unsurprisingly shares a few of the same foundations as its popular sportsbike sibling, the R3, one of these being the 321cc liquid-cooled, 4-valve, 4-stroke engine which produces 41 hp at 10,750rpm and 29.6nm of torque at 9,000rpm.

Now, these are respectable power numbers for an A2 bike when the A2 licence horsepower limit is 47. However, for those interested in the more vanity figures, there are some rivals out that which hit that 47 hp limit, so in comparison, when looking purely at the numbers the MT is slightly behind, but don't be alarmed because there is more to this story yet.

Styling

I totally appreciate that the styling of the MT-03 can get a marmite reception, some will love it and there are some who will hate it. For me personally, though, I think it’s a standout stunner that looks even better in person – it’s safe to say I absolutely love it!

With the aggressive bodywork, muscular fuel tank and demon-like headlight, it looks like a riled-up mutated hornet about to attack and for me, it really works.

The all-LED lighting, especially those slit eyes and front circular main beam, helps it reek of rebellion and aggression!

Available in three different colourways: ‘Icon Blue’, ‘Midnight Black’ and, by far my favourite, ‘Ice Fluo’, which is matt grey and bright red, looks phenomenal! By offering three distinct colourways, I’m sure Yamaha has hoped to keep everyone happy.

The seat height is very nice and accessible. A 5’6 me was very pleased with a 780mm height which should be great for most people and will definitely appeal to shorter riders too.

The MT-03 features a diamond frame which helps to keep it very light indeed at 168kg and is another piece inherited from the sporty R3.

Fuel tank and consumption

The fuel tank has a capacity of 14litres and when it comes to consumption you should average somewhere between 70-80mpg. The press bike I had in its 1200 mile life was averaging around 76mpg which I think given it’s no doubt tough young life getting ragged about, is pretty damn impressive!

Dash, switchgear and technology

Nowadays (well since its 2020 update, anyway) the MT-03 sports a rather nice LCD display. It might be on the standard side of things, with functionality and black and white colour display against some of its more colourful TFT rivals, but there is still no denying that the digital panel looks good.

The information is clear and easy to see, and it all works perfectly well. It might not be quite up to the levels of some, but it will suit the needs of most riders without a doubt. From my time enjoying a blast on the MT, the screen showed no sign of dreaded glare either so that is also a rather positive thing to report.

The MT-03 is more about the raw two-wheeled riding experience so is far from packed with spec, things like app integration and a USB charging port, for example, are omitted.

The switchgear is nicely laid out, simple and feels quality to the touch and all worked perfectly so nothing much out of the ordinary here.

Brakes and suspension

With 37mm upside-down forks (non-adjustable) at the front and a monoshock (pre-load adjustable) to the rear. The suspension as standard provides a great setup to tackle the average UK road. It might not allow for much adjustment, but the suspension does a brilliant job of dealing with urban and rural roads, taking the worst out of uneven surfaces.

When it comes to stopping power, the MT-03 has a 298mm braking disc with a 2-piston caliper at the front, and at the rear, there is a 220mm disc with a single-piston caliper. As you’d expect, the rear brake is on the more subtle side of things, and the main braking force is in that large disc at the front, which works spot on! Throw on both brakes at the same time and, again, you stop really nicely with the comfort of dual-channel ABS ready to kick in when needed.

Price

As I mentioned earlier, the MT-03 sits in a very competitive market with some legendary rivals such as the KTM 390 Duke (£5099), Kawasaki Z400 (£5099) and Honda CB500F (£5,749), which are all very competitively priced machines. The MT-03 is in that pack price-wise, at £5,300, but does sit ever so slightly high in price than the larger capacity KTM and Kawasaki.

The MT-03 is so radical in looks and, though it might be smaller in capacity than some of its rivals, still packs a great performing engine which is far from sluggish, so this alone will no doubt draw in a big following by those who just want that something a little different.

On the road

Taking the MT-03 out onto the wide-open road, I soon discovered the gearbox, gearing and clutch are an absolute dream. The clutch is light, the gearbox solid and falls perfectly into gear easily and neutral is found very quickly without a game of footsies.

The gearing setup is superb, allowing you to really utilise each gear and work the bike to get it accelerating nicely. The gears are well spaced apart and allow for a great riding experience. We know it only packs a 321cc engine, and the acceleration and top speed won’t be insane, but it is quick enough and really allows for plenty of fun on the country lanes and twisties. A big thing for an A2 bike is to offer a significant upgrade from a 125 and the MT-03 definitely provides us with that. I can’t stress enough how much fun I had on country roads around Norfolk and Suffolk – it was an absolute hoot!

Redlining at around 12,500rpm, the MT-03 is really set up as a great first big bike for someone fresh off getting their A2 licence and wants the thrill of something that can shift respectfully but remains very easy to manage.

Cornering is great fun, the more than adequate grip from the 17” wheels with a 110 tyre at the front and a 140 tyre at the rear (though I was on different rubber thanks to a big ol’ slit in my rear Dunlop Sportmax GPR 300 on my first day of testing!).

The MT-03 is compact and lightweight, coming in at a mere 168kg wet, and having a wheelbase of 1380m, it really allows for a lot of fun – exactly what most A2 riders will be looking for.

With recent improvement to the ergonomics, the seating position is still more positioned to the front leaning slightly on the mammoth fuel tank, but it can be ridden in a rather neutral stance. As someone who can suffer from wrist pain and fatigue, I was genuinely impressed to report during the two weeks of having the MT-03 I did not suffer any wrist issues at all. It still allows for a far more tucked and aggressive sitting position too, for when you put yourself in ‘sports mode’.

The seat height is a joy for me, at a vertically challenged 5’ 6, seat heights can be a bit daunting, however, with the MT-03 coming in at a very accessible 780mm, I was jubilant at the fact I could get both feet down on the ground with absolute ease – no tips toes for me this time!

The brakes worked a treat for me. The back brake does exactly what you’d expect, start to utilise that large front brake either on its own or in conjunction with the back brake, and you’ll get great stopping power – add in the confidence of dual ABS for when things might get a bit tricky and you’re golden!

The suspension might not exactly allow for a lot of adjustments but no fear, the standard set-up is rather good. It handles the roads very well and isn’t as firm as I expected, it is rather much a goldilocks type set up – just right!

Summary

When looking at the MT-03, it lacks some aspects seen in competitors, including that slightly smaller engine capacity and marginally behind bhp figure, as well as, the absence of app integration, a USB port or colour TFT screen – whilst being priced ever so slightly higher than these same competitors. Apart from this though, it’s very hard to criticize as, in all honestly, I love what it offers, and I think many A2 riders will do too!

Great looks? Tick! Accessible and easy to ride? Tick! Great performance? Tick! Competitively priced? Tick, tick, tick!

Overall, the MT-03 is one stunning motorcycle! Its styling totally appeals to me and everyone who saw the bike was in awe of how great it looks – I even think that in person it looks even better than in any videos or photos. The MT-03 isn’t just great looking but in that unique way only offered by the MT range, also offers comfort and accessibility too.

The engine performance, gearbox and clutch are great. Yes, it would be even better to have it max out at the A2 limit of 47hp, I get that, but in the same breath, it would still be a great choice for any young rider fresh off passing their test.

One final thought? If I were to think of what an average A2 rider would want, I think the MT-03 provides it all!

Spec

Engine 321cc, 41 hp, liquid-cooled
Fuel tank 14L
Brakes Front and rear disc
Seat height 780mm
Weight 168kg (wet)
Price £5,300

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