Tested: Yamaha XSR700 (2022) | Carole Nass

Since its inception, Yamaha’s XSR700 has established itself as an impressive seller in the middleweight “sport heritage” sector. A combination of that playful chassis and engine taken from the MT-07, a sleek retro dress, and a relatively low price, meant it sold in huge numbers. And for 2022, Yamaha has given it some tasty little updates, bringing it to life along with the rest of its XSR lineup.

Although much of the platform remains the same, the first thing you’ll notice is the updated look; the 2022 model received a new LED headlight design, new side covers, a revised cockpit layout in terms of dash and switches and glorious new color schemes, inspired by the legendary RD350LC range. It’s not just about styling, as the 2022 XSR700 also received larger front brake rotors, revised front forks and Michelin Road 5 tires, along with some minor tweaks to the 74hp twin-cylinder engine and 689 cc Euro5 compliant.

And that’s good news, because that snappy engine, shared with the Tenere 700, MT-07 and new R7, combines with the supple, forgiving chassis and setup into a fairly straightforward package. It not only produces a crisp little retro machine, but also saves cost. And with Yamaha’s few tweaks for 2022, it’s even better than before. A restricted 47 hp version is also available for A2 license holders.

I mean, look at it. Controversially, I actually think the RD-inspired paint job on the new XSR700 is the best paint scheme in Yamaha’s arsenal today, giving the budget middleweight a real class advantage, which ends with the revised headlight and side covers. Sure, it’s not the cleanest finish in the world (check the swingarm), but for £8000 it still really looks and feels the part. Compared to the lower, sharper MT-07, the XSR700 actually looks a bit taller and fatter; while the taller bars and seat lend themselves to a more relaxed position, this increases the seat height if reach is your concern. Even so, that’s not too much of an issue thanks to the weight and fairly low center of gravity, which means that although it’s not intrusive, the XSR700 feels like a “real” bike on board.

Yamaha XSR700 (2022)

As far as the riding experience goes, the XSR700 is a great piece of kit for the money. The engine is tried, tested and rightly loved by hundreds of thousands of riders around the world. There’s a good reason for that; it delivers a beautifully torquey ride throughout the rev range, while remaining incredibly smooth and easy to manage. It’s fun, fruity and frugal, and a perfect fit for that laid-back bike vibe. Where the previous generation XSR700 was a bit lacking though was on its handling, and although Yamaha improved the power and braking feel, the simple ABS system is still very intrusive under hard braking. The forks have also seen some upgrades, making the XSR slightly softer if you want to ride harder, although they are still on the budget side of the market in feel and finish. If you’re looking for something sportier, the 700’s big brother, the XSR900, will be right up your street – and you can read that review here.

Conclusion

At £8000 ready to roll, the XSR700 is still great kit for the money, undercutting just about everything on the market, including Triumph’s Street Twin and Moto Guzzi V7. Compared to the XSR900, it offers a rawer driving experience. Like its main competitor, the Kawasaki Z650RS, there are no signs of fancy electronics, but the engine offers just enough character and fun for the power on offer. Sure, it’s not the best-finished, sportiest or most advanced machine on the retro market today, but in terms of value for money, you’d be hard-pressed to do better; especially in these stunning new color schemes on offer.

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