Fun, peppy, and affordable—Yamaha’s FZ/MT-07 sees a re-fresh with renewed focus on handling, comfort, and style

Yamaha's 2018 MT-07—née FZ-07— is a bike that punches well above its weight. With refreshed styling, updated systems, and a very affordable price tag, this entry-level streetfighter is set to take North America by storm this year. To emphasize that fact, we rode the new MT through a blinding rainstorm to find out what Yamaha had actually built us. Turns out, it's everything we wanted and then some.

Edgier Styling

The MT-07 is equipped with a functional dash display that provides necessary machine vitals in an easy to read package.

The MT-07 is equipped with a functional dash display that provides necessary machine vitals in an easy to read package.

Yamaha cranked up the styling volume for the new MT by fitting body panels that give it a more aggressive appearance. The LED taillight wears Yamaha’s Transformer-like ‘MT’ logo that’s both bold and bright—always a plus when you want to be seen on the road. The reshaped headlight has an edgier contour but remains a single halogen bulb setup. We didn’t get a chance to ride after dark this time.

A bold and bright Transformer-like LED tail lamp helps you stand out on the road.

A bold and bright Transformer-like LED tail lamp helps you stand out on the road.

A closer look reveals subtle details like the MT family winglet beneath the head beam and the further sculpted “dynamic” tail. The fuel tank area is wider and appears meatier while retaining deep cutouts for the rider’s knees. This retains slim proportions when riding.

The fuel tank has a tougher, meatier appearance. The tank cover was also moved forward 0.4 inches for added seat room.

The fuel tank has a tougher, meatier appearance. The tank cover was also moved forward 0.4 inches for added seat room.

Available in three dark, edgy-looking colors—Matte Gray, Intensity White, Team Yamaha Blue—all come outfitted with blacked-out controls and hardware. The only shine comes from the exhaust, brake rotors, and top of the fork stanchion. If you want to ride under the radar around town, then this is your steed. If you want to stand out, Yamaha offers numerous accessories so you can customize the look.

Still Torquey, Still Playful, Still Fun to Ride

Yamaha’s latest generation, cross-plane-equipped engines are piston-driven masterpieces. They offer power and character unlike anything else on the road. Although the MT-07's 689cc CP2 parallel twin is the smallest in the MT family, it lives up to its name by providing gobs of low-end grunt. This makes it a hoot to ride, especially when accelerating in the lower gears. Wheelies anyone? Short shift and lug it at low rpm or wind it out near redline, and the Twin happily obliges. It offers smooth acceleration with minimal engine vibration and sounds the part by offering a rowdy, but not overly obnoxious growl. It reminds us of the top dog of them all, the YZF-R1 Supersport.

Smooth crossplane-equipped engine power and capable Bridgestone Battlax rubber make for a winning combo when the going gets tough.

Smooth crossplane-equipped engine power and capable Bridgestone Battlax rubber make for a winning combo when the going gets tough.

Shifts from the six-speed gearbox are precise and the cable clutch has a nice progressive squeeze similar to other high-end bikes. Smooth power pulses maximize grip from the rear 180-series Bridgestone Battlax, a boon for those that ride in inclement climates or who test ride Yamahas in a downpour.

Unlike its larger MT brothers, the MT-07 doesn't feature traction control or adjustable throttle/engine maps. To be fair we didn’t miss these features much, even in the rain. Much of the credit goes to the bike's accurate throttle response—it's neither too sharp nor too laggy, which equates to an agreeable package for all experience levels to enjoy and romp on.

The all-digital instrumentation is functional and provides all the necessary stats during the ride. Yamaha US says the engine is good for 58 miles per gallon. However, due to the weather-condensed nature of our ride, we weren’t able to note the actual figure. We do recall fuel mileage stats in the mid-to-high 40s during our time on the original 2015 FZ-07 though. Thankfully, a handy fuel meter keeps tabs on the capacity of the 3.7-gallon gas tank.

Improved Handling

Despite its nimble and featherweight athleticism, overall sport handling was one of the few gripes we had with the ’15 model. Yamaha cures this on the new bike by upping the suspension spring rate fore and aft and increasing compression (shock) and rebound damping (fork and shock). For ease of adjustment, the shock spring’s preload adjustment collar is more accessible and now offers rebound damping adjustment for those that want to tweak handling.

Light and nimble, the MT-07 is much more capable when hustled thorough turns than the FZ-07 it replaces.

Light and nimble, the MT-07 is much more capable when hustled thorough turns than the FZ-07 it replaces.

The KYB suspenders still offer just over five inches of bump-absorbing travel with more controlled action. This elevates ride quality on surface streets and allows for a more sporty pace on smooth blacktop. The OE-fitted BT-023s have plenty of grip in both the dry and wet, further complementing the MT’s newfound handling prowess.

Generally though, the MT-07 remains far from a sportbike in the handling department. The biggest problem is that the ride can get a tad bouncy, say if you’re leaned over and hit a good sized bump. Still, considering its $7,599 price tag and intended audience, we wouldn’t deem this a knock.

The firmer suspension offers vastly improved ride quality through turns and on bumpy surface roads.

The firmer suspension offers vastly improved ride quality through turns and on bumpy surface roads.

The Triple disc brake setup is a carryover from the original FZ, and offers a nice balance of power and feel. It gives the rider the control they desire in a package that is easy to understand and operate. Lever position adjustment is another nice touch so the brake lever is right where you want it. ABS is now standard too, which helps keep slips and slides at bay even in treacherous conditions.

Friendlier Ergonomics

The new MT-07 is comfier than its predecessor, and its layout seems to take more notice of taller riders. The junction where the rider’s seat and fuel tank meet is re-positioned forward 0.4 in. while both rider and passenger seats have been elongated to better accommodate taller folks. The bike's low-slung saddle height of 31.7 in. remains from the older model. With its low seat height and compact engine, most will be pretty happy with the way this lightweight MT fits.

Both the rider and passenger seats are elongated for added comfort for taller folks.

Both the rider and passenger seats are elongated for added comfort for taller folks.

The handlebar has an upright bend that’s both natural feeling and sporty when it’s time to carve your favorite series of turns. While this is very much a “full-sized” motorcycle, taller riders may find the cockpit a bit tight. Nevertheless, the updated ergos are an improvement. Still, if you’re a basketball player you’ll probably want a motorcycle with a bit more room.

Simply put, affordable bikes shouldn’t look, feel, or ride this good. The MT-07 rides and handles like a much more expensive bike and offers riders a quality piece of machinery that is as adept for a novice as it is for a seasoned vet. With over 24,000 units sold worldwide last year, it’s clear that riders have spoken, and once again Yamaha delivers.

Rider Stats

Rider: Adam Waheed

Height: 6 feet

Physical build: A tad tall, but the MT-07 still fit me just fine.

Experience: Riding for years, but like vanilla cupcakes, I can never get enough.

Gear

Helmet: Shoei RF-SR

Headset: Sena 20S

Jacket: Alpinestars T-Jaws WP

Gloves: Alpinestars Drystar Rage

Pant: Alpinestars Crank Denim

Boots: Alpinestars SMX-3

Photos: Yamaha