Yamaha MT-03 (2016): First Ride & Review!

Bike Social's Michael Mann was among the first in the world to ride the MT-03

Yamaha MT-03 (2016)

Who knew that when Yamaha introduced us to the MT-09 back in September 2013, that the MT designation would become such an enormously popular range. Since then, global sales of the range has almost hit 100,000 bikes.

The range has expanded over the last couple of years to include MT-09 Tracer, MT-07 and its variations plus the entry level MT-125, taking the offering to 7 models. That is until this year; one of the hottest new bikes for 2016 is the MT-10 with its 158bhp and sub-£10k price tag which is due in dealerships in May. However, it could be the smaller MT-03 which could be set to storm the sales charts just as competitively as it’s siblings.

The A2 licence friendly sector of the motorcycle market now provides riders with a huge choice and stepping into the 300cc arena is Yamaha’s naked version of their YZF-R3, introduced in Spring 2015. This sector already has KTM’s Duke 390 and Kawasaki’s Z300 plus their faired alternatives, RC390 and Ninja 300. Then there’s Honda’s CBR300R and the forthcoming single cylinder G310 R from BMW, the German manufacturer’s first sub-500cc motorcycle.

Interestingly it’s Honda who, despite having the CBR300R in their current model line-up, seem to be putting their A2-licence eggs into the basket marked ‘500cc’. At the very same time as the MT-03 press launch near Benidorm, over in the west of Spain Honda were letting journalists loose on the CBR500R and CB500F. These two models offer a ‘big bike’ feel instead of a 125 frame with a 300cc engine, so Big H tells us.

From that we can assume no naked version, surly to be called CB300F, is on the horizon.

At £4,499 the liquid-cooled, parallel-twin MT-03 is very competitively priced. It’s the same as the KTM and only £150 dearer than the Kawasaki yet it’s the lightest in weight (168kg wet) and has the lowest seat height (780mm). It is also only 6% shy of the bhp KTM offers (41.4 v. 44) The bike is expected in dealerships any day and even though this isn’t the first time Yamaha have used the MT-03 name (the 660cc commuter friendly bearing more than a passing resemblance and specification) this is an all-new version for 2016.

Price at £4499, the MT-03 matches its KTM and Kawasaki rivals

Well, it might be a brand new model but haven’t we seen that specification on a Yamaha somewhere before? That’s right, we have. The YZF-R3 uses the identical compact and lightweight frame, twin cylinder 321cc engine, single disc 298mm front and 220mm rear ABS-enabled brakes as well as its suspension. In fact, other than the obvious styling difference, the biggest difference between these two models is the MT’s riding position.

Being a street-fighting naked bike, Yamaha have given the MT-03 a more naturally upright and “active” riding position making the handlebars 39mm higher, 19mm closer and 40mm wider. That doesn’t mean it’s any more comfortable than the R3 though. Its slim design accentuates the 780mm seat height which narrows at the waist where it meets the 14-litre fuel tank making it ideal for the shorter, newer or less confident rider. These dimensions and the bike’s weight also provide an easy manoeuvrability at low speeds or when parking or turning the bike around. 

The flat seat and its relationship with the handlebars and foot peg offers a relatively comfortable riding position, I can’t say there was no leg-stretching because at 6ft it was necessary even after 20 miles. There’s little wonder the MT-03 has been designed with commuting or shorter journey’s in mind because it’s home is certainly in the more urban areas where there are more opportunities with traffic lights and pedestrian crossings to put at least one foot down. That said, the fuel tank has been sculpted to allow the rider’s knees and thighs a more than suitable place to grip, handy when shifting weight around for cornering. The separate pillion seat is raised sufficiently to act as a rest for a rucksack or as a handy backstop to lean against.

Offering further convenience in its role as an A2-friendly motorcycle is the MT-03’s lightweight-feel clutch lever and an easy throttle which has plenty of travel. Just a handful of revs will get you moving but as soon as your feet are on the pegs, it’s time for second gear as the revs build quickly throwing out a hooligan-esque throbbing burble from the side-slung exhaust. The twin’s torque gives a wide rev range and while peak torque is 9000rpm it runs out of stream quickly after despite the red line being nearer to 12,250rpm, especially in the lower gears. Accelerate hard and you’ll be in fourth before you know it. Third and fourth are perfect for flowing city riding, with a pleasantly smooth throttle response and while 6th can often be an overdrive or touring gear on some bikes, it’s actually very capable on the Yamaha on the faster B-road so long as momentum is sustained.

Aggressive MT styling reminds you whose family MT-03 belongs to

The engine’s characteristics and torquey nature mean that its performance really does come from the mid-range. It’s vibey and gets through the revs quickly providing plenty of entertainment on the fast, flowing Spanish mountain roads north of Benidorm where the Yamaha press launch was held. Rolling on in third at around 5,000rpm and the acceleration of the 321cc is impressive enough as the next step up from a 125cc bike offering a more sedate and controlled burst instead of the grin-inducing thrill of the 2016 MT-09, the launch of which also took place today.

Having covered 60 rather aggressive miles consisting of mainly urban roads and twisties with a bit dual carriageway thrown, the MT-03 returned 57.6mpg which in the real, non-press launch world would mean figures north of 60mpg.

It’s single 298mm front brake disc with ABS stood firm and provided more than enough stability too when under duress while the budget-friendly 41mm diameter front forks on the front and monoshock on the rear provided a solid ride. Not exactly a set of GP-spec Ohlins but then that keeps the price down. I wasn’t terribly offended by the comfort levels on offer but the suspension did assist favourably with the bike’s agility and ability in the corners bearing in mind the style of bike the MT-03 is and its target audience. It turns impressively quickly when flicking between the rights and lefts without wallowing around or any unexpected diving or rebound. Credit where credit’s due. The standard-fit Michelin Pilot Street tyres will last forever though if I owned this bike they’d be among the first amends – while good enough for town riding and lower speed commuting they weren’t sturdy enough for me under any kind of higher speed cornering.

Above all, the Yamaha has the MT DNA making it an attractive thing to look at. It’s silhouette particularly in the Race Blu colour option (Midnight Black being the other) makes it stand out and the detailing such as the LED headlamp cowl, belt pan and radiator surround all compliment its style. 

Two colour options: Race Blu or Midnight BlackTwo colour options: Race Blu or Midnight Black 

The MT-03's multi-function instrument panel is well designed, and features a digital speedometer on the right side with an analogue tachometer on the left - and there's also a shift timing indicator at the top. Easy to read but will feel dated soon I feel. As well as a clock, other functions include a fuel gauge, water temperature gauge, real-time and average fuel economy, two tripmeters as well as an oil change indicator.

Ultimately, the MT-03 is a bike designed for, and is extremely suitable for, a particular and practical market. A2 licencees or as a fun little commuter, it’s a more than capable machine so long as those commutes don’t contain too many motorway miles. It can handle town/city traffic with aplomb, narrow enough with a light clutch, easy throttle, snappy gearbox and perky engine. We’re massive supporters of any bike that encourages non-riders to try it or even keeping hold of those who already ride on two wheels.

Yamaha have struck motorcycling gold with the MT range such is its accessibility in terms of price and quality plus the ride-ability of each model, all with their own quirky characters, all exceptional value and all providing an experience. The 03 sits nicely in the range between MT-125 and MT-07 but we’ll just have to sit tight to see what else the range has to offer, particularly with rumours of an MT-07 Tracer circulating.

Single 298mm disc but all it's stopping is 168kg plus riderFamiliar MT-style instrument panelNarrow waist and low seat hight are ideal for less experienced or shorter riders








4-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 4-valves

Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, 8-valve, DOHC, parallel twin

Liquid-cooled, 1-cylinder, 4-stroke





Max. Power

41.4bhp / 30.9 kW @ 10,750 rpm

38.9bhp / 29kW @ 11,000rpm

44bhp / 32kW @9,500rpm

Max. Torque

21.8 ft-lb / 29.6 Nm @ 9,000 rpm

19.9 ft-lb / 27Nm @ 10,000rpm

26 ft-lb / 35.3 Nm @ 7,250rpm


Front: Telescopic forks, Ø 41 mm inner tube, 130 mm travel

Rear: Swingarm, 125 mm travel

Front: Telescopic forks

Rear: Uni-Trak with gas-charged shock and 5-way adjustable preload

Front: WP upside-down Ø 43 mm, 150mm travel

Rear: WP monoshock. 150mm travel


Front: Hydraulic single disc, 298 mm

Rear: Hydraulic single disc, 220 mm

Front: Dual piston calliper. 290 mm disc

Rear: Dual piston calliper. 220mm disc

Front: Four-piston radial fixed calliper, brake disc. 300mm

Rear: Single-piston floating calliper, brake disc. 230mm.


Front: 110/70-17M/C (54H) Tubeless

Rear: 140/70-17M/C (66H) Tubeless

Front: 110/70-17M/C 54S

Rear: 140/70-17M/C 66S

Front: 110/70ZR17

Rear: 150/60ZR17


L: 2,090mm

W: 745mm

H: 1,035mm

L: 2,015mm

W: 750mm

H: 1,025mm

L: 2,002mm

W: 873mm

H: 1,267mm

Seat Height




Wheel Base





168kg (wet)

170kg (wet)

169kg (dry)

Fuel Tank

14 litres

17 litres

11 litres







Helmet: Arai RX-7V 

Helmet paint scheme: by Richard Stevens at RichART Concepts

Jacket: Resurgence Rocker Olive Green

Jeans:  Resurgence Skinny Cafe Racer

Boots: TCX X-Street W/P

Gloves: Alpinestars Oscar Robinson

What are your first impressions of the MT-03?  or !