Suzuki Assemblers Malaysia arrived late to the big bike party in the Malaysian market, only beginning to launch its street and sport models starting from March last year. The company has lined up a total of eight models as of this year, with the mighty Hayabusa guarding the front end. A much sensible and approachable proposition would be this 650cc of naked goodness; the Suzuki Gladius.
Before we move on, the Gladius, or the SFV 650 as it is known in other markets, isn’t exactly new. The bike has been in the market since 2009 and the latest update came about two years ago but it doesn’t mean the bike is less engaging than other recent offerings from either Japan or Europe. It is in fact a well-crafted naked bike with a pretty fun V-twin mill to play with.
Suitable with the Gladius designation, which is Latin for sword, specifically the one used by ancient Roman foot soldiers, the bike boasts sharp character lines along the body combined with alluring curves around its body and the headlight. The unit we tested came with a white body colour combined with a splash of blue on the tank and wheels, and a bit of black throughout the mid-section. And we wouldn’t swap the stock twin-pipe exhaust just because it sounds as good as it looks.
It’s a pretty basic bike and we mean it in a good way. Instead of a myriad of electronics, the Gladius engages newer riders and makes them feel in control with only ABS on each wheel. That is already a major selling point for Suzuki as many of its competitors either: offer it at an extra cost or don’t have it at all. The construction of the bike is also quite simple with a compact steel tube trellis as its main piece, a 41 mm stanchion-tube fork at the front and a progressive-link mono shock suspension at the rear. Both are spring-preload adjustable.
The enjoyment in the Gladius starts from the riding ergonomics. Tipping the scale at around 205 kg, the bike feels compact and light, although in fact, it is slightly heavier than the earlier, pre-updated version. Positioned just 785 mm from the ground, the thick saddle isn’t only low enough for vertically-challenged riders like yours truly, it is also well padded and comfortable enough for long-distance expeditions. Grab the wide handlebar and you’ll find yourself in a very commanding posture ready to tackle the open road.
The weapon of choice for the Gladius is a lively 645 cc V-twin engine that gives out exhilarating rumble when fired up, despite breathing through a standard exhaust system. Churning out 75 hp at 8,400 rpm and 68 Nm of torque from 6,400 rpm, the twin-cylinder mill is probably not the most powerful engine you’ll ever have between the crotch but the way it is tuned gives you an engaging riding experience especially around town, where acceleration is king.
The Gladius is pretty quick off the line. With minimal input to the sensitive throttle, the bike surges forward quite strongly, which some newer riders might find off-putting. It can be mastered, of course, and once you get hold of it, riding in this city and its horrid stop-and-go traffic can be really fun. While optimised low- and mid-rev gives the Gladius explosive acceleration, top-end performance isn’t the bike’s strongest feature. Strong acceleration in the first 10 or 15 seconds is often met with a somewhat lacking performance at the top end of the rev range.
The Gladius’ lack of top end power is offset by its prowess in ride and handling. Don’t let the basic chassis and suspension setup fool you, the naked feels composed even when its threatened by tight or blind corners thanks to the optimised damping at both ends. The front end gives immense feedback, which means directing the bike before entering a corner is painless. It’s nothing too serious but from time to time, you can feel the rear suspension struggling to cope with the bike.
In terms of braking, the sizeable disc brakes at the front and rear, coupled with dual- and single-piston calipers provide enough stopping power for the bike although the front brake may need some re-tuning. The ABS seldom kicks in but it’s good enough to know that it’s there. The bike sits on Dunlop Sportmax tyres that provide sufficient grip even when they are being thrashed hard.
All in all, if you fancy getting a middleweight street bike that’s not Kawasaki, Honda or Yamaha, the Suzuki Gladius should be seriously considered. The bike is not perfect – it doesn’t even have a fuel gauge, just a warning light, for example – but for the price (RM39,750 including GST), it is one of the better deals you can find these days. Remember that the bike is fully imported from Japan, so quality should be top notch.
|Price||RM39,750 incl. GST|
|Engine Type||liquid-cooled, DOHC 90-degree V-Twin|
|Power||75 hp @ 8,400 rpm|
|Torque||68 Nm @ 6,400 rpm|
|Gearbox||6-speed Constant Mesh|
|Fuel Supply||Fuel Injection|
|Frame||Steel Tube Trellis|
|Front Suspension||41 mm Telescopic|
|Rear Suspension||Monoshock, Preload Adjustable|
|Seat Height||785 mm|
|Fuel Capacity||14.5 Litres|
|Tyres||120/70 R17 (F), 160/60 R17 (R)|