2004 Yamaha FZ6 vs. 2004 Honda 599 vs. 2003 Suzuki SV650 | The $7000 Solution

When you got no dough but the mojo to get out and go, here's what you need to know

Photography by Kevin Wing
Cheers & Jeers
Engine 8 9 6 It's true-we love V-twins, but the Suzuki's is worth the praise; Honda's is fine; Yamaha's undermined by poor FI and a lack of grunt
Drivetrain 9 8 7 Honda has a great gearbox and clutch, while both the SV and FZ6 have noticeable driveline lash, the Yamaha more so
Handling 8 8 8 All competent with varied strengths. The Honda is friendly, the Yamaha is quite stable; the Suzuki possesses extra headroom
Braking 8 7 8 Decent midline brakes all around, with sufficient power and feedback; Suzuki's are more wooden than the others
Ride 8 7 8 Inexpensive suspension means none is absolutely creamy. Suzuki's wonky fork gets dinged a bit extra
Ergonomics 9 9 9 Matters of preference. Honda's tight ergos are perfect for small-boned riders, while the FZ6 accommodates the meat mountains
Features 6 7 9 Yamaha has packed 'em in: underseat exhaust, centerstand, fuel gauge, LCD instruments...you name it. Others seem barren
Refinement 9 8 7 Honda scores a decisive advantage in development as well as execution. Yamaha needs to go back to Fuel Injection 101
Value 6 10 8 No contest. The SV wipes the dealership floor with the other two. Honda needs to go back to Econ 101
Fun Factor 8 8 6 We've said it before: If you can't have fun on the SV, you're not trying hard enough. Honda's close, though
Overall* 7.9 8.1 7.5 Where money is an object, the SV reigns supreme. Honda might have won but for a lofty (though not quite exorbitant) price tag

*Overall rating is independent and not derived from category scores.

  honda 599 Suzuki sv650 Yamaha fz6
MSRP $7099 $5899 $6499
Type l-c inline-four l-c 90-deg. V-twin l-c inline-four
Valve arrangement dohc, 16v dohc, 8v dohc, 16v
Bore x stroke 65.0 x 45.2mm 81.0 x 62.6mm 65.5 x 44.5mm
Displacement 599cc 645cc 600cc
Compression ratio 12.0:1 11.5:1 12.1:1
Transmission 6-speed 6-speed 6-speed
Final drive #525 chain #525 chain #530 chain
Weight 446 lb. (wet)
416 lb. (fuel tank empty)
429 lb. (wet)
402 lb. (fuel tank empty)
461 lb. (wet)
430 lb. (fuel tank empty)
Fuel capacity 5.0 gal. 4.5 gal. 5.1 gal.
Rake/trail 25.0 deg./3.86 in. (98mm) 25.0 deg./3.94 in. (100mm) 25.0 deg./3.8 in. (97mm)
Wheelbase 55.9 in. (1420mm) 56.3 in. (1430mm) 56.7 in. (1440mm)
Seat height 31.1 in. (790mm) 31.5 in. (800mm) 31.5 in. (800mm)
Front 41mm fork, nonadjustable 41mm fork adjustable for
spring preload
43mm fork, nonadjustable
Rear single shock adjustable for
spring preload
single shock adjustable for
spring preload
single shock adjustable for
spring preload
Tire, front 120/70ZR17
Michelin Pilot Road
Dunlop D220
Bridgestone BT020
Tire, rear 180/55ZR17
Michelin Pilot Road
Dunlop D220
Bridgestone BT020
Corrected 1/4-mile* 11.56 sec. @ 115.64 mph 11.87 sec. @ 110.02 mph 11.30 sec. @ 119.42 mph
0–60 mph* 3.60 sec. 3.65 sec. 3.44 sec.
0–100 mph* 8.60 sec. 9.94 sec. 7.87 sec.
Top-gear roll-on, 60–80 mph* 4.87 sec. 4.44 sec. 5.09 sec.
Fuel mileage (low/high/average) 31/48/39 38/44/41 32/44/38
Cruising range (exc. reserve) 156 miles 147 miles 155 miles

*Performance with test-session weather conditions corrected to sea-level standard conditions (59 degrees F, 29.92 in. of mercury)

Off the Record

Age: 50
Height: 6 ft.
Weight: 235 lb.
Inseam: 32 in.

I looked forward to riding these puppies. For some reason I never seem to get any seat time on the 600s that ebb and flow through the MC garage like underaged fly girls through Snoop Dog's hotel suite. I'm anything but a middleweight: Could it be that the 600s cower behind the cruisers when they hear my thundering steps on the concrete stairs? Regardless, these nakeds let me catch up and climb aboard for once. And I have to say that my favorite day-in, day-out 600 isn't even in here: It's the still-for-sale, still-worthy Yamaha YZF600R. No, it's not naked, but neither is the FZ6. And for a few dollars less than the naked Honda you get great ergos, adequate wind protection, full-adjust suspension, a great, flexible motor and still-simmering looks. I'd ride the wheels off it as is. Or find a crashed one, strip off the fairing, get out the flat-black Krylon and build my own Anglo-Asian Speed Four. -Dexter Ford

Age: 40
Height: 5 ft. 10 in.
Weight: 190 lb.
Inseam: 32 in.

I've been a vocal critic of Honda's fondness for unusual or proprietary technology that often amounts to nothing more than tech for tech's sake. By loading up on pet theories like a teenager filling up on the bread before dinner, Honda's planners often seem to have no room left for the goodness. Or maybe it's just the accountants, I don't know. Either way, Honda, just because someone else uses the same or similar technology doesn't make it wrong.

Here's hoping the 599 signals a shift of sorts for Big Red. This motorcycle is utterly low tech-steel frame, carburetors, no-knobs suspension-yet works amazingly well and is astoundingly honest. Perhaps by spending less time vetting new technology, Honda's development personnel had the chance to take one more swipe at the carburetion, spring and damping rates, and ergonomics. In a lot of ways, the 599 reminds me of older Hondas, with anything technologically avant-garde hidden artfully behind thorough development and hours of polishing-with the result being motorcycles real people can own and enjoy. -Marc Cook

Age: 41
Height: 6 ft.
Weight: 225 lb.
Inseam: 32 in.

I really, really wanna like the Yamaha. It handles well, is comfortable and offers a list of standard accessories that would make some much more expensive bikes blush. But like so many good-but-not-great motorcycles these days, a few poor details drag it down. It buzzes bothersomely above 5 grand, feels as peaky and midrange-challenged as a 600 super-sport and has a way-clunky driveline. Too bad. The Suzuki's faults (funky styling and old-tech suspension) are much easier to stomach-and there's that lovely, throbby engine. I'm rapidly becoming a V-twin fan in my old age; inlines are just too frantic and tense for me, while Vees are loping, slow and relaxed. And I'm way too frantic and tense in my everyday life to put up with that type of performance in a daily-rider streetbike. I could ride the Suzuki every day, and often do. The CBR1000RR's inline-four? That's another story entirely. -Mitch Boehm

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