2013 Suzuki SFV650 – First Ride Review

2013 Suzuki SFV650 Action
Sporty steering, compact seating, good brakes and a willing motor make this name dropper a delight on a winding road.

When it was introduced for 2009, the Suzuki Gladius was a sharp little handler powered by a 645cc, 90-degree V-twin engine. It was named for a sword said to have been used by the gladiators of ancient Rome, which was shorter and lighter than the one used by soldiers in battle. And in motorcycle terms, we found the Gladius to be a simpler, lighter, mid-sized Suzuki with one heckuva fun factor.

But that was then, this is now. After vanishing from the lineup for a couple years, Suzuki has brought the SFV650 back for 2013 without the additional Gladius designation, citing market research as the reason. Also, to quote Henry Ford, it will now be available in any color you want so long as it’s black—or rather a “new Metallic Mat Black/Glass Sparkle Black color combination.”

2013 Suzuki SFV650 Beauty
2013 Suzuki SFV650.

Suzuki refers to the SFV650 as a standard, but it has a definite sporty bent with its liquid-cooled, 90-degree V-twin motor hung in a tube-steel trellis frame, and it retains chain final drive. Let’s say it has a certain Italianate flair. The engine features four-valve heads with dual plugs, which are fed by 39mm throttle-body injectors. With bore and stroke figures of 81.0mm x 62.6mm, it’s a revver and displaces 645cc.

The engine redlines at 10,500 rpm, but provides plenty of midrange power. Despite its 11.5:1 compression ratio, 87-octane fuel is recommended. When we put the Gladius on the dyno for our 2009 test, it cranked out 69.0 horsepower at 8,500 rpm, and 45.0 lb-ft of torque at 7,800. Its torque figures started in the high 30s at 3,500 rpm, and stayed above 40 lb-ft from 5,900-8,900 rpm. The 2013 model weighs just 443 pounds wet and, with a GVWR of 925 pounds, can carry 482 pounds.

2013 Suzuki SFV650-2
With a better seat and suspension the SFV would be darn-near perfect.

On the road, the new SFV650 felt familiar because it has changed only in terms of name, color and price. With rake and trail figures of 25 degrees/4.17 inches, and a wheelbase of 56.9 inches, the SFV feels agile and eager. Steering is easy and quick, yet stable. With the rider sitting relatively upright, there’s plenty of leverage from that wide handlebar to get the SFV carving quickly and precisely. Its 6-speed transmission shifts with extreme ease and precision, and just a moderate pull is required from the cable-actuated clutch. The engine is remarkably smooth and quiet, and even near redline I experienced very little vibration. Power is more than adequate, with a steady pull from 3,500 rpm to redline. The bike carries 3.9 gallons and returned a very respectable 56 mpg average.

2013 Suzuki SFV650 Engine
The four-valve-per-cylinder, liquid-cooled V-twin is a revver.

Seat height is 30.9 inches, and the flat seat is narrow at the front with very little padding and a definite edge. Suzuki offers an optional high seat for $169.95 that is two inches taller, and more padding would be a plus.

The SFV650 gets its stopping power from paired 290mm rotors and 2-piston calipers up front, and a single-piston caliper hugging the rear 240mm disc. Braking is strong, especially on the front, limited only by the fork’s soft springing and damping.

Both the fork and the link-type shock could use a little help. Any harsh bump, pavement edge or pothole during aggressive riding smacks the rider hard and sends the suspension oscillating, heaving and kicking back at both ends. Only spring preload adjustments are offered. The Gladius was priced at $6,899 for 2009, but for 2013 the new, improved price is $7,999. Why would Suzuki increase the price by $1,100 on this sweet little package, yet fail to upgrade either the seat or suspension?

2013 Suzuki SFV650 Headlight
The headlight has a very current style, and is also compact.

Other than the overly firm seat and low-buck suspension, I was very impressed with the Gladius and its successor, the SFV. It’s a very easy bike to ride and to shift, it’s easy on gas and not buzzy despite the high revs it turns. Give it a better seat and suspension, Suzuki, and it would be hard to fault.

2013 Suzuki SFV650

Website: suzukicycles.com
Base Price: $7,999
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled,
transverse 90-degree V-twin, DOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Bore x Stroke: 81.0 x 62.6mm
Displacement: 645cc
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: Chain
Wheelbase: 56.9 in.
Rake/Trail: 25 degrees/4.17 in.
Seat Height: 30.9 in.
Wet Weight: 443 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 3.8 gals., last 1.0 gal. warning light on
MPG: 87 PON min. (avg) 56.0

(This Ridden & Rated review was published in the November 2013 issue of Rider magazine.)

2013 Suzuki SFV650 Gauges
Gauges are informative and—like the rest of the bike—compact.
2013 Suzuki SFV650 Tire
The muffler is stylish and neatly tucked
out of the way.


  1. I still don’t like the styling, regardless of what they call it.

    They would’ve done better to bring back the SV650 which was very popular.

    The posey plastic “anime” styling just looks stupid and the “undercarriage” looks unfinished.

    Just another ugly motorcycle (and I’m a Suzuki owner).

    • Negative much? It’s a sweet looking bike that is super comfortable, probably faster than whatever you ride, and definitely gets better mpg.

      • Don’t know how you can say the seat, is comfy by any means, unless you have the upgraded seat, because the stock seat is a torcher rack ! +mm+ somthing like that, is what it feels like. The motor on the other hand is a great piece of engineering, form the Sv650 before it, with mods. as stated in the magazines, but doesn’t have the same top end of the SV, of which I now own, a K6 SV naked bike, so it compares directly. I can live with the looks, just wish the increase in price, came with a better front & rear suspension. Then it would be about perfect, with a weight loses same as the 2 gen SV’s… Still a good bike, with a few rough edges, but they can be smoothed out ?

  2. I agree with Rob & the writer. I had a first year Sv naked. Put a Givi windscreen on it, used it for everything including 2400 mi round trip tours several years in a row loaded up for camping! Great all around bike, was very well recieved. If the $1100 had been put in suspension, seat and slight steering mods (it was just a tad over sensitive in my beloved mountains) IT WOULD BE RULING THE CLASS, just like the 650 DL does in its. Instead of the dead sales it now has. That engine is unreal for it’s size, and Suzuki isn’t using the bloody thing!

  3. Very confused with these reviews. I test drove this bike and thought it was awful. Felt like a Chinese scooter. No character to the engine Why anyone would buy this when the fz09 exists makes no sense. Please enlighten me.

    • The SFV650 isn’t in the same class as the 900cc FZ09, so you are comparing apples to oranges. It holds its own against the FZ07 and the FZ6R, and the best among those three depends mostly on what you want to use it for and personal preference. If economy and cornering are high on your list, it fares pretty well – the Yammies outshine it in some other categories.

      • Actually the FZ-09 is a 847cc bike, not 900cc motored one. I do agree with the rest of your posting; ) we just need to keep those apples & oranges in the right bends….. lol


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