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Common Tread

2020 Yamaha MT-03 first look

Oct 02, 2019

The range of accessible, small-displacement motorcycles continues to expand in the United States as Yamaha has announced that it will bring its MT-03 naked bike to the U.S. market for 2020.

The MT-03 has been available in Europe, Australia and several Asian countries for a few years, but in the United States we only got the YZF-R3 fully faired sport bike. With the 2020 MT-03 getting a new look, Yamaha decided it was time to expand the lineup here.

2020 Yamaha MT-03 in Ice Fluo
Yamaha calls this color Ice Fluo and it's one of two choices that will be available in the United States. Yamaha photo.

It makes sense. The MT-09, formerly the FZ-09 and the first of the "dark side of Japan" models from Yamaha, has been a good seller in the U.S. market. So has the MT-07 and the YZF-R3. The MT-03 combines the MT "dark side" styling with the running gear of the R3.

2020 Yamaha MT-03 in Midnight Black
Midnight Black is the other color option Yamaha will offer in the United States. Yamaha photo.

So the MT-03 will have the same 321 cc parallel-twin engine with a balancer that's found in the R3, along with its 37 mm KYB inverted fork and preload-adjustable single rear shock attached to a long swingarm, inspired by the YZF-R1. Anti-lock brakes are standard. Since much of the MT-03 is shared with the R3, check out Andy's first ride of that bike from earlier this year to get an idea of how all this works. Of course the MT's ergonomics are a little more upright and relaxed than the R3's.

2020 Yamaha MT-03 KYB fork
The KYB inverted fork is one of the touches that keeps the MT-03 from looking like a bargain bike. Yamaha photo.

The new face for the 2020 MT-03 features two position lights "that convey an aggressive look and underline the pure MT DNA running through its veins," in the words of Yamaha. Underneath those angled lights is a small LED headlight. The combination looks sort of like an evil robot face to my eye, and it does make for a unique look. LEDs are also used for the turn signals.

2020 Yamaha MT-03 face
The MT-03 gets a new face for its U.S. debut. The angled position lights and single LED headlight below make for a unique look. Yamaha photo.

Yamaha made a point of asserting that the MT-03 has a big-bike, quality look to it and the photos, at least, seem to back that up.

2020 Yamaha MT-03 digital display
All of these photos show the European model of the MT-03. Yamaha says the U.S. model's LCD digital panel will have white numerals on a black background. Yamaha photo.

The 2020 MT-03 will be available at U.S. dealers in February with an MSRP of $4,599, which is $400 less than the R3 without ABS, $700 less than the R3 with ABS, and $200 less than the competing Kawasaki Z400, which also comes with ABS.

2020 Yamaha MT-03 riding at night
2020 Yamaha MT-03. Yamaha photo.

Just as bikes like the R3 and the Kawasaki Ninja 400 are doing battle in racing series such as the Supersport 300 World Championship abroad and the Liqui Moly Junior Cup here in the states, and giving young racers their entry into top-level pro competition, the naked versions are competing in dealer showrooms to provide a practical and affordable — but still stylish — entry into motorcycling.

As I wrap up this report, Spurgeon is loudly demanding that I include the fact that he predicted this in our 2019 predictions article. (Sigh.) So noted. For my part, I'll just add that it's about time the MT-03 made its American debut.