Review

Yamaha XSR700 Retro (2015 - ) review

Yamaha is developing a range of yard-built, retro-inspired rides under the ‘Faster Sons’ banner, and the XSR700 is the first model to emerge from this model series

Words by: First published: 9th May 2016
The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.8
The Yamaha XSR700 is one of the most agile and entertaining retro-inspired rides on sale. Not only has it been designed to be ridden rather than just admired outside a coffee shop, the XSR700 also represents superb value for money with plenty of opportunity for customisation. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the heritage of rivals from Triumph, Ducati or Moto Guzzi, nor does it possess a characterful, nostalgia-inducing soundtrack.

Pros

  • Hugely entertaining to ride
  • Excellent value for money
  • Extensive customisation opportunities

Cons

  • Engine lacks the soundtrack of other rivals
  • XSR badge is light on retro heritage
  • Shorter riders may struggle with seat height

Interested in buying Yamaha XSR700?

Design 3/5

Yamaha’s XSR series aims to deliver modern heritage-themed models and the XSR700 takes inspiration from the Yamaha XS-1 from 1970, including the green and silver paint option. In reality, however, the XSR700 is simply a re-engineered MT-07 using a modified tubular steel frame with a bolt-on rear section, removable aluminium side panels, front mudguard and branded seat. Up close, the design doesn’t look particularly well resolved and a lot of our YouTube comments have thrown invective at the exposed radiator, which can be made less obtrusive with an optional cover with black alloy edges.

Riding position 3/5

With a seat height of 815mm, the riding position is noticeably taller than the Triumph Street Twin and Ducati Scrambler. It’s even 10mm taller than the MT-07, yet still canted slightly forward so your natural position is to nudge into the skinny tank. Bars are closer and wider than the MT-07, plus the frame remains nice and slender but this is still a set-up that will be preferred by those who are slightly ganglier in leg.

Practicality 2/5

Practicality is not an XSR700 forte. True, the mirrors are large, high set and clear most car mirrors when filtering. The round instrument panel features a fuel light and the oil sightglass is on the same side of the sidestand, which makes it easy to check the level on your own. But that’s about it.

There is no span adjustment on the clutch, high speed rides are susceptible to turbulence and vibration through the pegs, and because the pillion space is so cramped, you’re better off using the pillion footpegs to tie down your bungee cords.

Performance & braking 4/5

The XSR700 may take inspiration from retro bikes but the engine, frame and design philosophy are completely modern. With the lightweight and brilliant MT-07 as its foundation, the XSR uses the same liquid-cooled, 689cc parallel twin that develops 75bhp with 50lb ft of torque, which is the same as a Ducati Scrambler.

Whether you’re cruising gently or wanting to thrash, the XSR700 always feels eager to perform, with short gearing and a beautifully instant throttle response helping provoke a wheelie, a punchy overtake or explore the upper limits of its 10,000rpm rev range. The brakes are equally strong and dependable, too. There is a slight on-off snatchiness to the throttle as you set off, and the soundtrack isn’t as characterful as rivals from Ducati, Triumph or Moto Guzzi, but the XSR never leaves you wanting for performance.

Ride & handling 5/5

The XSR700 doesn’t ride like an old bike, because it isn’t one. All the dynamic traits that made the MT-07 worthy of being Auto Trader’s 2014 Bike of the Year - lightweight, responsive, sweet-handling - still apply to the XSR700. The looks may differ, but the song and dance remains the same. At 186kg wet, the XSR is 4kg heavier than the MT-07 but it’s still light. Yet the slightly taller stance and wider handlebars help make direction changes even easier, while improving ground clearance. The ride feels a tad firmer than the MT-07, simply due to the stiffer sidewalls of the retro-inspired Pirelli Phantom Sportscomp tyres, but there’s still plenty of grip and feel. The high-speed ride quality from the non-adjustable front suspension can get a little bouncy, but it still feels stable.

Running costs 5/5

The Yamaha XSR700 is significantly cheaper than both the Ducati Scrambler and Triumph Street Twin, and feels every inch a credible rival. The 14-litre fuel capacity gives an adequate range of 130 miles or more while the lightweight nature of the XSR700 should help keep the consumption of consumables down to a minimum.

Reliability 4/5

Mechanical issues have been few and far between on its sibling, the MT-07, so we’re expecting a similarly robust reliability rating. That said, the paint and component finish doesn’t have the permanence of the Triumph Street Twin, with items such as the exhaust and exposed screw-heads prone to rust.

Warranty & servicing 4/5

Mechanical issues have been few and far between on its sibling, the MT-07, so we’re expecting a similarly robust reliability rating. That said, the paint and component finish doesn’t have the permanence of the Triumph Street Twin, with items such as the exhaust and exposed screw-heads prone to rust.

Equipment 4/5

There are plenty of style-led accessories to personalise your XSR700, including a single seat (£135), tinted flyscreen (£111) and if you want the all-important noise factor, you’ll need to order the high-mounted Akrapovic titanium exhaust (£1100). Yamaha also offers an A2-license friendly version, which reduces the power to a humble 46.6bhp.

Why buy? 4/5

While the ‘Faster Sons’ project all sounds a bit contrived, the results are much more than a marketing exercise. If you’re attracted by the retro image and customising potential, but want the convenience and riding dynamics of a thoroughly modern bike, then the XSR700 is for you.

Interested in buying Yamaha XSR700?

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